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The Odyssey

by and

The Odyssey Cover

ISBN13: 9780140268867
ISBN10: 0140268863
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide


1. Since Athena knows that Odysseus is alive, why doesn't she tell Telemachus, rather than sending him "in quest of news of your long-lost father"? (p. 86)

2. When she and Menelaus tell their stories about past times in Troy and the missing Odysseus, Helen drugs the wine so no one will feel any pain. Are we to think that she is wise or unwise in doing so?

3. Why does Odysseus reject Calypso's offer of immortality?

4. In Phaeacia, why doesn't Odysseus immediately identify himself to Alcinous and Arete?

5. In telling the story of the Cyclops, Odysseus says that he led some of his men to their deaths and then further endangered the rest of his crew by taunting Polyphemus as they escaped by boat. Since there are no other witnesses present when he tells this story, why does Odysseus show himself in such an unfavorable light?

6. How are the fate and death of Odysseus, as prophesied by Tiresias, different from those of Agamemnon and Achilles, both of whom Odysseus meets in the House of the Dead?

7. Why does Odysseus tell such long, elaborate, untrue stories about his life to introduce himself to Athena, Eumaeus, and Penelope? Are the stories in some sense truthful?

8. Why doesn't Penelope bring the suitors' courting to an end when she knows for certain that they have plotted to murder Telemachus?

9. Does Odysseus mean to warn Amphinomus about his plan to kill the suitors so that he can save himself? Why has Athena nevertheless "bound him fast to death"? (p. 381)

10. Why doesn't Odysseus explicitly reveal himself to Penelope before proceeding with his plans?

11. Why does Telemachus hang the serving women "so all might die a pitiful, ghastly death" (p. 454) instead of killing them as his father prescribes, cleanly with swords?

12. Why does Odysseus think it best to probe and test his aged father Laertes in every way, instead of revealing himself at once?

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Raquel, January 1, 2012 (view all comments by Raquel)
This college semester was a journey of "firsts" for me-- first semester at university, first time living in a different state than my family, first time living in a big city, first time seeing a drug deal, first Muslim friend, first agnostic friend, first this and first that. Much like Telemachus' transformation in the Odyssey, I developed from my innocent, naive, and immature self to one with more knowledge and maturity. Much like Odysseus' journey homeward, I had new experiences which brought me to the home of my existence, my heart and soul. In these ways, and more, I related to Homer's Odyssey.

But even still... had I not been so closely attached to the epic poem, the story of adventure, betrayal, deceit, renewal, reunion, love, testing, and ultimate reconciliation stands alone--spanning the test of time-- to bring true satisfaction. Let Homer be your guy. Let the Odyssey be your book.
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dougnlis, December 8, 2009 (view all comments by dougnlis)
waitingtoleave compares various translations, and I can't comment on Greek words or metrical sense. I can say that Fagles propels his story along swiftly and entices the reader into his form of metrical rendering of the text.

The Odyssey is an intensely modern work in its structure. Presenting it as a collection of short stories or isolated events has insulted the genius of its story telling. A few lines after the beginning, rendered by Fagles as "Sing to me of the man, Muse," comes the odd direction, "launch out where you will - sing for our time too." In ancient times that may have allowed an oral presenter to take up the story at any point, but hints that the story doesn't have to unwind chronologically so long as the beginning and end are included. So the story twists and turns.

The Odyssey is told with a cinematic sense of scene cuts and flashbacks and questionably reliable narrators. Fagles makes of this epic a book that lets readers plow through as with a modern novel, allowing the metric arrangement of lines the text to provide a sense of antiquity while translating a sense of the original text so it sings for our time too.

"Translator's Postscript" and "Notes on the Translation" satisfied my need for detail on how other times might have taken in The Odyssey for their own times.

I bow to waitingtoleave for his ability to compare translations. I embrace this Fagles translation as utterly fulfilling for me reading in my time. Knowing the Odyssey only through renderings of isolated bits and pieces (tricking the Cyclops, threading Scylla and Charybdis, etc., etc.) might meet the command to "launch where you will," but fails to tell anything like the tale of the man of twists and turns that Fagles presents, and doesn't hint at the other plot threads following the wife and son of Odysseus that twine together to make the complete tale.
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waitingtoleave, September 29, 2007 (view all comments by waitingtoleave)
this is an amazing book, with something for anyone. if you are interested in studying philosophy, you'll find it here. but, you can also read a great adventure story with fables and a love story written in. in that sense, this is a great translation; if you want to read this for the sake of entertainment, Fagles is a great translator. if you want to read for philosophical discussion, however, he might not serve your purposes. the thing you have to know about Fagles is, he often inserts adjectives and the feel of the entire story changes. so, if you want fidelity to the Greek words, try Lattimore. if you want fidelity to the Greek metrical sense, try Mandelbaum or Pope. and if you want fidelity to the Greek adventure epic, Fagles is your guy.
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Product Details

(Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)
Fagles, Robert
Fagles, Robert
Introduction by:
Knox, Bernard MacGregor Walke
Knox, Bernard MacGregor Walke
Fagles, Robert
Knox, Bernard
Knox, Bernard MacGregor Walke
Penguin Classics
Poetry (poetic works by one author)
Continental european
Odysseus (Greek mythology)
Epic poetry, Greek
Ancient, Classical & Medieval
Epic literature
Classical literature
Classics-Medieval and Renaissance General
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Penguin Classics Deluxe Editio
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
January 2003
Grade Level:
from 12
8.39x5.76x1.48 in. 1.48 lbs.
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Classics » Greek
Fiction and Poetry » Classics » Greek and Roman
Fiction and Poetry » Classics » Medieval and Renaissance
History and Social Science » World History » General
Travel » Travel Writing » General

The Odyssey Used Trade Paper
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$12.50 In Stock
Product details 560 pages Penguin Books - English 9780140268867 Reviews:
"Review" by , "The greatest strength of Fagles' Homeric translations is that they do nothing to slow the narrative. If anything, they argue that, used well, verse can move faster than prose....Altogether, an outstanding piece of work."
"Review" by , "Robert Fagles' new translation of the Odyssey restores the original joys of the performing bard."
"Review" by , "Wonderfully readable....Just the right blend of sophistication and roughness it seems to me."
"Review" by , "Did the world need one more translation of The Odyssey? Yes. In Robert Fagles' lucid, muscular verse, these ancient measures stalk across the page in march time, from the first sight of 'young Dawn with her rose-red fingers' to the moment when the last suitor has been slaughtered and Odysseus takes Penelope to bed."
"Synopsis" by , This is a new translation of Homer's epic about Odysseus and his encounters with both natural and divine forces on the ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. It contains an introduction and notes by Bernard Knox.
"Synopsis" by , If The Iliad is the world's greatest war epic, then The Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of everyman's journey though life. Odysseus's reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance.

Translated by Robert Fagles

Introduction and Notes by Bernard Knox

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