Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography (Books That Changed the World)

Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography (Books That Changed the World)

Alberto Manguel

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0802143822

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

While it is unknown if there ever was a man named Homer, there is no doubt that the epic poems assembled under his name form the cornerstone of Western literature, feeding our imagination for over two and a half millennia. The Iliad and The Odyssey, with their tales of the Trojan War, Achilles, Ulysses and Penelope, the Sirens, the Cyclops, Helen of Troy, and the petulant gods, are familiar to most readers because they are so pervasive. From Plato to Virgil, Pope to Joyce, the poems have been told and retold, interpreted and embellished. In this graceful and sweeping book, Alberto Manguel traces the lineage of the poems from their inception and first recording. He considers the original purpose of the poems—either as allegory of philosophical truth or as a record of historical truth—surveys the challenges the pagan Homer presented to the early Christian world, and maps the spread of the works around the world and through the centuries. Manguel follows Homer through the greatest literature ever created and, above all, delights in the poems themselves.












says, ‘as well as Virgil, was a skilful spinner of yarns and he is most delightfully imaginative. Nevertheless, I found him little to my taste. I suppose,’ he adds apologetically, ‘Greek boys think the same about Virgil when they are forced to study him as I was forced to study Homer.’7 In Carthage, where he was sent to complete his education, Augustine set up house with a young woman with whom he had a son; following his parents’ orders, he left her to marry another woman whom his mother had

educated Greek living in Asia Minor in the third century AD who wrote a ‘complete’ (and grisly) history of the Trojan War known as the Posthomerica, in a style imitating Homer’s.11 But the most famous of all the Trojan stories were two firsthand accounts supposedly written by a couple of soldiers who had taken part in the war, Dictys of Crete and Dares the Phrygian, and who were thought to antedate Homer by several centuries. A number of Byzantine writers based their stories on Dictys’ account, A

singular. Where Virgil has used cadunt (‘fall’) to describe the action of the leaves, Dante uses si levan (‘they fly off’, ‘they detach themselves’), granting each leaf and, by implication, each soul, a voluntary movement.15 Death is our allotted end, Dante seems to say, but it is also an act for whose quality we ourselves are responsible. That each of us dies is decreed; the act of dying is ours, individually. (In the Second Circle, the souls of the lustful are tossed about like leaves in a

suspicious of and greedy for attention. At the age of sixteen, he wrote a series of pastorals in imitation of Theocritus and Virgil, embarking on a lifelong relationship with the ancient authors from whom he would draw both rhetoric and subject matter. In 1715, at the age of twenty-seven, he published the first volume of his translation of Homer’s Iliad. Pope had imagined his enterprise as a long journey whose end seemed almost unattainable. Pope had no Greek – no doubt a stumbling-block for

with Nature, creating by analogy an association between the subject poet and his thematic object, lending it his creative power and representing it in a certain way because that is the way it shapes itself within him. ‘He is himself Nature: Nature creates in him the product.’ For Schiller, according to Jung, Homer is his own poems. Goethe’s perception of Homer both embraced and expanded Schiller’s. He too identified Homer with the Homeric creations but, for Goethe, the relationship was not a

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