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The first great adventure story in the Western canon, The Odyssey, is a poem about violence and the aftermath of war; about wealth, poverty and power; about marriage, family and identity; and about travellers, hospitality and the changing meanings of home in a strange world. The vivid new translation, the first by a woman, matches the number of lines in the Greek original, striding at Homer's sprightly pace. Wilson employs elemental, resonant language and a five-beat line to produce a translation with an enchanting ‘rhythm and rumble’. She recaptures what is epic about this wellspring of world literature. This inaugural translation lecture is given in the name of the pre-eminent translator, whose peerless work rendering French, Danish and German literature into English ranges from Asterix to Austerlitz. Chaired by Charlotte Higgins.
Aristotle was an extraordinary thinker, perhaps the greatest in history. Yet he was preoccupied by an ordinary question: how to be happy. His deepest belief was that we can all be happy in a meaningful, sustained way – and he led by example. Life deals the same challenges in ancient Greece or the modern world. Aristotle’s way is not to apply rules, it’s about engaging with the texture of existence, and striding purposefully towards a life well lived. Chaired by Charlotte Higgins.
The award-winning American poet introduces her translation of one of the great classical texts. Hesiod was the first self-styled ‘poet’ in Western literature, revered by the ancient Greeks. Ostensibly written to chide and educate his lazy brother, Works and Days tells the story of Pandora’s jar and humanity’s place in a fallen world. Blending the cosmic and the earthy, and mixing myth, lyrical description, personal asides, astronomy, proverbs and down-to-earth advice on rural tasks and rituals, it is also a hymn to honest toil as man’s salvation.
A conversation between two of the world’s great novelists about the elemental and eternal human crises they have explored in their engagement with classic Greek tragedies in their latest stories. House of Names is Tóibín’s version of the terrible fates visited upon the House of Atreus: Agamemnon, Clytemnestra and their children Iphigenia, Electra and Orestes. A contemporary reimagining of Sophocles' Antigone, Shamsie’s Home Fire is an urgent, fiercely compelling story of loyalties torn apart when love and politics collide.