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A remarkable hybrid of translation, adaptation, and invention Picture the east Aegean sea by night, And on a beach aslant its shimmering Upwards of 50,000 men Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet. “Your life at every instant up for— / Gone. / And, candidly, who gives a toss? / Your heart beats strong. Your spirit grips,” writes Christopher Logue in his original versio A remarkable hybrid of translation, adaptation, and invention Picture the east Aegean sea by night, And on a beach aslant its shimmering Upwards of 50,000 men Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet. “Your life at every instant up for— / Gone. / And, candidly, who gives a toss? / Your heart beats strong. Your spirit grips,” writes Christopher Logue in his original version of Homer’s Iliad, the uncanny “translation of translations” that won ecstatic and unparalleled acclaim as “the best translation of Homer since Pope’s” (The New York Review of Books). Logue’s account of Homer’s Iliad is a radical reimagining and reconfiguration of Homer’s tale of warfare, human folly, and the power of the gods in language and verse that is emphatically modern and “possessed of a very terrible beauty” (Slate). Illness prevented him from bringing his version of the Iliad to completion, but enough survives in notebooks and letters to assemble a compilation that includes the previously published volumes War Music, Kings, The Husbands, All Day Permanent Red, and Cold Calls, along with previously unpublished material, in one final illuminating volume arranged by his friend and fellow poet Christopher Reid. The result, War Music, comes as near as possible to representing the poet’s complete vision and confirms what his admirers have long known: that “Logue’s Homer is likely to endure as one of the great long poems of the twentieth century” (The Times Literary Supplement).


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A remarkable hybrid of translation, adaptation, and invention Picture the east Aegean sea by night, And on a beach aslant its shimmering Upwards of 50,000 men Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet. “Your life at every instant up for— / Gone. / And, candidly, who gives a toss? / Your heart beats strong. Your spirit grips,” writes Christopher Logue in his original versio A remarkable hybrid of translation, adaptation, and invention Picture the east Aegean sea by night, And on a beach aslant its shimmering Upwards of 50,000 men Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet. “Your life at every instant up for— / Gone. / And, candidly, who gives a toss? / Your heart beats strong. Your spirit grips,” writes Christopher Logue in his original version of Homer’s Iliad, the uncanny “translation of translations” that won ecstatic and unparalleled acclaim as “the best translation of Homer since Pope’s” (The New York Review of Books). Logue’s account of Homer’s Iliad is a radical reimagining and reconfiguration of Homer’s tale of warfare, human folly, and the power of the gods in language and verse that is emphatically modern and “possessed of a very terrible beauty” (Slate). Illness prevented him from bringing his version of the Iliad to completion, but enough survives in notebooks and letters to assemble a compilation that includes the previously published volumes War Music, Kings, The Husbands, All Day Permanent Red, and Cold Calls, along with previously unpublished material, in one final illuminating volume arranged by his friend and fellow poet Christopher Reid. The result, War Music, comes as near as possible to representing the poet’s complete vision and confirms what his admirers have long known: that “Logue’s Homer is likely to endure as one of the great long poems of the twentieth century” (The Times Literary Supplement).

30 review for War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad

  1. 5 out of 5

    lark benobi

    I've thought this same thought about many books in 2016--what a great reading year!--but War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad is one of the great works I've read over the last 12 months, really magnificent and magical, not a translation of Homer on any level and yet not quite an adaptation either because it feels like it gets to the visceral center of what Homer is about. The scenes are not analogous to a translation--for example instead of beginning with the famous line invoking the muse to s I've thought this same thought about many books in 2016--what a great reading year!--but War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad is one of the great works I've read over the last 12 months, really magnificent and magical, not a translation of Homer on any level and yet not quite an adaptation either because it feels like it gets to the visceral center of what Homer is about. The scenes are not analogous to a translation--for example instead of beginning with the famous line invoking the muse to sing of Achilles's rage, it opens instead this way: Picture the east Aegean sea by night, And on a beach aslant its shimmering Upwards of 50,000 men Asleep like spoons beside their lethal fleet. And on and on, a completely different poem about the same conflicts and characters--to borrow a word from these first lines, "aslant" with new perspectives and new meanings. The power of the poetry is heart-striking on every page and in this way it rises above translation in its expressiveness in English. Remarkable in so many ways. I do think it requires a strong familiarity with the original poem to access, though, because it's in the interstitial differences from the original that a lot of its meanings germinate.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tamara Agha-Jaffar

