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Publisher's Summary

No one knows if there was a man named Homer, but there is little doubt that the epic poems assembled under his name form the cornerstone of Western literature. "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey", with their incomparable tales of the Trojan War, Achilles, Ulysses and Penelope, the Cyclops, the beautiful Helen of Troy, and the petulant gods, are familiar to most people because they are so pervasive. They have fed our imaginations for over two-and-a-half millennia, inspiring everyone from Plato to Virgil, Pope to Joyce, Dante to Wolfgang Petersen.

In this graceful and sweeping addition to the Books that Changed the World series, Alberto Manguel traces the lineage of these epic poems. He considers their original purpose, either as allegory or record of history; surveys the challenges the pagan poems presented to the early Christian world; and traces their spread after the Reformation. Following Homer through the greatest literature ever created, Manguel's book above all delights in the poems themselves, the "primordial spring without which there would have been no culture".

©2007 Alberto Manguel; (P)2008 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Alberto Manguel is to reading what Casanova was to sex." (Scotland on Sunday)
"Manguel is not only a gentleman and a scholar but a gentleman as a scholar, offering constellations of connected readings and insight with grace, humor, and tact." (The New Yorker)

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Nelson Alexander
  • 24-06-2009

Some Things Just Don't Work in Audio

I have enjoyed this series of "biographies" of great books, but am abandoning this one after an hour, sorry to say. It may be a good work in print. But the combination of Manguel's elegant syntax and endless arcane asides together with a skilled but bloodless reading make it nearly impossible to follow or retain. It all becomes a refined, scholarly drone, with each sentence's subject forgotten by the time it arrives (slowly, tortuously) at the distant predicate. I don't blame the reader or writer exactly, but this one just doesn't work as an audio book.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful