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Product Description

The great epic of Western literature, translated by the acclaimed classicist Robert Fagles

A Penguin Classic

 
Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, presents us with Homer''s best-loved and most accessible poem in a stunning modern-verse translation. "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy." So begins Robert Fagles'' magnificent translation of the Odyssey, which Jasper Griffin in the New York Times Book Review hails as "a distinguished achievement."

If the Iliad is the world''s greatest war epic, the Odyssey is literature''s grandest evocation of an everyman''s journey through life. Odysseus'' reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance. 

In the myths and legends  retold here, Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer''s original in a bold, contemporary idiom, and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox''s superb introduction and textual commentary provide insightful background information for the general reader and scholar alike, intensifying the strength of Fagles''s translation. This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the general reader, to captivate a new generation of Homer''s students. This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Review

"[Robert Fitzgerald''s translation is] a masterpiece . . . An "Odyssey" worthy of the original." -"The Nation"
"[Fitzgerald''s" Odyssey" and "Iliad"] open up once more the unique greatness of Homer''s art at the level above the formula; yet at the same time they do not neglect the brilliant texture of Homeric verse at the level of the line and the phrase." -"The Yale Review "
"[In] Robert Fitzgerald''s translation . . . there is no anxious straining after mighty effects, but rather a constant readiness for what the occasion demands, a kind of Odyssean adequacy to the task in hand, and this line-by-line vigilance builds up into a completely credible imagined world."
-from the Introduction by Seamus Heaney

About the Author

Homer was probably born around 725BC on the Coast of Asia Minor, now the coast of Turkey, but then really a part of Greece. Homer was the first Greek writer whose work survives. He was one of a long line of bards, or poets, who worked in the oral tradition. Homer and other bards of the time could recite, or chant, long epic poems. Both works attributed to Homer – the Iliad and the Odyssey – are over ten thousand lines long in the original. Homer must have had an amazing memory but was helped by the formulaic poetry style of the time.

 

In the Iliad Homer sang of death and glory, of a few days in the struggle between the Greeks and the Trojans. Mortal men played out their fate under the gaze of the gods. The Odyssey is the original collection of tall traveller’s tales. Odysseus, on his way home from the Trojan War, encounters all kinds of marvels from one-eyed giants to witches and beautiful temptresses. His adventures are many and memorable before he gets back to Ithaca and his faithful wife Penelope. We can never be certain that both these stories belonged to Homer. In fact ‘Homer’ may not be a real name but a kind of nickname meaning perhaps ‘the hostage’ or ‘the blind one’. Whatever the truth of their origin, the two stories, developed around three thousand years ago, may well still be read in three thousand years’ time.

Robert Fagles (1933-2008) was Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus, at Princeton University. He was the recipient of the 1997 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His translations include Sophocles’s Three Theban Plays, Aeschylus’s Oresteia (nominated for a National Book Award), Homer’s Iliad (winner of the 1991 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award by The Academy of American Poets), Homer’s Odyssey, and Virgil''s Aeneid.

Bernard Knox (1914-2010) was Director Emeritus of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. He taught at Yale University for many years. Among his numerous honors are awards from the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His works include The Heroic Temper: Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy, Oedipus at Thebes: Sophocles’ Tragic Hero and His Time and Essays Ancient and Modern (awarded the 1989 PEN/Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I

Athene Visits Telemachus

Tell me, Muse, the story of that resourceful man who was driven to wander far and wide after he had sacked the holy citadel of Troy. He saw the cities of many people and he learnt their ways. He suffered great anguish on the high seas in his struggles to preserve his life and bring his comrades home. But he failed to save those comrades, in spite of all his efforts. It was their own transgression that brought them to their doom, for in their folly they devoured the oxen of Hyperion the Sun-god and he saw to it that they would never return. Tell us this story, goddess daughter of Zeus, beginning at whatever point you will.

All the survivors of the war had reached their homes by now and so put the perils of battle and the sea behind them. Odysseus alone was prevented from returning to the home and wife he yearned for by that powerful goddess, the Nymph Calypso, who longed for him to marry her, and kept him in her vaulted cave. Not even when the rolling seasons brought in the year which the gods had chosen for his homecoming to Ithaca was he clear of his troubles and safe among his friends. Yet all the gods pitied him, except Poseidon, who pursued the heroic Odysseus with relentless malice till the day when he reached his own country.

