|Chloe Johnson (photo courtesy of Chicago Children's Choir)|
On that scale, I’m late to the party, having only discovered the book in my mid-30s, when Robert Fagles published his masterful translation.
Like many classics, The Odyssey is not only a thrilling adventure story, but a lens that can be used to view contemporary life.
All the confusion over gun control, for instance, is clarified by a single, utterly true sentence at the beginning of Book XIX, “Iron has powers to draw a man to ruin.” (“Iron” refers to swords; the sentence is commonly translated: “The blade itself incites to deeds of violence,” though I can’t find where originally).
And just to show how flexible the classics truly are, that exact same passage can also be used to support gun advocates, since it occurs as Odysseus is hiding the suitors’ weapons so he can more easily kill them.
You’re allowed to use the classics however you please — that’s half the fun. They belong to everyone, and almost everyone has taken a crack at The Odyssey or its hero, Odysseus. Plato commented, Dante condemned (sticking Odysseus way down in the 8th circle, with the frauds, for “the ambush of the horse.”). The plot has inspired everything from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” to James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”
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