Surprised by Homer. Musings of a 49 year old woman reading La Iliada.

Who would have told me that, after years of reading classics, one right for me book at a time, I’d be ready to receive Homer’s Iliad. Betting on the classics pool, I hit jackpot with this one.

If I lost something by not reading it in verse format, -since my copy in Spanish is in prose-, I won much. It’s the first time I’m able to connect to this book in a way that it delighted me and blew me away. I am sure that I needed that extra anchor that the Spanish language provides for me.

You all know how big fan of the classics I am. To date, it’s mostly books in this category that have given me so generous hours of delight, have made me think deep, enrich my life at all levels, and taught me so much.

In my excitement, I had lots of thoughts during the initial chapters. However, I decided to wait a bit, and try to do a close to the text reading. Cleo’s posts were of tremendous help. I wouldn’t have been able to crack the shell without them. After she took me to half of the book, I was well able to sail on my own for the remainder of it.

Cleo explained why she had to pull out of the rest of The Iliad’s read along. Sometimes life gets complicated, and our ability to read and blog changes.

Without further delay, these are some of my thoughts on this superb poem:

  • The metaphors. This time around, Homer descriptions surpass anything else I’ve read. Most are drawn from nature. His descriptions of the deaths can sound gore and anatomically precise, but how he talks about warriors or soldiers, individually and as a collective, is moving, poetic, beautiful, heartbreaking.

  • I’m surprised by the absence the word ‘soldier’ and even warrior. He almost always mentions the men in the fight by their names, and/or the group they belong to. He manages to give us a short biography before or during the duels or the battles. This makes the poem so intimate and humane. I’ve never read a book of war where you get to know and care for those fighting.

  • There’s a dignifying spirit that permeates this poem. Both sides are treated with respect. I never thought of the sides as being in the wrong or right. There’s behaviors on both sides that are noble, others less so. It seems to me that the Greek coalition, and the Trojans with their allies, share the same code of life, values, and beliefs. In that regard, I’m always apprehensive about offering too many ‘interpretations’, but I’d venture to say that The Iliad, to me, felt like a civil war.

  • This time around, the gods and goddesses seemed to me like the men fighting, and the people mentioned, more familiar, more involved. I’m not asking many questions much, since I don’t think I can understand them from my christian culture mindset and worldview. It was sort of two parallel stories that during the poem, became very organically intertwined.

  • Being at war it’s what gave meaning to these men. Their lives before, during, and after, are all seen and understood in reference to this long conflict.

  • This poem they say could be based on reality, but it’s definitely literary. It could be based on real men, and at the same time, it offers us archetypes. In this poem literature captures a reality slice, and does it artistically. Homer uses the epic poem, and unlike the historians who are after a more objective and factual recount, Homer adds the gods world into the poem, and lots of metaphors.

  • I love his way of slowing time and narrating a battle that may have been ten minutes in the span of several pages. It’s the same that modern authors do. Ishiguro, in The Unconsoled, took a few pages to write an elevator conversation that could have only lasted a few minutes in real time.

  • This time I was fortunately able to stay connected. The very vivid and gore descriptions of the combat, did not offend or upset me, they felt very organic to the poem as a whole.

  • Some parts amused me, others made me excited, angry, sad. Homer’s observations about life, honor, courage, and his remarks about mundane affairs along with others of lofty nature, make this book a jewel. It’s simply become my ultimate favorite.

  • Towards the end, it became so arresting. There’s the part where Achilles talks about the conflict between him and Agamemnon that happens at the start and which is the heart of the Iliad, and oh my, the whole poem comes together at that point. It’s unbelievable, to think this book is so ancient! It all read so new, and fresh, and so in-temporal.

  • Then the gods fight, mirroring the humans. It’s such a fast paced part of the book. Accusations, reproaches, dares and expressions of regret and pain.

  • At this point I felt deeply invested in these men and what they have been through and represent. I was sad to see them fight, because they know they are going to die as well. And that’s their purpose in life, to fight and die. They are trying to do it with honor.

  • The importance of giving the dead in battle a proper burial, and the thirst for the opposite side to stop that from happening, and to plunder the warrior for his weapons as trophies, priceless.

  • The amazing ending. Hector’s father going to Achilles to plea for his son’s body to give him a proper burial. It was moving, saddening. It was an epic ending to an epic poem.

13 thoughts on “Surprised by Homer. Musings of a 49 year old woman reading La Iliada.

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  3. I know! I too wish I could have read more Japanese lit.

    I am so glad to hear that you loved Makioka Sisters. I have left some comments in response to the wonderful comments already there. I will keep discussing it, specially the ending.

  4. You have helped me get a better grasp of this classic! I wish that there hadn’t been a “conflict” of time between this lovely read-along and my own hectic schedule of the Japanese Literature Challenge and the Booker International Prize long list. I look forward to the time when we can read together again.

    p.s. The Makioka Sisters was every bit as great as you said it would be!❤🇯🇵

  5. I read this about a year ago, and definitely was NOT in the right mindset for it – as your post reminds me. You clearly got so much more out of this than I did. I’m glad it finally ‘clicked’ for you! I will definitely return to it someday, when I’m better prepared to put in the work it requires.

  6. Congrats Silvia on finishing! 🙂 I’m still moving along, slowly but moving. Hoping to finish by the end of this month if I can! Glad to have your thoughts on the book.

  7. great points! i read this many times while young but your pov adds a different light on it… i’ve always preferred the odyssey, but now i’ll take another look… tx for your illuminating discourse…

  8. Sounds great – glad you found a version that worked for you, and I must admit I usually find prose much easier to read than poetry. Must read this one day. We read sections of it at school, but you know what that’s like – more likely to put you off for life than encourage you to read the whole thing!

  9. Wow, that ending does sound good. I really want to read this one — one day.

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