The Odyssey

Narrated by: Claire Danes
Series: Iliad & Odyssey, Book 2
Length: 13 hrs and 32 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,032 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Acclaimed actress Claire Danes burnishes an epic story of heroes, gods, and monsters in a groundbreaking translation of The Odyssey, the first great adventure story in the Western literary tradition. When the wily warrior-king Odysseus sets off for home after the Trojan War, he doesn’t realize this simple undertaking will become a perilous journey of 10 years. Beset at every turn, he encounters obstacles, detours, and temptations—both supernatural and human—while his wife Penelope fends off would-be suitors desperate to take the throne.

Emily Wilson is the first woman to take on the daunting task of translating over 100,000 lines of a three-millennium-old poem from Ancient Greek to modern-day English. Her breathtaking rendition captures the poetic immediacy of the original text, while allowing listeners to experience The Odyssey with an honesty and directness few other versions have achieved. The result is a lean, fleet-footed translation that recaptures Homer’s “nimble gallop” and brings an ancient epic to new life. A fascinating introduction provides an informative overview of the Bronze Age milieu that produced the epic, the major themes of the poem, the controversies about its origins, and the unparalleled scope of its impact and influence. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2018 Emily Wilson (translation), Adrian Kitzinger (maps copyright) (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

Go Behind the Scenes with Claire Danes

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Our favorite moments from The Odyssey

The suitors reveal Penelope’s ruse
Odysseus begs the cyclops Polyphemus for mercy
The enchantress Circe tries to bewitch Odysseus

  • The Odyssey
  • The suitors reveal Penelope’s ruse
  • The Odyssey
  • Odysseus begs the cyclops Polyphemus for mercy
  • The Odyssey
  • The enchantress Circe tries to bewitch Odysseus
Claire Danes

About the Performer

Claire Danes is an Audie and Emmy Award-winning actress and star of the TV series Homeland, the 2010 HBO movie Temple Grandin, and much more. In 2013, Danes received the Audie Award for best spoken-word performance in Fiction. Danes is also the recipient of four Golden Globes and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Homer

About the Author

The Iliad and the Odyssey were not invented from scratch by any individual. These great written poems make artful use of a long oral tradition, developed over centuries by many illiterate singer-songwriters. The two epics were composed perhaps in the seventh century BC, by one person or several people, about whom we know nothing. Whoever she, he, or they were, Homer was the most popular poet of antiquity, known simply as The Poet. These metrical, musical, dramatic, thrilling, fast-moving, multi-vocal poems were often performed orally by professional poetry-actors (rhapsodes), and were well-known to everybody in the ancient world: old, young, female, male, rich, poor, educated, illiterate, slave, and free.—Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson

About the Translator

Emily Wilson is a professor of classical studies and chair of the program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory at the University of Pennsylvania. She received a BA in Classics and an MPhil. in English Renaissance Literature from Oxford, and earned her PhD. from Yale in Classics and Comparative Literature. Wilson is the author of three books, and has translated works by Seneca and Euripides. Her acclaimed line-for-line verse translation of The Odyssey, in regular iambic pentameter, aims to capture the poetic magic and rich, complex characterization of the original poem. Wilson has been reading Homer in Greek for over thirty years, and was first exposed to the story of The Odyssey at the age of eight, when she appeared as Athena in her elementary school play.

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Much better than I originally thought

I'm including my original review below; a number of people were kind enough to mark it as helpful. But honesty requires me to say that additional listening — of this and of other readings of The Odyssey — has changed my mind about the narration by Clare Danes. I believe the reservations I expressed earlier were unfair, or at least stated too strongly.

It's true that she doesn't give each character a distinctive voice, and also true that the narration, as opposed to the dialogue, proceeds in a narrow emotional register. The effect is one of listening to a memorized performance rather than a spontaneous story. But this is a stylistic choice. If it's a performance, it's at least a lively one, and if the characters don't have distinctive voices, Danes does vary pitch and speed and emotional tone for each. Following Odysseus’ successful revenge, there is no mistaking the crisp orders of Odysseus for the joyful cries of Eurycleia. If her Penelope sounds similar to her Telemachus, the increased softness of tone marks off her dialogue as efficiently as if Danes were working in full “impressionist” mode.

