And Here We Go: The Odyssey, Books 21 and 22

Book 21 is the archery contest. All the suitors try and fail to string Odysseus’s bow, but the mysterious beggar, who the suitors have been abusing all evening, gets up, strings the bow with ease, and shoots an arrow through the lined-up axe handles.

Then

With his eyebrows
he signaled, and his son strapped on his sword.,
picked up his spear, and stood beside his chair,
next to his father, his bronze weapons flashing.

This is how Book 21 ends. Book 22 begins:

Odysseus ripped off his rags . . .  “Platyime is over.”

Self has read three translations of The Odyssey: Fitzgerald, Fagles, and now Wilson’s.

It’s very fresh, in Emily Wilson’s translation. Despite the fact that it’s probably the one where she’s most aware of formulaic utterances and repetitions. It is a story.

Her favorite character is, oddly enough, not Odysseus but Telemachus. His psychological dilemma is  acute. She really identifies with this young man who grows up fatherless, at the mercy of his mother’s boorish suitors. His journey is almost as epic as his father’s. In one section, Telemachus tells how his house is known for the single son. Laertes, his grandfather, was a single child, and so is Odysseus. So is Telemachus. This seems a rather risky practice, but anyhoo it is certainly a powerful image. And every time Athena makes Odysseus or Penelope more attractive to fool other people, self can’t help thinking: Catfish! Catfish!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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