The Odyssey: Translated by Stephen Mitchell

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Overview

?Sing to me, Muse . . .?

It has been said that a myth is a story about the way things never were but always are. The Odyssey is the original hero?s journey, an epic voyage into the unknown, and has inspired other creative work for millennia?from ancient poetry to contemporary fiction and films. With its consummately modern hero, full of guile and wit, always prepared to reinvent himself in order to realize his heart?s desire?to return to home ...

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Overview

“Sing to me, Muse . . .”

It has been said that a myth is a story about the way things never were but always are. The Odyssey is the original hero’s journey, an epic voyage into the unknown, and has inspired other creative work for millennia—from ancient poetry to contemporary fiction and films. With its consummately modern hero, full of guile and wit, always prepared to reinvent himself in order to realize his heart’s desire—to return to home and family after ten years of war—the Odyssey now speaks to us again across 2,600 years.

In words of great poetic power, Stephen Mitchell’s translation brings Odysseus and his adventures vividly to life as never before. Full of imagination and light, beauty and humor, this Odyssey carries you along in a fast stream of action and imagery. One-eyed maneating giants; irresistibly seductive sirens; shipwrecks and narrow escapes; princesses and monsters; ghosts sipping blood at the Underworld’s portal, desperate for a chance to speak to the living; and the final destruction of all Odysseus’s enemies in the banquet hall—these stories are still spellbinding today. So, too, are the intimate moments of storytelling by the fire, of homecoming and reunion, fidelity and love—all of greater value to Odysseus, and to us, than the promise of immortality.

Just as Mitchell “re-energised the Iliad for a new generation” (The Sunday Telegraph), his Odyssey is the noblest, clearest, and most captivating rendition of one of the defining masterpieces of Western literature. Mitchell’s muscular language keeps the diction close to spoken English, yet its rhythms re-create the oceanic surge of the ancient Greek.

The first translation to benefit from modern advances in textual scholarship, Mitchell’s Odyssey also includes an illuminating introductory essay that opens the epic still further to our understanding and appreciation and textual notes that will benefit all readers. Beautiful, musical, accurate, and alive, this new Odyssey is a story for our time as well as for the ages.

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Editorial Reviews

starred review Booklist
"Employing the five-beat, minimally iambic line he used for his translation of The Iliad (2011), Mitchell retells the first, still greatest adventure story in Western literature with the same clarity, sweep, and force.There are many more violent deaths in The Iliad—there’s a war going on, after all—but nothing as ghoulishly terrifying (and starkly related by Mitchell) as what Polyphemus, the Laestrygonians, and Scylla do to Odysseus’ crew. Stephen King, eat your heart
out."
Entertainment-focus (UK)
"Re-reading the epic poem The Odyssey with this new translation by Stephen Mitchell is a reminder not only of its significance as an early literary masterpiece of the West but also its beauty as a work of art... It resonates with modern readers as much as it did to our ancestors... Eminently readable, flowing narrative… captures the beauty of the language while rendering the poem accessible to all readers... Mitchell deserves great credit for providing a new translation that will appeal to modern readers and see the Homeric tales thrive amongst the next generation... Mitchell’s translations should be the first port of call to anyone who’s never yet read the Homeric poems but has always meant to."
From the Publisher
One of The New Yorker’s Favorite Books from 2011

“Mitchell's updating has resulted in a livelier, more contemporary feel for this epic of world literature… The result is a faster-moving story… make room for this one on the shelf as an intriguing variation on a familiar story.”

“Mitchell's Iliad is slimmer and leaner than anything we have seen before, and is by far the most swift-footed in recent memory....His strong five-beat rhythm is arguably the best yet in English."

“Propulsive, muscular rendering.”

"Mitchell has been widely hailed for his masterful translations and this one, I think, will be regarded as the capstone of his reputation.”

"Mitchell’s Iliad powerfully communicates the spirit and the spectacle of the classic story ...brings fresh life to the tale…"

"Thrillingly recounts a big war...."

"Read this book"

“The verse is well-forged and clean-limbed, and achieves a powerful simplicity. Mitchell ... renders fresh some of the greatest insights into humanity we have…. He has re-energised the Iliad for a new generation.”

"The ‘rock star’ of translators produces a daring new version of the epic poem... An action-packed... contemporary rendition... [Mitchell] brings ... ancient languages to the masses, upsetting established scholars."

