Picks and Pans Review: The Odyssey
An abandoned wife getting hit on by half the men on the island. A sorceress who turns men into pigs. Monsters, swordplay and gods. Princeton University professor Fagles's fresh translation of Homer's classic is enough to make you tune out Smashing Pumpkins and turn off Melrose Place. The peerless epic about the travels of Odysseus remains as mesmerizing as when it was first chanted on Greek hillsides almost 2,700 years ago.
This new version is a welcome addition to the shelf of Homer in English. Rather than trying to reproduce the poet's Greek prosody or render the text in strictly rhymed and metered English verse, as have earlier translators, Fagles has used a breezy, prosy narration. (He employed the same style in his 1990 translation of The Iliad.) At first the lack of formality may give a reader the impression he has picked up Homer's Greatest Hits. But once the seminal hero of Western literature sets forth on "the wine-dark sea," nothing can mar the majesty of one of our longest-lived sagas. (Viking, $35)