Friday, November 5, 2010

FRIDAY-ANYTHING GOES: Ransom- A Novel by David Malouf

I have to rank this literary novel highest of all my Greek Week recommendations. It is stunning.

Ransom- A Novel by David Malouf is a retelling of a small portion of The Iliad. Achilles slaughters Hector in revenge for the killing of Patroclus and then treats the hero’s body barbarically. Hector’s father, King Priam mourns his son and also suffers under the heavy burden of kingship. It is his fate to lead a people doomed to be destroyed.

These scenes, these themes, have obviously been treated before (even Brad Pitt got into the act!) but Malouf makes the story fresh and exquisitely moving with the beauty of his words. As the characters progress through their painful duties, fragments of memory come to them. We come to understand the history behind the bond between Achilles and Patroclus. We learn who Priam was before he was king. We also experience the little details of the daily lives of the forgotten people of Troy, common people struggling alongside the heroes whose names have been immortalized. Malouf is able to bring out the humanity of the mythological heroes, so that oddly enough, in the midst of epic tragedy, you end up hopeful.

I recommend this book highly. In fact, I was so moved I went right out and bought one of Malouf’s previous works (which I hope to get around to reading before too long.)


  1. One of my favorite modern retellings of events from Homer's The Ilad. I treasure this slim novel, it is so extraordinarily powerful on so many levels. I actually shelve it with my translations of The Iliad. This little book somehow manages to prosaically encapsulate the rediscovery of their humanity that both Achilleus and Priam go through at the conclusion of Homer's epic poem. I may have to dig this out again for a reread as I read the new Stephen Mitchell translation of The Iliad that is being released in mid-October. Lovely review, Susan, and keep up the good work! Cheers! Chris

  2. I read this book also, and liked it very much.