Logue’s Homer

Robert Fagle’s Iliad is bright and powerful. Without sacrificing Homeric style, Fagles brings a modern voice to the Iliad. I also love Alice Oswald’s Memorial, an idiosyncratic and gorgeous account of the Iliad that puts force at the centre of the poem, without any of what Simone Weil calls “moments of grace,” those rare glimpses of love and friendship that serve to contrast the force and violence. I’ve eyed George Chapman’s translation, by all accounts pyrotechnic in parts. Instead I turned to the late Christopher Logue’s War Music: An Account of Homer’s Iliad.

Logue breaks the rules. He is unable to read a word of Ancient Greek, relying rather on existing translations. He ignores Homeric style, introducing contemporary poetic techniques, and as if that isn’t sufficiently iconoclastic he creates new episodes and fashions a narrative of his own. Logue’s Homer has been dribbled out incrementally since 1959 and he still hadn’t finished when he died in 2011. It shouldn’t work but the sublime of Homer in the hands of Logue becomes exquisite and exalted. This edition brings all of Logue’s Homer into one book, including various unplaceable fragments.

Homer’s resonance rings out over millennia. His story is both ancient and modern. In the following passage it is possible to see how Logue helps us to see the Iliad through fresh eyes:

They passed so close that hub skinned hub.
Ahead, Patroclus braked a shade, and then,
And as gracefully as men in oilskins cast
Fake insects over trout, he speared the boy,
And with his hip, his pivot, prised Thestor up and out
As easily as later men detach
A sardine from an open tin.

Oilskins? “Braked a shade”? And that licentious “later men”? Logue’s Homer, in a single edition, is a work of utter brilliance.

12 thoughts on “Logue’s Homer

  1. I love Logue’s versions. They’re filmic, somehow. And an important part of how we read and experience Homer. (I’m a Fitzgerald fan, though Fagle’s is good too. Is it generational, do you think?)

    • Yes, filmic. I like that, especially the later episodes. I suppose it must be generational though I love what little I’ve read of Chapman’s Homer. On the other hand, I cannot understand why Pope’s Homer was so esteemed. It seems turgid to me.

  2. This is quite a book, just from the short quote you provided. I must get it and read it immediately. And I do find that translations are generational, to respond to the post above. Although, after I read Fagle’s translation I preferred his over Fitzgerald.

  3. It was the American critic and writer Guy Davenport who first brought my attention to the Logue Homer. If you haven’t read Davenport’s essays, I recommend you find a way to work them in. I know how much you read and realize you do quite well at being your own curator – but Davenport’s GEOGRAPHY OF THE IMAGINATION might have saved my life – as well as taught me how to read. Or his essay on Kafka in THE HUNTER GRACCHUS, if you only have time for one. Carry on!

  4. Pingback: My Literary jouissance of 2016 |

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