It is traditional in statements like this Translator’s Note to bewail one’s own inadequacy when trying to be faithful to the original. Like many contemporary translation theorists, I believe that we need to rethink the terms in which we talk about translation. My translation is, like all translations, an entirely different text from the original poem. Translation always, necessarily, involves interpretation; there is no such thing as a translation that provides anything like a transparent window through which a reader can see the original. The gendered metaphor of the “faithful” translation, whose worth is always secondary to that of a male-authored original, acquires a particular edge in the context of a translation by a woman of The Odyssey, a poem that is deeply invested in female fidelity and male dominance. I have taken very seriously the task of understanding the language of the original text as deeply as I can, and working through what Homer may have meant in archaic and classical Greece. I have also taken seriously the task of creating a new and coherent English text, which conveys something of that understanding but operates within an entirely different cultural context. The Homeric text grows inside my translation, like Athena’s olive tree inside the bed made by Odysseus, “with delicate long leaves, full-grown and green, / as sturdy as a pillar.”

Translator’s Note to The Odyssey, by Emily Wilson, from The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson

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