I know, I know, you're probably getting mighty tired of my postings on The Iliad by now. I'm almost done, I promise. I only have one major translation left to read, and I'm not getting to it until early next week while I'm on a three-day business trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Having said that though, I thought I'd spend some time putting together a posting that compares and contrasts the translations that I have read, and also provide some suggestions for some pleasurable side reading. This information may prove useful to readers who want to tackle Homer's epic poem, and are wondering which translation to read. It may also be interesting to those who've read The Iliad and are considering reading a different translation at some point in time. I am going to list the translations that I've read organized by date of translation and/or publication.
Richmond Lattimore (1951)--
Robert Fitzgerald (1974)--
Robert Fagles (1990)--
Stanley Lombardo (1997)--
I also really liked how Lombardo inset and italicized the similes in the poem (and there's gobs of 'em). It makes it so much easier for the reader to relate each simile to section of the poem it applies to. It was really quite clever (and makes it ever so much easier when reading aloud). Lombardo is a firm believer that The Iliad is a living poem (after all, it has been translated into English approximately 150 times since the 17th century!), and that "living poetry means living speech". I completely agree. For new readers, or readers who might be unsure of whether they'd like The Iliad, this might be a great translation to start with. If you're an Iliad junkie, like me, you ought to read it too. Lombardo's translation is powerful and relevant.
Stephen Mitchell (2011)--
here. I'm pretty excited to read this and compare and contrast it with the other versions I've read. It should be really interesting.
If you read The Iliad, any of the translations referenced above, or others, I also strongly recommend that you consider picking up the following books. I think they'll add significantly to your overall experience with Homer and his epic poem.
The Odyssey--Obviously, if you've read The Iliad, you probably ought to go ahead and read The Odyssey. All of the translators referenced above have translations of The Odyssey, with exception of Stephen Mitchell, and he's working on his rendition even as I write.
Ransom--This little book by Australian writer, David Malouf, is seriously one of the most gorgeous works of fiction I've ever encountered. It focuses and expands upon events occurring in the last three or four books of The Iliad. It is hauntingly beautiful and powerful prose that borders on poetic for much of the time. If you're interested in Malouf's novel, you can check out my review here.
War Music, All Day Permanent Red, and Cold Calls--These little books of poetry by British poet, Christopher Logue, are his retelling of significant portions of The Iliad and are not to be missed. Once you've read The Iliad, dip into War Music and prepare to be 'gobsmacked' up side the head! If you're interested in Logue's poetry, have a look at my posting here.
The War That Killed Achilles--This non-fiction book by Caroline Alexander (2009) is superb, and places Homer's epic poem in historical context. It is just over 200 pages, and is extremely well written. I am so glad that I read this as it really shed a lot of light on the events associated with the Trojan War, as well as the psychology of the major players.
A Brief Iliadic Glossary--
Some interesting words and definitions that I've encountered during my reads:
androktasia = combat death description (these abound within The Iliad)
aristeia = display of martial prowess (e.g., Book 5 is the aristeia of Diomedes)
eris = refers to 'strife between heroes' (mortal or immortal)
teichoskopia = viewing from the walls (refers to Helen and Priam up on the walls of Troy looking down on the Greek commanders)