28 January 2010

The Iliad: Finally reading it

The Iliad is one of those books that make me ask, "How have I not read this?" If you take a look at my Goodreads list, there are quite a few of those (Pride and Prejudice, Fahrenheit 451, For Whom the Bell Tolls, etc.). I've got a problem with guilt-reading that exasperates Victoria: I will often read books just because I think I should read them, not because I think I will enjoy them.

And that's partially how I came to The Iliad. It had been something I wanted to read for quite a while, just because I felt like I ought to. And then, the same uncle and aunt who told me to read The Pickwick Papers recommended this and The Odyssey. So I asked for the Robert Fagles translations for Christmas, and got them. I'm not sure why I wanted Fagles other than the fact that I like the covers, but I'm glad I chose his versions. I've not finished the book yet, but I've got some midway thoughts after this short intermission.

Achilles for the ladies

I'm only about half of the way through, but even after only a little bit, I think the book is astonishingly good. I remember having to read parts of it in High School (and probably eschewing that responsibility) and hating it. I think the possibility of rhyming couplets completely turned me off. Well, good news! The Fagle's translation doesn't rhyme! Thank the undying gods.

The thing which most surprises me about it all is how incredibly graphic the violence is. I often feel like I'm reading a screenplay for a Tarrentino film. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as it is great at illustrating the horror of war, it was just unexpected. One passage I just read the other night mention someone having their head and arms cut off and rolling away like a log. Eeesh.

I'll be sure to check in with a review after I'm done. As an addendum (I started writing this five days ago), I've started reading one of the aforementioned "should read" books on my metro rides to and from UMD. I'll have a review of the mystery book coming up as well, and it's sure to be positive!


  1. Mystery book really? Ugh

    ACK to this book.

    Now that that's out of my system:
    the really astounding thing about this is remember, it was passed down orally for a lot longer than we think of it existing. Before someone decided hey let's write these stories down, they were all told orally, so many different things got incorporated b/c of this. Can you imagine what the story might have been like? The possibilities are endless just based on what storytellers added or forgot. That's the amazing thing. Even though I hate the book :)

  2. That's a really good point that I hadn't thought of. I read somewhere, the other day, that there are actually thought to have been something like four or five books in the series, and we're missing some that explain, for instance, why Helen of Troy was captured. I need to get on finding that so some University will offer me tenure without any second thoughts.

  3. Don't read For Whom the Bell Tolls.