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The Odyssey


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The identity of the writer of The Iliad and The Odyssey is a matter of some speculation. The ancients were convinced it was Homer, although they tended to disagree on his biographical details. Many believe he lived in Chios, an island off the west coast of Turkey, sometime between 1100 and 700 BCE. Traditionally portrayed as revered, old and blind, he composed The Iliad and The Odyssey, and possibly the Homeric Hymns, a series of choral addresses to the gods.


There is no better way to encounter an epic that derives from an oral tradition than to hear it narrated by a fine Shakespearean actor. This requires a great translation, and this shining new verse translation by Robert Fagles‘who also translated The Iliad (Audio Reviews, LJ 7/92)‘has been rightly hailed as a masterpiece. It captures, in swift rhythms and flawless utterance, the tone, the temper, the very life of Homer's antic world without once sounding antiquated. The tale of Odysseus's long-awaited return from the Trojan Wars is majestically realized by Ian McKellan (seen most recently on film in Cold Comfort Farm and Richard III). Resisting every temptation to ham Homer's bardic lines, the sonorous-voiced McKellan hits home with truthful simplicity throughout, as if he were spinning out a heartfelt story during a long night in a pub. A fine introduction by Bernard Knox is included, but Penguin has reached new heights in bad presentation values, insuring instant destruction of the plastic containers within, while the music sounds like a petrified chicken on an infant's keyboard. But the words, like Homer's gods, are deathless. What more can a listener ask for? Highly recommended for all collections.‘Peter Josyph, New York

Gr 6 Up-Concise and briskly paced, this dynamic comic-book version streamlines Homer's plot and zooms in on the all-out monster-trouncing, enchantress-encountering, death-defying action. The exploits of the square-jawed Odysseus are resplendent in bold lines and jewel tones while the fickle gods and goddesses shimmer in translucent hues. A reader-grabbing intro to the epic. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Robert Fagles's 1990 translation of The Iliad was highly praised; here, he moves to The Odyssey. As in the previous work, he adroitly mixes contemporary language with the driving rhythms of the original. The first line reads: "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns/ driven time and again off course once he had plundered/ the hallowed heights of Troy." Hellenic scholar Bernard Knox contributes extensive introductory commentary, providing both historical and literary perspective. Notes, a pronouncing glossary, genealogies, a bibliography and maps of Homer's world are included.

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