Odysseus in Zagreb

The travelling exhibition Odysseus sails again had its European première in Zagreb – it was opened on 5 May 2014 at the Bogdan Ogrizović Library.

The legend of Odysseus, attributed to Homer, a blind poet from Ancient Greece, has over millennia become part of cultural heritage of most Mediterranean nations and beyond. At the opening of the exhibition it was brought to life in a multilingual reading of Chapter Five in twenty different languages, which beside the official EU languages also included Classical Greek and Latin. Chapter Five was chosen for the occasion because it tells the story of Odysseus’ captivity on the island of the nymph Calypso, which – or so the legend says – is really the Croatian island of Mljet. It was an opportunity to see this classical epic in a new light – in languages ranging from French to Lithuanian, from Bulgarian to Maltese, from the Classical Greek and Latin to Croatian, but also to experience in a very tangible way what European linguistic diversity really means – it is a concept we often hear about, but one whose true meaning is not always easy to grasp.

After the reading, Prof. Petra Šoštarić from the Department of Classical Philology at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb gave a brief lecture on the Odyssey and its many translations throughout history, and presented a translation of the Odyssey into Latin penned by Bernard Zamanja, a native of Dubrovnik, and printed in Siena in 1777. The translation is currently undergoing analysis within the “Croatian Neo-Latin Epic Poetry” project. A surviving copy of the book was borrowed from the Faculty’s rare book collection on the occasion of the exhibition opening. To prove that the Odyssey continues to inspire authors, young writer Mila Pavićević read an Odyssey-inspired passage from her new novel.

At the very end of the opening, the audience was given the correct answers to the “Identify that language” questionnaire, which required them to “Identify that language” of the passages as they were read. The most successful participant managed to recognise as many as eighteen of the twenty languages.

The exhibition will remain at the Bogdan Ogrizović Library until 13 May 2014. It will then travel to the Library of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, which will also display other editions of the Odyssey from its collection. The Faculty will also organise a movie night dedicated to the Odyssey.