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Iliad Paperback – 24 Nov 2006
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The Iliad is the unchallenged foundation of western literature. Its inexhaustibly fertile subject-matter has fascinated poets and writers from the days of antiquity, via Chaucer, Marlowe ("was this the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?") and Shakespeare, on to Goethe and modern Hollywood. This translation by the 18th-century poet Alexander Pope is widely regarded as the most powerful and dramatic in the English Language, and as the new introduction suggests, it stands in its own right as a unique work of art. Unusually for a work of this kind, the text is presented in a reader-friendly format,with generous space for personal annotations and references. Robert Shorrock teaches Classics at Eton College, Windsor. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1999 and is the author of The Challenge of Epic: Allusive Engagement in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus (Leiden, 2001). He has published a number of articles on epic poetry and the Classical Tradition, and is co-editor of the journal Greece & Rome.
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This translation of The Iliad is in blank verse, making it very easy to read and although perhaps not the best of translations is more than adequate for the general reader. Personally, I do enjoy this as it is easier to read than some and flows smoothly.
Homer’s epic of the Trojan War is a powerful piece of writing and has influenced so many from ancient times up to the present day, and long may it do so. Taking place near the end of the war, so this also goes back to the cause and previous battles in the war and siege, and so we read of what has happened, as well as what is happening, making this an absorbing read. With tensions between members of the same sides as well as the actual war, there is also the intervention of the Gods, as they seek to redress their own squabbles with each other by aiding different sides, to get one up on other Gods.
Despite its age this still has some of the best scenes of battle, that can be quite visceral and realistic, reminding us all of how bloody things can get. A tale that has then romance, war, heroism, trickery and scores to be settled, this always makes for a great read and is something that is a cornerstone of Western literature, and a pure reading pleasure for those who are interested – and let’s face it, who wouldn’t be?
Quite apart from the fact that readers will almost undoubtedly want the 'with corrections' version, I would add that this is on much better quality paper (and so marginally thicker).
What he did: Used it to point out, in more words than I thought humanly possible, the pros and cons of rewriting old books. Something most of us were aware of in school.
This soft, quite patronising intro makes you think that the rest of the book must be equally simplified. It isn't. There's no brackets to add context or footnotes to translate anything that might not quite make sense, other things he should have done. Very disappointed.
I hope you find my review helpful.