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Ransom: A Novel by David Malouf

Ransom: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2010)

by David Malouf, Brian Barth (Cover designer)

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4673022,172 (4.21)48
Title:Ransom: A Novel
Authors:David Malouf (Author)
Other authors:Brian Barth (Cover designer)
Info:Pantheon (2010), Edition: 1st/4th?; Hardcover; 224pp
Collections:Your library, Read, To read, reviewed
Tags:achilles, priam, iliad, troy, fiction, novel, read, greeks, mythology, reviewed

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Ransom by David Malouf (2009)


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Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
While Ransom is a retelling of Homer’s Iliad, this doesn’t mean this is just a bite-sized simplification of the epic poem. I will admit that I’ve not read Iliad or The Odyssey by Homer; for some reason I’m scared to do so, even though I’ve managed epic poems that some may consider hard to read (The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost). I’ve heard it said that you don’t really need to read Iliad to enjoy Ransom but I would have to disagree, I think David Malouf’s novel is inviting the reader to look at the poem in the way he interprets it. There are gaps that Malouf expects the reader to know and understand and without any prior knowledge to The Iliad and the war on Troy they can feel lost and confused.

Ransom starts at the point where Priam’s son Hector is slayed by Achilles and mainly focuses on the two characters. I’m not sure about Iliad and I’m not going to speculate on what Homer was trying to say in the poem but I will look at what Malouf is saying. Ransom is a novel on human grief, love and even revenue in an intimate and rather tender approach to the subject matter. The emphasis is on the human emotions behind the story that plays out during the Trojan War. Although the novel explores the emotions of both Achilles and Priam, not really caring about any of the other characters so we only really get to experience the ideas of grief and revenge.

The main point on reading this novel was to explore the idea of intertextuality or the relationship between two interconnecting pieces of text. While I can’t say I’ve had much experience with intertextuality, the only novel that springs to mind is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay; I suspect there is a little interconnectivity in all novels. Intertextuality covers everything from modernisations, parodies, reimaginings and anything that borrows from a different text.

This often makes me wonder, at what point do we stop studying intertextuality and more a look at plagiarism? The concept of intertextuality and plagiarism feels like a very thin line. Ransom for example is a retelling of Iliad where David Malouf wants the reader to explore this classic poem the way he sees it. This is his interpretation of what he feels Homer was trying to say. Doesn’t mean it is the only interpretation, Malouf is just taking his ideas and exploring it further.

One day I will get around to reading Iliad and The Odyssey; I’m saving them for when I have some time to read critically and take the time to full understand the two epic poems. Once I’ve done that, I think I might revisit Ransom, see if I get something out of it. I did enjoy Malouf’s style and it was an interesting novel to read but I really need to read the original first.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/05/08/ransom-by-david-malouf/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 6, 2014 |
This slender novel retells and reimagines portions of The Iliad in spare, lean, very poetic prose. It briefly covers the story of Achilles, Patroclus, and Hector -- including hints of the backstory. But the focus of the book, as featured in its title, is King Priam traveling to Achilles' camp to beg for the body of his son Hector in exchange for a generous ransom.

David Malouf inhabits and expands on the psychology of Priam as he experiences grief, exerts his independence in a way he never had as king, bonds with a "simple carter" named Somax, pleads with Achilles and returns with the body. The passages on not knowing his sons -- he believes there are fifty princes who are his sons but is not sure -- contrasted with his pain at Hector's death are very moving.

Ransom was one of the best novels to make barely if any "Best of 2010" lists. Even better in that category is The Lost Books of Odyssey by Zachary Mason. ( )
1 vote nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Quite simply lovely. Again, I'm floored by David Malouf. In this case he brings his delicious light touch to the retelling of one episode from the Iliad, intimately exploring the lives and emotions of individuals (Priam, Hecate, Achilles etc) who were previously rather remote from our everyday world, inhabiting distant, mythic past. The text shines a gentle light upon the heart and mind of each character and they are made suddenly flesh and blood, brought within seemingly touching distance by Malouf's wonderful insight and his succinct, direct and touching writing style. ( )
  Vivl | Feb 9, 2014 |
Amazon summary: Revisiting scenes from The Iliad and delving into the hearts of two ancient heroes, Malouf (Remembering Babylon) evokes the final days of the Trojan War with cinematic vividness. After Achilles withdraws his forces from combat, a move that cripples the Greek army, his best friend, Patroclus, persuades Achilles to let him take the Myrmidons back into combat and to wear Achilles' armor. After Trojan king Priam's beloved son, Hector, kills Patroclus, guilt, rage and grief drives Achilles on a frenzied quest for revenge that sees him slay Hector and then tie Hector's corpse to his chariot and drag it around the besieged city. Priam, desperate to stop the desecration, decides to visit the enemy camp and offer money in exchange for Hector's body. He hires a humble cart driver and, aided by Hermes, they set out on a journey that takes Priam into the unknown and toward a meeting with Achilles. ( )
  dalzan | Oct 29, 2013 |
Recommended by Anne Baron, Madeline Miller
  JennyArch | Apr 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
That this tender novel lingers so long and hauntingly in the mind is a testament both to Malouf’s poetry and to his reverence for the endless power of myth.
added by bongiovi | editNew York Times, STEVE COATES (Jan 22, 2010)

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A tale of suffering, sorrow, and redemption, "Ransom" is a retelling of one of the most famous stories in all of literature--Achilles's slaughter and desecration of Hector, and Priam's attempt to ransom his son's body in Homer's "The Iliad."

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