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The Iliad (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

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The Iliad (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

  • ISBN13: 9780140275360
  • Condition: USED - Very Good
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The great war epic of Western literature, translated by acclaimed classicist Robert Fagles
Dating to the ninth century B.C., Homer’s timeless poem still vividly conveys the horror and heroism of men and gods wrestling with towering emotions and battling amidst devastation and destruction, as it moves inexorably to the wrenching, tragic conclusion of the Trojan War. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox observes in his superb introduction that although the violence of the Iliad is grim and relentless, it coexists with both images of civilized life and a poignant yearning for peace.
Combining the skills of a poet and scholar, Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, brings the energy of contemporary language to this enduring heroic epic. He maintains the drive and metric music of Homer’s poetry, and evokes the impact and nuance of the Iliad’s mesmerizing repeated phrases in what Peter Levi calls “an astonishing performance.”

This Penguin Classics Deluxe edition also features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

This groundbreaking English version by Robert Fagles is the most important recent translation of Homer's great epic poem. The verse translation has been hailed by scholars as the new standard, providing an Iliad that delights modern sensibility and aesthetic without sacrificing the grandeur and particular genius of Homer's own style and language. The Iliad is one of the two great epics of Homer, and is typically described as one of the greatest war stories of all time, but to say the Iliad is a war story does not begin to describe the emotional sweep of its action and characters: Achilles, Helen, Hector, and other heroes of Greek myth and history in the tenth and final year of the Greek siege of Troy.

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What customers say about The Iliad (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)?

  1. 348 of 378 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Translation’s the Key, June 23, 2002
    Esquire (PA, USA) –

    This review is from: The Iliad (Paperback)
    I won’t try to give yet another summary of the Iliad’s plot nor give my insignificant opinion on the importance of Homer to Western Culture. More important is to discuss this translation and the translation of Homer in general.
    When it comes to classic works of poetry in translation, such as those of Homer, Vergil, Dante and others, the translation makes all the difference. The type of translation, whether in rhyming verse, blank verse, prose etc., whether it is a strict line by line or more liberal translation, whether the wording and idioms are old fashioned or modern, can play such a great role that one translation may be completely different than another. This fact is probably often overlooked and attributes to the neglect of these classics, since a bad or difficult translation makes the poem seem tedious or dull.
    Since Chapman’s first translation of Homer into English in 1611 there have been dozens of others. Chapman’s translation remains a classic, though its heavy and elaborate rhyming Elizabethan style and old wording make it quite laborious to read today. The next great translation was that of the renowned Enlightenment poet Alexander Pope; his Iliad was published progressively between 1715 and 1720. Pope’s translation is in rhyming verse with his heroic couplet and is eminently poetic. It is considered the greatest translation of Homer into English (Dr. Johnson called it “the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen”) but it is not as plain and straightforward as Homer apparently is in the original. It is mostly for this reason that Pope’s translation has been critized as being more the work of the poet Pope than the poet Homer.
    Of the more recent verse translations a few are worth recommendation. The latest translation is usually better than its predecessors, though each one is different. That of Richmond Lattimore takes a strict approach. His verse lines are long and the syntax unfortunately seems somewhat unnatural because he is attempting to imitate the stress patterns and flow of the original Greek hexameter. His translation tries to stay as close to the original Greek as possible and retain the form of epic language. The next translation is the one here, that of Robert Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s translation is more modern, uses a shorter verse line and a natural English syntax. His translation is much easier to read and still retains the nobility of an epic poem. Finally, there is the translation of Robert Fagles. His translation is in blank verse, modern, rapid, simple and flowing. The noble simplicity of Greek style that the art historian Winkelmann so praised should also be found in a good translation of Homer. Like Fitzgerald, Fagles strives towards this and most approaches the ideal set out by the English poet and scholar Matthew Arnold for a translation of Homer: “Homer is rapid in his movement, Homer is plain in his words and style, Homer is simple in his ideas, Homer is noble in his manner.” Fagles also uses the accepted Latin form of most Greek names: rather than “Akhilleus” he uses Achilles, rather than “Kyklops” he uses Cyclops. Lattimore and Fitzgerald sometimes annoyingly use the Greek versions, for no valid reason. They should have followed Arnold’s advice on this point, who called such unnatural effect “pedantry” and claimed that the insistance on using the Greek variant for well-known names makes us “rub our eyes and call out ‘How exceedingly odd!’.” Finally, the narrative prose translations are in my opinion the remotest from epic poetry and should be avoided, especially since there are good verse translations available.


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  2. 101 of 107 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Abridged, but Excellent – and great fun, too, June 14, 2007
    CranstonShenir (Albuquerque, NM USA) –

    This review is from: The Iliad (Audio CD)

    The Iliad was meant to be heard rather than read. It’s a cliche, but it’s true. So an audio version of the Iliad can be a great thing; rather than just a secondary version of a published book, it can be in some ways a purer representation of the original work. This recording is an (abridged) reading by Derek Jacobi of Robert Fagles’s best-selling 1990 translation. I’ll deal with three different aspects of this product separately: the translation, the performance, and the abridgement.

