Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ransom by David Malouf

Over Spring Break I've been reading books like David Malouf's Ransom, a retelling of book 24 of the Iliad. Elizabeth Speller in the Independent makes the point that David Malouf began the book a year after September 11, 2001 and that makes sense of the book's context. But it was a long time before publication in 2009. I wonder why?

Ransom, like it's model, is an exploration of the alternatives to war. Or rather, a consideration of what happens when King Priam recognizes that he cannot get back the body of his beloved son Hector through military might. He has a vision which encourages him to contemplate an almost unthinkable alternative: to go unarmed and plead with Achilles, the slaughterer of his son, to let him have back the body for mourning and burial rites. It is a book that invites us to consider pity and gentleness in the context of men and war. Why not go back to the text on which the book was based:

These words stirred within Achilles a deep desire to grieve for his own father. Taking the old man's hand, he gently moved him back. And overpowered by memory both men gave way to grief...

Then when brilliant Achilles had had his fill of tears and the longing for it had left his mind and body, he rose from his seat, taking the old man by the hand...

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