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Old 04-18-2012, 11:12 AM   #1
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"How's that shroud coming along, Penelope?": The Odyssey Thread

There's interest in a group read of The Odyssey, so here's a tentative outline. Suggestions welcome; this isn't set in stone.

Reading six books a week seemed to work well enough for The Iliad, so I propose a similar schedule. To give people time to line up their preferred editions and to slot it in, I thought we could plan to have finished the first six books on May 7 and continue from there, wrapping up on May 28. As before, people are welcome to comment and question as they read, especially in the week before a particular chunk is due. Again, we can tweak this by consensus.

I really, really liked the Fagles's translation of The Iliad, so I suspect I'm going to choose that one. The last time I read it, it was Fitzgerald; that also is a possibility. Just as a personal take, I think the translations in the public domain are a more difficult read than the more recent copyrighted editions. For enjoyment and comprehension, I'd suggest checking out the local library or used book venues if you can't find an ebook that fits your wallet.
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Old 04-18-2012, 12:06 PM   #2
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I downloaded free previews of the B&N classics edition (translated by George Herbert Palmer in 1921, $3.99 for the Nook book) and a preview of Fagles' translation ($1 for the Nook book, which includes both The Iliad and The Odyssey). The Fagles version looks easier to read but the B&N classics edition has footnotes, so there are two good options for anyone who has the ability to read Nook books on their reader.

I might join in but I'm reading four other books right now. Finding time to fit in Homer might be difficult.
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Old 04-18-2012, 12:33 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by tecweston View Post
I downloaded free previews of the B&N classics edition (translated by George Herbert Palmer in 1921, $3.99 for the Nook book) and a preview of Fagles' translation ($1 for the Nook book, which includes both The Iliad and The Odyssey). The Fagles version looks easier to read but the B&N classics edition has footnotes, so there are two good options for anyone who has the ability to read Nook books on their reader.

I might join in but I'm reading four other books right now. Finding time to fit in Homer might be difficult.
We're breaking it up so it doesn't seem so onerous or interfere (too much!) with other things one's reading, and keeping the discussion fluid so people can comment at any time. Join in when you can.
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Old 04-18-2012, 04:36 PM   #4
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I read the B&N Classics edition of the Odyssey last year. It was arranged in a prose format which was much easier to read than the B&NC Iliad (which I still haven't finished) and came with some fairly informative footnotes for cultural terms and mythological references.

I got mine back during one of those freebie giveaway promos, and I'd say that the entire thing is worth about the $1.99 price B&N used to charge for their Classics line back then. Not enough value-add to justify a $3.99 price for a fancied-up older public domain translation, IMHO.
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Old 04-19-2012, 10:54 AM   #5
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I've got the B&N classics edition, also. While I decided to order the Fagles translation from the Amazon marketplace for a trivial sum plus shipping, I'll give the B&N footnotes a whirl.

I know it's a doorstopper, but with a book like the Odyssey I think I'm happier being able to flip around the pages, and I wouldn't be trying to read it on the hoof anyway. Very much a YMMV situation.

I'm curious to know which translations others are choosing.
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Old 04-19-2012, 07:28 PM   #6
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So this is on. Deciding not to flit around test driving various translations this time, I decided to request a paper copy of the Fagles translation through my local library.
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Old 04-19-2012, 08:43 PM   #7
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That's a great thing about just giving the Iliad a go recently, now many of us are already familiar with some of the different translators.

I'm going with the Lattimore again and in ebook form, and along the way I'll be referencing an Odyssey companion by Peter Jones and in pbook form.
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:05 AM   #8
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Partly to bump this thread; tomorrow is May 1. Also to forewarn those who may be reading Fagles translation that the introduction is about 65 pages in length.
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Old 04-30-2012, 11:27 AM   #9
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Partly to bump this thread; tomorrow is May 1. Also to forewarn those who may be reading Fagles translation that the introduction is about 65 pages in length.
The introduction contains major "spoilers". You may wish to defer reading it until after the book if you're not familiar with the story.
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Old 04-30-2012, 06:09 PM   #10
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Thanks for the bump! For those interested in The Odyssey group read, we are planning to have read the first six books by next Monday. Start reading today or tomorrow, and that's only a book a day! So please consider joining in.

In the meantime, there's no need to wait until next Monday to start talking about it. The thread is open for discussion and you are welcome to pose comments, questions, observations, anything at all, as you read it. Based on The Iliad thread, I can say that the classicists on board are willing to answer questions and explain any issues you may encounter.

Speaking personally, while I hadn't read either The Iliad or The Odyssey (in translation) since my freshman year in college, I always thought The Odyssey to be the better read. So even if you haven't read The Iliad or found it too much of a slog, there's a good chance The Odyssey will hold your interest.
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Old 05-05-2012, 03:47 AM   #11
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I just found this thread a couple of days ago (great title by the way, issy!) so am scampering through my very ancient Penguin Classics edition, translation by E V Rieu. No time to search out any other editions, though I might check what is available electronically.

