Synopses & Reviews
TOLSTOY CALLED THE ILIAD A miracle; Goethe said that it always thrust him into a state of astonishment. Homer's story is thrilling, and his Greek is perhaps the most beautiful poetry ever sung or written. But until now, even the best English translations haven't been able to re-create the energy and simplicity, the speed, grace, and pulsing rhythm of the original.
In Stephen Mitchell's Iliad, the epic story resounds again across 2,700 years, as if the lifeblood of its heroes Achilles and Patroclus, Hector and Priam flows in every word. And we are there with them, amid the horror and ecstasy of war, carried along by a poetry that lifts even the most devastating human events into the realm of the beautiful.
Mitchell's Iliad is the first translation based on the work of the preeminent Homeric scholar Martin L. West, whose edition of the original Greek identifies many passages that were added after the Iliad was first written down, to the detriment of the music and the story. Omitting these hundreds of interpolated lines restores a dramatically sharper, leaner text. In addition, Mitchell's illuminating introduction opens the epic still further to our understanding and appreciation.
Now, thanks to Stephen Mitchell's scholarship and the power of his language, the Iliad's ancient story comes to moving, vivid new life.
Book XXII recounts the climax of the Iliad: the fatal encounter between the main defender of Troy and the greatest warrior of the Greeks, which results in the death of Hector and Achilles' revenge for the death of his friend Patroclus; but at the same time adumbrates Achilles' own death and the fall of Troy. The introduction summarises central debates in Homeric scholarship, such as the circumstances of composition and the literary interpretation of an oral poem, and offers synoptic discussions of the structure of the Iliad, the role of the narrator, similes and epithets. There is a separate section on language, which provides a compact list of the most frequent Homeric characteristics. While the introduction is mainly geared at intermediate and advanced students, the commentary is designed for use by both students and professional classicists: it offers up-to-date linguistic guidance, and elucidates narrative techniques, typical elements and central themes.