The Odyssey Read-Along

Plethora of Books is hosting an Odyssey Read-Along beginning now, and since she begged and grovelled and cajoled me to join, how could I say no?

Ulysses and the Sirens
by John William Waterhouse (1891)

Here is the schedule:

Feb 11 – Feb 15

  • Background Information Prep

Feb 16 – Feb 22

  • Books I – IV (pg 27-87: 61) – This section deals primarily with Odysseus’ son Telemachos

Feb 23 – Mar 1

  • Books V – VIII (pg 88-136: 49) – Odysseus leaving Kalypso island and journeys to Scheria

Mar 2 – Mar 8

  • Books IX – XII (pg 137-197: 61) – Flashbacks from Odysseus’ from Troy to Kalypso island

Mar 9 – Mar 15

  • Books XIII – XVII (pg 198-269: 72) – This is start of Odysseus’ narrative home to Ithaka

Mar 16 – Mar 22

  • Books XVIII – XXII (pg 270-334: 65) – continuation of Odysseus’ narrative

Mar 23 – Mar 29

  • Books XXIII – XXIV (pg 335-359: 25) – Conclusion and resolutions

Mar 30 – Apr 2

  • Wrap-up

I haven’t decided on the translation I’m going to read yet.  Lattimore is apparently the closest to the original, yet in spite of complaints that Fitzgerald tends to embellish (more Fitzgerald than Homer), I might just choose to read his, as I read Lattimore’s the first time round.  The Fagles translation I would tend to avoid on principle, but I’ll probably do a comparison between all three before I start.
In spite of feeling a wee bit overloaded with my reading, I’m really looking forward to reacquainting myself with The Odyssey.  After reading The Iliad, I fell in love with Greek literature and it will be a joy to visit some old companions again!
If you are interested in joining, pop over to Plethora’s blog to sign up!

8 thoughts on “The Odyssey Read-Along

  1. You make me sound so evil "she begged and grovelled and cajoled me to join".

    I'm certain you have something else up your sleeve to cajoled me into in the near future. 😉

  2. Aw, I was just trying to get your attention!

    Yes, I always have a number of things up my sleeve! 😉 But for now, I'm really looking forward to this read! Thanks for taking the plunge and stepping up as host!

  3. I'm in! I'm reading the Fagles – why are you avoiding it? I know nothing of Fagles, only that (I thought) he was the go-to guy. I guess not! 🙂

  4. It's amazing how many reading challenges you have on the go…my head would explode at such an undertaking! I read the Odyssey years ago and it was an entertaining read but didn't really leave any significant lasting impression.

    I'll be following along on your posts on this one too!

  5. I'm reasonably particular about translations, so just so you know, everyone won't be as picky as I am. 🙂

    You are always compromising with translations and especially with poetry. Does the translator choose to emphasize form or content? Sometimes I find it's "six of one and half a dozen of the other", where one translator is good for one particular "thing" and another translator for another. For example, with Eugene Onegin, after reading two different translations, there are positives and negatives for both. However, with The Odyssey, I find that there is much more of a difference in interpretation between translators. I have a couple of on-line friends who are quite knowledgeable about translations and have given me a good education! The one who knew ancient Greek, said the following about the three main translations (Lattimore, Fitzgerald and Fagles):

    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.

    I actually did enjoy Fitzgerald's Odyssey, because it is a nice read but from a personal standpoint, I'll like to get more of Homer.

    I think Fagles is a really good edition for high school for an introduction to Homer, because it is very accessible, but I found it really too simple and if you compare it to Lattimore, it is missing the grandeur.

    Now this doesn't mean that I'll only read Lattimore translations, but if you are a person who only plans to read The Odyssey once in your life, to me it makes sense to use the version that is "closest" to the original. In your case, since you're a re-reader, I wouldn't worry about reading Fagles, because I'm sure you'll get to Lattimore at some point, right? 😉

    Sorry for my long-winded explanation ….. (just don't ask me about The Divine Comedy translations ….. 😉 )

  6. My head is well on its way to exploding, believe me.

    I actually prefer The Iliad, which really surprised me. I didn't think I'd be into the war and blood and the copious names of every single character that enters a scene, but I just loved it. Hector is marvellous and Achilles fascinating. The Odyssey certainly impacted me less, which is why I'm excited to participate in the read-along. When you have other people to bounce ideas off of, it almost always improves the quality of the read.

  7. Oh dear – think I'm stuck with Fagles, the translation I first read by Chapman (I think) just didn't work for me. Mind, I think I *need* the high school version. I struggle so much with Homer, it makes me feel intensely stupid 🙂

    Don't hate me, but – what's your opinion of Divine Comedy translations? Sorry to ask! I'm going to start the C H Sisson translation in the near-ish future. I've read Dorothy Sayers' translation of Inferno, which I liked, a very bad prose translation of Purgatorio (hated it), and I can't remember who translated by Paradiso, but it was fine as far as I remember (I mean the reading experience was fine, I can't say how good the translation was in itself).


  8. The Odyssey comes out of an oral tradition, so it was meant to be heard. Do you like reading books out loud to yourself? You can try that and it might help with understanding …… I found it helped me enormously while reading Shakespeare. 🙂 Honestly, do you know what I do if I'm going to struggle with a book? I read a children's version first. For the Odyssey, there are oodles of good ones: Rosemary Sutcliff's "The Wanderings of Odysseus", "The Children's Homer" by Padraic Colum and "The Odyssey for Boys and Girls" by Alfred J. Church, which is in the public domain so you should be able to find it free somewhere. I know his "The Iliad for Boys and Girls" you can get on Librivox but I don't think they've done The Odyssey. Once I have the storyline, I can then pick a good translation and not worry about having to figure out the storyline AND the various other intricacies of the book.

    Ah, The Divine Comedy …….. well, I have an online friend, who is a professor in Italy and her "baby" is The Divine Comedy. She was convinced that an acceptable English translation was impossible to produce. Yet after she reviewed some of the translations for us she said that she thought Mandelbaum was a good balance of form and content, with more an emphasis on content. She also said she was really surprised that she liked Ciardi, he is not faithful to the text but manages to capture the "flavour" of Dante like none of the other translators. So basically:

    Sayers: good with form but has to compromise meaning.

    Musa: good with meaning but compromises form

    Pinsky: is okay but did not stand out for her

    Esolen: remains faithful to the text (meaning) but she felt the images he gives in his translation are his and not necessarily Dante's (same with Sayers on this one)

    So for school/analytical purposes: Mandelbaum but if you want the feel of the work, for pleasure, read: Ciardi. Sayers or Musa would probably be third on this list depending on the circumstance. Her last words are:

    "Sort of, Ciardi gives me the hope that English, maybe (big reservation and native speaker bias here), has the capacity of capturing the strength and the vivacity of Dante after all – but while doing so, he's not really capturing Dante. Mandelbaum is doing maybe the best overall."

    I read Ciardi and loved it. It is so much more poetic than other translations I've compared. That said, I'm going to force myself to read Mandelbaum the next time round.

    Actually, if you are not adverse to reading copious amounts of detail and some Italian, I can post the link to her response: Look at Ester Maria's answers on post #15 & 16 and possibly #19 too.

    Hope that helps a little! 🙂

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!