Anna North in Vox:
The Odyssey is about a man. It says so right at the beginning — in Robert Fagles’s 1996 translation, for example, the poem opens with the line, “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns.”
In the course of the poem, that man plots his return home after fighting the Trojan War, slaughters the suitors vying to marry his wife Penelope, and reestablishes himself as the head of his household.
But the Odyssey is also about other people: Penelope, the nymph Calypso, the witch Circe, the princess Nausicaa; Odysseus’s many shipmates who died before they could make it home; the countless slaves in Odysseus’s house, many of whom are never named.
Emily Wilson, the first woman to translate the Odyssey into English, is as concerned with these surrounding characters as she is with Odysseus himself. Written in plain, contemporary language and released earlier this month to much fanfare, her translationlays bare some of the inequalities between characters that other translations have elided. It offers not just a new version of the poem, but a new way of thinking about it in the context of gender and power relationships today. As Wilson puts it, “the question of who matters is actually central to what the text is about.”