The tight control that I sense in Danes’ voice is an effect of the verse she's reading, which is a tightly controlled five-beat line. Emily Wilson did it that way on purpose. And it really is a wonderful, vigorous translation, with at least one surprising (and surprisingly perfect) word choice on nearly every page. More so than in any other translation of the Odyssey I've read, Wilson makes it clear that we are visiting a rigidly hierarchical master/slave society. While there are things I wish Clare Danes had done differently, there is no disputing that she carries the pace forward through 12 hours of densely heroic action. Contrary to the opinion I expressed in my original review, I will most definitely be listening to this one again.

Emily Wilson has mentioned on the Internet that she is working on a translation of The Iliad as well. It will take a few years. She has found that she can't simply apply the same techniques she worked out for The Odyssey: the poem is too different, and she's had to reinvent her whole approach. She's published one short passage, and it made my hair stand on end, so I'm really looking forward to her completing this project.

*** Original Review ***

This is a wonderful translation of The Odyssey, crackling with energy. I'm less taken with Claire Danes as the narrator, though. I like her as an actress, and in moments of high tension here, her voice quavers with emotion; but at times her reading emphasizes rhythm over passion. The rhythm is important: Emily Wilson’s decision to adhere to a steady five-beat line is one of the strengths of her translation. But in performance, it can result in occasional sing-song, and to my ears Claire Danes falls into this trap more often than I would like.

I'm struggling a bit to find the right way to describe what I find unsatisfying about her performance. One of my favorite Homeric audiobooks (performed by Anthony Heald) sounds like a story recited around a campfire. And maybe that’s the difference. The best performances of Homer sound like a recitation; Danes sounds like she’s reading a story written by somebody else. Of course that's what she IS doing, like all the other narrators of Homer; but not all of them sound like it.

She does grasp the punch and rapidity of the language, though. This is one of the most accessible and fast-paced performances of The Odyssey available. Wilson disciplined her language to match Homer’s line count, and the 24 books of the poem race by, for the most part, in 20-25 minutes each. And this is without undue hurry on Danes's part: her reading gives room for each word in each line to be heard distinctly. The approach of the translation means that the language is more compressed than in some versions; but there are epithets and wine-dark seas enough to satisfy those who want the occasional flavor of a more literal approach.

For every odd word choice made by Wilson - Odysseus is described straight off as a “complicated” man - there are a dozen choices that illuminate and clarify. Wilson makes clear that the “servants” that populate the poem are really “slaves”; and she also makes clear that while some of the slave girls willingly sleep with the suitors, what is really going on most of the time is rape. This makes the fate of the dozen slave girls hanged by Telemachus even more poignant.

It's definitely worth a listen, but it's not going to become my go-to audio version of The Odyssey.

144 people found this helpful

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Narrator's Readings of Dialogue Overdone

Emily Wilson's superb translation presents The Odyssey in natural language. Claire Danes, the narrator, almost always presented dialogues in an exaggerated, unnatural way -- her characters often sound a bit manic when they speak. Her presentation of dialogue undermines the naturalness of the language in Wilson's translation.

48 people found this helpful

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excellent translation and performance

a translation with its greater use of vernacular Modern English worked very well. And her reading was done with considerable Feeling. a wonderful listening experience.

9 people found this helpful

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Thrilling! (a page turner, if these were pages)

Claire Danes expertly modulates her voice and tone as she reads each character and situation. The new translation is so accessible as to be (at times) almost too casual and contemporary. Nonetheless, the story is told directly, understandably, and with humor and drama. I had to ration myself so that I didn't lie in bed listening to it for hours and hours.

8 people found this helpful

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Don’t love the narration or the translation

I liked the clip, but once I started listening to the whole thing, I found the translation to be very repetitive. I also found the reading to be too stiff. I know it’s a “classic,” but it was a very dry reading. And such an exciting, action-packed story!

