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?
This is a genre-defying book of vast ambition which takes the reader on a deeply profound, tender journey through Adam Nicolson's love of Homer and why he believes this great ancient poet still matters to us all in our search to understand what it is to be human, to love, to lose, to grow old and to die.
Nicolson is one of the greatest writers of landscape and sea -- and in this book he takes his readers to places on the Aegean shores forever haunted by their Homeric heroes, to a disputatious dinner in 19th-century-France; to Keats and his travels in the "realms of gold"; memories of setting sail from a Scottish beach to face the vengeful sea and navigating storms off the coast of Ireland; to Sicily awash with wild flowers, to Bosnia where oral poetry still thrives; to Syria where he is forced to face his own mortality; to the deserted, irradiated steppes of Chernobyl, where Homeric warriors still lie unexcavated under the tumuli. This is a world of springs and drought, seas and cities, all sewn together by the poems themselves, and their great metaphors of life and suffering.
The book is driven by a desire to find the source of Homer's directness and to understand why Homer is still so present and so relevant to us all some 3,700 years after the poems were composed. On every page, the book offers reflections on relationships between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, on the violence of warriors and the deep-held desires of home-makers, of peace and war, youth and old-age. Like Homer himself, it is a book haunted by transience, by the way memory drifts in the face of time. It is a book that will bring each reader face to face with the meaning of existence in a text as accessible as it is full of surprises.