For those who haven't been keeping score, the late Robert Fagles's translations of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey have been the most popular editions of both since they were published in the 1990s.
This is the third Odyssey translation I've read. I don't remember the first, by Robert Fitzgerald, very well; it must be 30 years since he introduced me to the epic poem. Much more recently, my standard has been Richmond Lattimore (quoted underneath the banner above right). Of course, many others have tried to re-create Homer for readers of English in their time -- I'd had no idea how many till I checked it out. See the remarkable list here. Many, including the famous versions by Alexander Pope, have been literary re-tellings rather than close translations, and I'm not such a purist as to condemn them for that reason.
Fagles, like most modern translators, doesn't try for a strict hexameter, the bardic six-accents-per-line formula of the ancient Greek. He writes, in his postscript: "I would like to hold a middle ground, here between [Homer's] spacious hexameter line -- his 'ear, ear for the sea-surge,' as Pound once heard it -- and a tighter line more native to English verse. ... Working from a five- or six-beat line while leaning more to six, I expand at times to seven beats -- to convey the reach of a simile or the vehemence of a storm at sea or a long-drawn-out conclusion to a story -- or I contract at times to three, to give a point in speech or action sharper stress."
My impression is that Fagles wants to tell the Odyssey story in contemporary language while staying true to the spirit of the original. If -- no one is too sure -- the poem was originally recited before being written by Homer or someone else, it would not have been intended for a literary or intellectual audience. We can assume that its themes, however heroic or archetypal, were expressed in language that everyone could grasp. Fagles wants to communicate as directly as possible with his readers, but no more than Pope did, albeit Pope wrote for an aristocratic public who would have felt at home in his fine-spun eloquence.
Fagles's verse doesn't particularly try for grandeur, but it has dignity and goes down smoothly. Only occasionally, with phrases such as "we'll have a pot-luck" and "catch my drift," does he seem to me to overstep the line between informal speech and slang.
When it comes to different interpretations of Homer, comparisons are odious. I expect most of the translations linked to above cast some light on the earliest masterpieces of Western civilization. Anybody who has what it takes to read a very long narrative poem in ancient Greek and try to recast it has my respect.
That said, I still think Lattimore did something astounding: produced a modern English Iliad and Odyssey in the six-stress-line meter, with a poetic sensibility, while staying as faithful as possible to the original. For anyone getting acquainted with Homer for the first time, Fagles can be recommended as probably the most accessible. But after reading Fagles, I want to return to Lattimore.
And I don't mean that as a snide put-down of Fagles's achievement. It's a tribute to the inspiration offered by both.