Homer Spoke from a “Vengeful, Frighteningly Violent Time”

(p. 17) The Homeric epics are long, contradictory, repetitive, composite works, riddled with anachronisms, archaic vocabulary, metric filler and exceedingly graphic brutality. Over the millenniums, Nicolson asserts, they have been cleaned, scrubbed and sanitized by generations of translators, editors, librarians and scholars, in order to protect readers from the dangers of the atavistic world lurking just below the surface of the words. He writes that everyone from the editors at the Ptolemaic library in Alexandria to the great 18th-century poet Alexander Pope wished to civilize or tame the poems, “wanted to make Homer proper, to pasteurize him and transform him into something acceptable for a well-­governed city.” Part of Nicolson’s objective is to follow the poems back to the vengeful, frighteningly violent time and culture from which they came, and to restore some of their rawness.

For the full review, see:
BRYAN DOERRIES. “Songs of the Sirens.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., DEC. 28, 2014): 17.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date DEC. 26, 2014, and has the title “‘Why Homer Matters,’ by Adam Nicolson.”)

The book under review is:
Nicolson, Adam. Why Homer Matters. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.