Robert Fagles, winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ 1996 Academy Award in Literature, gives the vitality of modern language to this lasting heroic epic. In what Peter Levi calls “an extraordinary performance,” he preserves the energy and metric rhythm of Homer’s poetry while evoking the power and depth of the Iliad’s captivating repeated phrases.
“Kneeling down beside Achilles, clasped his knees
and kissed his hands, those terrible, man-killing hands
that had slaughtered Priam’s many sons in battle.”
Reasons why you should not miss out The Iliad audiobook
The Iliad audiobook improves in the final eight books. It’s more difficult at the beginning (especially books 4-13) since several pages mix together in a flood of similar-sounding Greek and Trojan men stabbing each other with spears. It’s also common in the breast or buttocks, which seems peculiar. The Iliad is as humbling to a writer as any other book, as complicated, gorgeous, and honest. The war scenes play out like scenes from a current film, gruesome and fast-paced, with the constant shock of death. Each death has a ramification, and when each man goes onto the stage to meet glory or death, Homer allows us a minute to recognize him, to see him in the middle of the spinning activity, and to behold the fate Zeus metes.
The Iliad audiobook is a war book, but the sheer number of such moments, along with their mind-numbing repetition, made it tiresome reading. It doesn’t help that several of these fatalities occurred to seemingly insignificant individuals who were introduced in three or four lines just to be swiftly (and gorily) murdered in another half-dozen lines on the same page. The Iliad is thought to be the recorded version of a much older oral poetry, and such figures may reflect collective memories of genuine Bronze Age soldiers, yet hundreds of pages of them being cut, sliced, and stabbed to death nearly killed me.
What is the point of such precisely documented carnage? Was Homer attempting to scare his audience into nonviolence by depicting war and all its horrors? Or was the old man simply attempting to compose the 8th century BCE equivalent of a blockbuster action-adventure film with enough gore to appeal to his young male demographic? The warrior spirit is both celebrated and lamented in The Iliad audiobook: the haughty pride and terrible thirst for vengeance and plunder that drives men to distant shores, intent on razing cities and slaughtering their inhabitants, but also the stark, tragic consequences of such acts.
You will later find out in The Iliad audiobook that the gods are “deathless,” so there will be no lasting injury from their catfight, but the cost of combat is high for all too mortal mankind. This was a period when combat was as brutal as it gets: no pity was granted to the enemy on the battlefield, save for one: a warrior’s honor was to be buried with full honors by his family and comrades. When Hector, the powerful “stallion-breaking” hero, was defeated by Achilles in a strangely anticlimactic combat, his father Priam rushed to Achilles’ camp and killed him.
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