My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I started this as I was told it is essential reading if I ever want to give a shot at reading Ulysses. I was a bit apprehensive and spent a long time deciding on which translation to choose. Finally it was Stephen’s review that convinced me to go for the Robert Fagles‘ version. I have no way of judging how good a decision that was.
This translation, by Robert Fagles, is of the Greek text edited by David Monro and Thomas Allen, first published in 1908 by the Oxford University Press. This two-volume edition is printed in a Greek type, complete with lower- and uppercase letters, breathings and accents, that is based on the elegant handwriting of Richard Porson, an early-nineteenth-century scholar of great brilliance, who was also an incurable alcoholic as well as a caustic wit. This was of course not the first font of Greek type; in fact, the first printed edition of Homer, issued in Florence in 1488, was composed in type that imitated contemporary Greek handwriting, with all its complicated ligatures and abbreviations. Early printers tried to make their books look like handwritten manuscripts because in scholarly circles printed books were regarded as vulgar and inferior products — cheap paperbacks, so to speak.
But now that I have finished it, how do I attempt a review? What can I possibly say about an epic like this that has not been said before? To conclude by saying that it was wonderful would be a disservice. To analyse it would be too self-important and to summarize it would be laughable.
Nevertheless, I thought of giving a sort of moral summary of the story and then abandoned that. I then considered writing about the many comparisons it evoked it my mind about the Indian epics that I have grown up with, but I felt out of my depth since I have not even read the Iliad yet.
With all those attempts failed, I am left with just saying again that it was much more enjoyable than I expected. That is not to say that it was an epic adventure with no dull moments. No. The characters repeat themselves in dialogue and it attitude, all major dramatic points are revealed in advance as prophesy and every important story event is told again at various points by various characters. Even though i avoided it as much as I can, I could not at times avoid contrasting my reading experience with that of the epics I have grown up with and I remember thinking to myself that in comparison this reads like a short story or a novella. Maybe this impression is because I am largely yet unaware of the large mythical structure on which the story is built. I intend to allay that deficiency soon.
The characters are unforgettable, the situations are legendary and I am truly happy that I finally got around to a full reading of this magnificent epic. It has opened up a new world.
- The Iliad, Book One: Rage (chazzw.wordpress.com)
- The Iliad, Book One (thegreatestwork.wordpress.com)
- The Rage of Achilles – Homer, published 1995 (covetablecovers.wordpress.com)
- Achilles: Just One of the Girls (semperegoauditor.typepad.com)
- Edward Luttwak: Homer Inc (lrb.co.uk)