Odysseus Reviews the New Translation of ‘The Odyssey,’ by Michael Maiello


“Tell me about a complicated man,” begins Emily Wilson’s translation of The Odyssey, which is the story of me, Odysseus. I read this and thought, “This woman really gets me.” Finally, after thousands of years, my story will be told in a way that doesn’t make me look like an inept, drunken buffoon. To think, it took a woman to accomplish this. The first woman, no less, to render my story into the English language. I had high, high hopes. I felt higher than a lotus eater.

But it all came crashing down a few lines later. Women are even worse than men. Obviously, Wilson is what we Greeks call a misandrist (that’s “mis,” from the Greek word for “wrong,” and “andrist,” from the Greek for “wrong about men”).

It’s implausible that a man as smart as me, who sacked Troy when mighty Achilles, almost-as-mighty Ajax, and so many not-so-mighties died trying, would have a harder time getting to Ithaca than a student with a C-average applying to Cornell.

Central to the story of me is that I am a hero (derived from the Greek “he” meaning “man” and “ro,” meaning a smart man). So the book should center on my heroism (smart manliness). Instead, we get fake news about me leading my entire crew to their graves while being made the boytoy of two goddesses on two remote islands. Also, every other page I’m drinking wine. Look at me. I have a twelve-pack, not a wine belly. Goddesses do not swarm around potbellies like models to Leonardo DiCaprio. Which is all moot because I categorically did not have sexual frustrations with those women.

The fact that I sacked an unsackable city using nothing but a fake horse has got to mean that I am a very stable genius. What happened after is I put my men on the boats and we left. We made a few stops to pick up treasures for my wife, because sacking Troy turned out to be like robbing a Pottery Barn—we got nothing but wicker baskets and mass-produced ceramics.

Then I fell into a deep depression. This is the story I thought Professor Wilson was finally going to tell. While she indulges in exaggerated tales of wanton murder, piracy, hubris, drugs, and alcohol, I had realized that the more cities I sacked, the emptier I felt. Perhaps it wasn’t the impregnable walls of fortresses I’d wanted to breach, perhaps it was the impregnable walls of myself. Ennui (from the Greek for “the French sads”) clouded my mind.

But I suppose my inner journey just won’t sell books like lurid tales of me getting six of my crew devoured by a one-eyed monster. Real subtle man-hating there, Em.

As the kids say, I’ve been “Hanging with Hades, Dark Lord of Shades.” But this kind of biased reporting still matters. I have a legacy to think of. I have descendants who own diners off of New Jersey highways who are counting on me.

This Odyssey is a travesty of sourcing. Wilson clearly relied on accounts from the 108 suitors who I slaughtered in a glorious berzerker celebration of violence and revenge. I mean, who I allegedly dispatched while engaging in proportional self-defense. Whatever. Clearly they have an agenda and managed to dupe Wilson.

I guess I should be used to it by now, but I’m disappointed. You’d think after thousands of years that a man with inherited wealth and political power could get a fair shake in the press. But I guess society still ain’t woke (from the Greek for “sees my point of view”).

May fleet-footed Hermes steal these demon books from the shelves before they are sold. Don’t believe everything you read, kids. With that, I wish you all good night and a wonderful rosy-fingered Dawn.

Michael Maiello is a playwright, fiction author, and comedy writer with words in The New YorkerMcSweeney’s and Robot Butt. Find him on Twitter.

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