Dan Stevens, 31, has lent his voice to audiobooks ranging from ''Frankenstein'' to ''War Horse''; We sat in as he recorded two legendary epics, ''The Iliad'' and ''The Odyssey''

January 30, 2014 at 05:00 AM EST

Outside in Times Square, the traffic din is unrelenting. But inside Merlin Studios, there’s complete silence — save for the crisp, soothing voice of former Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens as he reads from The Odyssey.

It’s enthralling to sit with Stevens as he delivers his lines, his mellifluous British cadences bringing the poem alive. Every now and then he says a word wrong or doesn’t like how it comes out — that’s when he’ll pause, ask the producers to stop, and reread. After he finishes a particularly long passage, studio chatter resumes and Stevens exits the sound booth, all smiles. “This is one of the most challenging audiobooks I’ve done in terms of length and scope,” he admits. “But I really enjoy it as an exercise in reading and exploring literature.”

Stevens — a Cambridge grad who judged fiction for the 2012 Man Booker Prize — hopes his passion for Homer will change how other people experience the works. “When you read them on your own, they’re kind of impenetrable,” he says. “But as soon as you hear them aloud, they make sense.” That’s because “you’re seeing that battlefield in your mind as I’m reading it,” he explains. “I project what I see of that battlefield and those rivers and whatever seas Odysseus has to sail, but you will create that in your mind, and that’s a beautiful thing.”

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