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I expected something more free-form from Stephen Mitchell, something hewing less closely to the original; I don't know why. What's here is spectacular: a disciplined, sustained march from the beginning to the tragic (and transcendent) end. It's one of the best verse translations of "The Iliad" I've ever read.
You may have heard that there are "parts missing." True, but don't let that put you off. The omitted passages, about 1000 lines altogether, are almost universally considered later additions: this amounts to the whole of Book 10 (and good riddance!) and several hundred other lines scattered here and there throughout the poem. Apart from the omitted book, the differences are invisible (at least to me). What remains is tight, with an almost crystalline precision, an economy of movement that results in stunning action sequences and wholly realized grace notes.
You may have also heard that Mitchell dispensed with the heroic epithets that make up so much of the texture of Homer. Maybe some; maybe there aren't as many as in some other translations; but Athena, in Mitchell's rendering, is still grey-eyed; Apollo is still he "who shoots from afar"; and plenty of Trojans and Achaeans alike are "breakers of men" and "tamers of horses." This is in no respect a prosed-down or dumbed-down translation. It's the genuine article.
Alfred Molina gives a spirited reading, softer and slower in some places, bursting into vibrant energy, trembling with anger, in the furious dialogue and the shock of battle. Mitchell is reported to be working on a companion version of "The Odyssey." I hope he is: and I hope, when he's done, that he gets Molina back to read it.
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I would love to write like a blast of a sudden squall
whose strong five-beat rhythm can with light and thunder, churning
the dark page into a fury, and countless words
surge and toss on its pages, high-arched and white-capped,
and crash down onto the Internets in endless ranks:
just so did the translators charge in their ranks, each simile
packed close together.
36 of 38 people found this review helpful