How I Spent My Friday Afternoon

I just spent an hour and a half on the floor of Waterstones hunched over a heavy, 608 page book. Well, first I tried to sit on a tiny, uncomfortable window seat (possibly not actually meant for sitting on), but the floor soon seemed like a better idea. I strained my neck. I got a paper-cut.* My foot fell asleep and got all tingly. But it was time well-spent.


Because I found the best translation of The Iliad. EVER.

I mean, you’ve heard me talk about my obsession with the Homeric epic before, but brace yourselves because this just went to another level.

I was in Waterstones for the sole purpose of doing absolutely nothing. I dabbled in the poetry section first, then Shakespeare, then Classics–and it was there, amid the Chaucer and the Austen and the Hardy, that I got a hankering to search out Homer. I was stymied for a while because I had no idea that Greek and Latin classics got their own section two floors up, but I’m glad I persisted (and got smart enough to check the directory).

So, let me introduce you to this beautiful book that I want to take home and keep next to my bed and possibly tattoo on my bones.

Published late last year in the US and more recently in the UK, this is a new translation from Caroline Alexander (author of The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty, The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, and The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War) and I’m not the only one to praise it above the well-regarded and well-known translations by Fagles, Fitzgerald, and Butler, among others. Nothing against those translations but this one by Alexander will be my definitive version.

The US cover is pretty, too.


The text sings. Vivid, rich, enormously appealing and readable. Brilliant, bright, bold. Powerful, musical, epic. I mean EPIC in every sense of the word.

But enough of my thoughts on it. You decide:

(Yes, I took pictures. And they are clickable so you can enlarge them if you like.)

Don’t judge me. I have a thing for Diomedes, ok?

I’m done. Promise.

But oh my gosh, I love it so much. I want it in hardcover (for the prettiness and the real pages and the weight of it) and in kindle (608 is a lot of pages to carry around).

If you’ve never read The Iliad, try this translation. And then tell me how much you love it.

If you read it for an academic requirement some unspecified number of years ago and the memory of it is foggy and you want to (yes, you do) give it another go, invest in this translation. And then tell me how much you love it.

*This is patently not true. But I thought it made a better story.

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