The first of Homer's great epic poems, the Iliad portrays the final days of the Trojan war. The Iliad has stood the test of time and is still one of (it not the) best depictions of ancient warfare. It is an essential precursor to the infamous journey of Odysseus.
Translated and Narrated by Stanley Lombardo. Introduction by Susan Sarandon.
©1997 Hackett Publishing Company; (P)2006 Parmenides Publishing
"Lombardo's Iliad both sings to 21st century ears and holds true to Homer's original vision; the blind bard would be proud." (Publishers Weekly)
I have started the Iliad several times (written version) but always stopped short after a few books. The archaic language of older translations and the interminable battle descriptions are tough to suffer through and enjoy. I finished this version and wanted more (so I progressed to the Odyssey, which I have in the past finished in written version). This work is actually meant to be listened to as a performance rather than read. This plus the combination of a translation into somewhat modern English idiom and a reader who knows it well enough to have translated it and who can read it with expression I believe is an unbeatable combination. I do have a background interest in ancient Greece and this may have colored my opinion but if you want to know the Iliad this is the best way to do it.
Another point is that the Odyssey can stand alone but I believe it is better comprehended with the Iliad as a background.
I am not a scholar in Greek mythology and found this audiobook very easy to get into straight away. Susan Sarandon gives a synposis for each of the 20+ chapters, so you get the story twice, which is great for first timers like myself.
Listening to the Iliad was an amazing experience as you are listening to a story that was written over 2000 years ago. Sure, if someone wrote this book today, it wouldn't make the shelves unlike the Odyssey, which probably could. And if you aren't a fan of gore, then give this one a miss and go straight to the Odyssey.
The translation and narration were good but I gave it 4 stars because I am a traditionalist when it comes to the classics. Some of the translation is in modern language.
After listening to this one, I gave John Lee's narration of the Odyssey a go. I much preferred it to this audiobook, but I should say that the Odyssey is a much better story too.
This translation and performance really does
succeed in bringing a historic classic alive for the modern listener/reader. The images are vibrant, the saga captivates. Absolutely a fabulous listen - it is as if you are sitting around a fire as the storyteller takes you on a journey! The companion translation by the same author/reader of the Odyssey is also a must listen.
The Text: The Iliad was composed for oral presentation around 30 centuries ago. It is arguably the most canonical of Western works, and was foundational to Greek and Roman culture for thouands of years. At its heart, it is the story of war--and, as Lombardo's translation puts it, the "Rage" of Achilles, a spurned soldier whose prickly sense of honor shakes up the progress of the Trojan war. In Lombardo's translation, this whole ancient edifice becomes incredibly readable and has an immediacy to it, lacking the artificial formality and faux "high" language of some older translations, so if you always wanted to read this but found it dull, this might just be the translation for you.
The Main Performance: Lombardo's translation itself grew out of performance notes, where he would give local gigs reciting translations of Homer to rapt audiences. That passion for performance (Homer was composed for recitation, not silent contemplation!) carries over into even his slightly muted recorded version. His dark, rich voice is at times reminiscent of Ian McDiarmid's performance of Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars trilogy--laced with archaic sonorous undertones and a rich sense of performance even as it remains modern enough that we can immediately comprehend the characters' emotions and attitudes. This is certainly the most engaging performance of the Iliad I have heard, excepting live performances by Lombardo himself.
Production Values: Susan Sarandon reads both a solid introduction to the work and chapter summaries. The latter will be useful to anyone who has a difficult time following the complex narration of the story as a whole, but may be annoying to those who already know the story and are listening for a solid performance. Musical cues introduce the beginning and end of each chapter, and are well-done by slightly intrusive.
tl;dr: This is the best audio performance of The Iliad I've found, with a modern translation grounded by a rich, old-school vocal performance.
I bought both Stanley Lomabardo's Illiad and Odessey. I have many translations of Homer ...Fitzgerald, Fagles etc ... and have begun them all. Finished none. Something always bothered me. Finally realizing they seemed "contrived". Reading them also seemed ... wrong. Unatural. Forced rhymes and did not ring true. Admittedly subjective ...but then ...THAT is art. Homer was spoken ...even performed. Yes it's all been said but ... I speaking Italian fluently and realize translating Italian poetry to English in the same meter with forced rhymes (English famously not as Poetic as Italian or Greek) is iffy at best. I am also a writer of poetry, music and musician. With Stanley Lombardo it sounds "natural." Unforced. And ...most importantly, natural, understandable and entertaining which were and are the first principles of any entertainer. With which Homer was certainly most concerned. Closing my eyes ...with a "wine dark glass with cut apples and pears" soaking in it and a good cigar) outside. THIS is as close to imagining Homer reciting. This is how life should be lived.
