on March 7, 2005
I hope that those who read my review will forgive me because I would like to talk mainly about Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. When I read the Odyssey for the first time, I thought it was a wonderful adventure book with beautiful and dangerous women and I laughed with that half-wit of a Polyphemus, one of the cyclops. But near the end something was missing, it was not what it should be. Odysseus came home. His son Telemachus and his swineherd were glad and his dog could finally die with the comforting knowledge that it's master was among the living. Why didn't Penelope make a joyful sound ? Why was she so silent ? I shrugged my shoulders and said:'women!'. It's only years later I began to understand a little. So many people died in the Trojan war. The many adorers of Penelope were slaughtered by Odysseus with no compassion at all. The silence of Penelope was a reproachful silence. She was wondering how many more dead people it would take before men could live in peace. We still ask that question
on March 27, 2004
Many people do not realize that Odyssey (and Iliad) is poetry. The English translation is quite awkward. The text is more than
2800 years old and ancient Greek was a highly structured language. It was much more complex than any other Western including the currently spoken Greek. The fact that readers find it compelling today proves its value. On the other hand it requires, from the reader, to understand the natural limitations of translating poetic story telling and also a level of culture. Considering this, the human-centric focus and the genius of Homer will become evident.
on November 9, 2003
There is no doubt that this work had one of the greatest, if not the greatest impact on western literature.
Name any book and you can see elements in which that book is portrayed within The Odyssey.
The story takes place some time after the Iliad in which suitors overrun the home of the brave tactician Odysseus. His son, Telemakhos has no recollection of his father since the day he was born was the day that he left to fight the Trojan War. The beautiful wife of Odysseus, Penelope remains steadfast and faithful even though her home is flooded with the most eligible of bachelors. His son had grown to manhood but still not a true man since he grew up without his father guidance. At that time, Athena comes to him in form of a human to help him on his way and suggest he leaves to find news of his father and to be out of harms way because the suitors plan to attack him.
During this time his father is trapped on the island of the beautiful nymph which he "reluctantly" beds and but is soon freed by the god Hermes.
The rest tells the tales of how Odysseus returns home. Odysseus tells the story that takes place beforehand through storytelling.
Odysseus is the pinnacle of Greek heroes. But his character does have it flaws. Odysseus also willingly beds down with not one but two beautiful goddesses during his travels and expresses little remorse for his infidelities - though he rails against the suitors who are trying to capture his wife. But he is blessed with both strength and brains. There is no better "improviser" or "strategist" in Greek mythology, though the label attached is often "cunning" or "deceiver"; indeed, many Greeks saw Odysseus' habit of lying as a vice and a weakness. His penchant for disguise complements his ability to make up plausible stories about his background. Although Odysseus' ingenuity comes across as his chief weapon, his Achilles' heel of sorts is the frequency with which he falls victim to temptation and makes grave tactical errors, none more so than when adding insult to injury to Polyphemos and revealing his true name. Still, Odysseus is aware of this flaw, and bids his men to tie him up when they pass by the Seirenes, the paragons of temptation. By the end of his journey, he has learned to resist temptation, willingly suffering abuse by the suitors to meet his eventual goal of destroying them.
At the end, (not to give it away) poetic justice is served. But you knew that.
on November 6, 2003
I hope that those who read my review will forgive me because I would like to talk mainly about Penelope, the wife of Odysseus.
When I read the Odyssey for the first time, I thought it was a wonderful adventure book with beautiful and dangerous women and I laughed with that half-wit of a Polyphemus, one of the cyclops. But near the end something was missing, it was not what it should be. Odysseus came home. His son Telemachus and his swineherd were glad and his dog could finally die with the comforting knowledge that it's master was among the living.
Why didn't Penelope make a joyful sound ? Why was she so silent ? I shrugged my shoulders and said:'women!'.
It's only years later I began to understand a little. So many people died in the Trojan war. The many adorers of Penelope were slaughtered by Odysseus with no compassion at all. The silence of Penelope was a reproachful silence. She was wondering how many more dead people it would take before men could live in peace. We still ask that question.
on August 1, 2003
The highest praise to the Odyssey (except the fact that remains a best seller for more than 3,000 years) was Kavafis' poem, Ithaca:
"When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you.
Pray that the road is long.
That the summer mornings are many, when,
with such pleasure, with such joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase fine merchandise,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensual perfumes of all kinds,
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
visit many Egyptian cities,
to learn and learn from scholars.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your ultimate goal.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for many years;
and to anchor at the island when you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would have never set out on the road.
