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Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography    by Alberto Manguel order for
Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey
by Alberto Manguel
Order:  USA  Can
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Here, as the latest superb addition to the Books That Changed the World series, is something new and exciting from Alberto Manguel, the world-renowned writer, translator, and editor of literary anthologies; his previous works include A History of Reading, The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, and his novel, Stevenson Under the Palm Trees. Now, Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography offers readers a brief (288 pages) but thoroughly fascinating history of the enigmatic Greek (?) poet and the two canonical works that have endured for more than two and half thousand years as the foundations of Western culture.

Beginning with a so-called life of the poet Homer (notwithstanding the fact that any biographical treatment of the legendary (or mythical?) figure is perhaps impossible), and then looking at the ancient Greek reception and perpetuation of the two epic poems (The Iliad and The Odyssey), Manguel moves on to chronicle the many different (and surprising) ways in which the poems were received, enjoyed, critiqued, and further disseminated by different cultures throughout history; in doing so, Manguel - writing an engaging and informative narrative - moves easily from Plato to Virgil, Dante to Chaucer, and Pope to Joyce, and - along the way - looks at the countless ways in which Christians and Moslems, and ancients, medievals, moderns, and post-moderns have sometimes embraced and sometimes resisted the canonical authority and power of Homer's poetry.

Entertaining and informative (and supplemented with useful endnotes with suggestions for further reading or research), Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography is an absolutely essential addition to the library of any reader interested in understanding the continuing life-cycle of the two great epics of Western literature.

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