Customer Reviews for

Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography

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  • Posted March 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    There are so many things to like about this book, especially fro

    There are so many things to like about this book, especially from chapter 9 on (1-8 being somewhat lackluster.), that I almost don't want
     to point out the shortcomings I found. Manguel is clearly a broad and thoughtful reader who nicely brings together the works of many
     other authors to show the importance The Iliad and The Odyssey have had in the literary heritage of western civilization down to our own
     day. So much of what he has to say is a pleasure to read. Overall he does a good job, but there are problems. A number of
     head-scratching errors tend to undermine my faith in his work. 

    For example, on p. 50 Manguel dates the Roman civil war between Marius and "Sula" (sic) to Virgil's "childhood and youth." In fact both of
     these men died (in 86 and 78 BC or BCE, as you prefer), and their civil war had ended (in 82), years before Virgil was born (in 70). These
    facts, along with the proper spelling of Sulla, are easily checked.

    On p. 128 Manguel writes of Sir Philip Sidney "in the sixteenth century," which is correct, but in the next sentence he speaks of Sir Francis
    Bacon "a century later," which is just wrong. Sidney and Bacon were born in 1554 and 1561 respectively. They were thus contemporaries,
     and the works of theirs to which Manguel refers here were published only ten years apart(1595 for Sidney, 1605 for Bacon, as Manguel
    knows). A different century? Yes. A century later? No. Even if we allow that Sidney had actually written his Defense of Poesy in 1579, "a
     century later" is still wildly inaccurate.

    On p. 213 Manguel says that the action of The Iliad takes place in "less than seven weeks, a mere fifty-two days." I hope no one tells my
     boss that a week now has eight days in it. 

    On p. 235 he writes "And yet, here and there, in his books lie perhaps the inklings of a answer." A answer? A editor would be more to
    the point.

    These errors leaped off the page at me, but I know a little bit about that period of Roman History and Tudor/Stuart England.
    That makes me wonder about errors that I don't have the knowledge to spot. Sometimes the mistakes just seem sloppy work, followed
    up by poor (or no) editing; other times he seems to be playing fast and loose with the facts in order to make a point. I don't know which
    is more damning. But if I can't have faith in the "facts" the author presents or the honesty with which he presents them, I am forced to
    doubt his interpretations. Which I regret, because I very much enjoy a lot of what he has to say. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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