The Odyssey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Odyssey (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)


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The Odyssey, by Homer, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

Long before The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, the ancient Greek poet Homer established the standard for tales of epic quests and heroic journeys with The Odyssey. Crowded with characters, both human and non-human, and bursting with action, The Odyssey details the adventures of Odysseus, king of Ithaca and hero of the Trojan War, as he struggles to return to his home and his waiting, ever-faithful wife, Penelope.

Along the way he encounters the seductive Circe, who changes men into swine; the gorgeous water-nymph, Calypso, who keeps him a “prisoner of love” for seven years; the terrible, one-eyed, man-eating giant Cyclops; and a host of other ogres, wizards, sirens, and gods. But when he finally reaches Ithaca after ten years of travel, his trials have only begun. There he must battle the scheming noblemen who, thinking him dead, have demanded that Penelope choose one of them to be her new husband—and Ithaca’s new king.

Often called the “second work of Western literature” (The Iliad, also by Homer, being the first), The Odyssey is not only a rousing adventure drama, but also a profound meditation on courage, loyalty, family, fate, and undying love. More than three thousand years old, it was the first story to delineate carefully and exhaustively a single character arc — a narrative structure that serves as the foundation and heart of the modern novel. Robert Squillace’s revision of George Herbert Palmer’s classic prose translation captures the drama and vitality of adventure, while remaining true to the original Homeric language.

Robert Squillace teaches in the Cultural Foundations division of New York University’s General Studies Program. He has published numerous essays on literature and the book Modernism, Modernity and Arnold Bennett.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781593080099
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 05/01/2003
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 4,556
Product dimensions: 7.96(w) x 5.28(h) x 1.01(d)

About the Author

The ancient Greek poet Homer established the gold standard for heroic quests and sweeping journeys with his pair of classic epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Crowded with characters, both human and non-human, and bursting with action, the epic tales detail the fabled Trojan War and the adventures of Odysseus as he struggles to return home. Homer’s epics have inspired countless books and works of art throughout their long history.

Read an Excerpt

From Robert Squillace's Introduction to The Odyssey

When Odysseus awakens from his dream-like voyage on the shore of his own island, he fails to recognize the place, asking: "To what men's land am I come now? Lawless and savage are they, with no regard for right, or are they kind to strangers and reverent toward the gods?" While the mists of Athene have produced the mariner's confusion, his questions do not vanish with their dissipation. Is Ithaca the ordered kingdom he left behind or a new realm of incurable savagery? And, after all the alternative worlds through which we have passed, to what land have we finally come? After meeting Arete and Polyphemus and Anticleia and Achilles and Circe and Calypso and the Sirens and the Lotus-eaters and many others, how do we now perceive Ithaca? The poem offers no unified answers, instead multiplying the complications it has engaged since Telemachus set sail for Pylos.

The first surprise of the Ithacan episode, at least to many modern readers, is its length; the landfall of Odysseus on his home shore marks only about the halfway point of the tale. Homer's buildup to the battle with the suitors is one of the slowest and most suspenseful in literature-even though his original audience knew the outcome from the start. As Alfred Hitchcock once observed, the sudden explosion of a bomb of which viewers know nothing generates a half-second's shock, while the slow ticking of a bomb of whose existence they do know generates a quarter-hour's suspense. Moreover, Homer fills the delay with its own significance. In the period between Odysseus's landing and the fight with the suitors, a series of recognition scenes unfolds, of disguises adopted and then penetrated or let fall. Odysseus reveals himself to his son, Telemachus, and to his loyal swineherd and cowherd. The old dog Argos, who had known his master as a pup, and the old nurse Eurycleia see on their own through the guise of age and poverty that Athene has helped the man of strategies don. To recognize Odysseus means more than simply to know who this particular individual is-or was, for if Odysseus remains unrecognized as the island's patriarch, if he cannot reclaim his old identity, he will become the old beggar he appears to be. To acknowledge the identity of this stranger as Odysseus is, in effect, to acknowledge authority itself, to demonstrate one's acquiescence to the whole system that legitimizes a king's rule. After all, no one who opposes the rights of Odysseus learns who the old beggar really is until he puts an arrow through Antinoüs's throat. Not even such old, disloyal servants as Melantho and Melanthius show the slightest suspicion that the mysterious stranger they enjoy abusing is their dangerous master returned. Only those who submit themselves to the hierarchical system, who recognize their own places, can also recognize Odysseus. Indeed, Argos not only recognizes but directly mirrors his master, who also risks consignment to the dung heap in his disregarded age if he can no longer prove himself the man he used to be, bend the great bow he once wielded, and, in an image suggestive of continued sexual prowess, fire an arrow through a dozen axes.

