Most people are familiar with the story of the Odyssey. The non-linear narrative begins with Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, leaving Ithaca to gather information about his father, who left twenty years ago. In Ithaca, the suitors are harassing his mother, Penelope, and dilapidating all Odysseus’s wealth. The narrative then shifts to Odysseus, who is finally released by Calypso, who has held him for seven years. However, Poseidon, still displeased with him, wrecks his ship, resulting in his arrival on the island of the Phaeacians. He is welcomed by king Alcinous and recounts his adventures since the end of the Trojan War, among others, the Lotus-Eaters, the Cyclops and especially Polyphemus, Aeolus, the Laestrygonians, Circe, Hades, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis. Alcinous gives him a boat to take him back to Ithaca, where he finds his son, kills the suitors, and gets Penelope back. Happy end. I read the Odyssey more than thirty years ago but I wanted to reread it in the context of James Joyce’s Ulysses in order to fully understand the parallel between the two stories. It was truly enriching to do so, shedding light on Ulysses, but it is also a magnificent story. I thoroughly enjoyed this reading.

“When I had finished my prayers and invocations to the communities of the dead, I took the sheep and cut their throats over the trench so that the dark blood poured in. And now the souls of the dead came swarming up from Erebus – brides, unmarried youths, old men who had suffered greatly, once-happy girls with grief still fresh in their hearts, and a great throng of warriors killed in battle, their spear-wounds gaping and all their armour stained with blood. From this multitude of souls, as they fluttered to and fro by the trench, there came an eerie clamour. Panic drained the blood from my cheeks. I turned to my comrades and told them quickly to flay the sheep I had slaughtered with my sword and burn them, and to pray to the gods, to mighty Hades and august Persephone. But I myself sat on guard, bare sword in hand, and prevented any of the insubstantial presences from approaching the blood before I questioned Teiresias.”