Patroclus Reads and Dies

How do you do a book review on the Iliad? It’s a classic, so whether or not you like it, it still remains an integral part of the literary canon (and rightly so).  Suffice to say, I wish to speak on the Robert Fagles translation of the Iliad (Penguin 1998 ed.), with very little commentary on how good or bad his translation is. I have no idea how close or far his translation is from the orignal language, nor am I sure it even matters.  All I know is that I could understand it and it seemed quite poetic, and that’s good enough for me.

I always feel slightly disappointed when I read the Iliad.  I always feel like I did a lot of reading for a minimal amount of story. I mean, we have the Trojan War going, but no real progress in the war is made by the end of the Iliad. Hector is dead, and Patroclus, but that’s about it. No other casualties that the general reader really cares about.

I think my biggest annoyance with the Iliad, however, is the death of Hector.  He is running around the walls of Troy (away from Achilles), and not one Trojan can pick up a bow and shoot at Achilles?! And no other Trojan will go out and help Hector? Hector just routed the entire Achean army! You would think they could at least make Achilles work for the kill. Maybe I read it wrong, but it always seems that Achilles and Hector are fighting it out alone in front of the gates of Troy.

The Iliad is a classic; so just be aware that if you read this, you’re reading the Iliad. It is good for what it is; but it didn’t get any better (or worse). If you’re in the mood for some poetic killing, check it out! Rage – sing the temper tantrum of Achilles!

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