One of the goals I set aside for myself this weekend was reading the Iliad. Because I ended up going to Market Square Day on Saturday I didn’t get much reading done so I had to set aside time yesterday instead. I still didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to read an entire book. That didn’t bother me as the book was a quick read. However, even when I could follow what was going on it was also a boring read, and according to my Kindle I didn’t make it past twenty-four percent. I gave up around six-thirty in order to achieve another goal from this past weekend and play an older video game I bought recently.Once I finish that one I’ll probably post a “retro” review or something for fun.
Let’s ignore the idea that I put down a piece of classic literature in order to play Max Payne and focus on the fact that I put down the piece of classic literature at all. In a way I feel bad that I not only didn’t finish but have no intention on finishing what is one of the most revered stories of all time. I’m already vaguely familiar with elements of the story such as the Trojan Horse, Helen, and Achille’s Heel. I even saw that nasty Brad Pitt movie from a few years ago that was based on the Iliad. So while I’m missing out a lot of details I still feel like I have enough knowledge from the overall story to move on with my life.
But isn’t the Iliad one of the classics that I’m supposed to read? By not giving it another shot am I not missing out on some literary masterwork that I wouldn’t get elsewhere? There must be a reason why it’s always on recommended reading lists and it’s studied so much in school. The thing is that I’m a picky reader. If I get to about a quarter of a way into a book and it still doesn’t hold my interest then I’m done. I’m the same way with movies although I think I’m a little more forgiving with books.
It could also be that the quality of the translation is putting me off. Not knowing how to read ancient Greek I have to rely on English translations. In this case, I got the version in the free download of the book. As I said the text is hard to follow. I wonder if there are other translations that clear it up. But now I come to another problem. The Iliad is not just a story. It’s a poem. I have a hard time reading translations of poems on principle alone. There is something lost in the poetry when it’s accurately translated. When a poem is translated by a fellow poet it usually can’t be done word-for-word. Instead, it becomes a new poem—a sort of collaboration between the two poets. That’s fine, but I still want to read the original poem for what it is. This is even more true for the (supposed) great works of history. That’s why I never bothered reading Dante’s Inferno.
If I’m going to read the Iliad then I’m going to have to research alternate translations. I’m not tempted to do so any time soon. The only reason I started reading it at all was that I could get it free on my Kindle. I don’t feel like going through the interlibrary loan program to experiment with all of the different versions of one book. I did also download the Odyssey in hopes that the translation is more readable. If not, I’m not going to worry about it.