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Latest Review: “The Odyssey” by Homer

The latest addition to our Reviews section is by Peter Constantine on the 2017 new translation of The Odyssey by Homer, published by W. W. Norton.

Peter Constantine is a literary translator and editor specializing in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Russian literature, as well as literary translation from German, Italian, Modern Greek, and other European languages. He is also the director of the Program in Literary Translation at the University of Connecticut, editor-in-chief of _New Poetry in Translation, and publisher at World Poetry Books.

Here is the beginning of Peter’s review:

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs to achieve: translating from the writer’s language into a target language, the language of the reader, and also translating from the writer’s era and culture to the era and culture of the contemporary reader. In her newest translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, Emily Wilson has turned the Greek dactylic hexameter into iambic pentameter, a remarkable feat and a well-considered strategy. Her choice of iambic pentameter as the basis for a twenty-first-century translation gives us a traditional meter familiar to us from narrative verse. Matthew Arnold famously pointed to four characteristics that are vital to a good translation of Homer: plainness, directness, rapidity, and nobleness. Wilson’s iambic translation recreates the rapidity of the original and gives the lines an epic nobleness, but one not too alien to the modern reader. Homer’s dactylic hexameters sound unusual and unnatural in English, a forced meter, as we see in H. B. Cotterill’s 1911 translation.

 

For the rest of the review, go here.



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