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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles I've been trying to catch up on my reading this week and I started with The Song of Achilles, a book I bought for my vacation last year and never got to crack open.

The Song of Achilles is a straight retelling of The Iliad, with a Hollywood-friendly prequel tacked on (Brokeback Olympus). But I'm a numpty when it comes to classics - I know more about aboriginal creation myths than classical mythology and I don't feel on firm ground until we get to Beowolf and Gawain, so this was all new to me. Madeline Miller's text zips along and this is an easy read, Achilles as flawed hero and all.

But what I like about The Iliad was the sense of the Greeks being free from the crushing weight of history. I know that classics is all about tradition and the gods, but there's a lightness to being alive 2,500 year ago that we have lost - in particular, in the invention of language. Don't have a word for that? Make one up. And if you feel that being a plaything of the gods and the institutional barbarity of Greek society wasn't a picnic, then you'd better delete your Facebook account.

So now I need Madeline Miller to turn her attention to The Odyssey. Which I'd guess, given the attention that The Song of Achilles has received, she is doing right now.





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