The Odyssey

Narrated by: Ian McKellen
Length: 13 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,532 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of every man's journey through life. In the myths and legends that are retold here, the energy and poetry of Homer's original is captured in a bold, contemporary idiom, giving us an edition of The Odyssey that is a joy to listen to, worth savoring and treasuring for its sheer lyrical mastery. 

This audiobook is sure to delight both the classicist and the general listener and to captivate a new generation of Homer's students. 

(P) and ©1996 Penguin Books USA Inc.

Critic Reviews

"To re-create a world where everything is living...is very nearly as difficult as to create it. Fagles does this with triumphant assurance; every arrowhead flashes lightning, every bush burns; Homer is with us." (James Dickey)
"It's a deeply satisfying experience to listen to McKellen's subtle, resonant voice weave the story. Cherish the images as the web of this great tale is woven before the eyes of the mind." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Embarrassingly bad audio

What disappointed you about The Odyssey?

I'm only a few hours in, but the sound quality is on par with AM radio with a few skips thrown in for good measure. Some tracks sound better than others. The fact that other reviewers have noted the poor quality of this book for years and Audible has done nothing about it really tells you something about this company. You'd think with a title this popular they'd address the problem, or maybe the publisher would tell Audible to get their act together. Pretty pathetic. Save your credit and go check this one out from the library.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

Amazing performance, amazing story.

34 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fagles yes, McKellen yes, Production NO!

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

The narration is excellent, as is the translation; however, the production is terrible. The first thing I noticed is that in many places the recording skips or hiccups. This is absolutely unacceptable. As others have stated, if an actual human had checked this recording before it was offered for sale then these glitches would have been caught and hopefully corrected. As others have stated, the pitch also varies in places which is a shame because the narration is superb.

Hey Audible - ummm Amazon - I know you don't care but we pay for these recordings with real money. This is the age of options and you might find that your customers have gone elsewhere because you stopped caring. Maybe that's why, after being an Audible member since 2006, I canceled my membership.

You can do better, Amazon!

131 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Extremely poor recording

What disappointed you about The Odyssey?

Great story

What about Ian McKellen’s performance did you like?

Great voice. Very pleasant to listen to.

Any additional comments?

Great translation, Great narrator..why not hire an engineer who knows what he is doing?
It is wonderful until about chapter 13, then it goes completely off the rails.
Don't waste your time or money on this one.

27 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Terrible Recording

Would you try another book from Homer (translated by Robert Fagles) and/or Ian McKellen?

I am an avid member of Audible because I want books, professional readers and professional recordings…this recording id terrible. A bad listen.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Beautiful recording marred by audio problems!

First of all, this is a beautiful recording and translation of the Odyssey. For those, wishing to attempt Homer's epics, I highly suggest you start with the excellent Fagles rendering of the Iliad, also available here on audible and free of the quality problems that plague this file.

What mars this book has nothing to do with the narration or translation, but with the quality of the audio file itself. There is an earlier review here that states that the speed of the recording has been slowed down in one of the chapters. It even sounds like a different narrator. Some files sound pristine and clear, every OTHER file sounds like they recorded it through a closet wall. I found myself adjusting the treble on my speakers constantly.

I contacted Audible, and although they did respond, they wanted specifics. All they have to do is to have an actual listener sit down and listen to these files on bigger sound system than that of a laptop or e-reader. I have yet to see a resolution.

183 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Some chapter starts/audio issues

Any additional comments?

The 4 star rating in this case is only for the 2005 Penguin Audio audiobook edition of Robert Fagles' 1996 translation of Homer's The Odyssey. This is not a reflection on Fagles' translation or Ian McKellen's narration which are both 5 stars. The lower rating is only due to a few chapter/verse timing issues and the occasional distraction due to the ambience of different recording sessions combined into one audiobook. The recording is from the pre-digital download era and the audio chapters are based on approximate 30 minute timings (1 side of a cassette tape?), regardless of the actual Homeric verses. So the 24 Chapter starts are only occasionally equal to the beginnings of the 24 Verses of the Odyssey. This may or may not be a distraction for some. It is probably not a major issue if you are following along with a print edition.
One segment, Chapters 9 to 12 in the audiobook, middle of Verse 10 to the end of Verse 12 in Homer, has a significant audio issue. The speed of McKellen's reading drops to a deep bass voice at a seemingly slowed down audiospeed, as if the tape slowed down or McKellen was suffering from a serious cold on the day of the recording. This is enormously distracting when compared to the sound of the voice before and after this segment. Again, this is not a deal breaker but listeners should at least be forewarned of this fault.
The audiobook also excludes Bernard Knox's introduction that is available in the Penguin print edition.

28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A masterpiece marred by technical glitches

Both Robert Fagles translation and Ian McKellen's reading are superb. However, at about five hours in, the recording began to exhibit technical glitches related to speed. I re-downloaded the audiobook, but to no avail. No matter how good McKellen is, listening to someone's voice slowed down or sped up is too annoying, especially for a work that already demands so much attention.

66 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An Ancient Classic

As you can expect, especially if you have taken some time to read other reviews of this book, the narration of Sir Ian McKellen is absolutely top notch. He flows through the text as though he were born to it, with no pauses at places where the order, and choice of words, show how very long ago this was written. His inflection help make the story become larger than life, and showcases why this is considered to be such a grand, sweeping, epic.

