Friday, July 18, 2008

Tartakovsky, Joseph. "Man of a Thousand Faces." CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS (Summer 2008).

Manguel, Alberto. Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: a Biography. Douglas & Mcintyre, 2007. Alberto Manguel's slim "biography" is a literary history of Homer's epics, half criticism, half Britannica entry. In each of 22 short chapters, averaging ten pages apiece, he examines an angle of the Homeric phenomenon: the question of his existence; his reception by Greek philosophers; his heirs Virgil and Dante; the agonies of St. Jerome and Augustine of Hippo in reconciling him with Scripture; the excavation of Troy; his role in French debates between anciens and modernes; and his lessons on war and peace. Manguel flits about in time, but the progression is roughly chronological, from Homer's heroic age to our insistently anti-heroic one. The epics, thought to have been composed in the 8th century, have had few rivals in the inspiration of pedantry: an ancient scholar named Demetrius of Scepsis amplified 62 lines from the Iliad's Catalogue of Ships into 30 volumes. But Manguel, a critic, novelist, and translator born in Argentina and now living in France, writes with intelligence and curiosity. For a man of letters who has edited 23 anthologies and is reputed to possess a library of 30,000 volumes, he mostly avoids ostentation. Manguel's intent is to show that, for over 2,500 years, countless members of the species have found "in these stories of war in time and travel in space...the experience of every human struggle and every human displacement." The Iliad and Odyssey, which can be thought to represent the two great metaphors of life, a battle and a journey, are the "books which, more than any others, have fed the imagination of the Western world." . . . Read the rest here:

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