    Christopher Logue’s War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad is more of a re-imagining than a re-telling. Logue writes a version of the Iliad with many of the same characters and conflicts. But he uses the original poem as a skeleton which he fleshes out by stamping his unique mark on it. He deviates from the original; injects personal commentary; inserts references to post-Homeric historical events, including World War II; and endows his characters with a surprisingly modern diction and attitude. Christopher Logue’s War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad is more of a re-imagining than a re-telling. Logue writes a version of the Iliad with many of the same characters and conflicts. But he uses the original poem as a skeleton which he fleshes out by stamping his unique mark on it. He deviates from the original; injects personal commentary; inserts references to post-Homeric historical events, including World War II; and endows his characters with a surprisingly modern diction and attitude. Logue tells his story through some dazzling lines of poetry. He is liberal in his use of fragments, exclamations, repetitions, commands, rhetorical questions, and lines that sizzle and dance. Combat scenes are particularly effective in capturing the intensity of the battle with lines that clip at a rapid pace. He engages his reader by directly addressing him/her as “you” and ordering “you” to shout, to go left, etc. etc. At one point, he tells us of the “Uzi shuddering warm against your hip.” His use of present tense heightens the sense of immediacy and immerses the reader in the events of the poem. Logue peppers his lines with humor and interesting word choice. A female is “a she”. Athena reminding Zeus about the Trojans’ violation of their oath is described with the following words: Picking a cotton from his sleeve, “Pa-pa,’ Athena said: This is not fairyland. The Trojans swore an oath To which You put Your voice.’ ‘I did not.’ ‘Father, You did. All Heaven heard You. Ask the Sea.’ ‘I definitely did not.’ ‘Did-did-did-did—and no returns.’ Aphrodite appears dressed in grey silk pajamas with gold piping and “snakeskin flip-flops.” She is referred to later as “The God of Tops and Thongs.” In particularly colorful language, she (Love) reminds Zeus and us why Hera hates the Trojans: ‘Stuff Greece,’ Love said. ‘Your blubber-bummed wife with her gobstopper nipples Cannot stand Troy because Troy’s Paris put her last When we stripped off for him.’ Although Christopher Logue did not live long enough to complete this work, what he left us with is a stunning feat of the imagination wrapped in a poem that delights and amazes. The story is Homer’s, but the telling of it is Logue’s. And what a brilliant telling it is! Very highly recommended.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Rather surprisingly, not over-rated, and easily the best book of poetry I've read for some time. I find myself with very little to say, except that it's a wonderful lesson in how to combine the elliptical and the complex with psychology and plot.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    This is a single volume collection of the late Christopher Logue's poetic interpretation of Homer's Iliad and it is nothing short of just brilliant! This collection of poetry is well worth reading on an almost annual basis, and I'm saddened to to realize that Logue's poetic voice has been silenced upon his death in late-2011. I will always treasure my collection of his 'Iliad' poetry, including War Music, Cold Calls, and All Day Permanent Red.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Grace Kao

    This is so heartbreakingly good. This might be the best literary experience I've had in at least a year. I can't read the Patrocleia & GBH (books 16 - 18, or "the part where Patroclus dies and then Achilles has to hear about it") without crying. I remember reading the Iliad for the first time in college (Lombardo) and being engrossed, hearing the clash of spear on shield, feeling the rage coursing down through the centuries. Other translations (Fagles, Fitzgerald, Lattimore) to me felt dead, sti This is so heartbreakingly good. This might be the best literary experience I've had in at least a year. I can't read the Patrocleia & GBH (books 16 - 18, or "the part where Patroclus dies and then Achilles has to hear about it") without crying. I remember reading the Iliad for the first time in college (Lombardo) and being engrossed, hearing the clash of spear on shield, feeling the rage coursing down through the centuries. Other translations (Fagles, Fitzgerald, Lattimore) to me felt dead, stiff. The rage, the tragedy, the sheer violence - none of that was recalled to me until reading War Music. Logue did not attempt a translation here, and I'm glad he didn't (new translations of the Iliad seem to be trending something fierce right now). In fact, Logue did not know a word of Greek. Instead, he sat around and gathered all the different translations around him, and from that heap of broken images, he created something wonderful and glittering in its own right. (Logue has acknowledged his debt to Eliot and Pound.) This is a poetic achievement, and it works precisely because it knocks about your head and rattles loose all the bits of mythic knowledge you've managed to sop up over the years. Read for the images alone. Buzzing in your brain as you thrum along underground, the lights of the subway flickering, and your mind a thousand thousand years away. *** Quotes/descriptions/words that fall in just the right order to make my breath go just a little shallow with delight: "Low ceiling. Sticky air. Our stillness like the stillness in Atlantis when the big wave came, The brim-full basins of abandoned docks, Or Christmas morning by the sea." (18) "'Well then, my Lord, You change the terms, I change the tense. Let is be was.'" (21) "You are part dust, part deity." (31) "Dawn stepped barefooted from her lover's bed." (64) "We flowed Back through the ships, and lifted them; Our dust, our tide; and lifted them; our tide; Hulls dipping left; now right; our backs, our sea; Our masts like flickering indicators now; Knees high; 'Now lift...' knocked props; 'Now lift again...' And our relief, our sky; our liberty; As each enjoyed his favorite thoughts; his plans And to a Trojan watcher we appeared Like a dinghy club, now moored on mud; Now upright on bright water; and now gone." (70-71) (And as you read, your mind bobs up and down the rhythm of the words like a boat cresting waves.) "To the sigh of the string, see Panda's shot float off; To the slap of the string on the stave, float on Over the strip for a beat, a beat; and then Carry a tunnel the width of a lipstick through Quist's neck." (144) "Drop into it. Noise so clamorous it sucks. You rush your pressed-flower hackles out To the perimeter. And here it comes: That unpremeditated joy as you - The Uzi shuddering warm against your hip Happy in danger in a dangerous place Yourself another self you found at Troy - Squeeze nickel through that rush of Greekoid scum! Oh wonderful, most wonderful, and then again more wonderful A bond no word or lack of words can break, Love above love! And here they come again the noble Greeks, Ido, a spear in one a banner in his other hand Your life at every instant up for - Gone. And, candidly, who gives a toss? Your heart beats strong. Your spirit grips." (167) "Picture a yacht Canting at speed Over ripple-ribbed sand. Change its mast to a man, Change its boom to a bow, Change its sail to a shield: Notice Merionez Breasting the whalebacks to picket the corpse of Patroclus." (253) "His feet go backwards, treading on the dead / That sigh and ooze like moss" (262)

  6. 5 out of 5

    World Literature Today

    "Christopher Logue’s recent volume of poetry, War Music, holds Homer’s deft portrait of the Trojan War up to the present’s light. In the preface to his translation of Homer (1791), William Cowper stressed the 'fidelity' the translator owes to the original; however, the object of this fidelity is fluid in the contemporary era. Logue’s War Music is something other than a translation, but neither is it a collage of fragments meant to anchor us to the past; it is truly 'an account' of the source mat "Christopher Logue’s recent volume of poetry, War Music, holds Homer’s deft portrait of the Trojan War up to the present’s light. In the preface to his translation of Homer (1791), William Cowper stressed the 'fidelity' the translator owes to the original; however, the object of this fidelity is fluid in the contemporary era. Logue’s War Music is something other than a translation, but neither is it a collage of fragments meant to anchor us to the past; it is truly 'an account' of the source material." - Greg Brown This book was reviewed in the September/October 2016 issue of World Literature Today magazine. Read the full review by visiting our website: http://www.worldliteraturetoday.org/2...

