The great epic of Western literature, translated by the acclaimed classicist Robert Fagles

A Penguin Classic
 
Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and a 1996 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, presents us with Homer's best-loved and most accessible poem in a stunning modern-verse translation. "Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy." So begins Robert Fagles' magnificent translation of the Odyssey, which Jasper Griffin in the New York Times Book Review hails as "a distinguished achievement."

If the Iliad is the world's greatest war epic, the Odyssey is literature's grandest evocation of an everyman's journey through life. Odysseus' reliance on his wit and wiliness for survival in his encounters with divine and natural forces during his ten-year voyage home to Ithaca after the Trojan War is at once a timeless human story and an individual test of moral endurance. In the myths and legends  retold here,

Fagles has captured the energy and poetry of Homer's original in a bold, contemporary idiom, and given us an Odyssey to read aloud, to savor, and to treasure for its sheer lyrical mastery. Renowned classicist Bernard Knox's superb introduction and textual commentary provide insightful background information for the general reader and scholar alike, intensifying the strength of Fagles's translation. This is an Odyssey to delight both the classicist and the general reader, to captivate a new generation of Homer's students. This Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition features French flaps and deckle-edged paper.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

The story is set in the seventeenth century, in the Duchy of Milan, then a Spanish possession in northern Italy; however, the plot is merely a pretext for the author to weave a timeless and universal tale that touches on every human feeling, passion, and behavior.

In compelling fashion, love, hate, prejudice, vengeance, forgiveness, fear, courage, crime, punishment, redemption, treachery, loyalty, religion, superstition, love of country, devotion to duty, generosity, greed, art, science, politics, economics, and emigration come together in this book, making it, unquestionably, one of the giants of foreign literature.

The book opens as two of Don Rodrigos toughs order the local parish priest, Father Abbondio, not to marry Lucia to Renzo--she a beautiful, honest and deeply religious country girl, he a sensible, upright and God-fearing craftsman. Don Rodrigo is an arrogant aristocrat able to impose his will on those around him thanks to an overall social structure that favors the powerful and preys on the downtrodden. He has forbidden the marriage because he has bet his cousin that he will seduce Lucia, and has set a deadline for his deed.

The fearful priest obeys Don Rodrigos order, but a saintly monk, Brother Christopher, tries to dissuade him from lusting after the girl. Irritated by the friars plea, Don Rodrigo decides to kidnap Lucia, to be certain of possessing her before the expiration of the bet deadline.

He fails because Lucia is not at home at the time of the attempted abduction. Trying to take advantage of a loophole in the law which allows two people to declare themselves man and wife (provided a priest is present), she and Renzo have gone to Father Abbondios residence, to force him to witness their exchange of vows. However, Father Abbondio, afraid of Don Rodrigos retribution, foils the two young peoples attempt. His screams cause his sexton to ring out the general alarm from the churchs bell tower. The fiancs, the would-be kidnappers, and the entire village are thrown in total disarray.

Brother Christopher helps Lucia find safe haven in a convent, and makes arrangements for Renzo to find work in Milan, away from Don Rodrigos fury. Immediately after arriving in Milan, Renzo is, however, caught up in a bread riot sparked by a government-decreed price increase. He is framed and arrested as one of the riot ringleaders, but is able to escape to a neighboring country, where he is forced to disguise his identity.

Since Don Rodrigos is not powerful enough to infiltrate Lucias place of asylum, he seeks the help of another man, "whose long arm often reached farther than his enemies eyes." Lucia is treacherously abducted and taken to this ferocious overlords castle, from where she is to be turned over to Don Rodrigo.

However, the overlord has secretly been harboring serious concerns over his past crimes. Lucias plight and pleadings help precipitate his crisis of conscience. He goes to see Cardinal Federigo, who is on a pastoral visit in a nearby village, and, with the Cardinals encouragement, decides to change his way of life.

Lucia is freed unharmed, but is still unable to return home because of the ever present threat from Don Rodrigo. So, she goes to live in Milan, under the protection of a powerful, well meaning, but rather eccentric couple. There, she has to wage a constant struggle with herself, because on the night of her abduction she had made a vow that she would remain a virgin if she could safely come out of that predicament. Though still deeply in love with Renzo, she is determined to keep her vow because of her strong religious faith.

War, famine and pestilence further complicate the lives of the two young people but, at long last, Renzo is able to go looking for Lucia, and finds her in a hospital, recovering from the plague. Brother Christopher, who had gone to that same place to care for the diseased and the moribund, counsels Lucia on her vow, and releases her from it.

Don Rodrigo dies from the plague, and the two fiancs are finally free to marry. They move to Renzos adopted country and from then on lead a comfortable and serene life, made all the more pleasant by their past suffering and their trust in God.

From Stephen Mitchell, the renowned translator whose Iliad was named one of The New Yorker’s Favorite Books of 2011, comes a vivid new translation of the Odyssey, complete with textual notes and an illuminating introductory essay.

The hardcover publication of the Odyssey received glowing reviews: The New York Times praised “Mitchell’s fresh, elegant diction and the care he lavishes on meter, [which] brought me closer to the transfigurative experience Keats describes on reading Chapman’s Homer”; Booklist, in a starred review, said that “Mitchell retells the first, still greatest adventure story in Western literature with clarity, sweep, and force”; and John Banville, author of The Sea, called this translation “a masterpiece.”

The Odyssey is the original hero’s journey, an epic voyage into the unknown, and has inspired other creative work for millennia. With its consummately modern hero, full of guile and wit, always prepared to reinvent himself in order to realize his heart’s desire—to return to his home and family after ten years of war—the Odyssey now speaks to us again across 2,600 years.

In words of great poetic power, this translation brings Odysseus and his adventures to life as never before. Stephen Mitchell’s language keeps the diction close to spoken English, yet its rhythms recreate the oceanic surge of the ancient Greek. Full of imagination and light, beauty and humor, this Odyssey carries you along in a fast stream of action and imagery. Just as Mitchell “re-energised the Iliad for a new generation” (The Sunday Telegraph), his Odyssey is the noblest, clearest, and most captivating rendition of one of the defining masterpieces of Western literature.
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