The Telemachy's emphasis on the twin values of authority and identity dovetail with particular neatness in the token by which Odysseus is known. An old scar received years earlier in a boar hunt, the first heroic episode that vaulted the youth toward his maturity, made him who he is, written into his body so long as he lives. As in the Nekyia, bodily existence-bodily prowess and endurance-measure the value of life; indeed, the scar suggests that one defines oneself by exterior, bodily deeds, not by any individual interior psychology. The violence of Odysseus's reaction to his old nurse's discovery of the scar, a symbol of his passage from boyhood to maturity, even recalls the curt rejection of Penelope by her son, a parallel reinforced by the nurturing role Eurycleia has played for both father and son. In these respects, the return to Ithaca seems also to be a return to the familiar, hierarchical values presented to Telemachus on his miniature odyssey.

And yet identity is never so fluid as it is in the second half of the epic, authority never so elusive. Though the scar represents the absolute fixity of self, what saves Odysseus on Ithaca is his capacity not to be who he is. This same ability to reconstruct himself in accordance with the demands of circumstance freed him from the cave of Polyphemus and taught him how to approach Nausicaä. Were Odysseus merely to weave these impostures to overcome imminent danger, little sense of contradiction with the idea of a solid core of self would result. But such shifting marks Odysseus's character even more deeply than the scar does. So habitually does he transform himself into someone else that by the time he approaches his father, the aged Laërtes, in the guise of yet another wandering stranger, the excuse that he needs to test the old man's loyalty has worn nearly transparent. The hero's tendency to assume other selves has not only come to define him, it connects him most nearly with the divine. For the gods can be anything, as Athene's transformations into man, woman, child, and bird affirm; to be stuck as oneself is to be merely human. Odysseus reaches his apogee not by his glorious force of arms, but by his lies and fictions. In one of the most charming moments of the work, Athene recognizes their unity in owning the divine gift of the creation of what is not: "Bold, shifty, and inexhaustible of lies, will you not now within your land cease from the false misleading tales which from the bottom of your heart you love? . . . you are far the best of men in plots and tales, and I of all the gods am famed for craft and lies." When Odysseus acknowledges of his patron that "You take all forms," he might as well be talking about himself. Nor does the scar suffice to confirm the hero's identity to his feminine alter ego, Penelope. She acknowledges her husband only when he shows that he remembers the secret of their bed. Such a test of identity-with all the erotic overtones that a private, mutual knowledge of the bed evokes, an implicitly carnal knowledge-depends not on the exterior, public reputation preserved in that reminder of past deeds, the scar, but on a private, intangible, even unspeakable knowing of who someone is. Nowhere does the work come closer to identifying the interior sense of desire as the heart of selfhood.

The poem also equivocates in its rhetorical support for the hierarchical system by which the man at the top of the ladder, so long as he acts justly, exercises complete authority to enforce order down to the bottom rung. The careful differentiation the poem makes between the really vicious, the merely weak, and the nearly sympathetic suitors transforms the hero's slaughter of his foes from exultant triumph to, at best, regrettable necessity. While Homer never challenges the morality of Odysseus's actions, this differentiation modulates the emotional tone of his victory. Even more tellingly, the poem refuses to allow the killing of the suitors and their mistresses to be a resolution. Since the first book, the confrontation of Odysseus and the enemies occupying his house has been anticipated as a climax, a final judgment between chaos and authority. Surprisingly, it is nothing of the kind. Indeed, Odysseus's victory lasts only the length of a single night, after which he must embark on a new journey, leaving Penelope yet again to escape the vengeance of his victims' families. In the hills, he gathers fresh support from his father's household; the suitors' families pursue and the fighting begins all over again. Since what the poem seems to have advertised as Odysseus's greatest triumph fails to bring peace, the human capacity to enforce order by strength of arms falls into grave doubt. The killing only stops when the gods command it, forestalling its resumption by blacking out the bitter memories of the survivors. If memory itself leads men to war, how can it be in any king's power to make a lasting peace?

