Books: War and Peace

THE ILIAD

Translated by ROBERT FITZGERALD 594 pages. Anchor Press/Doubleday. $15.

A "poem of force," French Philosopher Simone Weil once called the Iliad in what must be regarded as howling Gallic understatement. On Homer's blood-drenched plains of Troy, spears cleave through a man's tongue and shatter his teeth or pierce an eye socket. Swords sever heads. Armies mow down opposing ranks like "a line of reapers formed, who cut a swath/ in barley or wheat." Death spreads across the pages like a pool of ink—"numbing darkness," "unending night." Awesome griefs are recorded....

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