Washington Post
“Propulsive, muscular rendering.”
Los Angeles Times
“Mitchell's updating has resulted in a livelier, more contemporary feel for this epic of world literature… The result is a faster-moving story… make room for this one on the shelf as an intriguing variation on a familiar story.”
Elaine Pagels
“Stephen Mitchell’s translation is a brilliant accomplishment. It captures the fierce energy, rhythms, and powerful narrative of Homer’s Greek in vivid and compelling English.”
Wall Street Journal
A daring new version of the epic poem.
The New Yorker
One of The New Yorker’s Favorite Books from 2011
Portland Oregonian
"Mitchell is one of the great translators of our time.... He's outdone himself with "The Iliad," bringing Homer's classic to a new generation with a strong, fresh take.”
Bookpage
"Mitchell’s Iliad powerfully communicates the spirit and the spectacle of the classic story ...brings fresh life to the tale…"
Sun Times
"Thrillingly recounts a big war...."
Bookviews
"Mitchell has been widely hailed for his masterful translations and this one, I think, will be regarded as the capstone of his reputation.”
Robert Coles
“Yet again, one of today’s gifted, knowing scholars and writers embraces one of the masterpieces of yore, and so doing offers us the Odyssey as a wise and stirring companion for our own personal voyage through time and life’s many stirring, worrying, enabling moments.”
Richard Wilbur
“Stephen Mitchell’s faithful translation of the Odyssey has great vigor, and a plain eloquence that is quite free of pedantry. It does not plod. Its narrative drive is so compelling that the reader will find himself speaking the lines aloud, as I did.”
Peter Matthiessen
"Stephen Mitchell's wonderful new version of The Iliad is a worthy addition to his list of distinguished rendition of the classics."
Billy Collins
“This latest incarnation of the Odyssey leaves no doubt that Stephen Mitchell has made a deep connection to the tale’s spiritual power, which he has managed to express with propulsive cadence and in exquisite detail. The bard sings again, this time at the banquet of Mitchell’s ardent labor.”
Victor H. Mair
“In a lifetime of conspicuously successful translations, this is Stephen Mitchell's greatest achievement.”
Mary Lefkowitz
"Mitchell's powerful verse allows us to read The Iliad as it was read in the ancient world, as an exciting narrative about war, anger, and regret, with a lucidity that reveals the poet's profound insight into the tragic nature of the human condition."
John Banville
“Stephen Mitchell is one of the great translators, and his version of the Odyssey is a masterpiece of clarity, directness and a kind of blunt musicality which catches perfectly the pitch of the true Homeric voice.”
The Sunday Telegraph (London)
“The verse is well-forged and clean-limbed, and achieves a powerful simplicity. Mitchell has re-energised the Iliad for a new generation.”
Washington Post Express
"Read this book"
Jon Meacham
“Mitchell has done a marvelous thing here: he has given fresh energy and poetic force to a work that perennially repays our attention. Without The Iliad the West would be a vastly poorer place; Homer’s achievement speaks to every successive generation with its unflinching understanding of the essential tragic nature of life. Mitchell’s translation is a grand accomplishment.”
Mark Nepo
“Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Iliad is a mammoth, enlivening achievement. In this masterwork that is both immediate and timeless, Mitchell reaches into the heart of things, as he has done so many times, and lets the unmitigated complexity and paradoxical dimensions of life pulse and tug at each other in a way that reminds us we are alive and responsible for what we do. In his muscular and tender rendition of Homer, he cautions us against our own warrior culture. He has taken the dust off a classic so it can breathe.”
The Wall Street Journal - Alexandra Alter
"The ‘rock star’ of translators produces a daring new version of the epic poem... An action-packed... contemporary rendition... [Mitchell] brings ... ancient languages to the masses, upsetting established scholars."
Michael Korda
"Stephen Mitchell's magnificent new translation of The Iliad, like T. E. Lawrence's translation of The Odyssey, reminds us that there is always a new and different way to read and interpret the great classics, and that they need to be reinvigorated from generation to generation, just as we need to be reminded that they are, however venerated, above all STORIES: exciting, full of life and great characters, in short great entertainment, not just great monuments of culture or the Western canon. Mr. Mitchell has accomplished this difficult feat wonderfully well, and produced a book which is both a joy to read and an Iliad for this generation."
Jaron Lanier
“A strange, almost forgotten feeling overtook me as I first dipped into this new translation. I felt compelled to recite aloud! The prose rocks and has a macho cast to it, like rap music. It's overtly virile stuff, propelled from the time when music, language, information, and politics were not yet distinguished, meaning the idea of the nerd did not yet exist.”
The Telegraph - Philip Womack
“The verse is well-forged and clean-limbed, and achieves a powerful simplicity. Mitchell ... renders fresh some of the greatest insights into humanity we have…. He has re-energised the Iliad for a new generation.”
Sarah Ruden
“Mitchell has done more than any other translator to fill Matthew Arnold's criteria for rendering Homer. This translation is "eminently rapid," "eminently plain and direct," and "eminently noble." In remarkably straightforward English, free of pretense and other distractions, the story keeps much of its original excitement and seriousness. Mitchell has completed a labor of true love and driven hard toward the real thing.”
The New Yorker - Daniel Mendelsohn
“Mitchell's Iliad is slimmer and leaner than anything we have seen before, and is by far the most swift-footed in recent memory....His strong five-beat rhythm is arguably the best yet in English."
James Romm
“Stephen Mitchell has translated the Iliad's "serene music" with a serenity and musicianship worthy of the original. His love of Homer's humanity, his deep insight into this most timeless of poems, radiate from every line of verse. Mitchell's Iliad is a glorious achievement, free-flowing and natural but also carefully researched. It promises to become the foremost version of Homer's epic in modern English.”
Washington Post