So Ithaca appears after the Odyssean tour of alternative worlds. And yet in a sense we remain in an alternative world even after the hero of the epic has come among the familiar scenes of his homeland: the alternative world of fiction. The second half of the epic makes readers more conscious of storytelling than ever, virtually offering a seminar on the nature and uses of fiction. When Odysseus spends his first night with his wife, he tells her the whole tale of the Odyssey in compressed and chronological form. This condensation neatly contains the epic and at the same time alerts us by contrast to the complexities of the tale's nonchronological, expansive construction. For that matter, little occurs in the poem that is not also narrated; even the suitors tell the story of their slaughter amid the shades of the underworld, delighting Agamemnon. What is real, what lasts, it seems, is the story, not the event. Fictions may, of course, be simple lies; the disguised Odysseus deceives both Eumaeus and Penelope by claiming to be a Cretan veteran of the Trojan War who suffered difficulties among the Phoenicians and Egyptians-and who has encountered the great Odysseus himself. Every detail of this moonshine rings true, the tale confining itself to plausible circumstances among well-known peoples of the Mediterranean coast; as the narrator observes about his surrogate storyteller: "He made the many falsehoods of his tale seem like the truth." No monsters haunt the tracks of Aethon-the name Odysseus adopts in deceiving Penelope-no one hears the Sirens sing, no one changes form, and no one speaks to the dead. Within the confines of the poem, then, the apparently impossible (the actual voyage of Odysseus) is true and the entirely plausible (the journey Odysseus makes up) is false, implicitly suggesting that the truth of a story is not to be found in the accuracy of its events to what we perceive as daily reality, but in their significance, their capacity to show us some previously unknown way of understanding the world.

Most vitally, though, in a work that dwells so continually on the borders-it explores the intersection of living and dead, the flimsy barriers between human and inhuman, the double natures of authority and identity, and so on-the ideal of storytelling is to erase the boundary between the characters within the tale and the listeners outside it. When, in book XIV, a disguised Odysseus tells his swineherd a story of a night he spent outside the gates of Troy when he was cold, the man recognizes the present relevance in the narrative of the past and hands the old beggar a coat. By his reception of the story, Eumaeus proves more than his loyalty to his absent master or the customs of hospitality; he shows his humanity, his willingness to recognize that another man's story is also his own, another man's discomfort his responsibility. To see themselves in the tales of others is precisely what Antinoüs and the other suitors fail to do, despite the explicit invitation of Odysseus, who warns them (in his beggar's rags) that he too prospered once but was brought low. The suitors fail to acknowledge their image in the old man's words-"What god has brought us this pest?" is the substance of Antinoüs's answer-and in so doing exclude themselves from humanity. It comes as little surprise when one of their number mocks poetic diction in aiming an empty jest at the old beggar's baldness. The song reserved for those who fail to read themselves in another's story is only that sung by the bowstring, an analogy the poem makes explicit: "even as one well-skilled to play the lyre and sing stretches with ease round its new peg a cord, securing at each end the twisted sheep-gut; so without effort did Odysseus string the mighty bow." To rule oneself outside the common circle of humanity, in other words, is to die.

Each reader today faces the suitors' choice: to read the story as it concerns himself-or herself-or to turn it aside as an extraordinarily old man's babble. No arrow will pierce the throat of those who make the latter choice. But a contracted sense of humanity may follow. Whether one regards the conflicts that the poem relates as fundamentally the same as or fundamentally different from those of our own time makes little difference. The poem largely does not offer an argument for the validity of the civilization that produced it, but instead allows the reader to view from different angles that world's ideas of life and death, women and men, order and chaos, war and peace, wealth and poverty, and so on. In this way, the Odyssey makes room for many sympathies. Its enduring wisdom is that only by encountering what seems unlike oneself does one come to gain any self-knowledge at all.