Poseidon, however, was now gone on a visit to the distant Ethiopians, in the most remote part of the world, half of whom live where the Sun goes down, and half where he rises. He had gone to accept a sacrifice of bulls and rams, and there he sat and enjoyed the pleasures of the feast. Meanwhile the rest of the gods had assembled in the palace of Olympian Zeus, and the Father of men and gods opened a discussion among them. He had been thinking of the handsome Aegisthus, whom Agamemnon’s far-famed son Orestes killed; and it was with Aegisthus in his mind that Zeus now addressed the immortals:

‘What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own transgressions which bring them suffering that was not their destiny. Consider Aegisthus: it was not his destiny to steal Agamemnon’s wife and murder her husband when he came home. He knew the result would be utter disaster, since we ourselves had sent Hermes, the keen-eyed Giant-slayer, to warn him neither to kill the man nor to court his wife. For Orestes, as Hermes told him, was bound to avenge Agamemnon as soon as he grew up and thought with longing of his home. Yet with all his friendly counsel Hermes failed to dissuade him. And now Aegisthus has paid the final price for all his sins.’

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
4,237 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Mark T. Patterson II
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
To Understand Western Civilization Start at the Beginining
Reviewed in the United States on August 2, 2018
My children tell me this poem is not required reading in school any longer, but then it wasn''t when I was in high school in the 1970''s either. Western Civ was crammed into a semester. Understand who and what you are in an hour a day over a term. Yeah I am sure that is going... See more
My children tell me this poem is not required reading in school any longer, but then it wasn''t when I was in high school in the 1970''s either. Western Civ was crammed into a semester. Understand who and what you are in an hour a day over a term. Yeah I am sure that is going to work out. But I got a drivers license and that at least identified my gender.

Otherwise lost in this age I decided to go back to the beginning, and like our hero depart this never never land the nymph Calypso tells me I am in where all is beautiful and there is no mortality. Ulysses knows who he is and leaves, preferring humanity.

In contrast we are unmoored from all we have been before. We have no epic mythology that tells us who we are. Instead we are informed by the cyclops television, desktop computer or smart phone. How reliable are the stories these things tell live by?

What I learned from Ulysses was I had the power to sharpen a stick and poke these monsters in the eye. Then set sail for Ithaca.
194 people found this helpful
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Aran Joseph CanesTop Contributor: Philosophy
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Distant Light Amid the Neon Glare of Modern Culture
Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2018
One of Homer’s most well known narrative techniques is to have one of his characters tell a story within a story. An early version of metafiction, if you will. An example of this takes place in the Odyssey where the local royalty have gathered amid what was then... See more
One of Homer’s most well known narrative techniques is to have one of his characters tell a story within a story. An early version of metafiction, if you will.

An example of this takes place in the Odyssey where the local royalty have gathered amid what was then considered finery. After dining at a banquet they first hear a bard and then Odysseus recite a lay. The reader is supposed to be almost vicariously present—in a corner of the royal hall enraptured by the telling of the myths and legends of Ancient Greece.

As much as any translation can bring about such an effect, Robert Fagles does successfully teleport the reader back to Ithaca and its surrounds. We get to listen to the bard recounting the oft-told stories of the wanderings of Odysseus. The particular stylistic techniques which make this such a successful translation can be found in Fagles’s postscript but, even without a sophisticated appreciation, it is hard to think of an edition that captures the attention of readers more than this one.

With the classics under increasing assault in modern day curricula due to lack of interest, having a translation that avoids archaism without sacrificing narrative power is almost a must. I am by no means the first to realize Fagles’s ingenuity. But hopefully enough people with similar opinions will prevail and young readers can be introduced to this classic of Western civilization in an edition that doesn’t bore them.

Given the many entertainment options proliferating in the twenty-first century this is by no means an easy task. But I think Fagles has met it. Strong recommendation for those seeking a popular but still intelligent edition.
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Jill Clardy
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Lattimore''s translation of The Odyssey (Amazon combines reviews for ALL translations)
Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2016
I just completed a Continuing Studies course on The Odyssey at Stanford University conducted by the venerable Dr. Marsh McCall who actually made it a fun and fascinating class. During the class, we read from two of the most modern translations, this one from Lattmore as... See more
I just completed a Continuing Studies course on The Odyssey at Stanford University conducted by the venerable Dr. Marsh McCall who actually made it a fun and fascinating class. During the class, we read from two of the most modern translations, this one from Lattmore as well as Robert Fagles'' more recent translation. I found myself reading with both books open to the same chapter, comparing the language and meaning. Lattimore chose to retain the original verse count of the Ancient Greek text, which tended to cause some rather odd and strained English constructions at times. Though the meaning was similar and neither translation actually altered the overall content, It was surprising to realize how a subtle difference in word choice could alter the perception of a scene or dialogue. There are very few people in the world who can read Ancient Greek and even fewer who could translate such a sweeping epic poem, and Lattimore''s work is surely an impressive accomplishment,

I deducted one star mainly because the physical layout of the book makes it a bit of a chore to consume. The font is too small, there are no line breaks between paragraphs, e.g.no white space, and the page headers do not include the Book numbers.
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Ken
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Magnificent translation wrapped in a delightful binding.
Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2018
Robert Fagles'' translation is easy to read for non-scholars. It''s scholarly, but not dense like books you were forced to read for a grade. The language he uses is beautiful. The book aesthetics are delightful. It''s a great size, and the paperback has a nice... See more
Robert Fagles'' translation is easy to read for non-scholars. It''s scholarly, but not dense like books you were forced to read for a grade. The language he uses is beautiful.

