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What edition of the Odyssey is easier to read?

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My son has to read this during the summer for school next year.  What translation of The Odyssey is easier to read?

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The Robert Fagles translation is the one recommended in TWTM. A  homeschool academy in my town uses the Robert Fitzgerald translation. My daughter read  the Fagles translations of both The Iliad and the Odyssey. She said the sections that listed names (similar to the geneology sections in the bible) were a little hard (boring) to read but other than that they were fine. She did say she found the Odyssey a little more interesting than the Iliad. Hope this helps.

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Fagles is the best.  You might check your library to look for the audio book of the Fagles translation read by Ian McKellan. 

Fitzgerald, Mandelbaum, and Lombardo would all be absolutely fine, too, but IMHO none has the impact of the Fagles translation.  

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My daughter read both Lombardo and the newer translation by Emily Wilson.  She really enjoyed Wilson’s translation.

https://www.amazon.com/Odyssey-Homer/dp/0393089053

https://www.npr.org/2017/12/02/567773373/emily-wilsons-odyssey-scrapes-the-barnacles-off-homers-hull

(She read Fagles and Lattimore for the Iliad, so she wanted to mix it up and give Lombardo a try for Odyssey.)

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Also, I haven't seen it, but Stephen Mitchell has a translation of the Odyssey, too.  We loved his Iliad.  

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My son read the Samuel Butler translation. It is said to be a little easier to understand than some other versions and just as rich. It was part of his Great Books - Ancients class with Wasko Lit. Mr. Wasko has taught high school English for ~30 years so I trusted his judgment on this. 😀

Edited by TarynB
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If you’re looking for easy, then I like Stanley Lombardo’s translation.  I needed an easy version for my student to read and that fit the bill.  If you’re looking for poetic or richness, then you might want to look elsewhere.  For my student, he needed to understand and not get bogged down in too much poetry or clever turn of phrase.

For my student, I avoided the translations that most people use in school, because I knew they’d be too much for my particular student.  So I avoided Fagles and Lattimore.  

Lombardo’s is written in very easy to understand currently-spoken English.

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I know the Fagles translation is often considered "the best" but I don't think it's the easiest. I hope I'm not mixing up translations (stupid changing covers), but I think it's the Butler translation that I used when I taught it because that one seemed to be the easiest for students.

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I like Lombardo best (especially for the Iliad) for his immediacy and transparency in making the story "visible." With many translators, the focus seems to be more on making the language feel ancient and majestic and epic, which can end up distancing the reader from the actual story, especially someone who hasn't read Homer before.  I think a lot of people are just meh about Homer because they end up just clomping through the text a line at a time instead of jumping into them like novels — and the stories themselves are amazing. Emily Wilson's new translation of the Odyssey takes a similar approach to Lombardo. Their translations are not unpoetic, they are just more modern, less contrived and stilted, so they are faster to read because your brain isn't always going three steps forward and two steps back through the syntax. However, that is also the main objection to them — some people do not like the more modern language, especially the use of idioms. FWIW, Lukeion uses the Lombardo translations in their classes.

If you want something more traditional, more reverent and "epic-y," then I would recommend Fagles. Lattimore's attempt to stick as closely as possible to the Greek creates such convoluted syntax that it can be really slow-going, and Fitzgerald takes such liberties with the original that critics complain the ratio of Fitzgerald-to-Homer is too high. Butler's 19th century prose translation is easy to read but the main reason it's used is because it's out of copyright so there are lots of free online copies and cheap paperbacks available. Mitchell is very "pared down" and easy to read like Lombardo or Wilson, but some critics think it's a little too pared down — for example, he eliminates many of the Homeric epithets (swift-footed Achilles, gray-eyed Athena, fair-cheeked Briseis) and patronymics (son of Atreus, son of Tydeus, etc) on the grounds that they don't really add anything substantial. I would disagree with that.

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JMO: Fagles felt more direct and "contemporary"; Fitzgerald felt more poetic. Butler's prose edition is very readable, but shuffles the order of events into a more direct chronological narrative, and it feels much less like the "epic poetry form" of the original. I did Fagles with DSs (8th and 9th grades), for both The Iliad and The Odyssey. They enjoyed both.

Edited by Lori D.
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1 hour ago, EKS said:

We enjoyed the Stephen Mitchell version.

I taught a "bring your own version" book discussion group for the Odyssey. Mitchell was my favorite. Butler was my least favorite.

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3 hours ago, Corraleno said:

I like Lombardo best (especially for the Iliad) for his immediacy and transparency in making the story "visible." With many translators, the focus seems to be more on making the language feel ancient and majestic and epic, which can end up distancing the reader from the actual story, especially someone who hasn't read Homer before.  I think a lot of people are just meh about Homer because they end up just clomping through the text a line at a time instead of jumping into them like novels — and the stories themselves are amazing. Emily Wilson's new translation of the Odyssey takes a similar approach to Lombardo. Their translations are not unpoetic, they are just more modern, less contrived and stilted, so they are faster to read because your brain isn't always going three steps forward and two steps back through the syntax. However, that is also the main objection to them — some people do not like the more modern language, especially the use of idioms. FWIW, Lukeion uses the Lombardo translations in their classes.

If you want something more traditional, more reverent and "epic-y," then I would recommend Fagles. Lattimore's attempt to stick as closely as possible to the Greek creates such convoluted syntax that it can be really slow-going, and Fitzgerald takes such liberties with the original that critics complain the ratio of Fitzgerald-to-Homer is too high. Butler's 19th century prose translation is easy to read but the main reason it's used is because it's out of copyright so there are lots of free online copies and cheap paperbacks available. Mitchell is very "pared down" and easy to read like Lombardo or Wilson, but some critics think it's a little too pared down — for example, he eliminates many of the Homeric epithets (swift-footed Achilles, gray-eyed Athena, fair-cheeked Briseis) and patronymics (son of Atreus, son of Tydeus, etc) on the grounds that they don't really add anything substantial. I would disagree with that.

 

This is what I wish I’d written, Corraleno!  The above is exactly what I found, as well.  For my student, I wanted it to read more like a modern novel so he could sink his teeth into the story and enjoy it.  I did not care a white about reverence and epic-ness and majesty. The people reading/listening to the story in ancient times would have enjoyed it as a rip-roaring adventure story, and I wanted my student to enjoy it the same way the original audience would have.  Using older poetic language wouldn’t meet my goal. 

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