Title: The Iliad
Author: Homer/Caroline Alexander
One of the most ancient stories in the world, The Iliad as recounted by Homer is an epic in the truest sense of the word. It is a story that has been told, and retold, for thousands of years. Dozens, possibly hundreds, have tried their hand and tested their skill at translating the poem from its original Greek over the years. I was a teenager when I first read Fagle’s classic translation, often considered the modern standard for the tale. It is hard not to get swept away by the grandeur and the scale of it, the tragedy of men and gods.
“Wrath–sing, goddess, of the ruinous wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles…”
So begins the poem as translated and retold by Caroline Alexander. Here, after millennia, Alexander is not choosing to reinvent the wheel but refine it, and she does so remarkably. She seems to have found a way to streamline the rhythm of the poem, shaping and refining its cadence. Modern readers are wont to remember The Iliad was originally intended to be an oral story, spoken aloud, and I implore readers to try it as they make their way through. It’s truly remarkable, the way it almost seems to flow and carry itself forward. Inflection and emotion come alive in that way and, for a moment, one could easily find themselves swept away by the tale of gods and heroes. It’s a wondrous experience for those who might be experiencing The Iliad for the first time, as well as those–like myself–who have read it a few times, by a few different translators.
In sum, Caroline Alexander has done a remarkable thing and made the ancient new. The Iliad is, and always has been, a living story but in this new edition it feels reinvigorated and exciting and fresh. I absolutely cannot recommend it enough.
The Iliad, translated by Caroline Alexander, is available now in print and digital on Amazon.