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The Lost Books of The Odyssey: A Novel (2010)

de Zachary Mason

Altres autors: Mira la secció altres autors.

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7783521,460 (4.05)83
A brilliant and beguiling reimagining of Homer's classic story about the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy.
  1. 61
    Odissea de Homer (slickdpdx)
  2. 20
    Ransom de David Malouf (jbvm)
  3. 10
    Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives de David Eagleman (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Like The Lost Books Of The Odyssey, Sum uses very short pieces to explore different facets of the same idea - in this case, the afterlife.
  4. 10
    The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus de Margaret Atwood (alalba, jeanned)
    alalba: Both books offer alternative versions of the Odyssey.
  5. 00
    Siegfried und Krimhild de Jürgen Lodemann (spiphany)
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» Mira també 83 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 35 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I never got into it. I guess I'm too used to the original. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
This was a remarkable book, one of the few I've read by the heirs of Borges to really stand on its own.

It's a collection of short stories that uses the familiar overarching narrative of the Odyssey to tell alternate versions of its events, explore the action from the perspective of other characters, or draw parallels between these scenes and others in Greek mythology and history. Its Borgesian influence is strong - short, often abstract or philosophical stories; playful, occasionally self-referential footnotes; recurring motifs of labyrinths and mirrors, though no tigers - but paradoxically the fact that every story is tied into the Odyssey makes this book feel more like something to be taken on its own terms than Robert Bolaño's Nazi Literature In the Americas or Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, two other books I've read semi-recently that had a strong Borges tinge to them. I think Mason's book having a stronger impression on me is due to two main factors: firstly that Mason is a stronger writer in the sense of having a clearer idea of what he wanted to achieve, and secondly that the Odyssey is such a great collection of stories that even a simple retread (which this book definitely isn't) would have been enjoyable, in the same way that the Nth retelling of a Shakespeare play is usually still pretty good based on the sheer strength of the original material.

To the first point, where Mason's work is most effective in my mind is in bringing out the melancholy of the Odyssey, which while on one level is one of, if not the greatest adventure stories ever told, on another level is the story of a guy who's been kept away from his home for 20 years and has had his entire crew killed, ships sank, and treasure lost thanks to the whims of the implacable and capricious gods. Many of the stories have a dreamlike quality to them, as the various iterations of Odysseus come to terms with the bleak and lonely nature of their wandering. Odysseus is alternately brave, clever, cowardly, loyal, duplicitous, and many other qualities in the stories, which you could label post-modern if you were so inclined.

To the second point, each time Mason makes use of the settings of the real-life Odyssey in these stories, his own literary flair helps deepen and enrich what by all rights should be an impossibly over-exposed store of material. Even if you somehow have never read the Odyssey, its images have become iconic, and in these alternative takes on the material Mason always evokes the spirit of the original. Here are some of the stories that stood out to me:

- Agamemnon and the Word. Agamemnon commands that the "negative image of a palace" be dug in the sand outside Troy so that during the interminable siege he can descend into a very Borgesian madness of demanding that his wise men deliver the knowledge of the world to him encoded into a single word.
- Fugitive. The war has been won, but after seemingly drowning Odysseus discovers that it has truly only begun, and after discovering a copy of "a book called the Iliad" learns that he's merely been playing out a part in a war that the gods have already documented.
- The Iliad of Odysseus. Odysseus, a coward who deserted the battle when it appeared the Trojans had routed the Greeks, begins a new life as a traveling bard, where he invented the now-familiar stories of his own journeys, until he is able to finally reach home and listen to his own fictions with satisfaction.
- Odysseus In Hell. A man is forced to walk an infinite tightrope as punishment for his mortal crimes, until we learn at the conclusion that this has been the Sisyphus/Tantalus-esque fate of a man once known as Odysseus.
- The Long Way Back. A retelling of the story of Theseus and the minotaur, where a seemingly successful and happy marriage of Thesus to Ariadne is revealed to be a dream; we learn that one of Ariadne's names after being marooned on her island was Calypso.
- Record of a Game. Chatarang, an Indian progenitor of what we know as chess, is contrasted philosophically with the Greek version; the Iliad is really an elaborate dramatization of the rules of Greek chess, while the Odyssey is a parody of a chess manual, with Odysseus himself one of the few remaining pieces after an especially costly game.

