Why Homer Matters: A History (Paperback)
"Complex, personal, and profound ... a brash and brave piece of writing ... filled with the swords and spears that inflict the carnage of the Iliad." -The Wall Street Journal
Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the Iliad and the Odyssey and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems-transmitted orally across the generations, shaped and reshaped in a living, self-renewing tradition-occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor as the objective accounts of history, but as epic, invented after memory but before history, poetry which aims "to bind the wounds that time inflicts."
The Homeric poems are among the oldest stories we have, drawing on deep roots in the Eurasian steppes beyond the Black Sea, but emerging at a time around 2000 BC when the people who would become the Greeks came south and both clashed and fused with the more sophisticated inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The poems, which ask the eternal questions about the individual and the community, honor and service, love and war, tell us how we became who we are.
A New York Times bestselling author, Adam Nicolson has won many major awards including the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Award, and the Ondaatje Prize. His books include Why Homer Matters and The Seabrid's Cry.
Mr. Nicolson lives in England with his wife and grown children.
“Highly accessible ... Nicolson's amateurism (in the best, etymological, sense of the word: from the Latin amare, "to love") and globe-trotting passion for his subject is contagious ... bringing the heroic age into our own.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Complex, personal, and profound ... a brash and brave piece of writing ... filled with the swords and spears that inflict the carnage of the Iliad.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Stirring ... Nicolson eloquently sums up what we still look for in Homer: 'wisdom, his fearless encounter with the dreadful, his love of love and hatred of death, the sheer scale of his embrace, his energy and brightness, his resistance to nostalgia.'” —The Washington Post
“Adam Nicolson's books are like beautiful shells encountered in the sand: delicate, rare and wonderful. [Why Homer Matters] is a moving personal musing on Homer--on what he has to say to us today about life and about ourselves.” —Alexander McCall Smith, Daily Mail
“Erudite, far-ranging in time and space, and provocative ... This rich and adventurous book is Nicolson's own odyssey, a wide-eyed ramble around the ancient world and through the centuries ... Nicolson's enthusiasm [is] enriching and his examination of the character of the two epics acute and fascinating.” —Allan Massie, Literary Review
“Seldom have I been so moved, inspired, informed and delighted as by Adam Nicolson's elegant explanation of why Homer--so long forgotten in the school-time haze--is so vitally important as a lifetime vade mecum. The author must be one of the last true polymaths standing: his writings--this new book above all--give pleasure beyond compare.” —Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and The Men Who United the States
“There is no better explicator of life, of art, and the process by which we experience both than Adam Nicolson. In Why Homer Matters, he is at his eloquent and rapturous best. Through the prism of this great poet, Nicolson has crafted a kind of metaphysical guidebook on how to lead a meaningful life in in a world of terrifying and wondrous change.” —Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea and Bunker Hill
“In this passionate, deeply personal book, Nicolson explains why Homer matters--to him, to you, to the world--in a text full of twists, turns, and surprises.” —Publishers Weekly
“[A] gracefully written and deeply informed book…Nicolson's spirited exploration illuminates our own indelible past.” —Kirkus, starred review