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An Iliad Hardcover – August 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Tra edition (August 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030726355X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307263551
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,786,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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 and—an ingenious touch—tells 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 story—easy 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.)
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From The New Yorker

This retelling of the Homeric epic is defiantly modern: it excises the gods and supplants the omniscient narrator with alternating voices, as one character after another—hero and bit player alike—is granted the opportunity to speak and shed light on the decade-long siege of Troy. Alluding to our current time of "battles, assassinations, bombings," Baricco's text lingers on the futility of an unending war, and casts the arrival of the thousand-odd ships as an invasion by an overwhelmingly superior force, met by young recruits throwing stones. Still, in substance, his version cleaves closely to the original. As in Homer, the lesser-known foot soldiers come to life only at the moment of their death, when they enter history; each killing is singular, and almost lovingly detailed—a sword pierces a skull and a man falls, "teeth biting the cold bronze."
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
In other words, it was a chore to read.
Chuck
I hope to read it again and be less disappointed, but I found it to be a long stretch of uniformly uninteresting and amateurish prose.
Al Goehring
Go ahead and buy it, and you will return to it and give it to others for years to come.
J. Mckenna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jane, reading groupie on August 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am as close to a Homer purist as you will find: BA and MA in classics. Of course this book is no substitute for Homer's original: that narrative defined all western standards for storytelling. But I must give Baricco the highest marks for crystalizing and presenting (quite powerfully) the elements of the Iliad that are still relevant to human circumstances. We no longer believe that a pantheon of gods intimately involve themselves in the lives of a few heroic figures. It is therefore the job of the modern interpreter to find the purely human motivations that haven't changed over the millennia. This Baricco has done superbly. The characters do not all sound alike, as the other reviewer claims: that's just wrong. As one who has studied Homer line by line in the original, I have as much reason in theory to be bored or unimpressed by this project. But I am not. It made me think about the original in a new way, and that's no small feat.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Campbell on October 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this as a fan of Alessandro Baricco (ocean sea is a personal favorite). When I began reading I was surprised at the rhythm of the text, because it seemed quite different than the long flowing poetic sentences of Ocean Sea and Silk. Once I settled into his concise style, I appreciated the gruesome battles more than expected. In the end, I was introduced to a style and context of fiction literature that I was previously unfamiliar with. I would recommend the book to anyone interested in Greek Epics or warfare.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Mckenna on February 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a translation of The Iliad as much as it a reimaging. We are presented with a view of the epic through a 21st century literary mirror. Baricco has taken a faithful interpretation of the epic (by Maria Grazia Ciani) and stripped away the intentional redundancies and the Gods and replaced it with deeply human voices without losing any of the depth, beauty or brutality of the original. This is a real accomplishment. I would not supplant THE Iliad for AN Iliad, but it is certainly a moving and wholly accurate experience for any reader.
Go ahead and buy it, and you will return to it and give it to others for years to come.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 21, 2008
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Entertaining on its own it makes a wonderful text to practice your Italian if you read it along with the Italian version much of which is available on Google books, look for:

Omero, Iliade, on Google Books

[...]

I am an intermediate student of Italian. I find the translation from Italian to English to be quite literal and the Italian is straightforward so I recommend the two as a parallel reader. The fact that the original Homeric story is well known and well told helps.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting interpretation of the Iliad. Clear and very readable. He also caught the immediacy and excitement of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was hoping for a translation that was more of a story than prose and this is it. Very well done. The buildup is good but the ending seems rushed through. No mention of Achilles death was a bit disappointing.
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