Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Homecomings. . .

I was going to post a review of Bernhard Schlink's new novel Homecoming today but en route, I checked (as I do every week), Michael Dirda's column in the Washington Post and discovered he just reviewed the same book, and really, he's so eloquent and spot-on, what is there really to add? (This is why he's my favourite reviewer - he has my exact reading taste!) So I'm just urging everyone to read the review here and then of course to read the novel. What really impressed me about the work was the constant change in narrative tone and the craft in which Schlink works his stories-within-stories, so that for a novel of only 272 pages, one feels as if one has almost read an epic. It's an extremely satisfying, challenging read - one of those great books that lingers long after. A great reading companion would be Alberto Manguel's recent Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey: A Biography. This is part of an interesting series of biographies of great books that trace the cultural history and impact of literature on subsequent writers (and readers). Manguel begins by accumulating all the biographical evidence there is about Homer and then traces how Virgil, Dante, Racine, Joyce of course, and many other writers and philosophers have been influenced by these two poems. One of the writers briefly mentioned by Manguel is Alberto Moravia whose novel Contempt I really enjoyed reading over the holidays. It's the story of a scriptwriter reluctantly working on a film version of The Odyssey as his marriage is falling apart - for reasons that echo theories about Penelope and Ulysses that are debated in the novel. The film version, starring Brigitte Bardot and directed by Jean-Luc Goddard is pretty good too.

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