A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
I would love to write like a blast of a sudden squall
whose strong five-beat rhythm can with light and thunder, churning
the dark page into a fury, and countless words
surge and toss on its pages, high-arched and white-capped,
and crash down onto the Internets in endless ranks:
just so did the translators charge in their ranks, each simile
packed close together.
Aeschylus' ability to weave and connect his tragedies seems second nature in today's world of sequels, trilogies, and Star Wars prequels, but Aescheylus' genius existed both in the original form and the brilliant substance of his surviving plays. I can understand how Swinburne could call the Oresteia trilogy the "greatest spiritual work of man." The Oresteia is at once brilliant, creepy, and infinitely tragic (only family dramas can be so damn full of pathos). As I was reading it, I was constantly thinking of the influences the Oresteia had on everyone from Shakespeare (think Lady Macbeth) to our current crop of TV police procedurals.
The narration was solid, but not top shelf. The Histories, however, is one of those books where an audiobook helps. Reading Herodotus, one can often get bogged down in the loops of geography, people, history, culture and meandre through miles of esoterica. The audiobook gives you a good pace and force-marches you through to the end. I enjoyed the audiobook, but utilized it more as a tool as I read the Landmark series. That is another aspect where the audiobook helps. When reading one translation and listening to another, similar translation, the reader/listener is often able to glean additional information.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
The last time I experienced the Iliad was when I had to read it as a freshman in high school. It was interesting to return to it with a more adult perspective, and to appreciate Homer's poetic imagery; the ancient ideals of heroic conduct; the timeless tragedy of war and human pride; and the way the ancient mind saw gods as capricious meddlers in human affairs, reaching down to bestir or chill the warrior's heart, or to guide a weapon towards or away from its target. To what extent Homer's audience really believed in the gods of his tale, or recognized them as dramatizations, is unclear to me. Yet, the genius of his story is that the audience can see it both ways. For generations of listeners, this tale must have stood like a Colossus with one foot in the real, solid world and one foot in the mists of myth.
Mitchell's translation aims to capture the way the Iliad was meant to be told: read aloud with feeling. He does so by stripping away a lot of the archaic phrasing and epithets that I remember from high school, leaving behind verse that's simple, tight, dynamic, and speaks directly to modern listeners. Some readers, of course, will be offended by his presumptuousness at "editing" a classic, but others will appreciate his efforts to make the passions of the story more accessible. A good litmus test is the scene where a soldier admonishes Paris as a "sissy" -- do you read that as a coarse, stinging insult (as was intended by the speaker), or a flagrant anachronism? (Most of the language isn't so "modern", but that was a more noticeable example.)
If you can roll with the "spirit of the work" interpretation, then Alfred Molina's masculine but sensitive audiobook performance is a great fit, capturing the frantic motion of combat, the smoldering resentment of Achilles, the feckless golden-boy attitude of Paris, and the anguish of Priam. No longer the dusty archetypes I remember from English class, the characters now come to life as human and flawed.