The Odyssey: (The Stephen Mitchell Translation) by Homer, Stephen Mitchell

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This is my fifth time reading through another translation of The Odyssey and I even reviewed it in this site. There’s always a reason for this. The original text is in Ancient Greek and in every single english translations everything was different from one another. I had hoped there would be a translation to Malay language from the ancient greek but I probably will wait another century or so for it to happen. I had Stephen Mitchell’s Iliad and I thought about getting through it first to get used of the author’s work but I hadn’t finish any version of Iliad before so that would take some time for me.

What Stephen Mitchell’s Homer differed from the rest of the translations in the market was that its in Modern English. The author took a painful attention to the namings and accents but seemed to overlook the rest of the textual element. Its like that Shakespeare in Modern English series that made sense all those Shakespearean gibberish. If you haven’t read the Odyssey yet, you would find that Mitchell’s translation was very easy to read and fit through most modern adaptations of Ancient Greece or Roman days. Its not a bad thing. It made the text easier to understand, the dialogues and the story. Mitchell does edit out some of the parts that might prove harder to meld along with the story which he rearrange the missing parts in the appendices. In short, this was a nightmare for Homer purist and even I had to compare it to BBC’s Atlantis on the degree of unsubtle appropriation it had for general audience.

So instead of a classic text, I had to change my outlook on the book since it read like a novel more than epic poetry. I could attribute to the formatting failure since I hardly see the poetic form in this lengthy poetry. But I have the paperback version of The Iliad so I know it was just my copy of the ebook. If you adjust your expectation right, Mitchell’s translation can be as entertaining as watching Spartacus or 300. Yes, it was appropriated but so was most modern adaptations on ancient greece. The dialogues was straight forward and easier to understand and more realistic without being too flowery. The graphic violence was marvelous as always especially in modern language. The flow of the story was even out with some textual omissions which would have been beneficial to readers not wanting the prose drowning out the plot and storytelling. But some of the characterizations can be bland and one-dimensional, with the required editing around the texts, I do find this version to be the least complex translation to suit the academical setting. Even the use of vocabulary within this book weren’t as expanded as the rest of the versions of The Odyssey.

But to those who are interested in reading the Greek classics without the burden of it being too difficult to read in leisure, this edition would be perfect for the purpose. However, I felt disorientated in several intervals when I compare back to my previous reads and notice the disparities between the translations. For certainty, there’s a sense of loss in this translation. The characters was like moving around like a play. Certain parts of the dialogues and paragraphs was unexpanded. There were some shifts in between translated parts according to the text and the editing that omit out what would have been unnecessary. I have a hard time referring to the appendices but even without it, it was readable but if you know better about the elements in this book.

One thing for certain, the depth of Xenia was more realistic in this version. The imagery was there and the interactions and motives was translated well through the easy prose without being clouded by elusive words and prose. It made the situation more intense and at times comprehensible without finding through layers of subtleties. The people became more like actual people. The monsters and Gods and Goddesses were humanized at a time. It was an emotional translation at its surface rather than its core and you can empathize with the characters in this story more than average translations of the book which can be rigid and at times Victorian. For all its worth, Mitchell’s The Odyssey was enjoyable and it does what intended to be. Its more appropriately a novel than just a direct translation. Considering, The Odyssey survived for over a millennia, there’s nothing wrong to appropriate the version in a modern enjoyable form as that was what it was in the first place.

This ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion.


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