One of the supreme masterpieces of world literature, the Homeric saga of the shipwrecks, wanderings, and homecoming of the master tactician Odysseus encompasses a virtual inventory of the themes and attitudes that have shaped Western culture. The tale of Odysseus’s encounters with such obstacles as Calypso, Circe, Scylla and Charybdis, the Sirens, and the lotus-eaters, and his dramatic return to Ithaca and his patient wife, Penelope, forms a prototype for all subsequent Western epics.
Robert Fitzgerald’s much-acclaimed translation, fully possessing as it does the body and spirit of the original, has helped to assure the continuing vitality of Europe’s most influential work of poetry. This edition includes twenty-five new line drawings by Barnaby Fitzgerald.
“[Robert Fitzgerald’s translation is] a masterpiece . . . An Odyssey worthy of the original.” –The Nation
“[Fitzgerald’s Odyssey and Iliad] open up once more the unique greatness of Homer’s art at the level above the formula; yet at the same time they do not neglect the brilliant texture of Homeric verse at the level of the line and the phrase.” –The Yale Review
“[In] Robert Fitzgerald’s translation . . . there is no anxious straining after mighty effects, but rather a constant readiness for what the occasion demands, a kind of Odyssean adequacy to the task in hand, and this line-by-line vigilance builds up into a completely credible imagined world.” –from the Introduction by Seamus Heaney
What Hugh MacDiarmid once said of poetry in general can be said of Homer’s Odyssey in particular: it is ‘human existence come to life;. And just as no amount of specialist learning can prepare one for the experience of life, no lack of background knowledge can prevent a reader from feeling the truth and vitality of Homer’s art. There is, however, something slightly overwhelming about the aura of greatness which surrounds this poet’s name, so a reader approaching The Odyssey for the first time is likely to feel daunted: here, after all, is a masterpiece which has retained its pre-eminence for more than two and a half thousand years. Yet the big surprise awaiting such a reader is Homer’s directness as a storyteller, his sheer accessibility and his gift for collapsing the distance between Bronze Age Greece and our own times.