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Homer's the Iliad and the Odyssey


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It's a great idea: a survey history of how Homer has been read throughout history, taking in Roman Homer, Christian Homer, Alexander Pope's Homer and Homer in Islam, among others. And Manguel (A History of Reading) is perfectly cut out for the job, armed as he is with a wealth of stories about scholars and translators through the ages. But most of his anecdotes, though engaging, are disconnected from any central argument. In one Arabic telling of the Trojan War, Agamemnon is made the "secret protagonist," we are told. But why? Specifics are scarce, while great claims are made-"The epic of Gilgamesh and the stories of the ancient Egyptians stir in our prehistory, but Homer and his poems are the beginning of all our stories"-supported only with more bald assertions. Things pick up in a chapter examining Homer's imagery, but once again, Manguel trails off without taking his ideas anywhere. It's hard to imagine that this latest entry in the Books That Changed the World series will do much to excite further interest in the student or first-time reader of Homer. (Jan.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Argentine-born Canadian writer Manguel is a prolific author, editor, and critic, his work ranging from The Dictionary of Imaginary Places (1980), A History of Reading (1996), and The Bride of Frankenstein (1997) to Library at Night (2005). He brings both his passion for books and his fluency as a writer to this engaging study of the influence of The Iliad and The Odyssey on Western literature. First describing the two epics and the Homer question, Manguel then compares various translations in English, Spanish, French, and German, a move that brings out the complexities and richness of Homer's language. Does the poet sing of the rage, wrath, anger, rancor, or mania of Achilles? Then, following a more or less chronological progression, Manguel surveys the various shifting interpretations of the epics from Plato and Virgil to the present, including extended discussions of Derek Walcott, Timothy Findley, and Jorge Luis Borges. Highly recommended for general readers.-T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Alberto Manguel is to reading what Casanova was to sex."
"It is almost startling ... to discover a writer who believes in literature so thoroughly."
"Manguel is not only a gentleman and a scholar but a gentleman as a scholar, offering constellations of connected readings and insights with grace, humor, and tact."

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