Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson

Title: The Odyssey
Author: Homer

Translator: Emily Wilson
Purchase it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Play | Kobo
Genre: Classics, Poetry
Rating: 4/5

Composed at the rosy-fingered dawn of world literature almost three millennia ago, The Odyssey is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage and family; about travelers, hospitality, and the yearning for home.

This fresh, authoritative translation captures the beauty of this ancient poem as well as the drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, none more so than the "complicated" hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this version as a more fully rounded human being than ever before.

Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, Emily Wilson's Odyssey sings with a voice that echoes Homer's music; matching the number of lines in the Greek original, the poem sails along at Homer's swift, smooth pace.

This is my first time reading The Odyssey by Homer but it was an instant favorite of mine. I have to say this isn't really a surprise to me because I was fairly sure I would enjoy reading the epic. This particuar translation by Emily Wilson came recommended a lot by Liv on the Let's Talk About Myth, Baby! podcast (which is one of my top favorite podcasts so you really must check it out!) so I knew I needed to get my hands on it. I pined for it all year and I finally got it as a Christmas present so that was really awesome and I didn't hesitate to start reading.

As for the book, it is truly beautiful inside and out. The cover on its own is one of my favorites and I loooove the many maps inside as well. I'm a sucker for maps in books. If you're planning to read this edition I would also highly recommend you to read the introduction and translator's note because I found both were very interesting to read. I would say it's equally as fascinating as the epic poem itself even.

I know the Iliad comes actually first but I don't have a copy of that so if anyone knows of any translations (preferably by a woman) that are good feel free to recommend them to me. I would appreciate it very much! 

About Homer:
In the Western classical tradition, Homer (Greek: Όμηρος) is considered the author of The Iliad and The Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest of ancient Greek epic poets. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.

When he lived is unknown. Herodotus estimates that Homer lived 400 years before his own time, which would place him at around 850 BCE, while other ancient sources claim that he lived much nearer to the supposed time of the Trojan War, in the early 12th century BCE. Most modern researchers place Homer in the 7th or 8th centuries BCE.

The formative influence of the Homeric epics in shaping Greek culture was widely recognized, and Homer was described as the teacher of Greece. Homer's works, which are about fifty percent speeches, provided models in persuasive speaking and writing that were emulated throughout the ancient and medieval Greek worlds. Fragments of Homer account for nearly half of all identifiable Greek literary papyrus finds.

About Emily Wilson:
Emily Wilson is the College for Women Class of 1963 Term Professor in the Humanities, professor of Classical Studies, and graduate chair of the Program in Comparative Literature & Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. Wilson attended Oxford University (Balliol College B.A. and Corpus Christi College M.Phil.) and Yale University (Ph.D.). In 2006, she was named a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome in Renaissance & Early Modern scholarship and in 2019 she was named a MacArthur Fellow. She lives in Philadelphia with her three daughters and three cats.

In November 2017, Wyatt Mason profiled Professor Wilson in The New York Times Magazine. "When I first read these lines early this summer in The Paris Review, which published an excerpt, I was floored. I’d never read an “Odyssey” that sounded like this. It had such directness, the lines feeling not as if they were being fed into iambic pentameter because of some strategic decision but because the meter was a natural mode for its speaker."

Follow Professor Wilson on Twitter @EmilyRCWilson. Professor Wilson frequently tweets about the Odyssey, translation, and her cats.
Website | Twitter | Goodreads


  1. I love how excited you sound about a book that really has intimidated me. You've made it just that little bit more accessible tbh.

  2. This does sound like a wonderful edition to own! I read another translation for a high school English class that I really enjoyed. I am intrigued to see a copy of this one. :)

  3. This really does sound like it would be a good one!

  4. That really is a beautiful cover!

  5. As a mythology lover, I know I am going to have to read this at some point. I have actually asked for this from my parents for my birthday and we will see how it goes for me. You have me excited!

  6. Ah reading this has been on my bucket list for way too long already, so i'm happy to hear you got this and enjoyed it!


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