I was inspired to read The Odyssey for the first time since high school after encountering Daniel Mendohlson’s recent essay in The New Yorker (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/24/a-father-and-sons-final-odyssey). Mendolsohn wrote about teaching an undergraduate course on the epic poem with his elderly father as one of the students, and his subsequent trip with his father on an Odyssey-themed cruise through the Mediterranean. The essay touched on themes of age, fatherhood, and heroism.
I had vague memories of enjoying the poem as a 9th grader, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the work now. The dynamic of the story is timeless (I though a lot about Odysseus’ journey home, where his loved ones feared he was dead, as I watched the final episodes of The Leftovers on HBO). Fagles’ translation brilliantly humanizes the characters, and he lavishes the reader with tactile language about how it felt to live in that world: the sound of ships scudding along the water, the feel of a leather sandal strap, the sting of smoke from a fire.
I enjoyed mulling over questions of loyalty, filial duty, and what heroism means if a human’s life is merely a pawn of the gods. Can a hero assume credit for his or her victories? Or is heroism nothing more than continuing on in the face of powers far beyond one’s control?
Availability: COSMOS, SMCM, USMAI
Review Submitted by: Michael Dunn
Rating: Highly Recommended