The Odyssey of Homer

Written by R.L. Eickhoff (trans.)
Review by Juliet Waldron

I first read The Odyssey in a child’s version that may have been meager, but was certainly sufficient to begin a lifetime fascination with this colorful progenitor of all adventure stories. In Fifth Form, I studied E.V. Rieu’s translation. At university, we read the verse of Richmond Lattimore and Robert Fitzgerald. More recently, I’ve read the Robert Fagles translation and listened, as the sun rose, to his singing language declaimed beside a circle of standing stones.

Dr. Eickhoff declares in his introduction—and do not miss this particular introduction—that every new century requires a new translation of The Odyssey. After Fagles, new century or not, I didn’t feel a pressing need for another. However, as I read Eickhoff’s muscular version, complete with balls, belches and copious T&A, I have to admit that his prose Odyssey is probably a welcome addition, especially in a world where the windows of once serious bookstores now display “graphic novels.” Dr. Eickhoff communicates the look, taste and feel of the ancient world powerfully, yet with a modern novelist’s colloquial flair. His translation of another great treasure of the oral tradition—The Ulster Cycle—signals how very much at home he is in the nearly lost, heroic world of the Classical West.