April 26, 2007

Review:The Iliad

The Iliad
by Homer
translation by Robert Fagles

I'm working my way through the Well-Educated Mind poetry list. I had been breathlessly waiting to get into poetry for the last year. But first I have to get through a few bloody epics. Ugh.

So the Iliad is a 540 page description of the 9th year of the 10 year war between the Argive armies and the Trojans over the beautiful Helen, wife of Menalaus, who ran off with Paris, a prince of Troy. There is battle after battle where we learn which side is in the lead and which god is helping which side or which god is fighting which other god. We learn how Achilles, the best fighter on the Argive side, is dishonored and refuses to fight, and how he comes back to fighting with a vengeance. There is a lot of disembowelment, eyes popping out, and spears piercing through every kind of body part. Suffice it to say I didn't really enjoy reading this one.

Actually it was just the graphic battle scenes that I didn't care for(those being half the book). The storyline was not bad. And the interaction of the gods, with men and each other, was also very interesting. I liked Hector. I found Paris amusing. Achilles was a bit too passionate for my liking but I could sympathize with him. So I did enjoy some of it.

I read the Fagles translation after first trying the Lattimore one with little understanding. Fagles has a poetic style that is easier for the lay-person to comprehend. I was pleased with the writing and the emotional aspects of this epic. It gave my mind someplace to rest after some of the battle scenes. I wonder if the battle scenes are more graphic in the Fagles translation or not? Shot! Now I have to read a battle scene from Lattimore to find out.

Now that I've had a little time to vent and process I'd say that it wasn't so bad after all. It gives one an idea of what life was like during this time period; what it was like to be a man having to go into battle. It shows how people thought about the gods of the time. It's not really a flattering picture but it is what was commonly thought. The concepts of honor and respect back then were so different than they are nowadays. On a scale of 1-5 I'd give it a 3.5. I am glad to have read it.

This book is the second book completed for the Once Upon a Time Challenge; it is the second poem on the poetry list from TWEM; and it is a classic and a history credit in my goals for the year posted here. I am currently reading Stardust, to be finished and reviewed sometime in the next day or two. Bye for now!

5 comments:

Nymeth said...

I've read countless retellings of this, but I'm still trying to gather the courage to go through the real thing. I hope that when I finally do, I can say what you said at the end: that I'm glad to have read it.

I'll be looking forward to your review of Stardust!

Court said...

I really want to read The Iliad. I read The Odyssey and loved it, but that might just be because I have a crush on Odysseys. ;) Hmm, I'm really going to have to look into getting my hands on this now.

Petunia said...

Nymeth-it's not so bad as long as you know what to expect, which now you do because I've given it all away.

Court-I am looking forward to reading The Odyssey next. The story is not SO much about war but more about survival. And there are a lot of interesting characters. And Odesseus is introduced in The Iliad so nicely, he sounds like a favorite uncle.

Carrie K said...

This is one I've always meant to read but haven't. OTOH, I can't even get through someone else reading Beowulf to me. [audiobook].

But your review gives me hope!

Petunia said...

Beowulf is coming up on my reading list too. I'm familiar with the storyline but haven't actually read the book yet. But it's smaller than the Iliad so I should survive.