Literature’s grandest evocation of life’s journey, at once an ageless human story and an individual test of moral endurance, Homer’s ancient Greek epic The Odyssey is translated by Robert Fagles with an introduction and notes by Bernard Knox in Penguin Classics.
When Robert Fagles’ translation of The Iliad was published in 1990, critics and scholars alike hailed it as a masterpiece. Here, one of the great modern translators presents us with The Odyssey, Homer’s best-loved poem, recounting Odysseus’ wanderings after the Trojan War. With wit and wile, the ‘man of twists and turns’ meets the challenges of the sea-god Poseidon, and monsters ranging from the many-headed Scylla to the cannibalistic Cyclops Polyphemus – only to return after twenty years to a home besieged by his wife Penelope’s suitors. In the myths and legends retold in this immortal poem, Fagles has captured the energy of Homer’s original in a bold, contemporary idiom.
Seven greek cities claim the honour of being the birthplace of Homer (c. 8th-7th century BC), the poet to whom the composition of the Iliad and Odyssey are attributed. The Iliad is the oldest surviving work of Western literature, but the identity – or even the existence – of Homer himself is a complete mystery, with no reliable biographical information having survived.
If you enjoyed The Odyssey, you might like Robert Fagles’ translation of The Iliad, also available in Penguin Classics.
‘Wonderfully readable … Just the right blend of roughness and sophistication’
‘A memorable achievement … Mr Fagles has been remarkably successful in finding a style that is of our time and yet timeless’
Richard Jenkyns, The New York Times Book Review
‘His translation of The Odyssey is his best work yet’
Garry Wills, New Yorker