>Homer – The Illiad (Translated by Samuel Butler)

This particular review will be a bit challenging for me I think.  Everyone knows the story of Helen, the face that launched a thousand ships, and the Trojan Horse (The Illiad ends before this event).  I’m not even going to try to summarize the story using adjectives because it will never measure up.  I can’t even say if this particular translation of The Illiad is any good because I haven’t read any other translations and certainly not the original.  So instead all I can really do is nit pick and focus on little details.

Right away as soon as I start reading I notice one thing I don’t particularly like – the names.  I, and I believe a lot of others, are familiar with the names of Zeus, Hera, Athena, Kronos, Ares, etc.  Some may not know the less familiar names of those same Gods and Goddesses: Jove, Juno, Minerva, Saturn, Mars, etc.  I was once told by someone that if you are communicating in a language that isn’t your native tongue, a lot of time you will translate it into your native tongue in your head.  Well I find myself doing that with these names.  Yes I know Jove is Zeus, Juno is Hera, etc. but every time I read those names it takes me a little while to make the connection which breaks up my entire flow of reading.  I very much would have liked the “other” name of the Gods and Goddesses put in brackets.  For example a sentence could be, “And so Jove (Zeus) was angry”.  Now I don’t expect this for all the Gods, but for the bigger name ones would have been nice.  The alternative would be to have a glossary at the back of the book with not only the other name, but maybe a brief description of who the God or Goddess is would have been nice.  The Illiad is a Greek book anyways;  why are Roman names used?

What I did like (again I don’t know if this is from the original or not, but probably not since the original was meant for oral transmission) was that at the beginning of every book (nowadays equivalent to a chapter) there was a brief, less than one paragraph brief, summary of what the entire book would be about.  Some people may not like this because it kind of ruins the surprise of what’s coming (if you don’t know the story), but I liked it because some books tend to get side tracked with back stories, so that brief summary helped to keep me focused on the story.

Oh I guess it’s pretty important to note that this particular translation is in prose.  Works well for me as I’ve never been able to “get” poetry.

Now this is no fault of the translator as I’m sure it was part of the original but there are SO many names and almost all of them play no part in the story whatsoever.  There are pages and pages of text like “and so this person [insert name] killed this person [insert name] and in turn got killed by this person [insert name].  I don’t pay any attention to these text.

Something else I find disappointing was that the entire book was building up to the fight between Achilles and Hector, and then the fight itself ended very quickly.  There were more fights between “no names” that were given more attention and detail than the one between Achilles and Hector.  Oh well.

And the book ends with Priam burying Hector (hope I didn’t spoil it for anyone).

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