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Odyssey (Lombardo translation) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 512 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well im going to be completely honest about this book. When I first opened the book The Odyssey, I was a little hessitant to reading it. I was a fhreshman in high school and I HAD to read it, it was an obligation because it was a class project that we had to do. But in the end it was all a good read. The book is filled with a wonderfull adventure and action and also love. I recomend this book to anyone who is seeking a thrilling adventure. By the end of this book i was glad that I didn't slack off and actually did the read for this fantastic book. You willnot be dissappointed afterwards.
Dierckx More than 1 year ago
I hope that those who read my review will forgive me because I would like to talk mainly about Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. When I read the Odyssey for the first time, I thought it was a wonderful adventure book with beautiful and dangerous women and I laughed with that half-wit of a Polyphemus, one of the cyclops. But near the end something was missing, it was not what it should be. Odysseus came home. His son Telemachus and his swineherd were glad and his dog could finally die with the comforting knowledge that it's master was among the living. Why didn't Penelope make a joyful sound ? Why was she so silent ? I shrugged my shoulders and said:'women!'. It's only years later I began to understand a little. So many people died in the Trojan war. The many adorers of Penelope were slaughtered by Odysseus with no compassion at all. The silence of Penelope was a reproachful silence. She was wondering how many more dead people it would take before men could live in peace. We still ask that question.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you ever had a pet that lingered into old age, then the Odyssey echos across 2,700 years of time to speak to you. That small scene of a few dozen words does what all forms of great art should do,convey a shared experience that is untouched by time and distance. Great Art was onced defined by the artist being able to convey shared experiences far better than anyone else.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although the details of Homer have not survived the ages, this book is an account to the cultural value system, the interests, and the lives of the Greeks. This is one of the most highly influencial fictional works of all time, and was often quoted in court cases, political speeches, and other literature for hundreds of years due to the books powerful imagery and depiction of the human condition (resembling how the Bible was quoted by other societies in other times). Since the book is set thousands of years ago, of course it doesn't conform to the values of contemporary society. To say the book is mistakenly a classic is to infinitely undermine the effect this book has had on the development of literature and story-telling in general. The book traces the journey of Odysseus, 'the storm-tossed man.' He encounters gods, demigods, monsters, and mythical creatures that push creative limits. If you've heard of sirens, cyclops, and et cetera, this book is most likely responsible for that (with the help of The Iliad, Homer's other major work). The Odyssey demonstrates the role of the gods in Greek thinking, which is not only entertaining but informative. The introduction has plenty of background info, as well. A book that has inspired everyone from Aristotle to James Joyce is most definitely a CLASSIC---End of story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book for those who are new to epic poetry, like myself. It's written in prose (in paragraphs, rather than poetic stanzas). Squillace has done a fine job of introducing contemporary terms, where appropriate, without interrupting Homer/Palmer's story-telling rhythm. It's an engaging story, and the characters are fascinating, and I enjoyed it so much that I read all the footnotes at the end. Somewhat-interesting discussion questions at the conclusion. Read the Introduction after you read the book, not before. I wish I could find a translation of the Illiad by Palmer/Squillace, as they did a very good job of making the story, the characters and the language approachable. 'O'Brother Where Art Thou'? Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.
payneka More than 1 year ago
While a harder read for kids, The Odyssey is still a much-needed read in schools today. Not only can students focus on the surface area motifs of home and heroes, but they can also be pushed deeper into analyizing what real life issues the "monsters" in the story represent. This story has been around for thousands of years, and rightfully so!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best greek mythology books i have read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was forced to read this book as a freshman in highschool, and wasn't sure whether I would enjoy it or not. Now, it's one of my favorite books. I'm usually in to more science fiction novels, but I really enjoyed reading about of the Greek mythology in this novel. It is one that will stick with me forever, and that I find myself picking up again and again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for school, but I really enjoyed it. It was difficult reading at times, but I enjoyed the story and characters. I'm a big fan of Greek mythology, and this book as very interesting, and a great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because I was looking to enhance my knowledge of the Greek classics. It's small size is very convenient for taking it along on my morning commute. All and all it is exactly what I was looking for.
Jeremy Wilsey More than 1 year ago
Im amazingly satisfed with this very interesting even for a 13 year old
Seghetto More than 1 year ago