One of the greatest epics of World Literature given a fantastic translation and performance by Stanley Lombardo. Although I'm not breaking new ground in commenting this, I was struck by how contemporary "The Iliad" is in its depiction of the ravages and sometimes folly of War. The descriptions of battle are - appropriately - as gruesome as anything in the first few minutes of Saving Private Ryan. In a brilliant touch, almost every man killed throughout the story gets his history briefly told in a few lines, which works as a way of putting all these brutal deaths into context. The men who die have families far away who will mourn for them, who will be ruined and devastated by their deaths.
Of course, The Iliad is dominated by the great, legendary characters of Achiles, Hector, Odyseus, Agamemnon, Priamus, Andromache, Paris, Helen, Priamus and Hecuba, among others. Stanley Lombardo translation is fast moving and fast paced, and invariably suspenseful, which makes a great service to the modern reader/listener in illuminating the way War has played a crucial role in human history.
Despite different modern and more classical readings, I don't think the book is either pro-war or anti-war, it is just brilliant, and in that way it shows how senseless war can be, but also how vital a role courage and honour play in battle, and how high the stakes are. Homer does not take sides (as do the Gods) and recognizes the courage and the arrogance on both sides.
The riveting storytelling and the astonishing complexity will keep you fascinated.
It is thrilling to hear this epic as it was recounted through oral tradition through many generations. I look forward to more Stanley Lombardo translations and performances of classical works .
1. Lombardo's well-adapted translation
2. His masterful narration paired with his understanding of the language and culture of the Iliad (after all, he is both the translator and narrator, which shows)
3. The content of the story itself
I still have four books to go to the end, but so far, I'd say Achilles returning to battle
Can't say much about Susan Sarandon's performance since she participates very little; however her pleasant, professional voice is a breath of fresh air at the beginning of every chapter.
Probably Achilles wailing over Patroclas' dead body.
This is probably the best edition of the Iliad on Audible. Cheers to Lombardo.
Yes, there were so many details about even the most minor characters that The Iliad should probably be listened two at least twice.
The aspect that I liked most about the story is the author's attention to heroes on both sides of the battle and his depiction of the heart wrenching side of war. Instead of just saying that so and so's spear smashed into such and such's head, there is often a good paragraph of information about the victim. For example, Homer tells us how the man is a loving father, the husband of a noble wife, the only son of upstanding parents, or how he always treated travelers well etc. and then ends with an incredibly gruesome description of him clawing in a pool of his own blood. The listener/reader finds himself pitying the fallen men on both sides and getting (I think) a truer picture of how horrible war really is. In addition, the Greek gods as portrayed in The Iliad are absolutely hillarious. While all the mortals below simply assume that the gods have a plan and their best intrests in heart they are woefully mistaken. Apollo is a total jerk, Ares the god of war isn’t that great in battle, Hera is a foolish blabbermouth and Zeus is the most promiscuous male in heaven or earth. Instead of being holy and wise, all the actions of the gods show them to be selfish, arbitrary and fickle, doing more harm them good to both the Greeks and Trojans.
Zeus is letting the Trojans win the war and Hera cant take it, so she seduces him to give the other gods a chance to sneak off and help the Greeks. Poseidon goes off to demolish the Trojans while Zeus and Hera go to bed, but not before Zeus tells her how much more beautiful she is then all the mortal women he cheated on her with, listing off all their qualities.
Stanley Lombardo does an excellent reading of his translation and Susan Sarandon's summaries of events at the beginning of each book (chapter) are helpful.
Read by the translator, with intros of each section by Susan, and overall very good for such an ancient story. I don't know if this new translation is true to the historical texts or if its been modified for easier listening, but it certainly comes across much more smoothly than another version I tried.
"Disappointing but enlightening"
My mistake was to assume that Susan Sarandon would be doing a significant part of the narration - wrong. She simply introduces the various books. Stanley Lombardo does the rest. There is a brutal and bloodthirsty thrust to the whole story and yet a sense of humanity. But at times it sounded to me like an old-fashioned radio soap opera. Remember, soapies are addictive and so this audiobook proved to be. Like soapies, there are lives you want to keep track of and, like soapies, there are troughs and peaks. I enjoyed the peaks so much I was prepared to sink into the troughs. I now see why the Iliad is considered essential to our understanding of myths and storytelling. In fact I have now discovered a newly published, enlivening and relevant South African translation, using South African English. So the Iliad has set me on a voyage of exploration.
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