Homer's epic chronicle of the Greek hero Odysseus journey home from the Trojan War has inspired writers from Virgil to James Joyce. Odysseus survives storm and shipwreck, the cave of the Cyclops and the isle of Circe, the lure of the Sirens song and a trip to the Underworld, only to find his most difficult challenge at home, where treacherous suitors seek to steal his kingdom and his loyal wife, Penelope. Favorite of the gods, Odysseus embodies the energy, intellect, and resourcefulness that were of highest value to the ancients and that remain ideals in out time.
The point of comparison between these two volumes is that neither will be well received by serious classicists. There have been at least ten previous editions of Lawrence's prose translation of the Odyssey . When it was first published in 1932, Lawrence's admittedly ``free'' translation was criticized by many as being too fast and loose with the original text. This and the colloquialisms that bothered critics then are all the more pronounced 60 years later. Nor does Bernard Knox give any discernible reason for the reissue of the work in his preface to the volume. Billed as a rediscovery, this is just new packaging of an old translation. Believing that the topography and the meteorology of the Mediterranean does not mesh with its descriptions in the Odyssey and the Iliad , Wilkens presents a compelling argument that moves the Trojan War to Western Europe and Troy to East Anglia near Cambridge. The ``Trojan War,'' he contends, was actually a Celtic battle that was fought hundreds of years before Homer's time and passed down to him by oral tradition. Wilkens redraws the map of the Trojan War, justifying each location with archaeological evidence or etymological analysis of place-names. The volume makes for interesting reading, albeit somewhat frustrating for one who is a Homerian by enthusiasm but not scholarship because most of the cited references are in languages other than English (this work has been translated from French). Libraries without Lawrence's translation can do without it, and only large libraries will want to consider adding Wilkens.-- Marjorie F. MacKenzie, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 01, 1991
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Excerpt from The Odyssey of Homer by Homer
To the Muse. " The anger of Poseidon. " In Poseidon's absence, a gathering of the gods in Zeus' halls on Olympus.
Athena's plea for help for the stranded Odysseus; Zeus' consent. Athena in the guise of Mint's visits Ithaca.
Her advice to Telýmachus:
he is to confront the Ithacan elders
with the problem of the suitors
and to leave Ithaca to search
for news of his father.
Penelope's appearance among the suitors.
Her silencing of Phemius the singer.
Telemachus and the suitors:
their sharp exchange.
Telemachus and his old nurse, Eurycla.
Muse, tell me of the man of many wiles,
the man who wandered many paths of exile
after he sacked Troy's sacred citadel.
He saw the cities-mapped the minds-of many;
and on the sea, his spirit suffered every
adversity to keep his life intact;
to bring his comrades back. In that last task,
his will was firm and fast, and yet he failed:
he could not save his comrades. Fools, they foiled
themselves: they ate the oxen of the Sun,
the herd of Helios Hyperion;
the lord of light requited their transgression he took away the day of their return.