Homer Is Difficult

Lawrence of Arabia, writing as T.E. Shaw, on his difficulties in translating Homer

I see now why there are no adequate translations of Homer. He is baffling. Not simple, in education; not primitive, socially … There’s a queer naivety in every other line: and at our remove of thought and language we can’t say if he’s smiling or not … I have tried to squeeze out all the juice in the orange; or what I thought was the juice. I tried to take liberties with the Greek: but failed. Homer compels respect.

I must confess he has beaten me to my knees. Perhaps if I did much more I might be less faithful. The work has been very difficult: though I’m in a Homeric sort of air; a mud-brick fort beset by the tribes of Waziristan, on a plain encircled by the hills of the Afghan border. It reeks of Alexander the Great, our European forerunner who also loved Homer.

But, as I say, it has been difficult.

– From Barry Powell’s Introduction to his translation of Homer’s Iliad, pg. 1

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