A Time magazine Best Book of 1996
Synopses & Reviews
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.
So begins Robert Fagles' magnificent translation of The Odyssey, which Jasper Griffin in The New York Review of Books hails as "a distinguished achievement."
If The Iliad is the world's greatest war epic, then The Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of everyman's journey through life. Odysseus' 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 the timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance.
In the myths and legends that are retold here, Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer's original in a bold, contemporary idiom, and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery.
Renowned classicist Bernard Knox's superb Introduction and textual commentary provide new insights and background information for the general reader and scholar alike, intensifying the strength of Fagles' translation.
This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the public at large, and to captivate a new generation of Homer's students.
"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." Stuart Whitwell, Booklist
"Robert Fagles' new translation of the Odyssey restores the original joys of the performing bard." Paul Gray, Time
"Wonderfully readable....Just the right blend of sophistication and roughness it seems to me." Ted Hughes
"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." Newsweek
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.
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
About the Author
Robert Fagles, the winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, is Arthur W. Marks '19 Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus, at Princeton University and received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Yale University.
Bernard Knox is Director Emeritus of Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C.
Table of Contents
The Odyssey Introduction
The Spelling and Pronunciation of Homeris Names
1. Homeric Geography: Mainland Greece
2. Homeric Geography: The Peloponnese
3. Homeric Geography: The Aegean and Asia Minor
Homer: The Odyssey
Book 1: Athena Inspires the Prince
Book 2: Telemachus Sets Sail
Book 3: King Nestor Remembers
Book 4: The King and Queen of Sparta
Book 5: Odysseus-Nymph and Shipwreck
Book 6: The Princess and the Stranger
Book 7: Phaeacia's Halls and Gardens
Book 8: A Day for Songs and Contests
Book 9: In the One-Eyed Giant's Cave
Book 10: The Bewitched Queen of Aeaea
Book 11: The Kingdom of the Dead
Book 12: The Cattle of the Sun
Book 13: Ithaca at Last
Book 14: The Loyal Swineherd
Book 15: The Prince Sets Sail for Home
Book 16: Father and Son
Book 17: Stranger at the Gates
Book 18: The Beggar-King of Ithaca
Book 19: Penelope and her Guest
Book 20: Portents Gather
Book 21: Odysseus Stings his Bow
Book 22: Slaughter in the Hall
Book 23: The Great Rooted Bed
Book 24: Peace
Textual Variants from the Oxford Classical Text
Notes on the Translation
Suggestions for Further Reading
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?