I have read an account of this book as a child, but wanted to experience the epic in its full timeless glory. I have to admit, I was a little surprised at how many tears were shed by practically everyone included in the story. They do not detract much from the deeds of the most unlucky of heroes, Odysseus; but there were times in which they did not seem to enhance the story much either.

There were a couple of places where there seemed to be minor technical issues. A word clipped, resulting in missing perhaps a second or two of reading. Later, a section of narration lasting several minutes, where it seemed the speed of the recording was reduced by a small percentage. Just enough to lower the pitch of Ian's voice and make him sound a bit tired. Based on the rest of the narration, I am confident that this was not the case, but rather an unfortunate effect of the audio editing.

I highly recommend this audio book, and can see it as a wonderful supplement to a high school or college course in which the Odyssey is required reading. I am glad that I finally made the choice to experience this ancient classic.

19 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Unabridged?

Fagles' is an excellent translation, and the reader is outstanding. One of the best contemporary translations. However, despite the "unabridged" label, this version appears to be subtly edited or cut down.

18 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Just about perfect!

The translation is wonderful, and the narration absolutely superb. I cannot imagine a better way to approach this 'classic' of classical literature.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Guilherme Malzoni Rabello
  • 09-14-17

Great translation, great narrator, disappointing recording

Homer, Fagles, and McKellen get all the laurels.

Penguin should burn in Hades for almost spoiling them: the great introduction was not included; the tracks don't match the original chapters (books), which makes navigating back and forward almost impossible; and the sound mixing makes McKellen sound as if he was now recording in the kitchen, then in the bathroom, later with a cold.

17 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • D
  • 07-26-16

Beautifully translated & read; poor sound quality

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

This is a recent, wonderful and acclaimed translation and it is beautifully read to boot. These outstanding qualities count for little as the sound quality is so poor that at times one gives up listening out of sheer frustration. The narrative is so muffled that at times it is indistinct and the narrative flow is lost. A real disappointment, not because of a poor text or bad reader, but because of a careless or indifferent presentation. I have tried listening to both the normal and the enhanced downloads and both suffer equally. Someone at Audible needs to look at this as I cannot believe the original would have been released with these obvious faults.

28 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Beth Morgan
  • 10-06-16

Strange Chapters

This book is an excellent reading of the Odyssey. The only qualm I have with it is that the chapters do not correlate to the book numbers; as an example, book 5 starts in the middle of chapter 4, which can be somewhat confusing when trying to gauge where in the story you are. Other than that it was great!

5 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • dave
  • 04-12-19

chapter 5 sound levels 👎 and....

Ian McKellen is the perfect voice for telling stories, and the book itself is incredible, nearly 3000 years old and written so beautifully..... but chapter 5 sound levels are not good, quiet and muffled..... also even worse I've just noticed in chapter 6 in between Ian reading you can hear the faint voice of somebody else talking, come on Audible this is not acceptable!

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • scott
  • 03-15-18

The greatest story ever written!

A timeless masterpiece superbly written and brilliantly narrated. Some issues with the sound quality but didn't diminish the enjoyment.

2 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kevin Smith
  • 03-21-20

A world class performance with terrible production

Sir Ian McKellen's performance of this classic translation is gripping, which is why it is a real shame that it has been so shoddily recorded/produced. Persistent pre-echos, chattering in the background, and a really baffling couple of chapters towards the middle that are pitched down so much you could mistake McKellen for Barry White, severely hamper what otherwise would be an incredible audio book.
There are parts that are unlistenable and parts where you won't be able to stop listening. All that said, I couldn't recommend this reading even for all it's obvious merits when I'm sure there are other great readings of this story not marred by a lazy or incompetent production team.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Robert
  • 03-06-20

Classic for a reason elevated by Ian Mckellen

Classic for a reason elevated by Ian Mckellens amazing narration. Was like listening to an act.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Ryan
  • 12-27-19

Ian McKellan brings this tale to life!

i absolutely loved this book. Ian McKellan brings the whole tale to life and weaves the tale so well.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • alanmc
  • 11-10-19

Production values awry but that was not homers fault

Look, a bit tired sounding. Ian’s voice sounded like behind a locked cubicle. Chapters not syncing with audio chapters.

Story good though - would imagine it will last

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-23-19

Ian Mckellen is love

This was amazing, the best narration there is. One issue is inconsistent sounds, and blazing trumpets that sometimes interrupt the story, they are way too loud compared to the audio.
But it's still worth it because of sir Gandalf, but he deserved a better production.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ryan Morrow
  • 04-04-18

A classic but trying

I a great read no doubt & a story from history, no less. however the music does nothing & the story trails on. The performance is amazing.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Christopher Rowe-Spencer
  • 03-18-18

Well worth it, despite a few issues with the recording.

Iain Mckellen’s performance is excellent. The recording has a few issues; specifically, the recording’s clarity drops noticeably in two or three chapters, and in one extended section the playback speed is slightly reduced, dropping the pitch of the reader’s voice somewhat. Despite these, the reader remains easily understandable at all times, and the overall quality of the work remains very high. Definitely worth buying.