Friday, November 3, 2017

A new Odyssey

In The New York Times Magazine, Wyatt Mason writes about the classicist Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate the Odyssey into English. I am happy to find that this article begins with a discussion of πολύτροπον [polutropon, much-turned, of many turns], the first word that describes the man who is the poem’s subject. I’m less happy about Wilson’s choice of the word complicated to carry πολύτροπον across into English (“Tell me about a complicated man”), though that word does recall James Joyce’s characterization of Odysseus as a “complete all-round character”: son, father, husband, lover, conscientious objector, warrior, inventor, gentleman. I very much like what Wilson does with Homer’s further directive to the muse: “Now goddess, child of Zeus, / tell the old story for our modern times. / Find the beginning.”

Related reading
All OCA Homer posts (Pinboard)

[Annette Meakin translated Odyssey 6 as Nausikaa (1926). Barbara Leonie Picard created “a retelling of the entire story for young people” (1952). The first word that names Odysseus is the poem’s first word, ἄνδρα [andra, man]: Odysseus is a man, god-like at times in his ability to dazzle, but thoroughly fallible and mortal. Joyce’s remarks on Odysseus are found in Frank Budgen’s James Joyce and the Making of “Ulysses” (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1960). Wilson’s Odyssey comes out next Tuesday, published by W.W. Norton.]

comments: 2

Slywy said...

What would you use instead of "complicated"? (I have no idea what the original word conveys.) I wonder if "complicated" is used because of its contemporary meanings.

Michael Leddy said...

The article has a lot to say about polutropon. I like Robert Fitzgerald’s “skilled in all ways of contending,” which suggests wiliness and many kinds of struggle.