ROMAN STORIES | Kirkus Reviews


translated by

Emily Wilson

RELEASE DATE: Sept. 26, 2023

A masterful, highly readable rendering of the Greek classic.

A bloody tale of ancient war and grief comes to vibrant life in modern-day English.

While, in 2018, Wilson was the first woman to translate Homer’s Odyssey into English, her Iliad is the second by a woman in the past 10 years, following Caroline Alexander’s in 2015. The new work, like her well-received Odyssey, is a hefty package of more than 700 pages, with a highly informative introduction, maps, textual notes, genealogies, and a glossary. Wilson has again presented a Homer that sings, in sprightly iambic pentameter and pellucid language that avoids ponderosities like, well, ponderosities and pellucid. It’s repetitious, yes. The last phase of the Trojan War alternates between bickering and battles, starting with the fateful falling out of Achilles and Agamemnon that causes the former to withdraw to his tent for the next 400 pages. Thereafter, and often, the gods bicker and the military leaders bicker, and when they’re not fighting verbally, the stage is filled with sorties, routs, and one-on-ones, gorefests whose repetition is relieved by some variety in the slaughter, as eyeballs pop out or entrails pour out or heads come off, leaving torsos to tumble to the ground with a clatter of bronze armor. The shortness of Wilson’s lines—compared to Alexander’s or those in the popular translation by Richmond Lattimore—abetted by her unfussy diction and lyricism, are easy on the reader’s eye and seem to help the mind grasp the breadth of Homer’s canvas at any given moment while still marveling at details. Part of that bigger picture is a complex ambivalence about war, which can bestow or restore honor but also destroys friends, families, towns—the common bonds from which people and nations build empathy and tolerance. That message is clear in the closing scenes, as Achilles grieves for his lifelong companion, Patroclus, and Troy mourns Hector.

A masterful, highly readable rendering of the Greek classic.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781324001805

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


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