Friday, January 22, 2010

More on the Iliad

From the Introduction in the Robert Fagles version:

"It is just as sentimental to pretend that war does not have its monstrous ugliness as it is to deny that it has its own strange and fatal beauty, a power, which can call out in men resources of endurance, courage and self-sacrifice that peacetime, to our sorrow and loss, can rarely command."

This from the translator of the three-thousand-year-old story. I don't know if Fagles was a soldier, or if he'd feel this way had he seen war in person rather than on the page. Dulce et decorum est....

At the same time, I wonder: is he right? Is there a rare and sharp magic to the terrible circumstance of war? Or is that little more than a tweedy post-facto justification?

Never having seen war myself, I can't answer, I can only ask. And maybe that's what good writing, good stories, should do: not answer but ask the question in the first place.

In which case: well done, Homer!

2 comments:

Barbara said...

Perhaps that is why an author like Homer has been remembered in literature for so very long compared to say...Danielle Steele?

S R Wood said...

Ha ha, could be! Not that there's anything wrong with Danielle Steele, but let's face it: she's not Homer.