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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.
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.
35 of 37 people found this review helpful
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.
35 of 37 people found this review helpful
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.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
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.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
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.
Have you listened to any of Alfred Molina’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Iliad again? Why?
Yes, because Alfred Molina does a beautiful job.
Any additional comments?
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up The Iliad in three words, what would they be?
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.
8 of 9 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Hard and arduous I've tried to read this before, but this read like butter. Extraordinary. Look forward to reading Mitchell's translation of other works!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful