Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review: Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson

Adam Nicolson sees the Iliad and the Odyssey as the foundation myths of Greek--and our--consciousness, collapsing the passage of 4,000 years and making the distant past of the Mediterranean world as immediate to us as the events of our own time.

Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the poems themselves and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor as the objective accounts of history, but as epic, invented after memory but before history, poetry which aims "to bind the wounds that time inflicts."

The Homeric poems are among the oldest stories we have, drawing on deep roots in the Eurasian steppes beyond the Black Sea?, but emerging at a time around 2000 B.C. when the people who would become the Greeks came south and both clashed and fused with the more sophisticated inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The poems, which ask the eternal questions about the individual and the community, honor and service, love and war, tell us how we became who we are.

Received for review.

I'll admit that my initial reaction to this was "Does Homer matter?" since I was never a big fan when I was forced to study the Iliad and Odyssey in school.  Sure, his stories were okay, but they weren't really great.  However, after reading this I have developed a newfound respect for the man not only as an author but as a person.

The author takes an incredibly complex and potentially yawn worthy topic and makes it interesting for the casual reader.  This is certainly not light reading, but it does not come across as bone try textbook material either.  The author really makes you see Homer's world as he did - full of complex people and relationships, gorgeous art, and brutal battle.  He brings the ancient world to life and gives you a new appreciation for the people who lived in it.

If you are at all interested in learning more about Homer and his world this is most likely the best book to guide you on your journey.  I highly, highly recommend it.

★★★★ = Really Liked It


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