Knights' Forum


Forum: Readers' Nook


Exploring "The Odyssey" with guides

Created on: 02/24/21 03:21 PM Views: 305 Replies: 1
Exploring "The Odyssey" with guides
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2021 03:21 PM

I set myself to read "The Odyssey" as one of those much-postponed wishes I could get to during lockdown.  Of course I knew the story, but my one effort to read the whole text foundered on the Alexander Pope translation - a very mannered example of English classical poetry, but not Homeric.  Happily, a friend who teaches Classics put me onto the excellent Fagles translation, which does its best to maintain the drive and sweep of the original.

The structure of the story is complicated, circling back on itself in time and space.  We hear about Odysseus for many pages before he actually turns up.  Fortunately, my Classicist friend also recommended a second book as a gloss to help me with the structure and themes.  It is “”An Odyssey:  a Father, a Son,and an Epic” by Daniel Mendelsohn.  If you are trying to read the Odyssey without the help of a teacher, I STRONGLY recommend you pick up Mendelsohn’s book and read it in parallel with Homer’s.  Not only will it give you a variety of scholarly points of view on “The Odyssey”, as if you were sitting in on a seminar, but it also is a fine, moving memoir of a father-son relationship being enhanced by sharing a classic book.

As a followup to the above, I then read Margaret Atwood's "The Penelopiad" which tells the story from wife Penelope's point of view. Definitely a few twists of the feminist knife here!  

Really enjoyed the way each of the three books enhanced the others.

RE: Exploring "The Odyssey" with guides
Posted Wednesday, February 24, 2021 04:38 PM

Wish I had had Mendelsohn in front of me when I read Joyce's Ulysses -- probably would have got a lot more out of it!  Thanks, Allyson