Monday, June 22, 2015

Review of "Why Homer Matters" by Adam Nicolson - A poetic examination of the roots and relevance of Homer's epic poetry

In writing "Why Homer Matters," Adam Nicolson has made a significant contribution to the dialogue about the significance of Homer in the modern era.  When I was first introduced to "The Odyssey" in 9th grade, I wondered how this ancient tale related to my life.  In the intervening decades, it has become increasingly clear to me how deeply ingrained in Western thought are Homer's observations about war and wandering as essential elements of the human condition.

Using beautiful language of his own, Nicolson takes the reader on a voyage of discovery.  Who was Homer - or the elements that make up what we perceive to be Homer?  At what period in history may the events described in "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" begin to take poetic and epic form?  How much of the geography described can be found in the real world and how much is imagined?  In delving into these and other pertinent questions, the author employs insights from archaeology, history, cultural anthropology, linguistics and other disciplines to examine multiple facets of the diamond that is the Homeric tradition.

The author's love for the sea and his knowledge of sailing - even using dead reckoning with the stars as Odysseus must have employed - adds a wonderful sense of emotional engagement with the issues being discussed.  His passion for the wisdom and timeliness of Homer for the 21st century rubs off on the reader.



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