Posted by: Corri van de Stege | July 15, 2013

Achilles and Priam – Homer and David Malouf

17 days to go…

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Book 24, the last chapter in the Iliad, relates the story of Priam, the king of Troy, coming to Achilles in the dead of night to beseech him to release the body of his son Hector so that he can be given a proper funeral.  In his fury over the death of his friend Patroclus, killed by Hector, Achilles has killed Hector in turn and nothing can assuage his grief over Patroclus.  He has tied Hector’s body to his cart and pulled him 11 times around the walls of Troy, however, the gods will not allow the body to be damaged and are trying to find a resolution: the god Isis advises Priam to go to Achilles and pay him ransom for the body, whilst the God Thesis, Achilles’ mother, visits Achilles and tells him to be merciful to Priam and allow him to provide a proper burial for Hector.

It is a story of forgiveness and mercy, beautifully told in the Iliad, and taken up by David Malouf in his book Ransom.  I enjoy reading Malouf’s account, but think that Chapter 24 is the better version. The emotion and heartrending grief of both Achilles (over the death of Patroclus) and Priam (over his son Hector) could not be better told.  But it is also a story of forgiveness and understanding.  Both the Iliad and Ransom are well worth a read if you are wondering what to pick up next.

English: Alexey Markov (1802-1878) Priam Beggi...

English: Alexey Markov (1802-1878) Priam Begging the Body of Hector from Achilles Русский: Алексей Тарасович Марков (1802-1878) Приам, испрашивающий у Ахиллеса тело Гектора (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I previously wrote a review of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, which is about her reinterpretation of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus.  If you have not read that yet, it’s another one you may well want to pack in your bags for a holiday read.  It won the Orange Prize for fiction in 2012 of course.

Below I include some links to other reviews, which you may find interesting.

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