It has been a number of years since I last read The Iliad, preferring The Odyssey since it doesn’t have quite as much blood and gore or the constant litany of men killing and men being killed by arrows and spears and swords. I wasn’t sure I was up to reading about “darkness covering their eyes” or the sounds of clashing armor as men stumble to the ground. But learning of Caroline Alexander’s translation of The Iliad, I decided to tackle it again, especially since this is the first translation I know of done by a woman. I wasn’t disappointed.
Alexander does an impressive job. I have read translations of The Iliad by Richmond Lattimore, Robert Fitzgerald, and Robert Fagles. My favorite has always been the Lattimore translation, but I would put Alexander’s translation right up there with the best of them. I found her language to be more accessible and lucid than previous translations. Her lines have a certain rhythmic quality which I can only assume is similar to the Greek. And although I don’t speak Greek, I appreciate her line-by-line translation, retaining the same number of lines as in Homer. This will make it easier for Greek speakers to do a line-by-line comparison.
I won’t deny I find it particularly commendable that Alexander’s translation shatters yet another glass ceiling. But it bears repeating that her translation of The Iliad is a mammoth achievement that stands on its own merit. I strongly recommend it.