The Iliad (Penguin Classics)

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9780140860054: The Iliad (Penguin Classics)

Examines the history of scholarly debate about the origins of "The Iliad". Was Homer the sole author, did he describe historical events and was his poetry transcribed in his lifetime? - these are some of the questions examined.

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Review:

So great is the impact of ancient Greek literature on Western culture that even people who have never read Homer's Iliad or The Odyssey know a lot about them. The Trojan Horse, Achilles' heel, the Sirens' call, Scylla and Charybdis--all have entered popular mythology, becoming metaphors for the less heroic situations we face in our own lives. Ever since these oral poems were committed to paper (probably in the 8th century B.C.E.), people have been translating them. The version of Iliad translated by Stanley Lombardo is a brave departure from previous translations; Lombardo attempts to adapt the text to the needs of readers rather than the listeners for whom the work was originally intended. To this end, he has streamlined the poem, removing many of the stock repetitions such as the infamous "rosy-fingered dawn," or rewriting them in ways dependent on their context. What emerges is a vivid, lively rendition of one of the world's great stories of men and war.

But classicists, beware: This Iliad has something of a '90s sensibility, from the cover art (a photograph of the D-Day Normandy landing) to Achilles' Rambo-like diction. It might well outrage the purists, but for those who remember their musty high-school reading of Homer's great epic with a barely suppressed yawn, Lombardo's energetic translation is just the version to change their minds.

From the Publisher:

The new recording of Homer’s The Iliad read by Anton Lesser uses a new and lively translation by Ian Johnston, a retired instructor (now a Research Associate) at Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. He comments: ‘Translating is the ultimate close reading of a text, since one has to come to grips with it word by word, constantly asking questions of the author. I’d taught the Iliad many many times, and so it seemed right that I should finally really wrestle with it at close quarters.’ ‘What attracts me most about Classical literature is the vision of the world as a place vitally alive with divine presences who are always interfering with human life on every level, as often as not maliciously and for no apparent reason (other than divine desire). I find the absence of guilt (in a Christian sense) and the emphasis on status and shame immensely congenial (especially in Homer). And all the rewards and punishments that matter are in this life (no matter what Socrates might say).’ Professor Johnston has been translating various works for about fifteen years. ‘I started because I wanted materials for my classes (especially in History of Science) and just kept going. I do it now because I really enjoy the close reading required. But I think translating is like filling in crossword puzzles – some people just cannot understand the point, others see at once how pleasurable it can be.’ The Iliad took Professor Johnston four years ‘on and off’, but The Odyssey, which he has also done, took just two years. ‘Computers make the exercise much faster because of on-line lexicons, commentaries, and so on (also I work obsessively when I’m on a project).’ Anton Lesser is currently recording the Johnston translation (The Odyssey ) for Naxos AudioBooks in its unabridged form.

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