With wit, integrity, and bravery, Odysseus must escape the grip of the fearsome Cyclops, resist the deadly seductions of sirens and witches, and traverse the land of the dead to commune with his fallen comrades before returning to his beloved wife, who has waited for him for twenty years. A storehouse of Greek folklore and myth, Homer's epic tale remains as captivating today as it was 2,700 years ago.
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I've always loved W.H.D. Rouse's prose translations of Homer. They've been available on Audible for years in an older recording by Nadia May. Blackstone has just reissued them in new readings by Anthony Heald, and they're wonderful. Heald is fast becoming one of my favorite readers. His fast-paced, emotionally-charged style is perfectly suited to the breezy rhythms of Rouse's prose. There are other more poetic translations and readings of The Iliad and The Odyssey, but to my mind these are by far the best prose versions -- especially appropriate if your goal is to be immersed in the story rather than the language.
There are some things about Rouse's style you should be aware of, though. Mostly these are reflections of Homer's style, but some translators smooth it over; Rouse does not. Zeus is sometimes referred to Cronides, Cronion, or just plain God. Other characters are referred to sometimes by their names, sometimes by their patronymics (Agamemnon is Atreides, the son of Atreus; Achilles is Peleides, the son of Peleus). Sometimes, as in Cronides/Cronion, those patronymics have more than one form. In addition, Rouse often uses the word "good" to indicate an in-law relationship: a "good-sister" is actually a sister-in-law; a "good-father" is a father-in-law. To me this is part of the charm of the translation, but if you're not prepared for it, it can be confusing.
This version, with this narrator, is just a gem. The Anthony Heald makes all the protagonists and all that happens, clear and understandable. He is a delight to listen to. The translation makes ancient Homer very accessible to my modern ears. The story is interesting and exciting. It is a great way to get insight about the daily lives and mores of ancient kings, princes, and common people. (Not at all like the "sword and sandal" epics that used to come out of Hollywood.)
Because it's so prevalent in modern culture, I was loosely familiar with this story and so kind of knew what I was getting into. It both fulfilled my expectations, but also surprised me in many ways. There's a lot of detail about things I felt were minor, and things I felt were major were glossed over and done with in short order. Because it's a tale that lived a lot of life as an oral piece, there are many refrains and catch phrases repeated throughout that are a bit jarring, but necessary for the oral tradition of the bard. Hearing it as opposed to reading it fulfills all the promise of such a gigantic and influential tale. After listening to The Aeneid as well, I prefer the wily Odysseus as a character over the staid and boring Aeneas. I still don't buy it that Odysseus really wanted to get back home so badly though. For a man who wanted to get home really fast, he spent a lot of time farting around…like spending all that time with Circe. Oh sure he really wanted to see Ithaca again. And it’s the same with the ass-kicking, he strings it out as long as possible. Finally everyone is dead and we think he and Penelope will just rush into each others' arms and fade to black. Not so. More lamentations, disbelief and foot-dragging.
Anyway, it’s an interesting story and an enlightening one. I learned a lot about how the Greeks viewed their world and how helpless they really felt. So much s--t just rolled downhill. Injustice heaped on injustice with a full complement of excuses. Cranky, childish and mercurial gods at the top, women and slaves on the bottom.
And a word about the narration - Anthony Heald did an amazing job. He's got a very expressive voice, but he never goes over the top. Heald injected the right amount of drama for each scene; anger, loneliness, fear, tenderness; whatever was needed. I'm glad I 'read' it this way since it is the way it was intended to be received by an audience. Pronunciation was excellent and I commend him for getting around all those tongue-twisters with what seemed effortless ease.
I got this to listen to whilst on holiday in Kefalonia & Ithaka, the location of The Odyssey, and am so pleased I chose this version. The narration is superb. Heald is an engaging story-teller and it's useful to remember that the Odyssey would originally have been experienced as a narrated performance rather than read, so this is the perfect way to experience it. Listening to Heald narrate the tale, I can imagine being back in ancient Greece, sitting around a fire under the stars listening to a master storyteller. I don't really mind that the translation is in prose, rather than the original verse, because it is so accessible and makes it easier to follow the story. And Homer is such a fine story-teller, I hadn't realised before just how skilled his writing style is, the way the story unfolds with multiple narrators, flashbacks and switched narrative threads feels very contemporary. The characterisation is so vivid and the portrayal of everyday life so engaging that it could pass for a modern soap-opera I'm thoroughly enjoying this audiobook and will follow-up with Heald's version of the Illyad.
It .....drags on.....
I have listened to other Homer books, this one just didn't stimulate me-
Small business owner since 1980. Children grown and dogs have died. Life is good.
It was so much more enjoyable to listen as an adult then read as a student in school. The characters came alive as the story unfolded. Great performance by Anthony Healds.
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