Stephen Mitchell, a translator of The Odyssey, on the imaginative world of the epic poem:
Reading “The Odyssey,” we enter a world infused by the imagination. Everything becomes fresh and new; familiar objects light up with an inner radiance, as if we were seeing the sky or smelling the grass for the first time. And we are always carried along by the steady yet constantly varying rhythms of the meter, which serves as a counterpoint to even the most horrific events, so that everything we read is lifted up into the realm of the beautiful.
On the central theme of going home:
“I know no place that is sweeter than my own country,” Odysseus says, and that is a feeling we can all recognize. The goddess Calypso even promises Odysseus eternal life, if only he will stay with her on her idyllic island and submit to a life of constant sex and unalloyed sensual pleasure. But he refuses her offer. He longs for his home and his wife more than he cares about immortality. This is not a case of nostalgia, which is a longing for a past that can never be and perhaps never has been, and therefore necessarily ends in disappointment. He is longing not for a past but for a future, in a place that is beloved beyond all others on earth or in heaven. Penelope, his wife, was 20 when he sailed for Troy; she is 40 now, and whether or not she has kept her physical beauty is beside the point. She is a woman, not a goddess, but she is the one he loves. Odysseus’s refusal of immortality is the most moving tribute that a marriage has ever received. It is like Adam’s refusal in “Paradise Lost”: when Eve offers him the fruit, Adam bites into it, fully aware of the consequences, because he loves her so deeply that he can’t bear to remain in Eden without her.
– Why You Might Want to Read The Odyssey (Huffington Post)