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Brought to you by Penguin.
This Penguin Classic is performed by George Blagden, star of Versailles and Vikings. This definitive recording is is translated by E.V. Rieu, revised by D.C.H. Rieu, and contains an introduction by Peter Jones.
The epic tale of Odysseus and his 10-year journey home after the Trojan War, forms one of the earliest and greatest works of Western literature. Confronted by natural and supernatural threats - shipwrecks, battles, monsters and the implacable enmity of the sea-god Poseidon - Odysseus must use his wit and native cunning if he is to reach his homeland safely and overcome the obstacles that, even there, await him.
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- Tad Davis
A good read
There are several verse translations of The Odyssey on Audible (Robert Fitzgerald, Ian Johnston), and several prose versions (Samuel Butler, WHD Rouse, and this one by EV Rieu). The Odyssey, translated by Rieu, was the first book ever published in the Penguin Classics series. It was updated a few years ago by Rieu’s son and by Peter Jones, a classicist. Their goal, they said, was to preserve the *joie de vivre* of the original translation while at the same time making modest changes to bring it more in line with the Greek. They succeeded. It remains as fresh and engaging as ever; it’s an almost ideal introduction to Homer.
Rieu has a charming and straightforward way of putting the epic verse into English. It could be a stylish English novel of the period, the 1940s or 1950s: it’s informal and briskly readable without being slangy. But (at least in the more recent revision) many aspects of the epic are retained. Chief among these are the epithets, the stock phrases Homer used to identify people, places, and things. The epithets don’t overrun the prose, but they’re there: Odysseus is resourceful, Telemachus is thoughtful, Menelaus has a loud war-cry, the dawn is rosy-fingered, the sea is wine-dark, and words are often winged as they fly from one person to another. You’re clearly in ancient times. The only difference is that first time around, you can understand what’s being said.
I’ve been wanting someone to do this version for years. Apparently Penguin decided the market was right for unabridged literary classics, and they included Rieu’s Odyssey in the first batch of several dozen titles they released in September 2019. I have a lot of them in my wish list now, but this was always going to be the first one I listened to.
I haven’t heard anything by George Blagden before, so I didn’t know what to expect. He’s good, but his style is a little less forceful than I’d like. He does manage to keep the pace up, though, and the characters — in this dialogue-dominated epic — are well-differentiated. You won’t find transports of poetic grandeur in this version, but you *will* find a cracking good yarn.
Penguin has greatly increased the value of this offering by including the introduction by Peter Jones. I hope they release the Rieu/Jones Iliad as well, and (while we’re on a roll) David West’s prose version of The Aeneid. For anyone who loves classic literature, this new publishing venture is very exciting.
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