Wednesday, March 7, 2018

‘Long Way Home’ turns ‘Odyssey’ into homage to Chicago

Chloe Johnson (photo courtesy of Chicago Children's Choir)
     “The Odyssey has always been with me,” Emily Wilson writes in a note at the beginning of her new translation of the epic Greek adventure — the first into English by a woman — explaining how her elementary school put on a children’s production when she was 8, which inspired her to eventually learn Greek and Latin and study at Oxford.
     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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4 comments:

  1. I like your photos but I feel bad for the kids who were in the group but you can't see them just their legs.

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    Replies
    1. There's another 15 or so to the right, completely unseen. This was the better picture. I can't imagine the kids caring.

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  2. The tale of the trickster predates even Homer, I believe. Traditional lore all over the world feature Odysseus-like characters who defeat the powerful by deceit. Why we admire them is another question.

    john

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  3. Maury Sterling, Google the actor in Homeland I swear to God I thought it was Steinberg moonlighting. The guy's a spitting image of you Neil.

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