I'm just about there so will be joining in on Monday.
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:07 PM   #12
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So it's Monday and perhaps people are wrapping up the first six books of The Odyssey? Not to worry if you're lagging; this is a fluid thread and people are welcome to roam ahead or take their time. Comments always welcome.

I'm just home from work and drinking a glass of wine, and I'll kick things off. My thoughts are not as organized as I'd hoped! No one need worry about following me, lol.

Upthread, I commented that I remembered The Odyssey as being an easier read than The Iliad and I found that is clearly the case. The narrative zips along. Instead of high issues of bravery and destiny and the strategic maneuvring of gods and men, what we mostly have is a domestic tragic comedy. Telemachus is being eaten out of house and home by his mother's boyfriends, and it's time he did something about it. This is his coming-of-age story.

I enjoyed the indirection in telling Odysseus's story. We only get bits and pieces to heighten our anticipation and I'm really, really looking forward to hearing his account. I admit I was glad when he finally showed up in Book Five. High time!

We get a lot of references to Agamemnon's fate and I think we can infer that things will go differently here, although in both cases it's up to the son to redeem the family honor. My memory of the Agamemnon tale was that told by Aeschylus and I was surprised to realize that Clytemnestra (Helen's half-sister) counts for naught in this rendering. And speaking of Helen, do she and Menelaus have a weird marriage, or what? Where the account of her long infidelity is served up to guests!
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Old 05-07-2012, 05:42 PM   #13
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Thanks for starting the discussion off Issybird! That saved me some effort typing, as I agree with everything that you have said. I am finding The Odyssey a a much easier and enjoyable read than I did The Iliad.

While I liked the first four books, things really begin to pick up for me once the center of action became Odysseus in books five and six. It was a nice setup though for what I presume to be the finale in the first four chapters. Women are certainly not imbued with many rights in the Odyssey either. Telemachus would happily solve his problem with suitors for Penelope consuming what he presumes will be his wealth by just sending his mother back to Icarius [Penelope's father], only he fears how Icarius well react.


I like your comment about the strange marriage of Helen and Menelaus and her having no qualms, nor him taking any offense, at her describing her infidelity to their guests. Even including her saying (Sun Surfer will like this):

Quote:
The boy that hero [Odysseus] left a babe in arms at home when all you Achaeans fought at Troy, launching your headlong battles just for my sake, shameless whore that I was.
Athena certainly has a real shine for Odysseus does she not?

A comment on HarryT's warning about spoilers in the Fagles translation introduction. For those who are totally unfamiliar with the story this is a good warning. I did read the introduction first though and found it helpful without detracting from the story. Then I was already familiar with major events from other readings.
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:02 PM   #14
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I'm really enjoying rereading The Odyssey too. I must have read it originally when i was studying Greek history back in the 1970s. (Which just shows how ancient I am!)

i was surprised at how small a part Penelope seemed to play, as part of what i remembered about the story was her subtle dealing with the importunate suitors with the weaving and then pulling it undone each night. But as you say, Hamlet, women were pretty unimportant in the scheme of things in Ancient Greece, at least in the eyes of the men, so I shouldn't have been so surprised. Odd, isn't it, when a goddess like Athena was so important.

Actually, Athena seems to be a bit more adult than some of the other gods. Poseidon behaves like a petulant teenager, flouncing around because the right sacrifices weren't made. The Greeks' gods are very human, aren't they!

I suppose part of Helen's cheerfulness about going off with Paris, and Menelaus' acceptance of it, was that it was really the gods, and Aphrodite in particular, who were to blame for the whole thing. It's always good to be able to blame someone else, isn't it.

And finally, it's nearly as full of quotes as "Hamlet" - "It's a wise child who knows his own father", "grin and bear it" (at least in my translation), "the wine-dark sea", "rosy-fingered Dawn".
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:24 PM   #15
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This is a comment on what Issybird said in her previous comment concerning what is said, at least through Book 6, concerning Agamemnon's death, and what part Clytemnestra may have played in it. It may contain spoiler information relative to later books in the Odyssey.


Spoiler:

From Book 3 Verse ~ 270 Athena(disguised) speaking:

Quote:
Myself, I'd rather sail through years of trouble and labor home and see that blessed day, than hurry home to die at my own hearth like Agamemnon, killed by Aegisthus' cunning—by his own wife.

And later in Book 3 Verse ~ 350 King Nestor speaking:

Quote:
But the eighth year ushered in his ruin, Prince Orestes home from Athens, yes, he cut him down, that cunning murderous Aegisthus, who'd killed his famous father. Vengeance done, he held a feast for Argives, to bury his hated mother, craven Aegisthus too, . . .
So this is consistent with what I recall about Agamemnon's death, as a conspiracy between Clytemnestra and Aegisthus, with Clytemnestra actually doing the killing. I also recall that one reason that Clytemnestra was so receptive to Aegisthus, and to killing Agamemnon, was memory of Agamemnon sacrificing their own daughter before departing for Troy in the hope that this would assure success in the war. No mention on that in The Odyssey yet though.
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