Synopses & Reviews
for the twenty-first century, this magnificent new translation by Stephen Mitchell sets the highest standards for beauty, accuracy, and aliveness.
The power and the beauty of The Iliad resound again across 2,700 years in Stephen Mitchell’s exciting new translation, as if the life blood of its heroes Achilles and Patroclus, Hector and Priam flowed 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.
Based on the recent, superb M.L. West edition of the Greek, this Iliad is more readable and moving than any previous version. Whether it is his exciting recent version of Gilgamesh, with more than 150,000 copies sold, or his unmatched translation of the poet Rilke, still the standard after twenty-nine years, or his Tao Te Ching, which has sold more than 900,000 copies and itself been translated into six languages, Stephen Mitchell’s books are international sensations. Now, thanks to his scholarship and poetic power, which re-creates the energy and simplicity, the speed, grace, and continual thrust and pull of the original, The Iliad ’s ancient story bursts vividly into new life and will reach an even larger audience of readers.
So, with elated hearts, they sat up all night
on the battlefield, and their watchfires blazed all around them.
As, in the night sky, around the light of the moon,
the stars emerge, when the air is serene and windless,
and the stars shine bright, and the heart of the shepherd rejoices:
just so, before Ilion, the watchfires the Trojans had set
blazed midway between the ships and the river Xanthus.
A thousand watchfires were burning upon the plain,
and around each, fifty men sat in the glow of the firelight,
and the horses stood alongside the chariots, munching
white barley and oats, and waited for dawn to arise.
"Stephen Mitchell’s magnificent new translation of the Iliad reminds us that there is always a new and different way to read and interpret the great classics, and that they need to be reinvigorated from generation to generation, just as we need to be reminded that they are, however venerated, above all stories: exciting, full of life and great characters, in short great entertainment, not just great monuments of culture or the Western canon. Mr. Mitchell has accomplished this difficult feat wonderfully well, and produced a book which is a joy to read and an Iliad for this generation." Michael Korda, D. Litt., author of Hero, Ike and Ulysses S. Grant
“Stephen Mitchell has done a marvelous thing here: he has given fresh energy and poetic force to a work that perennially repays our attention. Without the Iliad
the West would be a vastly poorer place; Homer’s achievement speaks to every successive generation with its unflinching understanding of the essential tragic nature of life. Mitchell’s translation is a grand accomplishment.”
-- Jon Meacham, author of American Lion
“Mitchell’s wonderful new version of the Iliad is a worthy addition to his list of distinguished renditions of the classics.” —Peter Matthiessen
“A sturdy, muscular, and nuanced translation that will surely bring many new readers to this great work.”—John Banville, author of The Sea
“Mitchell’s translation is a brilliant accomplishment. It captures the fierce energy, rhythms, and powerful narrative of Homer’s Greek in vivid and compelling English.” —Elaine Pagels, author of The Gnostic Gospels
“Mitchell’s five-beat line is a startlingly strong alternative to other translators’ attempts to capture the inimitably mellifluous flow of Homer’s Greek. Mitchell fits a meter to the poem, but also the poem to the meter, paring away words that could not work in English, aiming always to preserve the uncanny aesthetic distance and moral neutrality of the original at its full, thrilling, and horrifying depth. Read three pages, any three pages, and you’ll realize that, no, you are not yet done with Homer.” —Jack Miles, author of God: A Biography
”A strange, almost forgotten feeling overtook me as I first dipped into this new translation. I felt compelled to recite aloud! The poetry rocks and has a macho cast to it, like rap music. It’s overtly virile stuff, propelled from the time when music, language, information, and politics were not yet distinguished.” —Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget
From the consummate translator, renowned for translating Rilke and Tao Te Ching, a vivid new translation of Western civilization's foundational epic.
Tolstoy called The Iliad
a miracle; Goethe said that it always thrust him into a state of astonishment. Homers 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 Iliads ancient story comes to moving, vivid new life.