Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Odyssey - Homer

Another month, another Classics Club book crossed off the list! I stumbled into this one by virtue of a trip to collect Ness from hospital. It was meant to just be a quick grab-her-stuff-and-go trip, so I didn't take my Kindle with me. But then two of her doctors decided that a third doctor needed to give the okay before she could leave, which meant that we ended up sitting around waiting from about 11am until around 4.45pm for said doctor to turn up. (Which he still didn't do - Ness ended up circumventing the system and phoning his secretary, who phoned said doctor in surgery, who phoned the nurses' station and said that Ness could go)

Anyway, Ness happened to have The Odyssey in her bag, so when I came back from grabbing some lunch and she was taking a nap, I figured I may as well do some reading. And somehow, "some reading" turned into 250 pages. And obviously, I ended up pilfering it from her so that I could finish it.

It wasn't what I was expecting. For some reason, I'd always thought that The Iliad was the story of the Trojan War and The Odyssey was the story of Odysseus getting home from Troy. But it was more like equal parts what happened in Ithaca while he was away, what happened on his journey home, and what happened when he REACHED home. I had to translate small, basic chunks of it when I did Ancient Greek in first year uni and it always struck me as enormously dull. But I ended up really enjoying it.

I struggled a little at first because the edition I was reading used direct translations of the Greek names, rather than the Anglicised spellings I expected, so it took me a little while to get used to seeing Circe written as Kirke, or Klytemnaistra instead of Clytemnestra, or Akhilleus instead of Achilles. But once I got used to that, it flowed nicely and was pretty easy reading.

The biggest problem for me is that Odysseus is kind of a douchebag a lot of the time. I mean, the guy comes home after 20 years away, and then spends a bunch of time lurking around in disguise to ascertain whether his wife has been faithful to him. Which, gross. And it's not just his wife. He lurks around in disguise to establish how his son feels, how his father feels, how his servants feel. And then he's all "SURPRISE, IT'S ME!!!". Dick move, Odysseus. Dick move.

BUT. Despite Odysseus' asshattery and some "Wait, is this person who I think they are?" issues over spellings and a few repetitive phrases (I swear, if I read about Dawn's rosy fingers stretching over the horizon one more time, I was going to scream), I found myself really enjoying it. There are stories in there that everyone knows in some form or another - the Cyclops, the Sirens, Circe turning Odysseus' men into pigs. Stories that remain compelling and fascinating thousands of years after they were first told. There's a reason these stories are classics, there really is.

Have you read The Odyssey? What did you think?

K xx


  1. I haven't read this since high school - and I feel like we even just read the most famous parts of it and just getting the overall picture. But I do remember I liked it and also felt as though Odysseus wasn't all that great. There were also a lot of discussions in my class about how the different events should have been handled with if he should have been like "if one of us goes down, all of us will go down together" or the "sacrifice some so others can live" idea. Which was always interesting - for a freshman high school class.

  2. Cleo @ Classical CarouselMay 2, 2014 at 9:17 AM

    I finished reading The Odyssey for the second time just recently and I must say, I got much more out of it this time. I think the reason Odysseus is so careful is because he has been away so long; he doesn't have a clue what to expect. He needs to test Penelope and even Telemachus' loyalty to him because, honestly, he had very few people who were on his side. If he hadn't been careful, he could have easily been dead. Luckily Athena often had his back.

    Personally I liked The Iliad better than The Odyssey, although I do love the Odyssey too. In the Iliad, there are many more characters to get invested in and their actions are quite dramatic and raw at times. I had to get an overview understanding of Greek culture first, which made me appreciate it much more. I hope you'll be able to read it at a later date.

    BTW, you have a very nice blog! I'm glad I found it!

  3. Alysia Gray PainterMay 2, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Happy (belated) birthday, Kirsti! That chocolate/donut dessert is cuh-razy. As for 31? That's just about the time life went all tickety-boo for me (once and awhile I remember I love the term "tickety-boo" and use it all damn day long). I relaxed, a lot, starting around 31, and things started to happen because I wasn't so... wound up. This is probably a conversation for a glass of wine, or three, but others I know have had similar experiences. Just, the 20s, which kind of spill into the 30s... one can be a bit searchy and out of sorts. Don't know if this has been your deal, but it was mine, and 31 was a golden turnaround/move forward point. I wish that for you, if you want it. Birthday hugs and confetti!

  4. Wilhelmina UptonMay 2, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    I always wanted to read The Illiad and Odyssey but I wa also a little bit afraid of it being difficult to understand. You give me hope though. Unrelated, I really need to get my ass moving to read some of those classics I wanted to read. Stupid new shiny book releases distracting me.

  5. I *sort of* read The Adventures Of Ulysses
    twice, both assigned in school and both only read as little as I could
    get away with. The stories I remember best were Medusa and the 3 headed thing that shared the eye. You should also now watch O Brother Where Art Thou.

  6. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this. Thank you (for both the sage advice AND the confetti) <3

  7. Oh man, I forgot about that movie! I really should rewatch it.

  8. Classics Club has been really good for that - I have 60 books on my list to do in 5 years, which means I need to get through one per month. Seems much more manageable that way!!

    I think a lot of the enjoyment of the Odyssey for me depends on the translation. I remember flipping through a book my brother had as a kid and being bored senseless, but I think that's because they'd changed it from poetry to prose so it lost a lot of the flow??? Something like that, anyway.

  9. Yeah, testing them makes sense. But there are times when it felt like he was taking things too far, seeing how far he could push them before they snapped...

    I definitely need to read The Iliad now! And thank you :)

  10. Yeah, it's pretty long - I can understand why they'd just have you read the famous bits to get the overall picture!!

  11. Wilhelmina UptonMay 7, 2014 at 4:55 PM

    Yeah, I maybe should have thought about when to read what but everytime I make a plan to read sth specific next, I don't feel like it.


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