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review 2019-09-30 13:27
Beware Of Greeks Bearing Gifts.



The Siege of Troy: A novel

Theodor Kallifatides

Translated from the Swedish edition by Marlaine Delargy

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Other Press (September 10, 2019)  

ISBN-10: 159051971X

ISBN-13: 978-1590519714

https://www.amazon.com/Siege-Troy-Novel-Theodor-Kallifatides/dp/159051971X           

 

Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton

               

It's been decades since I read Homer's The Iliad,  so my memory of it is extremely dim. I remember many of the stories, the abduction of Helen, the famous Greek warriors who besieged the city of Troy for 10 years, the use of poetic devices like the opening "Invocation to the Muse," the long descriptions of soldier's armor, etc.

 

Now, Swedish author Theodor Kallifatides has re-imagined the Iliad for modern readers and I suspect most non-scholars of Greek literature are going to prefer the new version. For one matter, all the poetic devices are stripped away and replaced by a much simpler prose narrative. For another, Kallifatides created a framework for his retelling that has a Greek schoolteacher recounting the story of The Iliad day-by-day to one of her classes during World War II when airstrikes repeatedly forced the class to run to nearby caves for protection.

The 1940s set part of the novel includes an ongoing love triangle as well as interactions between the German occupiers and local citizens. I'll confess, I was drawn into this story as much as the retelling of events in ancient Troy. It's a fresh approach even if the two storylines don't really parallel each other.

 

In regards to the old, old stories, I had forgotten just how bloody the war was. I was often surprised by the number of combatants. That many warriors, on both sides, dying in droves and droves? Seems historically doubtful, but I could be wrong.

 

I had also forgotten just how Achilles was a stubborn, selfish, and petulant figure. I didn't know his death by way of an arrow in his heel is not a story in the Iliad and thus not in The Siege of Troy either. The same is true of the Trojan Horse episode which wasn't told until Virgil's Aeneid. I didn't know that either until I did some homework to see why things in Homer's poem weren't in the Kallifatides reworking. Well, Kallifatides turns out to be a very faithful adapter of the ancient stories although he left many things out, mostly descriptions of the various armies and the quarrels between the gods which appear much less frequently in The Siege of Troy.

Author Theodor Kallifatides is actually Greek but immigrated to Sweden where his works are first published in Swedish. The Siege of Troy is his second work Translated by Marlaine Delargy, the first being the 2018 Another  Life. Sounds like a book I would like to explore as The Siege of Troy was one of my favorite readings of 2019. Hopefully, for you too.

 

 

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sept. 25, 2019:

 

 

tor

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review 2019-07-08 22:17
proofreading needed
Mount Athos: The History of the Greek Mountain and the Center of Eastern Orthodox Monasticism - Charles River Editors

It does present a good overview in terms of history and of the monks that live there. However, it need better proofreading. The first sentence does not make sense.

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review 2019-07-04 00:02
The History of the Peloponnesian War
The History of the Peloponnesian War - Donald Lateiner,David Lateiner,Richard Crawley,Thucydides

Two political-economic systems compete for influence and dominance after the greatest war that has ever happened, but peace could not last.  The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides covers the first twenty years of the war between Athens and Sparta before it’s abrupt ending, but throughout his text the motives of the participants and the analysis of unintended consequences shows give the war it’s full context.

 

The first book—created by later editors not Thucydides—of the work focuses on early Greek history, political commentary, and seeks to explain how the war was caused and why it happened when it did.  Over the course of Books 2 through 8, Thucydides covered not only the military action of the war but also the numerous political machinations that both sides encouraged in each other’s allied cities or in neutrals to bring them to their side.  The war is presented in a chronological manner for nearly the entire work with only two or three diversions in either historical context or to record what happened elsewhere during the Sicilian Expedition that took up Books 6 & 7.  The sudden ending of the text reveals that Thucydides was working hard on the work right up until he died, years after the conflict had ended.

 

The military narrative is top notch throughout the book which is not a surprise given Thucydides’ time as an Athenian general before his exile.  Even though he was an Athenian, Thucydides was positively and negatively critical of both Athens and Sparta especially when it came to demagogues in Athenian democracy and severe conservatism that permeated Spartan society in all its facets.  Though Thucydides’ created the prebattle and political speeches he relates, is straightforwardness about why he did it does not take away from the work.  If there is one negative for the work is that Thucydides is somewhat dry which can make you not feel the urge to pick up the book if you’ve been forced to set it down even though you’ve been enjoying the flow of history it describes.