This particular translation of the Odyssey was enjoyable. The plot is classic and numerous other authors have ripped off the plot/format and appropriated it, like Virgil's Aeneid. The parts with Telemachus are kind of boring, but the last half or so of the poem was great. The B&N version really doesn't add anything very special.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and I think you will too if you persist in reading it, and pay attention to the storyline, not the actual words. Very good book.
Grady1GH More than 1 year ago
Homer's epic poem THE ODYSSEY is a twenty-four book work that has been considered won of the great written works since its birth in the 8th century. As the dictionary describes it 'The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work traditionally ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon. Indeed it is the second--the Iliad being the first--extant work of Western literature. It was probably composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek-speaking coastal region of what is now Turkey.' This fascinating tale, so important to our understanding of the great works of literature, can be a challenge to read - not so much for the story line (confusing though that may be due to the several names attributed to each character in the work) as to the style of writing: ennui can set in heavily after a few pages of wading through the first book. Fro example, a usual translation of from the Greek may read: 'Tell me, O muse, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit, and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may know them.' What Wayne Josephson has done in continuing his Readable Classics is extract the story, brushed off the filigree and keeps the momentum flowing as in the variation of the same opening: "Tell me, muse, about that resourceful hero Odysseus, who was forced to wander far and wide after he destroyed the famous city of Troy. He saw many cities and became acquainted with their ways. He suffered greatly at sea while trying to save his own life and bring his men safely home. But hard as he tried, he could not save them. They foolishly ate the cattle of the Sun god Hyperion, who then made certain they would never reach home, and so they died. Tell us this story, goddess, daughter of Zeus, one more time.' Does the flavor of the tale change or does it seem like Josephson has buffed off important facts? No, but instead what we have is the story in contemporary English that flows so smoothly that it invites us to complete the novel. That is the pleasure of reading the many books Wayne Josephson has 'cleaned' for us: Emma, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, Emma and the Vampires (Josephson's own hilarious takeoff on Austen's inimitable Emma character!), and now The Odyssey. This is a major contribution to the art of reading that hopefully will restore these great books to the shelves of young people eager for great stories. Another Bravo! Grady Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Odyssey is definitely a piece of literature that I would recommend to readers of a somewhat advanced level. It is an adventure story that will keep the reader 'hooked onto it'. It also has life lessons in each one of the 23 chapters that you can live by such as 'do not trust what is given to you by those you know nothing of'. If you like Greek mythology, you should read this before anything.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Trojan War is over and one of our hero kings is lost. His son (Telemachus) travels to find any information about his father's fait. His wife (Penelope) must cunningly hold off suitors that are eating them out of house and home. If he ever makes it home, Odysseus will have to detect those servants loyal from those who are not. One absent king against rows of suitors; how will he give them their just desserts? We look to Bright Eyed Pallas Athena to help prophecy come true.
monilovesmocha on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book, and one of the easiest classical Greek reads I've discovered.
neurodrew on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The OdysseyHomer, translation Robert FitzgeraldMay 22, 2010 I have had the intention of reading the Odyssey for years, left it on my shelf, and now, after finishing the work, wonder how I had not previously enjoyed this exciting tale. The structure is not what I expected, being mostly about the problems of Telemachus and Penelope in Ithaca, with the tales of Odysseus travels told as a long story in Phonecia, where he is awaiting aid to travel home. I have encountered all the stories before, the men turned into swine, the cyclopes, the danger of Scylla and Charibdys. I have not read them through, and find the poetry of Fitzgerald easy to read, exciting and muscular. Some quotes:Odysseus: ¿There is no part of a man more like a dog than a Brazen belly, crying to be remembered¿The ghost of Agaemenon: ¿Indulge a woman never, and never tell you all you know¿Odysseus: ¿By grace of Hermes the Wayfinder, patron of mortal tasks, the god who honors toil, no man can do a chore better than I can.¿Penelope: ¿Friend, many and many a dream is mere confusion, a cobweb of no consequence at all.¿Do not fail to read this book, if you consider yourself literate.
borumas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great story and translated in a way that compares more with a modern written tale.
kislam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is a timeless epic (and an actual epic, not in the way the word is overused anymore). The language of Homer is down to earth and not flowery or difficult to read or understand. The characters are relatable to some degree; one quickly realizes the superstitions of today are deeply rooted in ancient cultures.
forgetregretx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Once I got past the "dated" prose it was very interesting. Though it was read through English1H, it wasn't hard to get through; it went generally fast. Besides having to memorize all 958 characters for tests and quizzes, it was a good read. It's hard to believe this 300 page novel was read by memory at parties to the tune of a harp.
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