  7. 5 out of 5

    KL (Cat)

    Best adaptation/translation of the Iliad I've ever read; a work of genius; pure literary art; made me swear aloud repeatedly; may have wiped away a tear or two; etc. etc. etc.

  8. 4 out of 5

    D.A.

    Massive Unfinished Brilliance Ah, Achilles... this might be the closest anyone has come to explaining you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Temple Cone

    It is nightfall in ancient Achaea, and your goat-herding family and neighbors gather near a fire to hear a traveling minstrel sing of the fall of heroes. Or perhaps you are a citizen in the Athenian city-state, listening indoors to the foibles of the gods, so like those of your own aristocracy. Or perhaps you dwell on Leuce Island in the Black Sea, and you long for a paean to menein, a word that means rage and that is reserved for the gods alone, save one mortal, the hero patron of the cult you It is nightfall in ancient Achaea, and your goat-herding family and neighbors gather near a fire to hear a traveling minstrel sing of the fall of heroes. Or perhaps you are a citizen in the Athenian city-state, listening indoors to the foibles of the gods, so like those of your own aristocracy. Or perhaps you dwell on Leuce Island in the Black Sea, and you long for a paean to menein, a word that means rage and that is reserved for the gods alone, save one mortal, the hero patron of the cult you worship, Achilles. But always you expect the minstrel to sing of that distant city: Troy. Then comes a minstrel who tells the old stories like you’ve never heard them told before, in a language more like your own, but radically so, whether evoking the rapture of combat: And here it comes: That unpremeditated joy as you — The Uzi shuddering warm against your hip Happy in danger in a dangerous place Yourself another self you found at Troy— Squeeze nickel through that rush of Greekoid scum! the sensual thrill of being possessed by a god: At Hera’s nod Athena stood beside Odysseus And ran her finger down his spine. Aoi!—see him move… or the sardonic despair in Odysseus’ message to Achilles, appealing for his aid and sending news of the death of Patroclus: Antilochos, Run to the Fleet. Give Wondersulk our news. His love is dead. His armour gone. Prince Hector has the corpse. And as an afterthought, That we are lost. You look at the minstrel and see a messy-haired man whose life has led him many places, including Palestine, where he served in the Black Watch, and Israel, where he was court-martialed and served 16 months in prison for fraud. A man whose jobs have included acting in films by Terry Gilliam and authoring a pornographic novel. A man who fills his language with the vocabulary of screenplays, as when, following Achilles’ declaration that he will fight no more, we get: “Silence. // Reverse the shot. // Go close.” A man who does not even know Greek, but whose ear for its music is more perfectly tuned than any translator’s, as in the description of Zeus’ rites for his slain son, Sarpedon: And God turned to Apollo, saying: ‘Mousegod, take My Sarpedon out of range And clarify his wounds with mountain water. Moisten his body with tinctures of white myrrh And violet iodine; and when these chrisms are dry Fold him in miniver that never wears And lints that never fade, And call My two blind footmen, Sleep and Death, To carry him to Lycia by Taurus, Where, playing stone chimes and tambourines, The Lycians will consecrate his death, Before whose memory the stones shall fade. A modern reader would be no less astounded by Christopher Logue’s War Music: An Account of the Iliad than would those ancient Greek audiences. It is one of the most important works of literature of our time, a loose translation of the Iliad that Logue began in 1959 and published piecemeal in a number of different editions (Kings, The Husbands, All Day Permanent Red, Cold Calls, War Music, and the planned but incomplete Big Men Falling a Long Way, which the editor Christopher Reid has carefully reconstructed from the manuscripts and notes Logue left at his death in 2011). Logue fractures the traditional, stately narration of translators like Richard Lattimore and Robert Fagles, favoring an accretion of intense lyric moments, made accessible yet uncanny with allusions to English poetry and inventive anachronisms (a device Homer himself uses, most often when referring to styles of armaments that pre-Homeric warriors could not have possessed), as in this simile for the clash of armies: Think of the moment when far from the land Molested by a mile-a-minute wind The ocean starts to roll, then rear, then roar Over itself in rank on rank of waves Their sides so steep their smoky crests so high 300,000 plunging tons of aircraft carrier Dare not sport its beam. Lacking lengthy narrative explication, Logue packs his lines with information (“Be advised, / If you cannot give death the two-finger-flip / Do not fight by or against Queen Hera’s human / The son to Tydéus murderous Diomed aka The Child”) and intensifies the emotions by ventriloquizing, sometimes speaking as an anonymous Trojan or Greek, sometimes as a whole army, and sometimes inserting himself into the poem (much as the blind bard Demodocus, who sings the Phaeacians in the Odyssey, was long thought a stand-in for Homer), as when he describes the voices of a Trojan council: Their voices rising through the still, sweet air As once, as tourists, my friends and I Smoked as we watched The people of the town of Skopje Stroll back and forth across their fountained square, Safe in their murmur on our balcony At dusk, not long before an earthquake tipped Themselves and their society aside. And Logue modernizes the narration of the Iliad with cinematic directions, often jump-cutting between close-ups of the men and panoramic views of the Trojan plain, the city, and the mountains beyond: The ridge. King Agamemnon views Troy’s skyline. Windmills. Palms. ‘It will be ours by dark.’ His depictions of divine power are rendered with a hip irony that makes the gods more mortal than the mortals in their whims and anger. Consider the scene when Menelaus, fighting in winner-takes-all single combat against Paris, breaks his sword, and in the pause Aphrodite intervenes to save Paris: A hundred of us pitch our sword to him… Yet even as they flew, their blades Changed into wings, their pommels into heads, Their hilts to feathered chests, and what were swords Were turned to doves, a swirl of doves, And waltzing out of it, in oyster silk, Running her tongue around her strawberry lips While repositioning a spaghetti shoulder-strap, The Queen of Love, Our Lady Aphrodite. (Casting possibilities: Kate Upton, Anita Ekberg.) Logue never lets us forget that the gods are ever-present in our lives: “Dawn stepped barefooted from her lover’s bed / And shared her beauty with the gods, / Who are as then; and with ourselves, as now.” In contrast with the slow-motion scenes of divine activity, the battle scenes might well have been filmed by Sam Peckinpah: lurid, quick-paced, and intense, they draw out the profound violence of Homer’s poem and reset it in a contemporary idiom. We see it in Diomedes’ divinely inspired war rage: Her power [Hera] surging through him, he Cast as leapt at them; barbecued three; Crashed through their coffin-tops’ Gaffed his plume dead; cut fillets out of those; His masks behind him through the gap Him making for the rise topped by Prince Hector’s vulture plume. and we hear it in the noise of battle: “And dear my God, the noise! / As if the hides from which 10,000 shields were made / Came back to life and bellowed all at once.” Logue hyperbolizes the grotesquerie of battle with images of horrifying brutality, like the mounting of Nyro’s bell-braided head atop a spear in a parody of the jester’s marotte, and with one-liners worthy of a 1980s Schwarzenegger film, as when the trumpeter Teléspiax takes an arrow to the head that was meant for Hector and says, “My Prince, your trumpeter has lost his breath,” or when Aphrodite complains to Zeus about the wound she received from Diomedes: “Human strikes God! Communism! The end of everything!” If such moments risk drifting into farce, Logue rights them with piercing insights about the combat experience: [T]he battle has as battles do Found its own voice, that, presently far off Blends with the sound of clear bright water as it falls Over their covert’s mossy heights. and with meditations on war Stephen Crane might have written, bleak realist poems: Moments like these absolve the needs dividing men. Whatever caught and brought and kept them here Is lost: and for a while they join a terrible equality, Are virtuous, self-sacrificing, free: And so insidious is this liberty That those surviving it will bear An even greater servitude to its root: Believing they were whole, while they were brave, That they were rich, because their loot was great; That war was meaningful, because they lost their friends. But you and your fellow Greek audience have come to hear the minstrel sing not of war in general, but of the war at Troy, and of the fall of its heroes: Agamemnon, Priam, Hector, Patroclus, Achilles. The stories, like the men’s fates, are already known, and Logue does not tamper with them, allowing us to experience Agamemnon’s egomaniacal stupidity, Ajax’s single-minded devotion to his men, Helen’s brave but ultimately hopeless defiance of Aphrodite. But in the heroes’ speeches, Logue shifts to a loose blank verse that intensifies the pathos of “big men falling a long way,” as Logue defines tragedy. It is there in Patroclus’ dying words to Hector, which remind us that when men kill each other in war, they are also killing themselves: I can hear Death pronounce my name, and yet Somehow it sounds like Hector. And as I close my eyes I see Achilles’ face With Death’s voice coming out of it. Logue forces us to grieve with Achilles over this loss, and the intense physicality of Achilles’ misery strikes us again and again with Logue’s skillful repetitions and his direct commands: Down on your knees, Achilles. Further down. Now forward on your hands and thrust your face into the filth, Push filth into your open eyes, and howling, howling, Sprawled howling, howling in the filth, Ripping out locks of your long redcurrant-coloured hair, Trowel up its dogshit with your mouth. And Logue captures the sheer hatred fueling Achilles’ revenge when he depicts him staring at the divinely-forged armor his mother, the Nereid Thetis, has brought him: “Slitting his eyes against the flare, some said, / But others thought the hatred shuttered by his lids / Made him protect the metal.” Logue’s death in 2011 left War Music unfinished, and some scenes that readers of Homer most appreciate and use to judge the translator’s art are missing, including the warm family interaction between Hector, his wife Andromache, and their infant son Astyanax (who ultimately will be thrown from the ramparts by Achilles’ son Neoptolemus, his mother taken as Neoptolemus’ slave); Achilles’s defiant address to Hector, when he tells him “There can be no covenants between lions and men”; and the culminating fight, when Achilles slays Hector and seals his own fate. But in the section titled Big Men Falling a Long Way, editor Christopher Reid gives us tantalizing glimpses of Logue at work. Reid provides, for example, Logue’s “Poss. Sims,” extended similes he could deploy at appropriate moments in the poem (just as the ancient Homeric poets would have done in their oral performances), as well as several scenes in various stages of development, the most important of which is Achilles’ encounter with Priam, when the Trojan King sneaks into the Greek camp to beg for the corpse of his son Hector. Logue weaves the plaintive plea of Priam’s speech into the narration, muting its drama, perhaps, but deepening its power: Beside these steps they parked King Priam’s litter, Where, but above him, lord Achilles, waiting, let The old king get himself up out of it Onto the stage, and, kneeling, kiss his hands: The hands that killed his son. Logue’s death also prevented him from composing the famous description of Achilles’ shield. But Reid supplies us with Logue’s tantalizing note, in which he described his plans: “Homer describes the creation in Heaven of a new shield […] The new shield’s face is covered with designs that show the world as Homer knew it. This passage will be extended. The pictures on the shield will reflect our world.” No minstrel would ever tell the whole Iliad in one sitting, and so Logue’s abrupt departure connects us once more with those ancient audiences. We will never have the vision of a shield reflecting Achilles’ world and ours. But in another way, we do have it, we have Logue’s War Music, and by staring into its unfinished yet gleaming surface, we glimpse past, present, and future at once. Like Achilles with his armor, we can stare into “the holy tungsten like a star.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alan Teder

