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Dan Stevens is a wonderful narrator, and Robert Fitzgerald is a wonderful translator. The result here is one of the finest versions of The Iliad available.
It's hard to say what's so awe-inspiring about Fitzgerald’s verse. I don't read Greek, so I can only base my assessment on how it works as an English poem. I would call it crystalline, because the language has many sharply-edged facets. But that makes it sound static and over-engineered. And that's not right, because Fitzgerald’s verse is also rough and craggy like a mountain, and it cascades down cliffs like a waterfall. It's full of what Fitzgerald himself calls "the ruck of war."
The Iliad is largely dialogue, and it's in the back-and-forth speeches that Stevens really shines. His Homeric heroes don't just declaim, and their speeches are not just a continuation of the narrative by other means. Stevens gives them passion and turmoil. They express anger and sorrow, helplessness and despair, joy and excitement and overweening pride. In his hands, and with the sturdy foundation of Fitzgerald’s translation, the Homeric heroes in this audiobook LIVE.
One minor note about character names. Fitzgerald used transliterations of many of the names that are closer to the Greek but are odd-looking or -sounding to many people. The main character, for example, is Akhilleus. Two of the mighty Greek warriors are named Aias. Hector's mother is Hekabe. For this audiobook, the producers have substituted the more familiar forms (Achilles, Ajax) - though Hector’s mother remains Hekabe rather than Hecuba. I think this is the right decision: the poem is challenging enough even without the alternate names.
A couple of thoughts about the poem itself. Compared to the Odyssey, with its multi-layered narrative and symmetrical structure, The Iliad is pretty straightforward. Along its single chronological thread, there are many digressions and delays. Whole books (like Book 10) are given over to episodes that have nothing to do with the main action and don't advance it an inch. Heroes about to come to blows pause and recite pages of genealogy at each other. Parts of it read like they were written by committee.
Yet there are few works of literature that can reach the tragic grandeur of the death of Hector or even Patroclus; and I defy anyone with a heart to hear the encounter of Achilles and Priam without weeping.
So there's a lot of good stuff here. I can't wait to listen to the companion version of The Odyssey. There are so many good versions of Homer available on Audible, it would be hard to pick just one; and if I were a first-time listener, I'm not sure this is the one I would go with: the beauty of the language might be a distraction. But if you know the story and you want to be swept up by a narrative and linguistic treasure, this is definitely the one.
26 of 26 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed listening to The Iliad very much. I knew very little about the Trojan War but had seen the movie "Troy" (which tells the story with some alterations and without mentioning how the gods interacted with humans - a key element of the story). Stevens (of "Downton Abbey") was an excellent narrator and I don't think I would have gotten as much from the book if I had only read it. Chapter two was particularly uninteresting to me as it was a listing of all the ships and the linage of their Captains who traveled with Agamemnon to Troy. The story itself gave me a better understanding of the Ancient Greeks and their way of life. I will probably listen to this again in the future.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
I read the Illiad years ago, and I enjoyed it, but this Audio book captures emotions and subtleties I hadn't picked up on before. Splendid story telling!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
A beautiful reading of a spellbinding translation. I was hooked. Definitely recommended for anyone who is wondering what all the fuss is about.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
The story is complex and tells of the exploits of a number of characters. It would be advisable to have a printed edition near at hand or a commentary so that you can at least grasp the names of these diverse characters. This is a very expressive translation which is wonderfully narrated.