Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Grandest Novel

Opening paragraph to The Odyssey:
This is a story about a man, one who was never at a loss. He had travelled far in the world, after the sack of Troy, the virgin fortress; he saw many cities of men, and learnt their mind; he endured many troubles and hardships in the struggle to save his own life and to bring back his men safe to their homes. He did his best, but he could not save his companions. For they perished by their own madness, because they killed and ate the cattle of Hyperion the Sun-God, and the god took care that they should never see home again.


Vincent said...

That is a powerful translation! Checking my own copy (which I confess to not having read), I see that it conveys the same information in its own version of the prologue, apart from bits at the beginning and end which refer (unnecessarily to modern ears) to the enabling Muse:

This is the tale I pray the divine Muse to unfold to us. Begin it, Goddess, at whatever point you will.

And the issue here is that such translations (mine is that of E.V. Rieu, who did so much in that line of work for Penguin Books) revolve around the single thought "This is a classic to be worshipped, in as close to the original Greek as possible". Generations before Rieu, as well as the man himself, must have braved the rigours of Ancient Greek and its totemic value in upper-class education.

It needed some more pragmatic soul to sweep that aside and make it into a rattling good yarn. Please let me know the edition you've got hold of.

MarcLord said...


The translation is by W.H.D. Rouse, fellow of Christ's College, later schoolmaster at the Perse School:,+rouse&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=klvhpUsrTm&sig=4zQ3cId4hQoq0fj-_uPBgqg7jeY&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=3&ct=result#PPP1,M1

He was an intense believer in practical learning:

I'm finding this version much more accessible and plainly translated than the Odyssey of my youth (author unknown) which I also didn't finsih.

Still Life Living said...

And who is that in the mist throwing rocks? Did you airbrush yourself into the background of history?

(Smart ass!)