    "Who says prayer does no good?*", but Buyer Beware. Review of the Blackstone Publishing audiobook edition (Nov 2019) of the Faber & Faber hardcover War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad (Nov 2015) It is great to cheer for an audio edition of Christopher Logue's (23 November 1926 – 2 December 2011) magnum opus modernist version of The Iliad which brings the new poem back to the oral tradition of its inspiration. It is not so great that despite Audible's promo advertising, which states that it incl "Who says prayer does no good?*", but Buyer Beware. Review of the Blackstone Publishing audiobook edition (Nov 2019) of the Faber & Faber hardcover War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad (Nov 2015) It is great to cheer for an audio edition of Christopher Logue's (23 November 1926 – 2 December 2011) magnum opus modernist version of The Iliad which brings the new poem back to the oral tradition of its inspiration. It is not so great that despite Audible's promo advertising, which states that it includes "previously unpublished material," the audiobook actually does not include the 2015's hardcover's Appendix "Great Men Falling a Long Way" which were the 30 pages of unpublished work that could be reconstructed after Logue's passing. Nor does it include the 4 page Editor's Note that explains the unpublished material. The poem as recorded ends with the final line of Pax, Logue's account of Book 19 of The Iliad: Someone has left a spear stuck in the sand. which is still a good valedictory image of forlorn desolation to end on. So this audio edition of War Music includes the narrated versions of: 1. Kings: An Account of Books 1 and 2 of Homer's Iliad (2001) 2. The Husbands: An Account of Books III and IV of Homer's Iliad (2001) 3. All Day Permanent Red: An Account of the First Battle Scenes of Homer's Iliad (2003) (Books 5 and 6 of Homer) 4. Cold Calls: War Music Continued (Books 7 to 9 of Homer) (2005) 5. War Music: An Account of Books 16** to 19 of Homer's Iliad (1981) and it is missing the fragments which, if completed, would have been the proposed volume 6 Great Men Falling a Long Way which theoretically would have filled in the missing gaps with Logue's versions of Homer's Books 10-15 and Books 20-24. The performance by veteran narrator Simon Vance was excellent throughout. * A line from All Day Permanent Red (2004). ** The 1981 edition collects earlier published smaller volumes such as Patrocleia of Homer (1963), GBH (Grievous Bodily Harm) and Pax.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Stoner

    The concept of this book is exactly right. It's not a "translation" of the Iliad. It's an "account." Logue doesn't even speak Greek, he just read a ton of English translations. His aim was producing a work that gives the sense of the Iliad, but more importantly stands on its own as English poetry rather than slavishly attempting to transliterate each line of Homer's Greek. The latter approach almost invariably results in a product that may give some sense of Homer, but is not really recognizable The concept of this book is exactly right. It's not a "translation" of the Iliad. It's an "account." Logue doesn't even speak Greek, he just read a ton of English translations. His aim was producing a work that gives the sense of the Iliad, but more importantly stands on its own as English poetry rather than slavishly attempting to transliterate each line of Homer's Greek. The latter approach almost invariably results in a product that may give some sense of Homer, but is not really recognizable as poetry. Alexander Pope's treatment of the Iliad in rhyming iambic pentameter couplets is along these lines--a translation that is a true masterpiece of English poetry in its own right. It is amazing. Logue's attempt to do the same in a modernist style is, for me, much less successful. Modernist poetry just doesn't stand up as well to verse after verse about combat. Logue's style doesn't capture the seriousness of the events or the earnestness of the account. It comes off as a bit ... sardonic and verging on parody. But you're not supposed to be vaguely chuckling at Achilles, and any charm wears off very fast. Also the cover (bright red with an Apache attack helicopter) is truly awful.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Arnold

