The short review: If you're looking for an edition to read in class, this is very accessible. If you're looking to read for enjoyment, the pacing is great, the translation is stellar and Wilson brings humor back into Homer's epic. My only qualms were my personal feelings towards the handling of the women in the story.
The Long Review: It wasn't until after I read this that I realized how familiar I was with the story. I'd read vignettes of The Odyssey in 8th grade, watched the TV film, and read stories inspired by The Odyssey growing up. A few months ago, I asked my Instagram followers, "Should I read The Iliad first, or The Odyssey?". My friend Kate voted on The Odyssey, and told me afterward to read Circe by Madeline Miller. Well, I didn't listen to her. I started The Iliad. Halfway through, I hated it and realized I owned the worst translation ever. Then, a few weeks ago, everyone else told me to read Circe, and I realized Kate was right. I asked my followers what the best translation of The Odyssey was, and my friend Chris voted this one. Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate The Odyssey, and--if I were to be the voice of authority--could be the definitive translation.
Reading translations can be tricky. My original copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey had taken all of the poetry away from the writing and left a convoluted telling of the stories. Certain translations I'd read before were drowning in the translators poetry. You'll find that some translators get a little hyped up about being able to tackle such classics, and get heavy handed. Emily Wilson refrains from the excessive poetry. I'll spare you with all of the details every other article has mentioned, but this really is the ideal version of The Odyssey, depending on what you're looking for. It's the full version of The Odyssey and it's clear and fast-paced and definitely accessible.
Now, for my big issue. The story is basically focused on a really problematic protagonist. He's sexist (like pretty much all of the men in this book) and he's selfish and can be cruel. I mentioned this in my little Instagram review, but maybe I'd have been able to look past some of these more undesirable qualities if we weren't living in our current climate. It's hard to read about a man who does such terrible things and has such little respect towards women when our country is being run by a man just like that. I wonder if I'd read this back in 2014-2015 if I'd have had such strong dislike for Odysseus as I do now. I mean, even when you watch The Office, everyone loves Michael Scott...but there are more similarities between him and Trump than we may like to admit. Would we still like Michael Scott if he'd been introduced after the 2016 election?
I know that's not really the point of this book, but it's the questions it got me thinking about. I think what the classics make us conscious of is how much we've changed, but also...how little we've grown. We still objectify women and look at them as successful only if they have fine husbands or sons. I'll never consider myself to be an intelligent enough person to dissect things like this, but I can at least offer the thoughts it gave me while reading it. That's part of why I like books, is because they foster important conversations.
So, if you have thoughts on this book, I'd love to hear them! Do you have a different opinion on Odysseus and the other men of this book? Am I totally misreading it? Do you think that reading books at different times in our lives can impact how we receive them? Let me know your thoughts down below! (Or, if you follow me on Instagram, you can DM me or comment on the upload in my picture...or you can comment on my facebook link haha) @ShelfByShelf
Thanks for reading!