Translucence and Translation in Alice Oswald's Memorial: A Version of Homer's Illiad College

Most translations of Homer’s The Iliad keep the entire narrative of the story, incorporating Homer’s themes on the glory of war. Alice Oswald, however, chooses to deviate from this aspect of Homer’s epic in her Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad. Oswald aims to translate The Iliad’s “atmosphere, not it’s story,” by showcasing its “enargeia” or its “bright unbearable reality,” instead of its “nobility,” making her version more “translucence” than “translation” (Oswald, ix). To achieve this, Oswald cuts out the narrative of the story, leaving behind only the gruesome scenes of two hundred Greek and Trojan deaths. Although at first read, Oswald’s deformation of the Iliad’s narrative seems counteractive to her goal of capturing its “bright unbearable reality,” she argues that loss, not war in general, is central to The Iliad (Oswald, ix). Using elemental similes, especially in the death of of Podes, Oswald strips away the glory of war and leaves behind a reflection on the cyclical and inevitable nature of death. For Oswald, The Iliad’s enargeia emerges not from the narrative itself, but from the destruction left behind.

In her depiction of Podes’s death, Oswald’s removal of his killer shifts the focus of war from its glory to its...

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