 

The History of the Peloponnesian War though unfinished due to Thucydides death was both a continuation of the historic genre that Herodotus began but also a pioneering work as it recorded history as it happened while also using sources that Thucydides was able to interview.  If you enjoy reading history and haven’t read this classic in military history, then you need to.

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review 2019-02-16 23:14
The Histories (Herodotus)
The Histories - G.C. Macaulay,G.C. Macauley,Donald Lateiner,David Lateiner,Herodotus

A generation had no living memory of the greatest danger that the Greeks had ever lived through, but one man decided to change all that and gift posterity with a new genre.  The Histories written by Herodotus details 80 crucial years from the rise of the Persian Empire to the defeat the remnants of Xerxes expedition and the events that led to the latter.

 

Using knowledge gleamed from extensive travel across the ancient world Herodotus begins his historical narrative by giving the ‘legendary’ encounters between the peoples of Europe and Asia before delving into the more ‘historical’ events that lead to Xerxes’ grand expedition.  Herodotus details the history of the kingdom of Lydia that was the first to conquer populations of Greeks, those in western Anatolia, and how its great king Croesus lost his war to Cyrus the Great thus placing those same Greeks under the rule of Persia.  The history of the Medes and their conquest by the Persians is related then the subsequent history of the Persian Empire until the Ionian revolt which led to the intervention of Athens and setting the stage for Darius expedition to Marathon.  Intertwined with the rise of Persia was Herodotus relating the events within various Greek city-states, in particular Athens and Sparta, that contributed to the reasons for first Darius’ expedition and then to Xerxes’.  Eventually his narrative would go back and forth between the two contending sides throughout the latter conflict as events unfolded throughout 480-479 BC.

 

The sheer volume of material that Herodotus provides is impressive and daunting for a reader to consider.  Not only does he cover the political and military events, but numerous past historical and general culture aspects as well as lot of biographies and antidotal digressions that add color to the overall piece.  Given that this was the first history ever written it’s hard to really criticize Herodotus—though Thucydides apparently had no problem later—but some digressions I wish Herodotus had left out or not heard at all.

 

The Histories by Herodotus is one of classic historical works that needs to be read by anyone who enjoys reading history.  Whether or not you love the style of writing or even the topic, this book is important because it literally is the first history book.

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review 2017-12-31 22:57
Western Civilization to 1500
Western Civilization to 1500 (College Outline) - Walther Kirchner

The story of Western Civilization centers in Europe but begins over 8000 years ago in Mesopotamia and Egypt and seems like a daunting task to cover in less than 300 pages even if one only goes to the end of the Middle Ages.  Western Civilization to 1500 by Walther Kirchner is a survey of the rise of society from ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt through the Greeks and Romans, the Middle Ages, and the beginning of the European Renaissance.

 

Kirchner spends less than 30 pages covering the Fertile Crescent and Egypt through 3500 years of historical development before beginning over 110 pages on Greco-Roman history and the last 130 pages are focused on the Middle Ages and early Renaissance.  This division clearly denotes Kirchner’s focus on Europe in this Western Civilization survey, though one cannot fault him for this as even now knowledge of the first three and half millennia of the historical record is nothing compared to the Greco-Roman sources, yet Kirchner never even mentioned the Bronze Age collapse and possible reasons for its occurrence.  The highlight of the survey is a detailed historical events of Greece and Roman, especially the decline of the Republic which was only given broad strokes in my own Western Civ and World History classes in high school and college.  Yet, Kirchner’s wording seems to hint that he leaned towards the Marxist theory of history, but other wording seemed to contradict it.  Because this was a study aid for college students in the early 1960s, this competing terminology is a bit jarring though understandable.  While the overall survey is fantastic, Kirchner errors in some basic facts (calling Harold Godwinson a Dane instead of an Anglo-Saxon, using the term British during the Hundred Year’s War, etc.) in well-known eras for general history readers making one question some of the details in eras the reader doesn’t know much about.  And Kirchner’s disparaging of “Oriental” culture through not only the word Oriental but also the use of “effeminate” gives a rather dated view of the book.

 

This small volume is meant to be a study aid for students and a quick reference for general readers, to which it succeeds.  Even while Kirchner’s terminology in historical theory and deriding of non-European cultures shows the age of the book, the overall information makes this a good reference read for any well-read general history reader.

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