    The cover calls it a "reimagining" of The Iliad as opposed to a straight retranslation; thus all the non-Greek names, extreme recharacterizations, and anachronistic references to Napoleon and nuclear weapons, etc. It can also be seen as more of an Ezra Pound-style Modernist poem that happens to be composed of material from The Iliad, but either way it's brilliant, one of the most enjoyable Iliad-derived works I've read in a long time. Forget that Logue didn't fully complete it before he died, or The cover calls it a "reimagining" of The Iliad as opposed to a straight retranslation; thus all the non-Greek names, extreme recharacterizations, and anachronistic references to Napoleon and nuclear weapons, etc. It can also be seen as more of an Ezra Pound-style Modernist poem that happens to be composed of material from The Iliad, but either way it's brilliant, one of the most enjoyable Iliad-derived works I've read in a long time. Forget that Logue didn't fully complete it before he died, or that it uses the full Modernist arsenal of poetic tricks instead of a more traditional Homeric style, or that Logue didn't even read Greek and had to rely on secondary works and his own poetic license: this is the freshest look at the Iliad you're likely to read, and you wish that he had been able to finish the whole thing up. Every once in a while, someone gets the idea to retranslate a classic like The Iliad. Sometimes this gets done for accuracy reasons, as our modern knowledge of the ancient language, culture, or setting improves; sometimes it's done merely to keep the language fresh and readable for a contemporary audience; sometimes it's because some hubristic mortal actually believes they've found something new in one of the most studied works on the planet. While I'm sure there are many reasons beyond simple cultural inertia for why The Iliad is still so popular, one reason is that it offers a seemingly inexhaustible mine of great characters, with such strong identities that they've become archetypes. Achilles, the world's mightiest warrior! Helen, the world's most beautiful woman! Odysseus, the world's greatest liar! The lasting popularity of such superlative individuals is no mystery, and I think there's a good paper to be written about how modern superhero comics culture relates back to the enduring affection for Greek mythology. Didn't the Victorians appreciate a good Achilles reference the way we appreciate the equivalent for Batman, the world's greatest detective? Logue even delivers the action in this breathless, pulpy, comic book-ish way. Hector and Achilles slaughter their enemies like video game characters, with close-up cutscenes whenever someone important like Patroclus or Sarpedon gets killed. It's not enough for them to simply die, they get long, loving, blood-soaked passages, reveling in both the cruelty of war, and the extent to which mortals are merely playthings for divine family squabbles. The gods are for the most part petty and puerile, their interactions with Zeus often conveyed as the pleas of small children to an occasionally indulgent father, and their epithets are amazing: Achilles is Wondersulk, Aphrodite is the Lady of Tops and Thongs, Apollo the God of Mice. The central theme of the Iliad - the impotence of men's plans beneath the whims of the gods - is only enhanced by the portrayal of their caprice, as well as in the quick cuts Logue makes between the different characters and even through time, analepsis and prolepsis jammed in right after each other, rearranging and reinterpreting the original material. It really does feel like a modern revision of the story. And the language Logue uses that does even more to heighten that impression. The translation I've spent the most time with is Robert Fagels' Penguin Classics one. It's great, but it's very "traditional" - in other words it tries to strike a balance between the meaning of the original Greek and its rhythm. It's perfectly pleasant on its own, but compare it to a passage from War Music, right before battle is truly joined: "Think of those fields of light that sometimes sheet Low tide sands, and of the panes of such a tide When, carrying the sky, they start to flow Everywhere, and then across themselves. Likewise the Greek bronze streaming out at speed, Glinting among the orchards and the groves, And then across the plain - dust, grass, no grass, Its long low swells and falls - all warwear pearl, Blue Heaven above, Mt Ida's snow behind, Troy in between. And what pleasure it was to be there! To be one of that host! Greek, and as naked as God! naked as bride and groom! Exulting for battle!" Or a conversation between Zeus and Poseidon: "'Brother,' God said, 'your altars smoke on every coast To catch your voice, grave saints in oilskins lean across the waves. Try not to let the humans bother you - My full associate is destiny. Between ourselves' (Leading him out onto the sand) 'I may wind up this war. And then, Pope of the Oceans, with Greece rowing home You will have sacrifices up to here... and as they heave Your train of overhanging crests can sink them pitilessly. But later - when I give the nod.'" Or after the death of Sarpedon: "And God turned to Apollo, saying: 'Mousegod, take My Sarpedon out of range And clarify his wounds with mountain water. Moisten his body with tinctures of white myrrh And violet iodine; and when these chrisms are dry Fold him in miniver that never wears And lints that never fade, And call My two blind footmen, Sleep and Death, To carry him to Lycia by Taurus, Where, playing stone chimes and tambourines, The Lycians will consecrate his death, Before whose memory the stones shall fade.'" I could go on. It's a shame that what could potentially have been the most intriguing section, "Big Men Falling a Long Way", about the battle between Achilles and Hector, is unfinished. However, what Logue has actually done is extraordinary. As a "reimagining", I would rank it up with there with Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of The Odyssey. It made me appreciate the beauty of the original Iliad even more than I already did.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    "And wet its face with tears, and kissed and kissed again, and said: 'My love, I swear you will not burn till Hector's severed head is in my lap.'" Read for my Classics class and I'm so glad it was required. Such a beautiful interpretation of the Iliad. I love Logue's style and his combination of classical prose with a more modern simile. Kinda sad I rented this one from the bookstore because I desperately want my own copy to pour over and annotate.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    An incomplete recreation of the Illiad, brilliantly capturing the spirit of this foundational human text in vivid colloquial English. Enormously enjoyable to see the the classic figures of myth reworked, with Athena a spoiled, precocious child and Ulysses crooked as an elbow. Alas that it's unfinished, and the best bits never made the page. Still worth your time.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    Disjointed. Not at all memorable.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    I'm going to be rereading this for a long time. This is the most complete version of ‘War Music’, Christopher Logue ‘account’ of the Iliad that was unfinished when he died. Although I'd heard great things about it, I avoided 'War Music' for decades, put off by the fact it had Homer and the Iliad in the title. I had read translations of the Iliad but whether in prose or regular verse, reading felt I as though I were discharging an obligation. It was like intellectual weight lifting: good for somet I'm going to be rereading this for a long time. This is the most complete version of ‘War Music’, Christopher Logue ‘account’ of the Iliad that was unfinished when he died. Although I'd heard great things about it, I avoided 'War Music' for decades, put off by the fact it had Homer and the Iliad in the title. I had read translations of the Iliad but whether in prose or regular verse, reading felt I as though I were discharging an obligation. It was like intellectual weight lifting: good for something but not very enjoyable. Then the shock and awe and delight of reading Logue’s version. This is not a ‘translation’, hence ‘an account’. But even unfinished, it may be one of the finest long poems of the twentieth century. This new Hardback edition includes ‘All Day Permanent Red” (books 5-6) and ‘Cold Calls’ (books 7-9) which