I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Magic, Modernity, #MeToo

Magic, Modernity, #MeToo

Tony McKenna
Circe, by Madeline Miller, Bloomsbury, 352 pp, £16.99, ISBN: 978-1408890080 The abiding force in all Greek myth is that which Hegel would have described as the “abstract universal”, or what you and I might call fate. Even the greatest of mythical heroes has little purchase in the face of overarching destiny. A powerful Corinthian king is humbled by fate, made to roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again over and over for all eternity. A mighty titan is strapped to a rock; in the day he is visited by a giant eagle which pecks his liver out, in the night the liver regenerates – the process repeated ad infinitum. Even those who use their guile, their intelligence, to evade and thwart their fate end up welding themselves to it with redoubled force. Oedipus seeks to avoid his destiny – the prophecy which says he will sleep with his mother and kill his father – by moving to Thebes, but the attempt to escape his fate paradoxically yields its realisation; he kills a stranger on the way to Thebes who, unbeknownst to him, is his father – and in Thebes itself he marries the queen who, unbeknownst to him, is his mother. The pre-eminence of the universal, of the objective – the broader movement of fate which takes place at the expense of individual subjectivity, whim and desire – has certain aesthetic consequences too. In The Iliad we understand that when Achilles enacts his final, genocidal slaughter of the Trojan soldiers he does so, not in his capacity as a professional soldier, but because the Trojans have killed his beloved Patroclus. But we only ever experience the tenor of Achilles’ grief and rage through his series of outward objective actions – the bloody mass slaughter of the opposing soldiers. But Homer does not, and cannot, reveal explicitly what is going on inside the great warrior’s mind; we are not apprised of his subjective thoughts and feelings about his loss and suffering; there is no equivalent in the epic of old to the soliloquy. For this reason, one could argue that the task of reimagining the Greek myths for the modern period involves the need to fill the lacunae. In Madeline Miller’s exquisite and brilliant 2012 novel The Song of Achilles she reinvented Achilles’ story, but she went back to his childhood. She showed with beauty and deft simplicity the…

Advertisement

booksupstairs.ie

Dublin’s Oldest Independent BookshopBooks delivered worldwide