Friday, January 20, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Iliad

The Iliad by Homer and translated by Stephen Mitchell, read by Alfred Molina, 2011. 15 discs (approx. 18 hours). Published by Simon and Schuster Audio. Source: Audiobook Jukebox/Publisher for review.
An Iliad for the twenty-first century, this magnificent new translation by Stephen Mitchell sets the highest standards for beauty, accuracy, and aliveness.The power and the beauty of The Iliad resound again across 2,700 years in Stephen Mitchell’s exciting new translation, as if the lifeblood of its heroes Achilles and Patroclus, Hector and Priam flowed in every word. And we are there with them amid the horror and ecstasy of war, carried along by a poetry that lifts even the most devastating human events into the realm of the beautiful.
Based on the recent, superb M.L. West edition of the Greek, this Iliad is more accessible and moving than any previous version. Whether it is his exciting recent version of Gilgamesh, with more than 150,000 copies sold, or his unmatched translation of the poet Rilke, still the standard after twenty-nine years, or his Tao Te Ching, which has sold more than 900,000 copies and itself been translated into six languages, Stephen Mitchell’s books are international sensations. Now, thanks to his scholarship and poetic power, which re-creates the energy and simplicity, the speed, grace, and continual thrust and pull of the original, The Iliad ’s ancient story bursts vividly into new life and will reach an even larger audience of listeners.
I've actually read The Iliad once before-made it my summer camping at the beach read one year. Admittedly, I thought it was good but not "Oh my gosh, this book is awesome" good.
The actual story of the Trojan War is what makes this such an interesting book, but most especially, the way that it is written as an account of who was there and and their ties to the fighting. I like that fact that Homer gives such detail to the characters of the book and their personal histories. Usually I do not like books to have a lot of character history, but it is done so well in The Iliad and necessary that one can not help but be drawn in.

The Iliad is definitely one of the most epic books I have ever read, as well, as one of the bloodiest books because Homer does not hold anything back from his descriptions of the pains of war and all the mess involved in one. While the descriptions of the battle could be graphic at times-with the death wounds dealt-the story does not linger on those scenes. Rather it is more of a dry report of how a certain character died, yet still perhaps a little too violent for some.

The Iliad is one of those books were the characters are not ones that I could necessarily love. While I may not think to fondly of the characters and their actions, I do think that each of their stories are quite captivating as they struggle for what they want in their world against the "gods" who meddle in day to day life.
The characters for me, are just  that...characters. The one thing that really made them interesting was that they were all extremely flawed, from Paris and his cowardice, to Achilles and his refusal to fight because he was offended by the loss of his prize (a girl); as for the gods themselves, I really cannot think of anything good to say about them. For me, they were an annoyance in their pettiness, but ya'll can see more of why I don't like them below.

The one thing that really sticks out in my mind when I think back on The Iliad would have to be-well, at least this translation of it-is that I found myself thinking differently about a certain character which surprised me. After listening to the introduction by Stephen Mitchell, I found myself looking beyond my initial thoughts about Helen and the situation that she found herself in. And this time, I actually felt bad for her instead on contempt because while she did mess up in running off with Paris she tried near the end to gain back some of the her lost dignity by refusing him.
The first time through I just got hung-up on the whole she ran off with another man-not her husband- and caused the beginning of a war that lasted ten years.

The one thing I still do not like about The Iliad would have to be the gods and goddess of Olympus. My biggest gripe against the gods would have to be that they are selfish, petty, self-serving, manipulative, and a bunch of babies. Yeah, I do not think to highly of their characters in the book and that is most likely to never change. I could seriously go on and on about how annoyed they made me, but I am pretty sure that would get boring real fast for ya'll.  
While I was really interested in listening to the audio version of The Iliad, I was not all too sure that any one would be able to breath enough life into the book that would hold ones attention, Which is why I am happy to say that Alfred Molina did a fantastic job reading The Iliad. He absolutely astounded me with his ability to capture the story and the characters so perfectly.

What really made this a great listen was the reader, Alfred Molina. So if you think The Iliad is maybe not something you would be interested in reading, I would recommend listening to the audio because it will absolutely pull you in and leave you listening long after you should be asleep.

The only drawback to the audio, besides the length of time, would have to be the introduction. Its not the the information was not good-and useful for the book-it was just kind of dull...especially the way it was read. I am not trying to be mean, but the author, while doing an excellent job of adding depth the story, did not exactly have the best reading voice.
Final Verdict: The Iliad, definitely one epic listen or read.

The Iliad earns 4 out of 5 pineapples.

You can also see my thoughts on W.H.D. Rouse's translation of Homer's The Iliad.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review of the audio. I'll have to remember to check it out sometime. It sounds exciting.

    (I'm currently re-reading the Iliad for school. Yay!)


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