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An Iliad


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About the Author

Alessandro Baricco was born in Turin in 1958 and still makes his home there. The author of four previous novels, he has won the Prix M dicis tranger in France and the Selezione Campiello, Viareggio, and Palazzo al Bosco prizes in Italy.


Inspired to stage a public reading of The Iliad, Baricco (Silk) soon felt compelled to "intervene" in the original text to make it more palatable for a modern audience. The result, now published as a novella, makes for a shorter but still powerful tale of the siege of Troy by the Achaeans. Working from a prose translation by Maria Grazia Ciani, Baricco streamlined scenes and removed the gods from the narrative. His most significant change was allowing some of the characters to tell the story themselves in place of a single external narrator. Though this can be awkward-as when a woman refers to herself as a beauty or when a character tells about something he or she couldn't have witnessed-it does succeed in personalizing an epic tale. Unfortunately, these many voices sound alike, so Baricco missed an opportunity to truly reimagine The Iliad; the passages he's added-which are noted in italics-are some of the most powerful moments in this book and make the reader wish he'd been a little less reverent with Homer's masterpiece. Still, this is a gripping story made very accessible to a wider audience. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Baricco made his name internationally with his debut, Silk (1997), and has since released three more well-received novels, most recently the war-themed Without Blood (2004). This prose retelling of the Iliad is sure to top them all. Baricco eliminates the appearances of the gods, adds an ending chapter (borrowed from the Odyssey) that recounts the famous incident of the wooden horse and the sack of Troy andAan ingenious touchAtells the story from the first-person viewpoint of various participants: Odysseus, Thersites, Nestor, Achilles. The famed physicality and violence of the poem are here ("the bronze tip... cut the tongue cleanly at the base, came out through the neck"), and Baricco doesn't sentimentalize the storyAeasy to do, especially with Helen. The larger plot remains: Agamemnon insults Achilles, the best warrior on the Achaean (Greek) side, who then refuses to further serve, which allows the Trojans to rally under their greatest warrior, King Priam's son, Hector. Achilles' best friend, Patroclus, receives Achilles' permission to help the Greeks, but is killed in battle. Achilles returns to the battlefield, succeeds in isolating Hector underneath the walls of Troy and strikes him down. Finally, Priam goes to Achilles' tent and begs for the body of his son, and Achilles grants his return. Medieval versions of the Iliad story conceived it in chivalrous terms, but Baricco conveys the real story, an epic of harsh dealings, small treacheries and large vanities. He adds only a few modern reflections to the character's thoughts: old Nestor, for instance, plays with the paradox that the young have an "old idea of war," which entails honor, beauty and glory, while the old take up new ways to fight simply in order to win. In an afterword, Baricco states that "this is not an ordinary time to read the Iliad," and his book is more than a pasteurized version of a great poem. It is a variation, and a very moving one, on timeless Homeric themes. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"For all those curious about The Iliad but intimidated by its heft, Baricco's book offers a swift, stylish, summer-reading version of the great epic."
--San Francisco Chronicle

"A taut and mesmerizing tale."
--The Seattle Times

"Baricco divides the tale into a series of monologues by characters both major and minor. The result is compelling, occasionally thrilling." --Entertainment Weekly

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