Powerful Translation of Homer's `Odyssey'

Article excerpt

HOMER: THE ODYSSEY

Translated by Robert Fagles

Introduction and notes by Bernard Knox 541 pages, Viking, $35 ONE MEASURE of an age's culture is its ability to interpret and appreciate the great works of preceding ages. Translation, especially of poetry, is a supreme example of appreciation - for the translator must assimilate the old and recast it in new, appealing language. Nowhere are the challenges and rewards greater than in great classics like "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey." Robert Fagles of Princeton is one of the most eminent translators of our time. His translations of Aeschylus and Sophocles (including one nominated for a National Book Award), his prize-winning translation of Homer's "Iliad," and his own poems are well-known among poets and scholars. Now with his masterly "Odyssey," Fagles has joined a select company of poets Co who have brought Homer's complete works into current language. In his "Iliad," Fagles conveyed crisply and brilliantly the awe and horror of Homer's tale of war. ami Now in "The Odyssey" - the more romantic, adventurous epic - Fagles captures the precise, eloquent description and action of Odysseus' 10 years of wanderings after the fall of Troy. If "The Odyssey's" settings and events seem limited by the geography (Greece and its surrounding lands and seas), the breadth of the narration is as fascinating as the odyssey of modern astronauts. The story is roughly divided into five parts, which use the same devices as today's most intricate novels: amatmosphere, key moments, conflict, complications, climax and even flashbacks. Atmosphere and excitement rise from Odysseus' incredible, tall tales ("Odysseus paused . …