Emily Wilson has succeeded in making me like The Odyssey, after years of other translators have failed. She has created a refreshing and easily readable text that maintains its poetic sense without beating you in the face with rhyme. It features a succinct glossary and an interesting translator’s notes section that brings to life some of the choices one is presented with when translating such an epic and well-known work.
Book one begins with “Tell the old story for our modern times,” and the translation succeeds. Lines are easy to read, without losing nuance or character. The heart of the story remains, not dumbed down to insipidness or cluttered with obscure wordage. It was made with real people in mind; for a world where anyone can buy and enjoy the work. We are presented with a world where names may be unfamiliar, but the tribulations of life are not. Parents worry about children, wars cause chaos at home and abroad. If you prefer a more fantastical tale, it has monsters and gods, as well.
Now, some of you may say, “It is 24 books. It is a poem from a million years ago; it must be hard!” Let me point a few things out: a “Book” in The Odyssey is roughly equal to a modern chapter; with lines being not a full page in width. Taking that into account, and not dealing with the notes sections, you are left with something roughly the size of a small novel. Do not let your unfamiliarity with epic verse drive you from learning a story that has been told for ages and is one of the earliest adventures. Dig in, and enjoy.
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