The publication of a new translation by Fagles is a literary event. His translations of both the Iliad and Odyssey have sold hundreds of thousands of copies and have become the standard translations of our era. Now, with this stunning modern verse translation, Fagles has reintroduced Virgil's Aeneid to a whole new generation, and completed the classical triptych at the heart of Western civilization.
The Aeneid is a sweeping epic of arms and heroism and a searching portrait of a man caught between love, duty, and the force of his own destiny. Here, Fagles brings to life the timeless journey of Aeneas as he flees the ashes of Troy to found Roman society and change forever the course of the Western world.
Fagles' translation retains all of the gravitas and humanity of the original as well as its powerful blend of poetry and myth.
Translation ©2006 Robert Fagles
(P)2006 Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. All rights reserved.
I've been a huge fan of Fagles' translations before buying this book and this translation does not disappoint. For epics such as this, the Iliad, and the Odyssey I've chosen to to read the actual book as I'm listening. For people, such as myself, whose concentration is not the greatest (I've had a couple strokes so I have an excuse) the combination of listening while reading is terrific.
I think the narrator is terrific and Rober Fagles is just amazing. If you like Fagles Aeneid, be sure to read and/or listen to his Iliad and Odyssey. Also, check out Steven Mitchell's "Gilgamesh", also availble from audible.com.
I don't think this is the best Aeneid on audiobook -- if you have to choose, get the Charlton Griffin one -- but it's not bad. The translation is wonderful: pithy, hard-hitting, and tough; it's worth having this one to get Fagles' take on Virgil, if nothing else. But the performance, though I liked it, is definitely not to everyone's taste. Simon Callow (or the producer?) decided to do it as if it were a one-man stage show, rather than a studio reading. If you've ever seen Callow doing Charles Dickens, you get the idea: it's a very broad performance.
On the other hand, Aeneas needs a boost. As epic heroes go, he's a pill and a half: dutiful to a fault, self-righteous and self-justifying ("well, I never actually used the word MARRIAGE, did I?"). Virgil takes received wisdom and the Grandeur that was Rome at face value, where Homer delightfully subverts everything he touches.
This translation of the Aeneid stands head and shoulders above anything else I have seen in English. It's exciting, to the point, and very very nuanced. The narrator is a fantastic choice too. His voice creates a world and moves you along through it. I put on my earphones just intending to to listen to a few minutes of the beginning the night I downloaded this, and I was pulled in for four hours of adventure before I could finally force myself to click "stop".
Although the narration is dramatic and in keeping with the quality of the translation, the narator's voice becomes unintelligible at the end of each passage. I gave up trying to listen while driving or exercising. I simply could not understand what was being said. If you purchase this title, I suggest you also buy the book and read it while listening to the narrator's performance, or else listen in a very quiet environment.
The narrator’s dramatic voice frequently fades in volume and elocution near the end of sentences. So, listen to this story at home; not on the road or other places where the ambient noise will make hearing difficult.
I should provide a quick note on my bias before I begin my review: I am a graduate student in classics However, I am a hellenist (i.e. I study Greek rather than Roman stuff). I also really don't like Virgil.
I have to confess that although I study classics, I have never been able to get all the way through the Aeneid before this (I've just read the sections I needed to get the gist for class). I've really tried to get into it-- I previously read portions of the Fagles, Fitzgerald, and Mandelbaum translations-- but I just couldn't get hooked. The audiobook did the trick-- I listened to the whole thing over the course of a week.
Simon Callow can be a little over dramatic and female voices are pretty grating, but he read at a reasonable pace and he kept my interest in the story. I actually even enjoyed some of it.
Fagles' translation of the Latin (I've read books II and VIII in Latin, so I have some minimal basis for judgement) has the virtue of being fairly literal, while still providing an accessible modern English text. In general, Fagles' translations seem to be more enjoyable aloud than on paper (I have also recently listened to Fagles' Odyssey and I found it to be the same way).
As I've mentioned, the Aeneid is not really my cup of tea. Yet, listening to it gave the story a different and more enjoyable pace. I highly suggest the audio version for anyone who needs to read Virgil's epic either for class or exams (or, honestly, for anyone who just wants a passing acquaintance with the influential texts of classical literature).
I really have very little to say on this one. Fagles' natural gifts (and of course Virgil's too) come shining through thanks to Simon Callow's sophisticated and energetic reading. Unlike some other "actors" reading the classics, Callow clearly understands everything he is saying, and says it beautifully.
This is an extremely enjoyable translation, and Callow's narration is truly a performance. You definitely get your money's worth from this audiobook. I find it odd that some people think the work is better read than listened to; or they don't like the performance aspect of Callow's narration. These epic poems were meant to be spoken, and I imagine the best presenters in ancient times would have done it Callow's way. I almost rated it four stars only because as epic poems go, it is not as good as either the Illiad or the Odyssey. But that is really on Virgil. I don't think it would be fair to Fagles or Callow to rate it less than five stars.
This combination of translation and narration brings the beauty and passion of this work to the modern listener in a way similar to how it must have struck the ancient one. Some basic knowledge of the classical period will be helpful. The narrator does have a habit of dropping his voice at the end of sentences but this is a minor flaw considering his overall excellent rendition. This presentation helps one to understand why Virgil's work is a timeless classic.
Part of the blame may lie with Virgil, whose derivative epic does not quite measure up to Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; part of it with the translator Robert Fagles, who may have privileged meter a bit too much over readability; and part of it with Simon Callow, who is too histrionic for the material, but the end result is less than optimal: this is an audiobook that listeners should only buy if they are aware both of Callow's tendency to dramatize and Fagles' metrical enthusiasm. I wish Stanley Lombardo (who translated Homer's texts so well) took on the task of giving us a more readable Virgil. The contrast couldn't be starker.
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