Book Club - The Odyssey by Emily Wilson

Book Cover

Many people read The Odyssey in high school, but rarely does it truly resonate. It's read for class, it's read for analysis, but often its nuance, humor, and drama are lost in translation. If you've never read it, or read it but don't remember much, there is a truly novel translation recently available from Emily Wilson. To quote the Amazon page:

"In this fresh, authoritative version―the first English translation of The Odyssey by a woman―this stirring tale of shipwrecks, monsters, and magic comes alive in an entirely new way. Written in iambic pentameter verse and a vivid, contemporary idiom, this engrossing translation matches the number of lines in the Greek original, thus striding at Homer’s sprightly pace and singing with a voice that echoes Homer’s music.

Wilson’s Odyssey captures the beauty and enchantment of this ancient poem as well as the suspense and drama of its narrative. Its characters are unforgettable, from the cunning goddess Athena, whose interventions guide and protect the hero, to the awkward teenage son, Telemachus, who struggles to achieve adulthood and find his father; from the cautious, clever, and miserable Penelope, who somehow keeps clamoring suitors at bay during her husband’s long absence, to the “complicated” hero himself, a man of many disguises, many tricks, and many moods, who emerges in this translation as a more fully rounded human being than ever before."


Collected final thoughts on The Odyssey:

Favorite highlights:

But Hermes did not find Odysseus, since he was sitting by the shore as usual, sobbing in grief and pain; his heart was breaking.

The dazzling bed of Circe.

Let your heart decide.

Sex sways all women’s minds, even the best of them.

Telemachus sneezed loudly and the noise resounded through the hall.

“This greedy pig yaks on like some old woman scrubbing an oven!”

0/10 for not composing in the original dactylic hexameter form. What is this, amateur hour?


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The dog Argos lay there, covered in ticks,
But as soon as he became aware of Odysseus,
He leapt to his feet
And put his paws upon Odysseus’ shoulders and it was
Almost as though they were hugging.

The dog’s paws wrapped around the man’s shoulders
As they shook and shook.
It was as though no time had passed
Between man and dog.

“Who is this dog?” Odysseus asked at last, smiling through tears
As though he did not know his own pup.
“Who is this good boy?
Who is this good boy?
Who is this good boy?”

And the swineherd, though he still did not realize
The identity of Odysseus
Was filming the whole encounter
Because he knew good content when he saw it

And later, without Odysseus’ knowledge,
He uploaded the video on YouTube
Where it was titled “Dog Greets Soldier Coming Home”
And it received well over 3 million views.

Books Where the Dog Dies, Rewritten So the Dog Doesn’t Die


Great thread.

I am very sad that you didn’t open this episode by announcing your show as “GreekNights”.



Emily Wilson, MacArthur Fellow

And now with limerics :slight_smile:

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I just finished Emily Wilson’s Odyssey last night as an audiobook. It’s a good translation, but I wish they had got a full-time audiobook narrator to record it, not a tv/movie actor. Clare Danes just isn’t really up to the task.

The epic podcast is done!

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