Sunday, 9 June 2013

Ransom by David Malouf (4/5)

First published: 2009
Page count: 224

The back says: In this exquisite gem of a novel, David Malouf shines new light on Homer's Iliad, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant. Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking, Malouf's fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature - themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all brilliantly recast for our times.

I say: I bought this before I had read the Iliad and then read it almost too long after having read the Iliad, leaving some of the storyline murky and uncertain, but I cannot decide if this was a good or a bad move. Perhaps it works on both levels, but I’d like to say it’s a requisite having read Homer’s version prior to reading this - at least books 16 to 24. It will make sense without it, but this adds more emotion and depth to the epic Greek poem.
When I read the Iliad last year I had some issues with the writing/translation and one of the reasons I loved Ransom was because the prose was so beautiful – almost poetic – that it erased all those previous issues and allowed me to marvel at the language and the story at the same time. Malouf truly brings the story to new heights for someone like me, who worships language, and not just with its beauty but also with its humorous aspects. I fell in love with Achilles before, and Malouf made me love him even more.

I’ve said that I will re-read the Iliad at some point (but with a different translation) and I hope I remember to re-read Ransom right after to savour it once more.

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