Title: The Iliad
Author: Homer, translated by Robert Fagles
Release Date: November 1, 1998
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Genre: Poetry, Classics
Rating: 5 out of 5
From the back cover:
This timeless poem-more than 2,700 year old-still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amid devastation and destruction as it moves inexorably to its wrenching, tragic conclusion. Readers of this epic poem will be gripped by the finely tuned translation and enlightening introduction.
I have read The Iliad numerous times in three different translations. It has become one of those few “favorite books” – books that I love, that I can’t get enough of. Each time I read it, I learn something new and pick up on another theme that I didn’t notice before.
For some reason, The Iliad is often treated as The Odyssey‘s neglected younger cousin: most people have read or seen an adaptation of The Odyssey. For some reason, it gets all the glory. While The Odyssey is certainly a solid work, The Iliad is so much more than that. It is nuanced and beautiful, it has depth and wisdom in its pages. Even if you didn’t like The Odyssey, you may still find something to love in The Iliad. (And as much as I loved the movie Troy, it does not count as an adaptation of The Iliad!)
Many people haven’t broached The Iliad because of the simple fact that it is a poem, and therefore difficult to read. I do understand this, but I can’t stress highly enough that the translation is everything. Like I said, I’ve read three different translations of The Iliad and couldn’t fully appreciate it until I picked up Robert Fagles’ translation. He brings out the beauty and poetry of the words while making the text easy to read and understand. He makes The Iliad relevant thousands of years after it was written.
The story itself is of gods and heroes among men. There are recurrent themes within the novel: rage, the role of fate, and the consequences of glory. There is fighting and war, but also truth and beauty. It is interesting that the poem takes place during just a few weeks of the Trojan War, in its ninth year. It ends before the war’s conclusion, before the famous Trojan Horse. To glean that information, a close reading of The Odyssey is required. But The Iliad is a story about men, rather than one of adventure. It’s definitely an amazing read.
If you haven’t read The Iliad, I can’t recommend it highly enough. If it looks daunting, take it in pieces, one book at a time – however, you manage to do it, it’s a story that is definitely worth reading. It’s one of those that will stay with me for the rest of my life.