    THE TRANSLATION (5 stars):

    Judging a translation is a hard thing to do, and a lot of it comes down to personal aesthetic preference. Remember, all translations are paraphrase, and each can capture different facets of an original but none can capture all of it. This is particularly true of poetry, where much of the artistic content of the original is not only in the meaning of the words, but the sound, shape, and rhythm of the words themselves in the original language. What many translations of the Iliad lose, regardless of their literal accuracy, is the feel of Homer’s verse – its directness, the concreteness of its language, and above all the headlong momentum of the whole thing. Homer’s hexameter verse is propulsive, pulling the hearer (note: not the reader) forward with an unstoppable 15,000-line drumbeat that leaves you breathless. (Well, it leaves me breathless, anyway — your mileage may vary.) Fagles captures this feeling magnificently in direct, confident, robust English. True, Fagles is not always literally accurate in the translation of specific words or epithets, but he expertly recreates the vigor of the piece. Richmond Lattimore’s excellent translation (The Iliad of Homer) is closer to Homer in capturing some of the subtleties of wording, and is rigorous in its fidelity to the text, but the Fagles translation is my favorite for sheer heart-pounding excitement. The warrior spirit of the Iliad comes crashing through this translation undiluted and without apology.

    THE PERFORMANCE (4 and a half stars):

    Jacobi gives a spirited performance, with a forceful, fiery delivery well-suited to the heroic bombast of the battle scenes and the emotionally-charged clash of strong personalities. Achilles’s offended pride, Hector’s valiant but headstrong dedication to duty, Agamemnon’s arrogance, and Paris’s weasly self-serving faux contrition all come through vividly. My only criticisms of Jacobi’s performance are these: while well-suited to the larger-than-life elements of the story, Jacobi can occasionally be too bombastic in a few of the more intimate moments. In addition (and this is admittedly a bit of a nitpick), I feel that he disregards the meter a little too much. As I mentioned above, the drumbeat of Homer’s verse is a key aspect of its artistic appeal. Fagles chooses a loosely iambic meter which is not intrusive, but imparts a definite rhythm; at times, Jacobi all but ignores this and might as well be reading prose. There’s no need for a bouncy Dr. Seuss-style delivery, but a bit more recognition of the rhythmic flow of the English version would suit me better. (This is, of course, a matter of taste.) Ian McKellen’s (unabridged!) reading of Fagles’s Odyssey translation (The Odyssey by Homer) is a contrast here: McKellen unobtrusively finds the rhythm of each line in a powerful (and a bit more textured) performance. These criticisms are by no means severe — Jacobi’s performance is excellent.

    THE ABRIDGEMENT (3 stars):

    Yes, as others note, this reading is abridged (approximately half of the text is left out), and a lot is unfortunately lost. When originally released on cassette in the early 1990s, the producers were probably skeptical of the sales potential of a 13-hour recording of an ancient Greek poem, and so hedged their bets with an abridgement. But both the print and recorded versions of Fagles’s Iliad were surprising bestsellers. Happily, the publishers did not make the same mistake with Fagles’s Odyssey, released in 1996: Ian McKellen’s reading of that poem is unabridged (and glorious).

    In this recording of the Iliad, most of the key episodes are preserved – for example the initial disagreement between Achilles and Agamemnon, Hector’s return to Troy, Patroclus’s death, Hector’s death, and the final meeting between Achilles and Priam. Others are sadly missing. Some of the excised bits are obvious choices (the catalogue of ships in Book II is mercifully skipped over), but others are harder to bear. The biggest losses for me are Diomedes’s gift of special sight on the battlefield in Book V and the funeral games for Patroclus, but most lovers of the Iliad will find some favorite moment or another gone.

    But while the cuts are deep, they are fairly clean. Entire,…

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  3. 97 of 103 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Not the biggest fan of this translation…, October 2, 2005
    T. Bachman (Victoria, BC) –

    This review is from: The Iliad (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition) (Paperback)
    Fortunately, Homer is so wonderful that even fairly imaginative renderings of the text, like Fagles’, can’t obscure his genius.

    I guess I have a bit of a problem with Fagles’ translation. When I read Homer, I want to read Homer, not Robert Fagles re-writing Homer. This version reminds me of the comment made to Alexander Pope after he published his version of “The Iliad” – “a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer”.

    This translation is kind of a modern play on the Fitzgerald – something of an “artistic” version rendered into a kind of de rigeur semi-elliptical poetry-speak, relying on a reconfiguration of lines and sentences, replacement of Homer’s own phrases, etc. If that’s your bag, by all means get this.

    But for me, the best translation out there is that which translates Homer as faithfully as possible consistent with comprehensible English. Fagles’ cavalier handling of the source text eliminates this as the “best” translation for me.

    Both the Loeb and Lattimore versions are very faithful, but I think some readers may find them fairly difficult, and then stop reading the book altogether, which would be a great shame since The Iliad is well worth reading even in the worst translation.

    My two cents is that the translation out there which does the best job of combining fidelity to the original with readability is the Jones/Rieu put out by Penguin. It doesn’t have the packaging of the Fagles nor the great essay by Bernard Knox in the front, but I think it does the best job at maintaining transparency, really letting Homer shine through. (But if you have the stomach for the Loeb, you could go hardcore and try that, too. But don’t try this unless you’re familiar with the entire story first…).

    Whatever translation you get, I also recommend buying a CliffNotes to get the necessary background information. Another great resource is Malcolm Willcock’s commentary, which I used while I was reading this. If you’re going to take the time to read a classic, you might as well try to get everything out of it you can.

    Good luck. I hope this review helped someone.


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