“Propulsive, muscular rendering.”
Los Angeles Times

“Mitchell's updating has resulted in a livelier, more contemporary feel for this epic of world literature… The result is a faster-moving story… make room for this one on the shelf as an intriguing variation on a familiar story.”
Elaine Pagels

“Stephen Mitchell’s translation is a brilliant accomplishment. It captures the fierce energy, rhythms, and powerful narrative of Homer’s Greek in vivid and compelling English.”
Wall Street Journal

A daring new version of the epic poem.
The New Yorker

One of The New Yorker’s Favorite Books from 2011
Portland Oregonian

"Mitchell is one of the great translators of our time.... He's outdone himself with "The Iliad," bringing Homer's classic to a new generation with a strong, fresh take.”
Bookpage

"Mitchell’s Iliad powerfully communicates the spirit and the spectacle of the classic story ...brings fresh life to the tale…"
Sun Times

"Thrillingly recounts a big war...."
Bookviews

"Mitchell has been widely hailed for his masterful translations and this one, I think, will be regarded as the capstone of his reputation.”
Robert Coles

“Yet again, one of today’s gifted, knowing scholars and writers embraces one of the masterpieces of yore, and so doing offers us the Odyssey as a wise and stirring companion for our own personal voyage through time and life’s many stirring, worrying, enabling moments.”
Richard Wilbur

“Stephen Mitchell’s faithful translation of the Odyssey has great vigor, and a plain eloquence that is quite free of pedantry. It does not plod. Its narrative drive is so compelling that the reader will find himself speaking the lines aloud, as I did.”
Peter Matthiessen

"Stephen Mitchell's wonderful new version of The Iliad is a worthy addition to his list of distinguished rendition of the classics."
Billy Collins

“This latest incarnation of the Odyssey leaves no doubt that Stephen Mitchell has made a deep connection to the tale’s spiritual power, which he has managed to express with propulsive cadence and in exquisite detail. The bard sings again, this time at the banquet of Mitchell’s ardent labor.”
Victor H. Mair

“In a lifetime of conspicuously successful translations, this is Stephen Mitchell's greatest achievement.”
Mary Lefkowitz

"Mitchell's powerful verse allows us to read The Iliad as it was read in the ancient world, as an exciting narrative about war, anger, and regret, with a lucidity that reveals the poet's profound insight into the tragic nature of the human condition."
John Banville

“Stephen Mitchell is one of the great translators, and his version of the Odyssey is a masterpiece of clarity, directness and a kind of blunt musicality which catches perfectly the pitch of the true Homeric voice.”
The Sunday Telegraph (London)

“The verse is well-forged and clean-limbed, and achieves a powerful simplicity. Mitchell has re-energised the Iliad for a new generation.”
Washington Post Express

"Read this book"
Jon Meacham

“Mitchell has done a marvelous thing here: he has given fresh energy and poetic force to a work that perennially repays our attention. Without The Iliad the West would be a vastly poorer place; Homer’s achievement speaks to every successive generation with its unflinching understanding of the essential tragic nature of life. Mitchell’s translation is a grand accomplishment.”
Mark Nepo

“Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Iliad is a mammoth, enlivening achievement. In this masterwork that is both immediate and timeless, Mitchell reaches into the heart of things, as he has done so many times, and lets the unmitigated complexity and paradoxical dimensions of life pulse and tug at each other in a way that reminds us we are alive and responsible for what we do. In his muscular and tender rendition of Homer, he cautions us against our own warrior culture. He has taken the dust off a classic so it can breathe.”
The Wall Street Journal - Alexandra Alter

"The ‘rock star’ of translators produces a daring new version of the epic poem...An action-packed... contemporary rendition... [Mitchell] brings... ancient languages to the masses, upsetting established scholars."
Michael Korda

