Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Book Review - "The Odyssey" by Homer

The version that I read was the Robert Fagles translation and I liked the simplicity and the music of the language. It was like a fantasy story told in the lyrics of a song. I enjoyed both the verse-like form and the roller-coaster narrative, some episodes of which incidentally called to mind similar scenes in the Chinese classical novel Journey to the West (for example, the episode about Nymph Calypso keeping Odysseus a captive is very similar to the scene where a lair of seductive spider spirits want to capture and enslave the monk Xuanzang).

I've always been intrigued by Greek mythology. The way the gods and goddesses of the heavens interact with each other and with the mortals strikes me as illogical and unreasonable sometimes, and at other times compassionate, egalitarian and fair. The odd message seems to be that even the powerful immortals are full of flaws much of the time, let alone helpless mortals. There is a distinct humbling quality to it.

This fundamental work in the Western canon of literature is a must-read for classics lovers as well as fantasy and mythology aficionados.

I look forward to reading The Iliad, to which The Odyssey is a sequel, and I'm going to select Fagles' translation. Some years ago I watched on TV the movie "Troy" with Brad Pitt as Achilles, and I loved it.

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