The Odyssey by Homer

The Odyssey is, well, the Odyssey. Beyond being a tremendously exciting read, it is a foundational work in Western literature.

It is a glorious story of love and war, gods and humans, adventure in and around the Mediterranean (and, some argue, out to the West Indies). On the surface simply the story of Odysseus’s adventures after the fall of Troy, it is a rich tapestry of places, characters, and creatures which have entered into the basic language of Western literature.

For academic study of the Odyssey, Lattimore’s translation is the preferred text, in part because it remains closest to the Greek text. And Lattimore’s is a fine translation. But I find Fitzgerald’s translation more alive, more exciting, more compelling. It is modern without being overly glib, a fault I find Fagles and Lombardo sometimes falling into.

For serious teaching and study, I stick with Lattimore. But for reading pleasure — I have read the Odyssey perhaps a dozen times in at least a half-dozen translations, and still find it has riches I never previously noticed — I turn by preference to Fitzgerald.

If you haven’t read this Odyssey, do so. Definitely do so. What else can I say?

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