Review – Homer’s Odyssey

Cover of Homer's Odyssey by Simon ArmitageHomer’s Odyssey, Simon Armitage

It’s funny to think I didn’t enjoy Armitage’s work the first time I came across it. I think it was his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight that changed that. He brought something fresh and dynamic to the poem, which made it a very different reading experience to other translations and adaptations. He’s done the same here with The Odyssey. This is not a translation, or even a completely faithful adaptation: I can think of several places where it departs from the original poem.

However, he brings that same dynamism to Homer’s voice as he did to the Gawain-poet’s. Some of the turns of phrase still ring perfectly true, mixed in with the modern vernacular he uses as well. I’m sure it drives purists crazy, but I set aside any professional qualms and just read it for enjoyment, and thought that he rendered some scenes beautifully — more true to the spirit of the original than any stuffy translation, too, I think.

If you want to read The Odyssey without reading the phrase ‘rosy-fingered dawn’, and you don’t want to worry about Greek customs (xenia, for example), this makes it very easy to follow the story and understand the basic motivations of all the characters. It has a robust beauty to it that wouldn’t work in translating, say, Vergil, but I think in translating Homer it works very well.

Rating: 5/5

2 thoughts on “Review – Homer’s Odyssey

  1. I generally like his poems, so I’m not surprised that his translations are good too. Not super feeling the Odyssey though, maybe I should try the Gawain poem?

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