The Odyssey – Finale

Finishing The Odyssey has been…well, an odyssey!

I started (re)reading it July last year (see previous posts here), which is the middle of our winter months. I enjoyed dipping into it a chapter at a time as our dark wintry evenings drew in. I reveled in the poetry – often reading sections out loud to savour the sounds as well.

But then I got stuck in the Kingdom of the Dead!

The roll call of names did my head in and I lost my way. My momentum was disrupted and the story slipped from my grasp.

Now – a New Year – a renewed resolution – a new Classics Club Spin #5.

I sneakily added The Odyssey to the end of my spin list in an attempt to help me finish it…and its number was drawn. I thought it was a sign from the ancient gods – it was meant to be!

However February and March, in Australia are the end of our summer months. It’s still very hot & sultry. Our evenings are lovely long twilights suffused with the scent of frangipani and the sounds of mating fruit bats!

Personally, we’re also very busy with the start of a new school year & pre-season soccer training and friendlies. February & March also sees a last flurry of end of summer BBQ’ing opportunities with family and friends!

As a result, I found it very difficult to find time to sit down and enjoy the slow pace of storytelling that is the second half of The Odyssey.

I finally got out of the Kingdom of the Dead, only to hit my own personal doldrums!
I was bored. I wanted things to hurry up. I got tired of all the tricks and strategies of the gods and Odysseus.
I got tired of the repetitions (necessary, I know, for an oral retelling, but tiresome to read).

I was ready to move on long before Homer was prepared to stop!

I cant help but think, that I would have been one of the buffoons nodding off to sleep over my mulled wine 3000 years ago long before the story ended!

The Odyssey is a boys own adventure from start to finish. It’s a world of gods & men doing their share of great & dastardly deeds.

Robert Fagles translation is certainly a beauty. I highly recommend his verse version over the prosaic prose of E. V. Rieu’s Penguin Classic text that I read twenty years ago.

I also recommend time – slow, leisurely time – to do this story justice.

My final suggestion is to source a quality audio version.
Listening to this story allows the language to weave its magic the way Homer meant it.

14 thoughts on “The Odyssey – Finale

  1. I read The Odyssey many years ago and I think I felt much the same as you did now – it's a good story, but it is very long and I think the particular translation I had was truer to the original so it was difficult to read at times. But I persevered (back when I was determined to never give up on a book – I've learned now :D) as you did with your re-read. I thought your post was fun to read – it brought back some memories for me of when I read it! Maybe one day I will revisit it again – though I will take your advice and try it on audiobook! 🙂


  2. But you got there! I should check out the Fagles' translation – I have only read the Lattimore verse. I remember trying the Rieu but those Penguins have such small writing!


  3. I keep thinking about reading The Odyssey again, because high school was so long ago! I may get to it eventually, but it hasn't even made it to the TBR list!


  4. Oh dear. I'm going to read The Illiad and The Odyssey next up in my book club. I've read The Children's Homer twice (or was it 3 times?) but I've never read the original. Thanks for the recommendation on the translation. That's something I'm just looking into now. Hopefully I won't hit the doldrums.


  5. I love Fagles' translation and I completely agree that time is needed. It's not something you read in a couple of days but something you enjoy, slowly, over a couple of months. I feel like a congratulations is in order for your completing it 🙂 I may take your advice and try an audio version when I come to re-reading it, I can imagine it would be quite the experience.


  6. I completely agree that The Odyssey is both beautifully and boringly written. There is something so artful in the story's construction, and the story is entertaining and thought provoking; however, things do drag a bit from time to time. I'm glad you were able to finish the book as I really do feel the tale and the accomplishment are well worth the effort.


  7. Congrats on finishing the Odyssey. It seems like a serious bookish accomplishment. My Hubby read it before we even met, but he still has his copy, sitting among all our other books on the shelf. I always feel like I should read it and then I run away 🙂 My spin book was not nearly as heavy.


  8. Thanks – I do feel rather pleased with myself for having read both the verse and prose editions of The Odyssey!I also have Ulysses on my Classics Club list and I dutifully put it on my CC spin list each time…and thankfully I've escaped it each time as well!


  9. I actually had the good fortune to listen to a professional storyteller retell the first half of the Odyssey last year at the Sydney Writers Festival.The good vibe from that experience actually helped to get me through some of the slower bits of the book.


  10. Good luck Heidi – it is worth the effort.You could google the various translations available or click on my earlier posts for The Odyssey (above) to get a feel for how they stack up against each other.


  11. Ba ha!!Actually I have read the prose version – nearly 30 years ago. And I bought a copy of the Fagles version at the same time I found The Odyssey…so one day I will 😀


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