Saturday, January 25, 2014

Barry B. Powell - Homer For The Rest Of Us!

No one sings about glorious deeds performed in an imaginary war.
Barry B. Powell, Homer, The Iliad, p.25

For a very long time the Oracle of Ottawa has wanted to read the great works of Homer. At the time of this writing the Oracle of Ottawa has four different English translations of The Iliad; the Chapman, the Fitzgerald, the Lattimore and the Barry B. Powell. I know, how sick is that? The Oracle has made many attempts in his misspent youth at attacking the great work. But each time the Oracle was put off by the place names, the character names, and the nagging level of missing basic information of the setting of the great story. The Oracle of Ottawa came to the conclusion that to get through the Ilaid, and actually understand the times and all, you had to have at least an Honours Degree in Classical Studies.

Barry B. Powell at the Walls of Troy - Bona Fide!!!
 Another problem was that the Oracle always insisted on the best and most pure translation. Research at an actual old fashioned public library informed the Oracle of Ottawa that the works of Homer were always in something called dactylic hexameter. The works were sung by singers, until someone invented writing. Now from watching the movies, the Oracle of Ottawa roughly knows what Homeric Greek actually sounds like. But alas, the Oracle of Ottawa found none of the same music in the big three English translations.

Troy - Not just a 'story'...
 It was just after Christmas when the Oracle of Ottawa was out hunting for something awesome to read with his new Christmas book money, when he happened to spot a never before seen new translation of the Iliad by some guy called Barry B. Powell. The Oracle of Ottawa picked up the new hardcover book, without much hope, and marveled at the perfect cover illustration and design. The Oracle's interest was further peaked when he noticed that the book was published by Oxford University Press. Surely the Oxford University Press would not publish just any new translation of Homer.  

Thetis picks up new armor for Achilles...
 The Oracle of Ottawa cracked the book open and was floored at the perfect sparse double opening title page in perfect good taste, that actually matched the contents of the included work. The Oracle of Ottawa marveled at the detailed, but yet accessible, introduction by Barry B. Powell, that alone is worth the price of the hardcover. The Oracles little literary heart quickened. This is the stuff that the Oracle of Ottawa has always longed for. The maps, diagrams, and pictures. Especially that picture of the translator at the walls of Troy! How bona fide is that Dear Reader? And the fact that the translator had the same goal in translating the masterpiece that the Oracle of Ottawa has always dreamed of, to make the English translation take on the music of the ancient Homeric Greek.

The ultimate test Dear Reader is of course in the reading. The Oracle of Ottawa turned to Book I, and read the first line. The rage sing, O goddess, of Achilles, the son of Peleus... and no word of a lie, tears come to the Oracles eyes! This translation is the Bomb! This is the one. All the weird bits were very well noted at the bottom of the page and that doesn't bother the Oracle in the least. And yes, I read every damn one of them notes and was very grateful to the translator and his publisher at giving him the freedom to include them all.    

The book cost a little over thirty dollars in Canada, a mere pittance for something of such awesome quality. Again Dear Reader this was the one. The Oracle has finally put The Iliad under his belt, so to speak, but this is only the beginning. This was the translation that reached out and in and had the Oracle completely enthralled. Even reading carefully and slowly, not wanting it all to end, the Oracle had the great work wacked in less than seven days, with his copy full of underlines and notes. Something has gone off in the Oracle of Ottawa. This translation is a masterpiece. It captures the flavor of the music of the words of the Homeric Greek into our English. This is a great, great, feat.    

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