Before the read-along begins on January 1st, I thought it would be helpful to post a schedule. To make it through the poem in a short enough time to keep up momentum, and a long enough time to allow us to appreciate it, I’m scheduling approximately 2 books (chapters) each 5 days which will be as follows:
Jan 1st – 5th —— Books I & II
Jan 6th – 10th —– Books III & IV
Jan 11th – 15th —– Books V & VI
Jan 16th – 20th —– Books VII & VIII
Jan 21st – 25th —– Books IX & X
Jan 26th – 31th —– Books XI & XII
Feb 1st – 5th —— Books XIII & XIV
Feb 6th – 10th —– Books XV & XVI
Feb 11th – 15th —– Books XVII & XVIII
Feb 16th – 20th —– Books XIX & XX
Feb 21st – 24th —– Books XXI – XXII
Feb 25th – 29th —– Books XXIII – XXIV
As for translations, I’m rather particular about my Greek (and Russian) translators. Richard Lattimore is hands down my favourite for The Iliad. He captures the poem exquisitely and is the closest to Homer, even with all the issues that translators can face, especially with a work as complex as this one. Translating Homer is not simply translating words; Homer uses vowels and consonants — sounds — to mimic certain situations and things, such as the sound of the sea. Lattimore is sensitive to this method and attempts, as well as he can in English, to reproduce it. In my opinion, he does a wonderful job in capturing the grandeur of the poem.
Fitzgerald would be my second choice even though the criticism of him is that he makes the poem sound more Fitzgerald than Homer. He is the translator of choice for The Aeneid though.
An acquaintance I know, who knows ancient Greek and has read many of the English translations, has this to say about them:
“For the Iliad and the Odyssey, imnsho, the only translations I have ever seen which begin to do justice to Homer are Lattimore’s. Simple, unadorned, but managing in so many places to capture the feel of the original. I wish I had maintained my Greek, because the original is always better… some things just can’t be translated… but Lattimore makes me catch glimpses of the real thing and has a quiet grandeur which I love.
Fitzgerald has a nice translation of the Aeneid, but his translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey are, imho, too florid.. there is too much Fitzgerald and not enough Homer. They are pretty, but way off key.
The Fagles translations repulse me. They are so colloquial, so far from Homeric that they feel more like modern adaptations than translations.
Lombardo takes even more liberties with the text – imho this is definitely more of an adaptation than a translation.
For a very literal translation (most useful if you are trying to translate Homer yourself) the Loeb editions have facing English and Greek pages and follows the word order of each Greek line as closely as possible – I wouldn’t use it as a primary text, but it is a neat supplement. (Ex: “The wrath sing, goddess, of Peleus’ son Achilles,” )
Some people like the Rieu prose translations, and I guess they could serve as an intro to Homer, but I wouldn’t use them.
Mandlebaum has a slightly clunky translation of the Odyssey – he is my translator of choice for Dante (though it was a hard choice!), but not for Homer… but, unlike most of the others it *is* a reasonably reliable translation, as I recall.
Pope’s translations are an older version of what Fagles has done – an adaptation in the “translator’s” own style.. pretty, but not Homer… but, imo, less grating than Fagles and less ornate than Fitzgerald… though Fitzgerald is a more reliable translator.
Butler has prose translations of Homer… pedestrian is the adjective I would apply to them. Rieu’s has a little more flavor, but Butler’s is sold and straightforward…. not a version I would choose, but there isn’t anything *wrong* with it…
Chapman’s translation is a classic in its own right, but one I would read for itself not for Homer…”
I hope this helps with your decision on which translation to choose as we begin our journey!