The power and the beauty of The Iliad resound again across 2,700 years in Stephen Mitchell's exciting new translation, as if the lifeblood of its heroes Achilles and Patroclus, Hector and Priam flowed in every word. And we are there with them amid the horror and ecstasy of war, carried along by a poetry that lifts even the most devastating human events into the realm of the beautiful.
Based on the recent, superb M.L. West edition of the Greek, this Iliad is more accessible and moving than any previous version. Whether it is his exciting recent version of Gilgamesh, with more than 150,000 copies sold, or his unmatched translation of the poet Rilke, still the standard after 29 years, or his Tao Te Ching, which has sold more than 900,000 copies and has itself been translated into six languages, Stephen Mitchell's books are international sensations. Now, thanks to his scholarship and poetic power, which re-creates the energy and simplicity, the speed, grace, and continual thrust and pull of the original, The Iliad's ancient story bursts vividly into new life and will reach an even larger audience of listeners.
Please note: Book 10, recognized since ancient times as a later addition to the Iliad, has been omitted in this translation.
©2011 Stephen Mitchell (P)2011 Simon & Schuster
“Stephen Mitchell’s magnificent new translation of the Iliad 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 a joy to read and an Iliad for this generation.” (Michael Korda, D. Litt., author of Hero, Ike, and Ulysses S. Grant)
"Stephen 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.” (Jon Meacham, author of American Lion)
"Mitchell’s wonderful new version of the Iliad is a worthy addition to his list of distinguished renditions of the classics.” (Peter Matthiessen)
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
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.
I expected something more free-form from Stephen Mitchell, something hewing less closely to the original; I don't know why. What's here is spectacular: a disciplined, sustained march from the beginning to the tragic (and transcendent) end. It's one of the best verse translations of "The Iliad" I've ever read.
You may have heard that there are "parts missing." True, but don't let that put you off. The omitted passages, about 1000 lines altogether, are almost universally considered later additions: this amounts to the whole of Book 10 (and good riddance!) and several hundred other lines scattered here and there throughout the poem. Apart from the omitted book, the differences are invisible (at least to me). What remains is tight, with an almost crystalline precision, an economy of movement that results in stunning action sequences and wholly realized grace notes.
You may have also heard that Mitchell dispensed with the heroic epithets that make up so much of the texture of Homer. Maybe some; maybe there aren't as many as in some other translations; but Athena, in Mitchell's rendering, is still grey-eyed; Apollo is still he "who shoots from afar"; and plenty of Trojans and Achaeans alike are "breakers of men" and "tamers of horses." This is in no respect a prosed-down or dumbed-down translation. It's the genuine article.
Alfred Molina gives a spirited reading, softer and slower in some places, bursting into vibrant energy, trembling with anger, in the furious dialogue and the shock of battle. Mitchell is reported to be working on a companion version of "The Odyssey." I hope he is: and I hope, when he's done, that he gets Molina back to read it.
The Happy Humanist symbol updated
Truly outstanding interpretation and performance of the "ILIAD"! Alfred Molina makes this classic, the oldest in Western culture, really come to life and leave the classroom or private study behind. This is a controversial new translation by Prof. Stephen Mitchell and I did not know what to expect. I've read most of the other Homeric translations, even those that nobody bothers to read anymore -- Alexander Pope, Lord Derby, anyone? And yes, I've read the originals, too. When one gets over losing some of one's favorite lines, the action runs off like a galloping horse. I was totally caught up and involved in this production. Mr. Molina turns in a masculine yet nuanced narration, taking the parts of the different speakers in the story with believable effect. One of the most exciting, easily understood ILIADs ever.
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.
Absolutely! Alfred Molina is every bit as good as a narrator as he is an actor. His talent helps add to the power of the Iliad.
Absolutely masterful. I've always appreciated him and do so even more having heard his reading skill. He is melodious, powerful, and sensitive to every aspect of this epic novel.
Yes, because Alfred Molina does a beautiful job.
I just wanted to make it clear that many people gave this recording a bad review and then went on to describe the introduction, which, I agree, was read by someone who I would not go out of my way to listen to, but still, you've got to be patient! That intro was unannounced and went on long enough that it is understandable that someone would think maybe it was just some absurd abridgment/outline if they didn't know that we were just waiting for Alfred to begin.
