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.
















the University of Louvain in Belgium makes this boast: ‘You see me, young man, I never learned Greek, and I don’t find that I have ever missed it. I have had a doctor’s cap and gown without Greek; I have ten thousand florins a year without Greek; I eat heartily without Greek; and, in short,… as I don’t know Greek, I do not believe there is any good in it.’16 This division had far-reaching consequences: from the seventeenth century onwards, Homer was being rigorously studied in English, German

English literature, with certain codes and conventions which he handled better than almost anyone, perhaps because he had invented many of them. ‘By perpetual practice,’ wrote Dr Johnson, ‘language had in his mind a systematical arrangement; having always the same use for words, he had words so selected and combined as to be ready at his call.’19 Pope’s style was never ‘external’ to him, never mechanical: it only seemed so in the eyes of certain of his readers who either demanded scientific

post against which to scratch your back.24 Joyce’s version of the king of Ithaca, the Dublin Jew Leopold Bloom, occupies a middle ground, neither that of the Tennyson hero nor that of the Dante adventurer. Being a Jew, he is endemically an exile, both inside and outside the Irish fold, a condition Joyce himself, as an Irish artist, experienced. But Bloom’s Jewishness brings him close to another Ulysses, the Wandering Jew of medieval legend. Between 1902 and 1903, Victor Bérard, one of the most

of Grove Atlantic for suggesting the book in the first place, and to Bruce Westwood and the staff of WCA, who were the first enthusiastic emissaries. A NOTE ON TRANSLATIONS AND EDITIONS To simplify the reading, I’ve preferred to use common versions of the Homeric names, ‘Ulysses’ rather than ‘Odysseus’ and ‘Achilles’ rather than ‘Akhilleus’. As Samuel Butler noted, ‘Neither do I think that Hekabe will supersede Hecuba, till “What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba?” is out of date.’1 (Though in

secondary literature 75–6 and war 214, 218–27 see also Iliad Troy 213 and Schliemann 177–82 truth: and myth 35–6, 208 and beauty 67 Ulysses: and Achilles 14, 57–8, 171 and Athena 16, 17, 20, 22, 23 and Calypso 16, 17, 20, 124, 194, 198 character 55 and Circe 19, 96–8, 198, 205 and Cyclops 18–19, 87, 119, 198, 205 in Dante 198–200 as everyman 2, 228–37 in Giraudoux 207 and Hell 19, 57–8, 96–8, 211, 226–7 and Joyce 4, 193–6, 202–4 in Kazantzakis 200–1 and Penelope 16, 47, 164,

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