My first introduction to Homer’s work, like most people, was when I was forced in high school to read excerpts from 19th century translations of The Odyssey and The Iliad; hacking and slashing through a forest of footnotes, trying to pick out which Greek names to memorize for the test, wondering if the teacher found some sort of perverse pleasure in torturing his students. And, like most people, that approach kind of ruined it for me.
But over the weekend I found a copy of Homer’s The Odyssey translated by Robert Fagles on the clearance shelf, bought it on impulse, and to my surprise, I’m really enjoying it. There are no footnotes to ruin the flow– they aren’t needed– and he managed to simplify the language without in any way diminishing the beauty of the words. I can understand what’s happening without cheating and looking at the Cliff’s Notes.
In school I was overwhelmed and bored; this time, it’s a joy.
I may go back and re-read the earlier translations one day– they’re in the public domain, and you can find them for free at Project Gutenberg— but this is the way it should have been introduced to me, all those years ago.