49 people found this helpful

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Wow, I love it.

I’ve wanted to re-read this since high school 30 years ago. Wow — am I glad I chose this. I bought the Audible AND the book to follow along. It’s amazing.

The narrator’s voice is interesting and compelling; she clearly enjoyed this project. She is easy to listen to and very talented.

Listen to the sample and watch the video then decide.

13 people found this helpful

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Perfect! Just perfect!

This is the best translation of The Odyssey IMHO because of its style. The story itself is a classic, everyone who have struggled or is struggling to achieve a goal knows or should know about the story of Odysseus. And this translation by Emily Wilson, this performance by Claire Danes, is the best way to know about him.

6 people found this helpful

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Don't get swept up in the fancy revision.

Fagle's "Odyssey" was great, not my favorite...Butler's was fantastic. Came upon this and was pretty excited to give it a try as well. Undoubtedly not my cup of tea. Others may like it (which is fine) but please be warned that the narration is just so robotic and dry. Nothing against Claire Danes, but...it just doesn't work. Not only was the tone off-putting, but the translation was a bit too modern (which may sound strange to some). I've never found the Odyssey read so...inaccurately. It just felt really off. I'm a sucker for fancy book covers and art designs - so I enthusiastically (and foolishly) jumped headfirst into this as well. Also - is it necessary for 3 hours of "forewords and authors notes and translators notes, etc" before the actual story itself?

67 people found this helpful

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Lisping ragged reading

This is a feminist reinterpretation of the classic story. Ms Dane's reading is lisping, gravel-voiced and flat. It sounds like the first time she has read the material. It has been returned for credit.

4 people found this helpful

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Interesting translation

translation at times was comical to imagine ancient Greeks using modern slang, it did however tell the story.

19 people found this helpful

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  • IM1
  • 11-28-18

Line by Line Translation of Homer's Odyssey

The complete line by line translation in modern day spoken english of Homer's Odyssey is very relatable and just mesmerising. I can never get tired of Greek Mythology so maybe I am biased. Claire Danes was phenomenal. She did not try to over dramatise the scenes, nor her voice was robotic. Her narration had just the right amalgamation of emotions, intensity and pace.
Loved it.

26 people found this helpful

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  • M. Rance
  • 07-10-19

A captivating translation forcefully performed

Claire Danes is a perfect match for Wilson's translation. I grew up with the Fitzgerald translation and later read the Fagles translation. I am sorry I never got on with the Lattimore translation, but I appreciate its importance. Each are great in their own way. Fitzgerald brings out the poetry, Fagles approximates the Greek. But Wilson does something different - she brings out the narrative force of the tale. That is what Claire Danes captures so well. And despite Wilson being British, I am tempted to categorize this as an American translation. It benefits from an American-like English directness and it delights with a more modern lexicon than its predecessors. It would be interesting to hear it read by a British voice, Judy Dench perhaps? Wilson's introduction is also read here and it is worth the price of admission.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas Lückhof
  • 12-17-18

Beautiful translation and a vivid narration

A beautiful translation of the ancient text combined with a narration that is nuanced and lively make this a great way to enjoy the poem.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Vashik Armenikus
  • 12-28-18

First two hours are introduction to odyssey.

Intro could be much shorter , it felt as if author wants to tell her entire autobiography instead. But the translation is excellent, and it’s the best for an audio version

10 people found this helpful

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  • Morgoth
  • 10-16-19

Marathon intro

The intro was was far too self indulgent, long and unnecessary, the story was obviously great tho....

8 people found this helpful

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  • RONAN O'CALLAGHAN
  • 04-24-19

Don’t think twice. Nothing else is like The Odyssey.