are missing from the 2001 ‘Logue’s Homer: War Music’ edition, as well as ’Big Men Falling a Long Way’ fragments of what would have been books 10-24. It also includes explanatory notes by the editor Christopher Reid on the fragments and their editing and an expanded section of 'Author's notes'. Logue acknowledged his debt to Eliot: Eliot for inspiration, Pound for instruction, Yeats for pleasure. But amongst the many problems the Modernist poets left to their successors was how to write a long narrative poem. They wrote long poems, but they tended to avoid narrative and so their long poems were often confused and rambling. And since most of them started out as minimalists of one kind or another, the problem of how to provide narrative information without resorting to what must have felt like chopped prose was one they didn’t solve. I think Logue did solve that problem and for that alone this is worth reading. However, it’s also enjoyable story telling. He moves at a pace that is not Homer’s telling a version of Homer’s story. Logue’s story jumps and dazzles. His lines sing. He worked on this from 1959 onwards. The quality is remarkably consistent. There is an irony in the fact that Cold Calls, which won the Whitbread prize for poetry in 2005 as a single volume seems to be the weakest of the books. Anyone who has read parts of this needs this book to see it as a whole. And if you want to see how you solve the problem of applying modernist poetics to narrative, you need to read this book. If you’re interested in the long poem in the twentieth century, you should read this book. If you’re studying Homer, you probably don’t need this book as you’ll be lured into reading Logue and that earnest academic translation of the Iliad your teachers or professors suggested will remain unopened and unread. Otherwise, read this book. It’s like Briggflatts. Unavoidable. Throw in Tom Meyer’s translation of Beowulf and that’s the three books covering long poems for your desert island.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    One of the best books I've read this year.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    This is no mere translation – this is not what Heaney and Tolkien did for Beowulf, or what Garner did for Dostoyevksy. This is an entire re-imagining, the way Ocean’s Eleven or True Grit were re-imagined for the movies, the way The Beatles revolutionized Rock & Roll with their version of Twist and Shout. Sure, the story and characters, the setting and themes, are all still there, but the way it’s told is an entirely new animal. The old text has been tossed aside. The new text goes something like This is no mere translation – this is not what Heaney and Tolkien did for Beowulf, or what Garner did for Dostoyevksy. This is an entire re-imagining, the way Ocean’s Eleven or True Grit were re-imagined for the movies, the way The Beatles revolutionized Rock & Roll with their version of Twist and Shout. Sure, the story and characters, the setting and themes, are all still there, but the way it’s told is an entirely new animal. The old text has been tossed aside. The new text goes something like… Emptying her blood-red mouth set in her ice-white face Teenaged Athena jumped up and shrieked: “Kill! Kill for me! Better to die than to live without killing!” Who says prayer does no good? Thrilling, hair-raising, and funny at the same time – literature doesn’t get better than this. Listen to this description of Achilles… You cannot take your eyes away from him. His own so bright they slow you down. His voice so low, and yet so clear. You know that he is dangerous. Or this sunrise… Dawn stepped barefooted from her lover’s bed And shared her beauty with the gods, Who are as then; and with ourselves, as now. It is filled with purposeful anachronisms, referencing events and places that could never be known to the ancients, but only makes the reading more fun. There are references to Gallipoli, an atomic bomb drop in Bikini, a diary entry from 1908. There are lines like… Hux (Who gave a farm the size of Texas for Cassandra) Or… It was so quiet in Heaven that you could hear The north wind pluck a chicken in Australia. Is it bloody? Sure as hell is, but also riveting and often downright beautiful… The cold bronze apex sank Between his teeth and tongue, parted his brain, Pressed on, and stapled him against the upturned hull. His dead jaw gaped. His soul Crawled off his tongue and vanished into sunlight. I’m especially fond of the death of Patroclus who… Fought like dreaming: His head thrown back, his mouth – wide as a shrieking mask – Sucked at the air to nourish his infuriated mind His death is just as visual as it is poetic – it can’t possibly be transcribed here, but when you get to it, you’ll know. It’s hard to miss and hard to be unimpressed. As violent as the battles are, they are no match for the conniving Gods and Goddesses, the real villains of the story, who go to all lengths to ensure one side destroys the other. Here’s a particularly unsettling backroom deal between Zeus and his family… You know that I am fond of Troy. Its humans have believed in Me, and prayed to Me. For centuries. If I agree to your destroying it, And them, you must agree to My destroying any three Greek cities of My choice – plus their inhabitants. And when I do so, you, remembering Troy, will make no fuss. But it’s funny too. Listen to Aphrodite complain about the ill-mannered Greeks who wounded her wrist… Love: “Father, see this.” (Her wrist) “Human strikes God! Communisim! The end of everything!” At one point, Daddy tells her… “Child, I am God, Please do not bother me with practicalities.” This really is the Raiders of the Lost Ark of epic poems. It’s a thrill-ride – the action, the politics, the passions, and above all, the poetry. My heart breaks because Christopher Logue did not live long enough to finish it. It ends in a cliff-hanger – we know the story of course, but not the way Logue would have told it. It’s like wondering how Kubrick might have directed Shakespeare, or how Beethoven’s tenth symphony would have sounded. We’ll never know, but it probably would’ve been sublime. I have, and will, read this over again and again. I can’t seem to get enough of it. There are so many stunning passages here it’s hard to choose among them – a last bit, picked almost randomly, just because I can’t help myself… You fear disgrace above defeat. Shame before death. And I have heard your bravery praised As many times as I have dried my hands. Be sure of it – as you are sure of me. As both of us are sure Courage can kill as well as cowardice, Glorious warrior.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    I'm not an Illiad scholar, and part of my inability to love this book the way others have may come from my unfamiliarity with all but the key dozen or so characters. Whenever a named character died, I rejoiced: I didn't have to feel bad about not following him anymore. Although Logue didn't complete his treatment of the entire Illiad, the finished contents of the book do tell their own story: that of Achilles' refusal of the call and ultimate return to battle. So don't be put off by the "incomple I'm not an Illiad scholar, and part of my inability to love this book the way others have may come from my unfamiliarity with all but the key dozen or so characters. Whenever a named character died, I rejoiced: I didn't have to feel bad about not following him anymore. Although Logue didn't complete his treatment of the entire Illiad, the finished contents of the book do tell their own story: that of Achilles' refusal of the call and ultimate return to battle. So don't be put off by the "incomplete" nature of the book. In this way, the broad strokes of the plot worked for me. My other highlights: the portrayals of the gods were generally delightful; a lot of the figurative language was entertaining. At one point a warrior had collected arrows in his shield like microphones in front of a politician. I struggled with the tone, and my experience might have been somewhat affected by my expectation of a light, almost parodic or satirical treatment of the subject. This was not the case at all. Well, not in general. The anachronisms and unconventional comparisons and some of the playful language support reading the tone this way, but really, it's generally deadly serious. I guess I'm academically interested in the pursuit of this piece, but less so in the product.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sue Parman