The book aesthetics are delightful. It''s a great size, and the paperback has a nice texture that feels good to hold. The typeface and layout are thoughtful. The paper is weighty with ragged edges, which adds to the tactile aesthetic.

If you are new to The Odyssey, as I am, then find some lectures about it to enhance your enjoyment. Each chapter revolves around a theme of hospitality. In the Greek language this is called "Xenia" which means "guest friendship". The most memorable (and egregious) abuse of Xenia in the Odyssey occurs with the Cyclops encounter.

I plan to read more of Robert Fagles'' translations. He is a joy to read.
22 people found this helpful
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Isaac H.
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fantastic story
Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2020
This is a mixed review: The story of the Odyssey is magnificent, it’s riveting and interesting, very well written, descriptive, the character of Odysseus is worthy of admiration and you’ll be rooting for him and his son Telemachus. I myself was salivating in anticipation of... See more
This is a mixed review: The story of the Odyssey is magnificent, it’s riveting and interesting, very well written, descriptive, the character of Odysseus is worthy of admiration and you’ll be rooting for him and his son Telemachus. I myself was salivating in anticipation of the eventual reckoning of the “suitors”.
There’s a reason why Homer’s works have been treasured for millennia, some of the foundational, seminal literature of western civilization.
The contents of the book are definitely worth a five star rating. However, the physical book itself is lower quality, primarily due to the variable sizing of the pages. The pages are dissimilar in width and roughly cut but top to bottom the pages are uniform.
I personally don’t care a bit about this, the book was very inexpensive and it’s the story that matters to me. If you look around and want to pay more, you can easily find a version which is hardback, or leather bound, higher quality to look good on a bookshelf.
I for one don’t give a furry rodent’s posterior.
7 people found this helpful
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Reader
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent translation, acceptable print quality
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2021
You can decide for yourself whether you like the substance of this classic work. This review refers to the Lattimore translation and Harper Perennial edition. The translation is excellent and very readable, as are the introductory materials and descriptive notes.... See more
You can decide for yourself whether you like the substance of this classic work. This review refers to the Lattimore translation and Harper Perennial edition.

The translation is excellent and very readable, as are the introductory materials and descriptive notes. Lattimore''s translation is highly recommended.

The printing and paper quality is acceptable. The paper could be smoother and whiter for better margin notetaking. The print is crisp, but has the appearance of being a bit faint because the pages are not a crisp white.

Overall this edition is still recommended for the quality of translation and translator notes.
4 people found this helpful
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Ana MariaTop Contributor: Baking
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A classic read for Greek mythology fans
Reviewed in the United States on November 6, 2019
I''m really enjoying reading again so many old classic books through the AmazonClassics Edition and `The Odyssey` was no exception. It''s hard to read a review on such a classic book. It''s the same old Homer story, the well known adventures of Odysseus after the Trojan... See more
I''m really enjoying reading again so many old classic books through the AmazonClassics Edition and `The Odyssey` was no exception.
It''s hard to read a review on such a classic book. It''s the same old Homer story, the well known adventures of Odysseus after the Trojan War.
The story is in lyrics and `old` language, which is very true to the book, but some readers might find difficult to follow. Given this, I prefer to read the book, such that I can gasp the narrative better; I find difficult to follow along when listening.

Note: I have read this book on Kindle, had no issues with this format on my Kindle. It''s harder to read on smaller screens (smartphone), since the verses are quite long.
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JB
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Excellent modern English translation
Reviewed in the United States on August 21, 2021
As I mentioned in my review of The Iliad, I was recommended the Robert Fagles translation through The Young Heretics Podcast. It was an excellent recommendation for my journey through the great works of the west. I last read The Odyssey in high school almost 20 years ago. I... See more
As I mentioned in my review of The Iliad, I was recommended the Robert Fagles translation through The Young Heretics Podcast. It was an excellent recommendation for my journey through the great works of the west. I last read The Odyssey in high school almost 20 years ago. I don''t recall the translator, but it was written in prose and likely a retelling as opposed to a direct translation. This translation has resonated with me to a much greater extent!