She has nothing more to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience,
you must already have understood what Ithacas mean"
There is nothing more than I could possibly add...
on April 15, 2003
This epic poem of Homer is nearly 3,000 years old -- if it weren't worth reading, then it would have died in oblivion ages ago. This enduring work has been the inspiration for James Joyce because it touches upon great truths about humanity. The wandering of Odysseus home after the war with Troy is full of those personal battles that still must be fought on the battlefield of everyday existence. In this epic poem Homer takes on the great themes of fidelity, homecoming, overcoming hardship through persistance and ingenuity, life's fickle nature, the treachery and dignity of men. This poem is about the enduring power of a man's love for his wife and family despite the hardships of distance and isolation. It's about doing battle with powerful demons and omnipotent gods with very human aspects, often with inhuman faces, living invisibly in one's very midst. It's about a man re-inventing himself until he finds the right road that delivers him from defeat and death. It's about what counts in life -- friendship, honor, love, loyalty, family, home and intelligent action. The lyrical nature of Homer's writing and Fitzgerald's translation is enthralling and lovely and memorable. This epic goes well beyond the test of time -- it's more than just a benchmark -- it serves to continue to inspire those who read it. Read Homer's Odyssey -- it can help you immensely to better understand your own.
on January 21, 2003
Unlike many epic poems (the Iliad, Beowulf), in which the bulk of the story focuses on the adventures and departure from home of the hero, the Odyssey focuses on going home. This theme of returning is one generally given scant attention in other epics--the homeward journey is usually mentioned briefly at the end to sort of wrap up the story. Not so with the Odyssey.
Of course, Odysseus's ultimate test comes in ridding his house of the suitors, and it seems as if everything else is preparatory to that end. With all the hardships he suffered at Troy, with all the difficulties in sailing for home, there remains one test for "the master tactician:" that of cleansing his own home.
It goes without saying that the Odyssey is a classic masterpiece, a wonderful story of a man fighting for survival and wanting to regain his lost life. This translation by Robert Fitzgerald is excellent. Like his translation of the Iliad, Fitzgerald does a wonderful job here of retaining much of the feeling of the poem. If you've never read this classic, its time you did. The Odyssey is captivating, from beginning to end.
on December 11, 2002
I am not a scholar of classical studies and I probably missed a lot of the art in Odyssey, since, after all, this is only a translation. But I still found this book to be really beautiful and also fascinating.
The beauty resides in its unexpected characters and events and in the way the whole thing is narrated in a very sensitive and poetical way. It has been said that the main topics in the Odyssey are universal (family, home, exile, treason) and this is certainly true. But reading Homer, we realize how much our civilization has evolved. In the Odyssey, we plunge back into a world dominated by the fantastic. Anything can happen and Odysseus' reality is the stuff of dreams and nightmares alike. Also and more interestingly, we go back to a world dominated entirely by Fate where humans barely have control of anything. The gods, in this pre-christian world, capriciously rule everyones' life according to their all too human moods. Humans, saved or doomed for reasons mostly beyond their control, are left to laugh and feast when things go well and to cry and mourn when tragedy strikes. What distinguishes the hero is his or her courage and determination in the face of inevitable adversity.
Emotions is really what the Odyssey presents to us. Odysseus' oarsmen do a good deal of crying, actually they cry every time they are scared, and there is also a good deal of anger,despair, courage and hope. But above all, the Odyssey is about brave and uncomplicated human beings. When Odysseus finally comes home after twenty years, he goes to visit his father. He sees him from the distance, tending to his garden, and finds him very old, impoverished and tired. Odysseus leans on a pear tree, cries a little and only then proceeds to meet him. The two simple lines it takes to narrate this pause are straightforward and powerful.
To sum it up, this is the wonderful story about us and our world long before we tried to understand it, to control it and to explain and over-explain it all. I guess the purity of action in Odysseus is what makes it a universal myth. For this reason only, to rediscover our original helpless condition and our potential courageous response to it, this book is a real gem.
on November 12, 2002
Ten years after the Trojan war is over, Odysseus is still not yet home. Back home in Ithaca, Odysseus' wife Penelope, and their son, Telemachus, are thinking maybe he's not going to come home. With no word of Odysseus' death, but no evidence of him still alive, Penelope cries herself to sleep everynight. It probably doesn't help that suitors are currently trying to bribe her into marrying them. While witnessing his mother's unhappiness, Telemachus decides to find out if his father is dead or alive. This book is the story of his quest to find his father.
This book was, without a doubt, one of a kind. The plot was well thought out, and was one that would not let you put the book down. I'm sure that in its time, this book was just that, one that you could not put down. It was hard for me to understand what was going on, because the language was different than the language I know. Once you found out what was going on, the book was intriging. There was too many characters, and I found it hard to keep track of who was who. I would recommend this book to someone who understands middle english, and someone who knows a lot about the Greek Gods.
on August 23, 2002
First and foremost, the Odyssey is a great tale. It is at heart an adventure story of Odysseus's return to his home after the 10 year Trojan War. Because Odysseus has upset the wrong god, he has to spend another 10 years journeying home. Meanwhile, suitors for his wife, Penelope's, hand have gathered at his home trying to win her heart, and, in the meantime, eating Odysseus out of house and home.
Homer picks up the tale in medias res (in the middle of things). Much of Odysseus's journey is told as a flashback, and it is wonderful to read of the adventures fighting a Cyclops, being lured by sirens, escaping witches, even having a brush with the underworld. Through it all, the book is still a tale of a family reuniting (although Odysseus is not the most faithful husband). There is even a heartbreaking scene when Odysseus sees his old dog again after being gone for 20 years.
Robert Fitzgerald's translation is just what one wants for the Odyssey. Fitzgerald stresses the poetry of Homer's epic poem. He also strives to make the book readable. I do not know ancient Greek, but it does not appear that Fitzgerald sacrifices much to achieve this. The book is still deep and rich, yet bubbling with life at the top.
If you are looking for more of a transliteration, Richard Lattimore's translation is probably closer to what you want.