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The Week - 20 January

Homer’s Odyssey, composed around 700BC, has been translated into English more than 60 times, said Charlotte Higgins in The Guardian. Now comes the first translation by a woman. Emily Wilson, a classics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has produced a “limpid, fast-moving” version that “exposes centuries of masculinist readings”. Whereas previous translators have had a habit of letting Odysseus “off the hook”, Wilson doesn’t skate over his failings: she describes him as “complicated” (not “cunning” or “ingenious”) and makes clear the costs of his actions.

Written in language that is “fresh” and “unpretentious”, this is a translation that prioritises the “speed and narrative” of Homer’s epic, said Madeline Miller in The Washington Post. At the same time, Wilson is “clear-eyed about the realities of the ancient world”: instead of using words such as “housekeeper” and “maid”, she “rips off the veil” and calls these people “slaves”. Some of her choices will “raise eyebrows” (“canapés” are served and Odysseus carries a “tote bag”), but hers is a performance “well deserving of applause”.