A full comparison of this book to Ulysses, an obvious point of reference, is beyond me, but the use of multiple perspectives here will remind you somewhat of James Joyce's work, though there's far fewer overt literary techniques and much less of a sense of someone trying to blow the reader away. Mason is quiet, understated, and precise - he's created a really enjoyable book that makes you appreciate the original while still being rewarding on its own. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
If you've ever been in a shop and come across a brand of snack or box of chocolate that you enjoyed as a kid but haven't thought about in years, and then bought them and gorged on them and realised they are every bit as good as you remember, then you might understand, if you forgive the strangeness of the analogy, how I felt when I read Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of the Odyssey. As someone who loves Greek mythology, but who had neglected to read any for a long while, Mason's book was for me a smorgasbord of treats.

Curiously described by some as a 'novel', Mason's book is a collection of short stories, varying in length from a few paragraphs to about ten pages, that expand, subvert, provoke and play with the stories of Greek mythology. Focusing, as the title suggests, on alternate takes on Homer's Odyssey, Mason's book also adopts elements of the Iliad and provides truly entertaining, inventive and original stories in the very welcome tradition of Jorge Luis Borges. In one story, Odysseus returns home to find Penelope married, and determines this Ithaca a false one, a trick by the gods, for his Penelope would never lose faith. In another, he arrives to find Penelope dead and follows her to the underworld. In one, Odysseus is a coward who flees the battlefield of Troy and roams the land as a storyteller, becoming the semi-mythic Homer who tells the story of the wily and courageous Odysseus. In another, a clever appropriation of the Cyclops story, it is Polyphemus who becomes Homer: a man is blinded by a ship's captain who enters his cave, and goes on to make his living as a blind storyteller inventing all sorts of vengeful trials – storms, witches, sea monsters – that he wishes the ship captain to endure. In another, perhaps the most exquisitely Borgesian, the Odyssey and the Iliad begin as manuals of chess that are sublimated into their current Homeric form.

There are forty-four such stories in Mason's book, and each one is a treat. Homer's Odyssey is the original Hero's Journey, one of the most influential stories of human civilization, and ripe with allegorical possibilities – and, in The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason has proved worthy of it. The stories are well-written, with a deceptively simple Homeric sobriety, touching on both major mechanics and minor details of the Greek original. Some readers might not see the appeal, as Mason's stories cannot survive much as stories without the reader's foreknowledge of the classics, but their fragility only makes them more cherishable for those of us who are able to appreciate them. ( )
1 vota MikeFutcher | Jul 31, 2020 |
This collection of vignettes (not "a novel") riffing on episodes from the Iliad and the Odyssey didn't get off to a good start with me owing to its exaggerated blurbs (no, I don't know a single thing more about mathematics, or chronology, or epistemology, than I did when I began it) and the author's preferatory malarkey about finding some scrolls in an African archive . The book does have one considerable strength, though, e.g., the author's ability to construct powerful prose poems using imagery which is often magnificent and always imaginative. I'm not extremely familiar with the material he's drawing on, but it wouldn't surprise me if purists are taken aback by some of his odd interpretations of these tales; this amounts to a sort of "Fractured Fairy Tales" take on the legends. ( )
  Big_Bang_Gorilla | Jul 21, 2020 |
if you know the Odyssey and the classics well this is EXTREMELY funny. ( )
  aabtzu | May 18, 2020 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 35 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Yet in The Lost Books of the Odyssey, Zachary Mason has achieved something remarkable. He's written a first novel that is not just vibrantly original but also an insightful commentary on Homer's epic and its lasting hold on our imagination.
afegit per jlelliott | editaSlate, John Swansberg (Feb 18, 2010)
 
"Mr. Mason's clean and engaging prose ensures that his variations on the Odyssey never feel like sterile experiments."
 
In “The Lost Books of the Odyssey” Mr. Mason — who is identified on the book jacket as a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence, as well as a finalist for the 2009 New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, given to writers under 35 — has written a series of jazzy, post-modernist variations on “The Odyssey,” and in doing so he’s created an ingeniously Borgesian novel that’s witty, playful, moving and tirelessly inventive.
 
This is, to my surprise, a wonderful book. I had expected it to be rather preening, and probably thin. But it is intelligent, absorbing, wonderfully written, and perhaps the most revelatory and brilliant prose encounter with Homer since James Joyce.
 

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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Zachary Masonautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Lai, Chin-YeeDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Odysseus comes back to Ithaca in a little boat on a clear day.
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A brilliant and beguiling reimagining of Homer's classic story about the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy.

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