Having read the Richmond Lattimore translation a couple of times - first for study and years later for pure pleasure, I had hoped in vain for an audiobook of that. The Audible version of his Iliad translation is stunning to listen to.
So I was intrigued when this popped up as a suggestion and I read some reviews.
If you have not read The Odyssey already you should probably skip Emily Wilson’s introduction at first. But do come back to it when you can appreciate it - it considers the work from many angles but always in a relatable, engaging style and I agree with the reviewer who said the price is worth it for the introduction alone.
She aims for very plain language generally and for the most part it works very well. I love the fact that it is line for line. Her reluctance to reproduce the repetitive formulaic phrases such as ‘rosy fingered dawn’ etc is something she justifies in advance but I actually missed the charm of the repetitions and found her attempts at variation sometimes strained.
However, a great deal of power which can only originate in the narrative method of the original surges through her plain speaking unstoppably, wringing out almost every emotion imaginable before the shocking (to us) bloodbath of its climax.
Yes, there are some strange and alien ways of thinking in Homer’s world but far more striking and moving to me is how much we still share with the listeners of his time in our passions, fears, yearnings and consolations. And how much of the art of storytelling had already been mastered three thousand years ago.

Claire Danes performs it like she’s living it.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-30-19

Impeccable

Really stupendous. Could not have enjoyed it more.
Well done all involved especially Emily and Clare.
Thanks
Richard Goodwin

6 people found this helpful

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  • colin watkins
  • 01-14-19

Good story. Well read


enjoyable listen book well read challenging to remember all characters and locations though. worth a second listen.

6 people found this helpful

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  • T Kus, UK
  • 11-14-19

A great story to hear rather than read

This is an amazing classic adventure story written as a poem and it really comes to light as an audiobook performance. What I couldn't bear was the 3h long "introduction" which was far too long.

5 people found this helpful

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  • A J Crowdy
  • 08-28-19

Find a long journey!

A very long listen, but a lovely translation and beautifully read. Well worth sticking with it!

5 people found this helpful

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  • Juy Hepner
  • 07-10-19

Claire brings pathos to the Odyssey

There’s not much for me to add by way of commentary to the story, except to say that spinster Athena must be more interested in promoting revenge and helping Odysseus get away from Circe and Calypso than seeing him return to Penelope, though she would have respected her long standing chastity. It’s this Athenian character that comes through in the reading of the beautiful Claire Danes, who might as easily played Helen as Juliette. There is in her voice the intimation of those alternate emotions exhibited by the goddess - the sparkling eyes that foretell great action and sadistic vengeance and bloodshed, and the outrage of a woman to spur on the man when he loses faith. Her voice is the strength of the passion of woman when it rises up in protective rage for her man. Penelope is passively charged and sly like her husband and Claire captures that voice as well. She well captures the contrast between Athena and Penelope- the contrast of the empowered and disempowered woman. Her only weakness is the male voices. She should have a go at Emily Bronte or Christina Rossetti.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Liz Parnell
  • 06-12-20

Absolutely Stunning

Such a powerful story. The introduction and translators notes are long (together nearly four hours of the audiobook) but are well worth listening to as they certainly added depth to my understanding of the story as it went on.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-20-20

Amazing Homer

Wonderful translation. I first read the Odyssey at school and fell in love with the book. This version of the poem is the most thrilling. Beautiful translation and the reading is sublime
.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-12-20

ridiculous 3 hour introduction

very nice intro for SJW feminists. introduction goes on and on and on regarding some kind of re contextualisation of the text in terms of a post modern angry feminist world view with a simplistic linear description of suppressed women who are only the victims of men.

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  • henk
  • 12-09-19

A 2 hour intro?

Not what I excepted at all.

There is this 2 hour long intro for the story about how the book came to be and who wrote it blah blah blah. Totally put me off.

Then the story itself is really from here to there. Very hard to keep track of who what where in the story you are. :/

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-16-19

Love

Love it. Clare Dane's voice is elegance and emotion, she portrays the drama beautifully. I feel the story and the words through her.

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  • Emma
  • 04-03-19

Sublime.

This was an incredible translation perfectly performed by Claire Danes. I can’t wait to listen to it all over again

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  • Tim Tilbrook
  • 01-31-19

wow

so great. it was really good and I think I just want to do it again.