"Stephen Mitchell's magnificent new translation of The Iliad, like T. E. Lawrence's translation of The Odyssey, reminds us that there is always a new and different way to read and interpret the great classics, and that they need to be reinvigorated from generation to generation, just as we need to be reminded that they are, however venerated, above all STORIES: exciting, full of life and great characters, in short great entertainment, not just great monuments of culture or the Western canon. Mr. Mitchell has accomplished this difficult feat wonderfully well, and produced a book which is both a joy to read and an Iliad for this generation."
Jaron Lanier

“A strange, almost forgotten feeling overtook me as I first dipped into this new translation. I felt compelled to recite aloud! The prose rocks and has a macho cast to it, like rap music. It's overtly virile stuff, propelled from the time when music, language, information, and politics were not yet distinguished, meaning the idea of the nerd did not yet exist.”
The Telegraph - Philip Womack

“The verse is well-forged and clean-limbed, and achieves a powerful simplicity. Mitchell... renders fresh some of the greatest insights into humanity we have…. He has re-energised the Iliad for a new generation.”
Sarah Ruden

“Mitchell has done more than any other translator to fill Matthew Arnold's criteria for rendering Homer. This translation is "eminently rapid," "eminently plain and direct," and "eminently noble." In remarkably straightforward English, free of pretense and other distractions, the story keeps much of its original excitement and seriousness. Mitchell has completed a labor of true love and driven hard toward the real thing.”
The New Yorker - Daniel Mendelsohn

“Mitchell's Iliad is slimmer and leaner than anything we have seen before, and is by far the most swift-footed in recent memory....His strong five-beat rhythm is arguably the best yet in English."
James Romm

“Stephen Mitchell has translated the Iliad's "serene music" with a serenity and musicianship worthy of the original. His love of Homer's humanity, his deep insight into this most timeless of poems, radiate from every line of verse. Mitchell's Iliad is a glorious achievement, free-flowing and natural but also carefully researched. It promises to become the foremost version of Homer's epic in modern English.”
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451674170
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/2013
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 521,090
  • Lexile: 1050L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Homer

Stephen Mitchell is widely known for his ability to make old classics thrillingly new. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, the Iliad, Gilgamesh, The Gospel According to Jesus, The Book of Job, Bhagavad Gita, and The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. His website is StephenMitchellBooks.com.

Biography

We know very little about the author of The Odyssey and its companion tale, The Iliad. Most scholars agree that Homer was Greek; those who try to identify his origin on the basis of dialect forms in the poems tend to choose as his homeland either Smyrna, now the Turkish city known as Izmir, or Chios, an island in the eastern Aegean Sea.

According to legend, Homer was blind, though scholarly evidence can neither confirm nor contradict the point.

The ongoing debate about who Homer was, when he lived, and even if he wrote The Odyssey and The Iliad is known as the "Homeric question." Classicists do agree that these tales of the fall of the city of Troy (Ilium) in the Trojan War (The Iliad) and the aftermath of that ten-year battle (The Odyssey) coincide with the ending of the Mycenaean period around 1200 BCE (a date that corresponds with the end of the Bronze Age throughout the Eastern Mediterranean). The Mycenaeans were a society of warriors and traders; beginning around 1600 BCE, they became a major power in the Mediterranean. Brilliant potters and architects, they also developed a system of writing known as Linear B, based on a syllabary, writing in which each symbol stands for a syllable.

Scholars disagree on when Homer lived or when he might have written The Odyssey. Some have placed Homer in the late-Mycenaean period, which means he would have written about the Trojan War as recent history. Close study of the texts, however, reveals aspects of political, material, religious, and military life of the Bronze Age and of the so-called Dark Age, as the period of domination by the less-advanced Dorian invaders who usurped the Mycenaeans is known. But how, other scholars argue, could Homer have created works of such magnitude in the Dark Age, when there was no system of writing? Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, placed Homer sometime around the ninth century BCE, at the beginning of the Archaic period, in which the Greeks adopted a system of writing from the Phoenicians and widely colonized the Mediterranean. And modern scholarship shows that the most recent details in the poems are datable to the period between 750 and 700 BCE.

No one, however, disputes the fact that The Odyssey (and The Iliad as well) arose from oral tradition. Stock phrases, types of episodes, and repeated phrases -- such as "early, rose-fingered dawn" -- bear the mark of epic storytelling. Scholars agree, too, that this tale of the Greek hero Odysseus's journey and adventures as he returned home from Troy to Ithaca is a work of the greatest historical significance and, indeed, one of the foundations of Western literature.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Odyssey.

Good To Know

The meter (rhythmic pattern of syllables) of Homer's epic poems is dactylic hexameter.

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