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To analyse it would be too self-important and to summarize it would be laughable.


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Nevertheless, I thought of giving a sort of moral summary of the story and then abandoned that. I then considered writing about the many comparisons it evoked it my mind about the Indian epics that I have grown up with, but I felt out of my depth since I have not even read the Iliad yet.

With all those attempts having failed, I am left with just repeating again that it was much more enjoyable than I expected. That is not to say that it was an epic adventure with no dull moments.

The characters repeat themselves in dialogue and in attitude, all major dramatic points are revealed in advance as prophesy and every important story event is told again at various points by various characters. Even though I avoided it as much as I can, I could not at times avoid contrasting my reading experience with that of the epics I have grown up with and I remember thinking to myself that in comparison this reads like a short story or a novella. Maybe this impression is because I am largely yet unaware of the large mythical structure on which the story is built.

I intend to allay that deficiency soon. The characters are unforgettable, the situations are legendary and I am truly happy that I finally got around to a full reading of this magnificent epic. It has opened up a new world. View all 32 comments. Aug 07, James rated it really liked it Shelves: 4-written-preth-century , 1-fiction. I was tasked with reading this epic work as part of an Advanced Placement English course in between my junior and senior years of high school. I loved literature back then as much as I do now, and my reading habits probably grew from everything my teachers encouraged us to read during the summer hiatus and mid-year breaks.

We sampled literature from all over the world, and this Greek tome was one of the many we read. We only read certain sections, as it's over pages long, but I finished it on my own over winter break that year. It often depends on the translation version you read, as it might make it better or worse for you. I don't recall which one the teacher selected, but it must have been good as I did my quarterly papers on both this book and Homer's other work, The Iliad.

The Odyssey was an amazing tale of a journey through the famed Trojan Wars in ancient Greece. Meeting all the gods and goddesses, understanding the genealogy and family structure, the plots between all their shenanigans and games The only part I found a bit dull was when it truly went into war-time battle descriptions, as reading details about fighting is not typically something I enjoy.

But the soap opera-like quality of these characters cum deity realities was just absorbing fun. The lyrics and the words fly off the pages. The images and the metaphors are pretty. And if you know enough about Greek history, you almost feel as if you're in the story. About Me For those new to me or my reviews I write A LOT. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings.

Thanks for stopping by. May 30, Roy Lotz rated it it was amazing Shelves: best-words-best-order , highly-recommended-favorites , oldie-but-goodie. It was on the Homeric Question. I was a sophomore in college—a student with unfortunate literary ambitions who had just decided to major in anthropology. By this point, I had at least tacitly decided that I wanted to be a professor. In my future lay the vast and unexplored ocean of academia.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

What was the safest vessel to travel into that forbidden wine-dark sea? I signed up for a reading project with an anthropology professor. Lucky for him, he was on the cusp of retirement. So his world-weariness manifested itself as a total, guilt-free indifference to his teaching duties. I envied a man that could apparently care so little about professional advancement.

In any case, now I had to come up with a research topic. I had just switched into the major, and so had little idea what typical anthropology research projects were like. And because my advisor was so indifferent, I received no guidance from him. The onus lay entirely on me. Who is Homer? Nobody knew. Nobody could know. The man—if man he was—was lost to the abyss of time. No trace of him existed. And yet, we have these glorious poems—poems at the center of our history, the roots of the Western literary canon.

Deception and Democracy in Classical Athens

That the person or persons responsible could be so totally lost to history baffled me—intrigued me. But I was not majoring in literature or the humanities. I was in anthropology, and so had to do a proper anthropological project. At the very least, I needed an angle. Milman Parry and Albert Lord duly provided this angle. The two men were classicists—scholars of ancient Greece. But instead of staying in their musty offices reading dusty manuscripts, they did something no classicist had done before: they attempted to answer the Homeric question with field work.

At the time and perhaps now? But what was most fascinating was that these stories were apparently improvised. In our decadent culture, we have a warped idea of improvisation. Many of us believe improvisation to be the spontaneous outflowing of creative energies, manifesting themselves in something totally new. Like God shaping the Earth out of the infinite void, these imaginary improvisers shape their art from nothing whatsoever. Unfortunately, this never happens.

By carefully transcribing hundreds of these Serbo-Croation poems, they discovered that—although a single poem may vary from person to person, place to place, or performance to performance—the variation took place within predictable boundaries. Individual scenes, in turn, also followed stereotypical outlines—feasts, banquets, catalogues of forces, battles, athletic contests, etc.

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Of course, this is not to say that the poet was not original. Rather, it is to say that they are just as original as John Coltrane or Charlie Parker—individuals working within a tradition. These formulas and stereotypical scenes were the raw material with which the poet worked. They allowed him to compose material quickly enough to keep up the performance, and not break his rhythm.

But could poems as long as The Odyssey and The Iliad come wholly from an oral tradition? It seems improbable: it would take multiple days to recite, and the bard would have to pick up where he left off. But Milman and Parry, during their fieldwork, managed to put our fears at rest. I actually read one. All this is impressive, but one question remained: how could the oral poems get on paper?


  1. The Odyssey by Homer.
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  4. Did an oral poet—Homer, presumably—learn to write, and copy it down? According to him, once a person becomes literate, the frame of mind required to learn the art of oral poetry cannot be achieved. According to Lord, this left only one option: Homer must have been a master oral poet, and his poems must have been transcribed by someone else. This is how the aforementioned poem by Avdo was taken down by the researchers.

    At the time, this struck me as perfectly likely—indeed, almost certain. But the more I think about it, the less I can imagine an oral poet submitting himself to sit with a scribe, writing in the cumbersome Linear B script, for the dozens and dozens of hours it would have taken to transcribe these poems. An anthropologist, Finnegan found many cases in Africa of semi-literate or fully literate people who remained capable of improvising poetry.

    For me, and everyone alive in the Western world today, The Odyssey is flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood. Marvelously sophisticated, fantastically exciting, it is the alpha and omega of our tradition. From Homer we sprang, and unto Homer shall we return. Lucky for me, the Fagles translation a nice one if you're looking for readability is available as an audiobook, narrated by the great Sir Ian McKellen.

    It was a wonderful experience, not only because Sir Ian has such a beautiful voice he's Gandalf, after all , but because hearing it read rather than reading it recreated, however dimly, the original experience of the poem: as a performance.

    Castaway Odyssey by Eric Flint and Ryk E. Spoor - Baen Books

    I highly recommend it. View all 26 comments. Where do you start with a book such as this? An epic tale that has been around for almost three thousand years. I have no idea. What I do know is that I read it and loved it. I had little foreknowledge of the story and I haven't looked into the meanings or history too deeply.

    Instead I've tried to appreciate the story on it's own merits, getting swept away like Odysseus on the sea.