Published Humanitas, Volume XIII, No. 1, 2000

Odysseus has lived through many transformations since Homer commemorated him in the Odyssey. None of them, however, has made Homer obsolete. Both the Iliad and the Odyssey have been translated many times. By common consent of those competent to judge such matters, Robert Fagles has done a superb job with the Odyssey. Even before I read it, I heard it read by Ian McKellan. That was an eye-opener, or should I say ear-opener. It sounded as though that was the natural way to come at it. The spaciousness, the contrast of tones alternating between casual, even rambling digression and the tightness of dramatic moments, the sense of intimacy a voice establishes—all these drew me into the poem and made me aware of new meanings, or forgotten relationships, that I would like to share. The Odyssey is so large and various that we need reminding of its riches. The only way to do this properly, it seems to me, is to travel along with Homer, hitting the highlights and commenting as I go.

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