However, Fagles'' work on The Odyssey felt more awkward than The Iliad. His use of modern phrases was sometimes cringeworthy, additions that were likely an influence of 90''s pop culture while he completed this work.

Nevertheless, his free verse translation was just as sweeping as his work in The Iliad and is an excellent choice for anyone looking to visit or revisit this classic.

Just like The Iliad, there is a 60-page Introduction/commentary by Bernard Knox. Keep in mind that over a third of these pages are identical to Knox''s Introduction to Fagles'' translation of The Iliad. Still, the quality is still excellent and for me it just meant that I read through the introduction a lot faster than expected.
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M. Dowden
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Always A Classic
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 28, 2018
Homer’s The Odyssey I see has been voted by a number of writers and critics as the top book to read as one of those that has shaped the world and thought. It is easy to see why, and also why this story has always been well regarded. In this Amazon Classics Edition Odysseus...See more
Homer’s The Odyssey I see has been voted by a number of writers and critics as the top book to read as one of those that has shaped the world and thought. It is easy to see why, and also why this story has always been well regarded. In this Amazon Classics Edition Odysseus here is translated as Ulysses, and as there are a number of editions cross-posted on this site, and if you somehow do not know the tale, please remember this and bear it in mind. With The Iliad we read of the Trojan War, but here it is over and thus we read of Ulysses’ return home, which takes many years. Whilst he is away so his son is brought up seeing many men living off the wealth of the land and wooing his mother, Ulysses’ wife. With only two episodes recounted by another, the majority is thus what we are told by Ulysses himself, and thus we read of adventure and intrigue for our hapless hero. But the question always sits in the back of your mind – is this what really happened, or was Ulysses more likely having dalliances with other women? Because although his journey wasn’t too long across the sea, so he seems to travel everywhere thwarted by the gods, in his efforts to get home to his loving wife. So, although this is serious in structure and plotting, every time you read this you feel like this is a tall tale, and one that would have been told in the taverns of the day, by someone who was perhaps a little inebriated. So, if you want to read this as being what happened, or as a series of porkies, it doesn’t really matter, as it is still enjoyable; however, if you take it as the latter you may come up with ideas to explain to the missus why you have been a bit too long down the pub. Translated into most languages, and highly influential on others, creating adaptations and spin-off tales this is something that is always well worth reading.
7 people found this helpful
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Marcolorenzo
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
AWARD WINNING TRANSLATION
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 6, 2019
Beautiful and very readable translation in modern English blank verse. This translation is very easy to understand and the rhythm and forward motion of the prose verse is very compelling. The story definitely comes alive in great detail. Highly recommended. This deluxe...See more
Beautiful and very readable translation in modern English blank verse. This translation is very easy to understand and the rhythm and forward motion of the prose verse is very compelling. The story definitely comes alive in great detail. Highly recommended. This deluxe Penguin edition with deckle pages and French flaps is beautiful. Highly recommended. Voted one of the "Best Books of 1969" by Time magazine.
4 people found this helpful
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Greybeard
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Classic, should be in everyone’s collection.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 2, 2019
Bit early for you to be asking my opinion I’m afraid! Reading this requires a certain amount of dedication. Nothing wrong with it as far as I can tell, but it is what it is! Readers need to remember that Homer relates the story from the middle as it were!
2 people found this helpful
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Ian.S.
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A fine verse translation
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on March 14, 2011
This translation was first published in 1967. Every generation needs a new translation. I thought so until I read this version. It is a magnificent, lucid, and emotional translation. It is notoriously difficult-if not nigh impossible- to try and retain the verse, metre and...See more
This translation was first published in 1967. Every generation needs a new translation. I thought so until I read this version. It is a magnificent, lucid, and emotional translation. It is notoriously difficult-if not nigh impossible- to try and retain the verse, metre and integrity of a Greek original. Many turn it into prose and be done with it. Lattimore has attempted to stay as close to the original as is possible without mangling the clarity of the original and the English. It is written with a clear english without colloquialisms creeping in that distract from it. Epic in nature it really does seem to bring it all to life - and yes I would say its a page turner! it is one of my favourites. Since it was first published, research has advanced a pace and there are some mis-translations. Few but not in any way detracts are alters the major thrust of the storyline. Buy it with Peter Jones'' commentary and it will set you up with many hours of interesting and involved study. Thoroughly reccommended.
8 people found this helpful
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alibaba
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
the Odyssey
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on November 19, 2020
very disappointed as thought it was in story form and Not a form of poetry or prose. May get arounud to it later
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