“The Odyssey”

Homer (translated by Robert Fagles)

This was my 2015 “book I should have read a long time ago” book. After finishing it, I have to say, I really should have read it a long time ago: It’s excellent: entertaining and emotionally affecting. I suppose that’s why it’s a classic.

Eagles’ translation, like his version of “The Iliad” is easy to read and his footnotes helpful without being overly academic. His introduction, which goes into the various theories of the work’s composition, is interesting.

The story itself surprised me. I had expected a tale of adventure — and there is adventure — but what really struck me is how it’s a story of longing and loss. This is the story of the warrior after the war, haunted by the home he can’t reach and the companions he’s lost.

Ulysses’ journey to the land of the dead is especially moving. He meets Achilles, the proud central figure of “The Iliad””, who says he’d prefer being a living slave to a dead hero. He meets his mother, who had died while he was fighting at Troy, and can’t embrace her.

It’s not Ulysses’ bloody victory over the suitors who have been living in his house hoping to marry his wife, but his tender reunion with his wife that brings the story to a satisfying end.

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