Christopher Hitchens on Classic Literature: Homer’s Odyssey (2000)
The Odyssey (Greek: Ὀδύσσεια, Odýsseia) is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. Hitchens’ books: https://www.amazon.com/gp/search?ie=UTF8&tag=tra0c7-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=89f81e00f811498f311b980fd07f2bf2&camp=1789&creative=9325&index=books&keywords=hitchens
The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second oldest extant work of Western literature, the Iliad being the oldest. It is believed to have been composed near the end of the 8th century BC, somewhere in Ionia, the Greek coastal region of Anatolia.
Cyclops by Euripides, the only extant satyr play, retells the respective episode with a humorous twist.
True Story, written by Lucian of Samosata in the 2nd century AD, mentions the Odysseus of the Odyssey as the first to make up fantastical tales.
Some of the tales of Sinbad the Sailor from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights were taken from the Odyssey.
Merugud Uilix maicc Leirtis (“On the Wandering of Ulysses, son of Laertes”) is an eccentric Old Irish version of the material; the work exists in a 12th-century AD manuscript that linguists believe is based on an 8th-century original.
Dante Alighieri has Odysseus append a new ending to the Odyssey in canto XXVI of the Inferno.
Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, first performed in 1640, is an opera by Monteverdi based on the second half of Homer’s Odyssey.
Every episode of James Joyce’s modernist novel Ulysses (1922) has an assigned theme, technique and correspondences between its characters and those of Homer’s Odyssey.
The first canto of Ezra Pound’s The Cantos (1922) is both a translation and a retelling of Odysseus’ journey to the underworld.
Nikos Kazantzakis aspires to continue the poem and explore more modern concerns in The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel (1938).
The 1954 Broadway musical The Golden Apple by librettist John Treville Latouche and composer Jerome Moross is freely adapted from the Iliad and the Odyssey, re-setting the action to the American state of Washington in the years after the Spanish-American War, with events inspired by the Iliad in Act One and events inspired by the Odyssey in Act Two.
In Jean-Luc Godard’s film Le Mépris (1963), German film director Fritz Lang plays himself attempting to direct a film adaptation of the Odyssey.
The Japanese-French anime Ulysses 31 (1981) updates the ancient setting into a 31st-century space opera.
Omeros (1991), an epic poem by Derek Walcott, is in part a retelling of the Odyssey, set on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.
The Odyssey (1997), a made-for-TV movie directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, is a slightly abbreviated version of the epic.
Charles Frazier’s novel Cold Mountain (1997) borrows much from the Odyssey to tell the story of an American Civil War veteran’s homecoming.
Similarly, Daniel Wallace’s Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions (1998) adapts the epic to the American South, while also incorporating tall tales into its first-person narrative much as Odysseus does in the Apologoi (Books 9-12).
The Coen Brothers’ 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? is loosely based on Homer’s poem.
American progressive metal band Symphony X interprets multiple scenes of the epic in their song, The Odyssey (2002).
Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey (2007) is a series of short stories that rework Homer’s original plot in a contemporary style reminiscent of Italo Calvino.
Dominic Allen’s stage play Odyssey loosely adapts the story into a post-apocalyptic setting, basing the Odysseus character on Ezra Pound.
The film Pandorum has many story elements of the Odyssey.
The film Ulysses’ Gaze (1995) directed by Theo Angelopoulos has many of the elements of the Odyssey set against the backdrop of the most recent and previous Balkan Wars.
An excerpt from the Odyssey appears in graphic-novel form, with art by Gareth Hinds, in volume one of the anthology The Graphic Canon. The anthology is edited by Russ Kick and published by Seven Stories Press.
In The Simpsons Fourteenth season episode, Tales from the Public Domain a re-working of the Odyssey is told by Homer Simpson (who plays Odysseus in the section).