Customer Review

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beware which translation you choose, 18 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Iliad (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
Many years ago, I picked up a copy of The Odyssey and loved it. It was a great story, brilliantly told and I was riveted by it. The translation I read then (by Walter Shewring) rendered the epic poem in modern prose.

Unfortunately, when I hoped for a similar read with the Iliad, I'm not convinced I picked the best translation. This translation (by George Chapman) was done over an 11 year period from 1598 to 1611 and it reads just as one might imagine if you have read much Shakespeare or The King James Bible. Only it's not quite as clear and understandable as either of those great bodies of work.

The main trouble is that the translator has attempted to preserve the poetic form in English and so has forced the whole text to be made into rhyming couplets. In order to make each pair of lines rhyme in English, he has had to tear up the text and rearrange the sentences just to create the effect. What this does is to completely screw up the word order and to introduce all manner of odd abbreviations and turns of phrase. So in aiming to make it poetic, the whole structure has been massacred. For this reason, I would not recommend this translation to anyone who isn't au fait with Chaucer or has qualms about reading Beowulf in its original form.

In order to try and make some sense of this, I found I had to make a conscious effort to ignore the artificial rhythm and rhyme and to try to read whole sentences. Once I managed to do this (which probably wasn't until book 3) The Iliad became a bit more intelligible. What is then revealed is an epic story of warfare and battles. The highly anthropomorphised gods of Greek mythology fight alongside their semi-human offspring and having petty squabbles with one another. The panoply of plentiful persons which populates the prose puzzled me rather, as it was hard to keep track of them, particularly because some of them, once introduced, met a rather grizzly death.

Is it a good book? Undoubtedly.
Is this version the best? No chance.

Beware which translation you choose!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 1 Jul 2013 21:47:42 BDT
Zikmu says:
There seems to be a misunderstanding. This book is a recent translation by S.O. Andrew and M. Oakley, and this comment refers to the old translation by George Chapman.
? ? ?

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2013 17:03:57 BDT
Last edited by the author on 8 Jul 2013 17:04:31 BDT
S. Meadows says:
This is a bug on Amazon. Sometimes, if a book has multiple editions, it will copy reviews from one edition onto another. If you look at the top of the review, it states it was from Wordsworth Classics (paperback). I searched for the Andrew & Chapman translation and did indeed come across my review which has been copied. Have noticed this problem with a few other things (for example Blu Ray extras being referred to in a DVD review). It's a problem Amazon really ought to get fixed.
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