The Mighty Dead
Longlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction (now the Bailie Gifford)
‘A thrilling and complex book, enlarges our view of Homer … There’s something that hits the mark on every page’ Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New Statesman
Where does Homer come from? And why does Homer matter? His epic poems of war and suffering can still speak to us of the role of destiny in life, of cruelty, of humanity and its frailty, but why they do is a mystery. How can we be so intimate with something so distant?
‘The Mighty Dead’ is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by some of the oldest stories we have – the great ancient poems of Homer and their metaphors of life and trouble. In this provocative and enthralling book, Adam Nicolson explains why Homer still matters and how these vital, epic verses – with their focus on the eternal questions about the individual versus the community, honour and service, love and war – tell us how we became who we are.
`A thrilling and complex book, enlarges our view of Homer... there's something that hits the mark on every page' Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New Statesman `Bursting with enthusiasm, erudition and eccentricity: a travelogue, a memoir, a work of literary criticism and, at bottom, an archaeology of the western imagination. Completely thrilling' Susan Hill, Books of the Year, Spectator `Only the hardiest immune systems will be able to resist his unselfconscious adoration of the poet. Anyone who feels they never 'got' Homer should read this book' Books of the Year, Sunday Times `Astounding. Scholarly, but so up-close and personal that you feel it in the guts... it transcends genre...you come away exhilarated' Sofka Zinovieff, Books of the Year, Spectator `A brilliant, passionate, world-wandering love letter to Homer ... far more inspirational than any dry academic exegesis. If the only real test of any book about Homer is that it should make you want to go back to Homer, then `The Mighty Dead' passes in a blaze of glory' Sunday Times `A hosanna to Homeric wandering and wanderlust ... breathes new life into an ancient adventure' Observer `A thrillingly energised book that travels to the real-life locations of the action ... it transmits a whole worldview at once decipherable and dramatically strange ... To read Homer is to be struck by what Nicolson calls `time-vertigo' - and this book is one that holds your hand and encourages you to peer over the edge' Spectator `As gripping as a thriller and as delicately constructed as a sonnet ... an astonishing tour de force that reveals Homer to be at once as ancient as papyrus and as modern as MTV ... in dealing with the body-thudding side of epic Nicolson proves to be in his element' Telegraph `Erudite, far-ranging in time and space, and provocative... [his] enthusiasm is enriching and his examination of the character of the two epics acute and fascinating. Homer matters because he can stimulate books such as this' Literary Review
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