by David Malouf
224 pages/ 2009  
rating 8.5

Australian poet and author Malouf writes beautifully clear, passionate almost mesmerizing prose, mostly short novels of historical fiction with some fascinating premises. In the last two I’ve read he has filled blanks left by classical writers -Ovid with An Imaginary Life and by Homer with The Iliad.

In this last one, Ransom,  except for a couple of notable instances,  he sticks pretty much to the 24th chapter of The Iliad  and then he takes off for a piece after Homer’s book ends. I have some ideas as to why he did that but … not here.

Chapter 24:  http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/iliad.24.xxiv.html

I really enjoyed Malouf’s reworking of Homer – Malouf can make the story come alive with the passionate emotional  content so firmly controlled in Homer.  Malouf’s background in poetry really shines through in this book with memorable metaphors strewn thickly through passages of astonishing descriptive grace.   The gods stay more on the outside in Malouf’s book – we aren’t made privy to the interactions of the immortals – they intercede however,  it’s just a bit more subtle.

All that said,  I’m not crazy about a re-imagining of Homer’s Prius.   It feels like Malouf took one too many small  liberties and screwed it up.


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