The Iliad is awesome, but takes getting used to. I am giving it five starts, but I could see how some people might not like it. I loved it. You have to be ready to enter into the weird, poetic, pagan and violent world of the bronze age greeks. You can't expect a modern book from it. If you are up for poetry and imagery this is the book for you. Like a fleet footed gazelle when it springs up the side of a rock covered hill in the early morning and Zeus that all powerful Father of gods and men fills it with strength and speed as it races itself to the top to catch a glimpse the rising sun. Just so did my fingers flit over the keys yearning toward the submit button as I wrote this review.
Seeing as one simply does not critique The Iliad...my goal in doing this review was to simply say that after reading the Iliad and also listening to the Iliad, I would have to recommend Audible's version as most enjoyable.
While Mitchell's translation and the variation of the Illiad it is based on are rather controversial, it is surely a wonderful thing to listen to. The great actor, Alfred Molina, does a splendid job. A true pleasure to listen to. Mitchell's translation in contemporary English makes the text especially alive.
This poem is 3000 years old and one of the oldest works of literature to survive that long; it's an amazing and highly influential work; and there is so much to be learned from it historically and culturally that it's an incredible work of art and pretty much essential to any education in literature.
But, nonetheless, if you ignore all that and just take the story for what it is, it's a long and fairly violent story about Achilles being a total dick and everyone suffering. Plus a lot of lengthy ancient Greek lineage recitations which, if you pick up the audio book, will make an excellent cure for insomnia in certain chapters.
Entirely depends what you're hoping to get out of it. Read it for the historical or cultural value, read it for the influence it had on future works, read it if you can in the original Greek to appreciate the structure of the poem, or even read parts of it to cure insomia ... but be realistic and just don't expect deep character development or a plot that stands up to more modern standards!
"The Iliad" should really be subtitled, "Achilles is an ass". That's basically what the story is about, from almost the very beginning to the last page: Achilles acting like a 3-year old throwing a temper tantrum for most of the length of the story.
I'd warn of spoilers, except it's hard to see how to spoil a 3000 year old story, so plot summary: during the war with the city of Troy, the Achaean soldiers capture a couple of pretty maidens from an allied town, and these poor ladies are given to King Agamemnon and Achilles (one of the greatest warriors) as "prizes". One of the maidens happens to be the daughter of a priest, who offers Agamemnon a huge ransom for her return, but King Agamemnon refuses because "MINE". Priest consults the god Apollo, who sends a plague down to punish King Agamemnon and the whole camp. Eventually Agamemnon gives the priest back his daughter, but then takes Achilles' maiden in her place because Kings can do that kind of thing, apparently.
Achilles has a temper tantrum worthy of a spoiled toddler and refuses to fight Troy or anyone else any more, because Agamemnon took "his" toy. With Achilles pouting in his tent the war starts to go badly and the Achaeans start to suffer badly. Insert various conflicts between various heroic characters on both sides, which the Greek gods aid and abet and generally confuse, switching sides so often (and sometimes working against each other on both sides) that it's hard to understand why either side could ever find it helpful to pray to any of them.
Defeat seeming imminent for the Achaeans, Achilles' best friend Patroclus persuades Achilles (still sulking and refusing to do anything) to let him wear Achilles' very recognizable armor and inspire the Achaeans to rally (assuming he is Achilles). He does this, and the Achaean morale improves enough to push the Trojans back to the city walls, but unfortunately Hector (the greatest warrior from Troy) kills Patroclus (aided and abetted by the gods).
Achilles, having basically caused the death of his best friend Patroclus by acting like a spoiled brat, finally rejoins the fight and goes on a rampage killing everyone he can, eventually including Hector (now betrayed by the gods, because you just can't trust those gods). Achilles then spends the next 10 days or so dragging Hector's body around tied to his chariot wailing about Patroclus's death and how sad he is (except for the part where he decides to throw a set of "funeral games" including chariot races and wrestling for prizes which Achilles provides), and generally trying to mutilate Hector's corpse as horribly as possible (which is foiled by those indecisive gods, who now - rather belatedly - pour healing salves and stuff on the corpse so it doesn't decay and still looks good).
Eventually even the gods agree this is getting ridiculous and Patroclus appears to Achilles in a dream telling him to give Hector's body back to his father, and the gods escort Hector's father the king of Troy to collect the body, which he does, having a nice dinner with Achilles in the mean time during which Achilles agrees to stop attacking Troy for a 2 week temporary truce so the Trojans can properly bury Hector. At which point the book ends, although Patroclus has made it clear in the dream that Achilles is about to die also, so Achilles spends a lot of time telling everyone how he wants to be buried with Patroclus and all the details of what he wants.
And thus ends my very irreverent but completely accurate plot summary of "The Iliad: Achilles is an Ass".
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