Most of the film screenplay was bashed out in a series of brainstorming sessions between Clarke and Kubrick, and written by Clarke in Room 1008 of the Hotel Chelsea in West 23rd St, New York. Kubrick’s idea was that Clarke and he should write a complete novel before writing the film script (to let their ‘imaginations soar freely’) but in the event the novel was written more or less simultaneously with the film screenplay.
As far as the title is concerned, the date came from Kubrick, and the second half, the ‘Odyssey’ component, was Clarke’s idea. It is a neglected key to the project’s interpretation. Clarke said that the ‘Odyssean parallel’ was ‘a deliberate attempt at creating a myth’. It was a myth that had been in his mind for some time as a template for man’s spacefaring adventure to come. Long before the film, in a 1958 book of essays, he had written:
Across the gulf of centuries, the blind smile of Homer is turned upon our age. Along the echoing corridors of time, the roar of rockets merges now with the wind-taut rigging. For somewhere in the world today, still unconscious of his destiny, walks the boy who will be the first Odysseus of the Age of Space.The hero of 2001: A Space Odyssey, David Bowman, is therefore a modern Odysseus: and if anyone should doubt how explicitly Clarke meant that parallel, consider his name, with its satisfyingly Achaean ring: ‘Bowman’. Consider also his fate – Bowman is a wayfarer who completes a circular journey fraught with epic peril. Clarke even inserted the book The Odyssey into the novel itself. Bowman’s favourite reading aboard ship is – of course – The Odyssey, ‘which of all books spoke to him most vividly across the gulfs of time.’
Clarke, Arthur Charles: The Challenge of The Spaceship: Previews of Tomorrow's World (1959)
Clarke, Arthur Charles: ‘Back to 2001’, Preface to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1997 ed.)
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