    I love translations and idiosyncratic reinterpretations, the same way I love shouting a single word over and over until it becomes incredibly strange. Somewhere east of David Bellos's book, "Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything," Christopher Logue did a riff on the Iliad, and why not? For those of you poking around in the accumulated heap of myths and old tales in search of something new, I dare you to dive into "War Music" at random. How can you not get blown aw I love translations and idiosyncratic reinterpretations, the same way I love shouting a single word over and over until it becomes incredibly strange. Somewhere east of David Bellos's book, "Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything," Christopher Logue did a riff on the Iliad, and why not? For those of you poking around in the accumulated heap of myths and old tales in search of something new, I dare you to dive into "War Music" at random. How can you not get blown away, for example, by the following lines: It was so quiet in Heaven that you could hear The north wind pluck a chicken in Australia.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Janet Roger

    Christopher Logue’s War Music is a narrative poem itself, not a translation but a reworking of some of the first books of Homer’s Iliad. The writing is fast paced, knife-edge precision and perfection, thrilling in its accounts of hacking, screeching hand-to-hand combat, exquisite in its fixing of the heroes of the Trojan War, the landscapes they maul over and the skies they die beneath. Very heaven is to hear it read in a BBC recording by the greatest Shakespearean of my generation, Alan Howard. Christopher Logue’s War Music is a narrative poem itself, not a translation but a reworking of some of the first books of Homer’s Iliad. The writing is fast paced, knife-edge precision and perfection, thrilling in its accounts of hacking, screeching hand-to-hand combat, exquisite in its fixing of the heroes of the Trojan War, the landscapes they maul over and the skies they die beneath. Very heaven is to hear it read in a BBC recording by the greatest Shakespearean of my generation, Alan Howard. The spine tingles from the very first and never lets up.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    This was interesting, but I'm afraid I couldn't recommend it whole-heartedly, as I am very much not a poetry person. I read this as a companion piece of sorts to the original Iliad, which I finished reading earlier this year (not original as in the original Greek, of course, but a translation). Although I found the character motivations clearer in this version of the story, I can't quite tell if it's because I found Logue's language a little easier to understand, or if it's just because I'm more This was interesting, but I'm afraid I couldn't recommend it whole-heartedly, as I am very much not a poetry person. I read this as a companion piece of sorts to the original Iliad, which I finished reading earlier this year (not original as in the original Greek, of course, but a translation). Although I found the character motivations clearer in this version of the story, I can't quite tell if it's because I found Logue's language a little easier to understand, or if it's just because I'm more familiar with the story after having finished the original.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui Bloomberg

    I would have given this five stars if I thought that everyone could read it without prior knowledge. I found this easier to read aloud, and I loved the rhythm and sounds. The multiple anachronisms and modern allusions can be difficult if you don’t know the original work and modern history, but the emotional toll of the book hit me harder than the original did. It was frustrating to read the additions at the end with interrupting commentary, but I was still happy to have them included.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rob Squires

    A poetic retelling of Homer's Iliad with a modern twist. Probably not a good choice for those first starting to read, or listen to, the Iliad since it seems to assume a basic familiarity with the characters and plot of the great epic. However, those who have read other translations are apt to enjoy this...and I sure did. I appreciated the poetic language and the author's use of modern allusions and turns of phrase.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Manisha Banga

    Absolutely thrillingly irreverent with some of the sharpest writing I've ever read. Logue is clearly deeply informed by antiquity and this account of the Iliad is full of clever details that you might miss on the first read (I certainly did). If you like ancient Greek myth, jarring language, and anachronisms, read this and then read it again.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Reeves

    I can't give this a good review because we have finished reading it for class and we only read sections of this novel. But from what I did read, it was very good and perplexingly hard to understand until we broke it down. But it was good, and eventually I would like to read it without the assignments that went along with the reading.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    Fantastic retelling; incisive, poetic, thoughtful, and I think faithful.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Not bad, just not my taste.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Breathtakingly beautiful and a fascinating re-imagining, really innovative in its anachronistic style, but devastatingly unfinished.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James Chafin

    Not a translation. Not at all but still the best translation of The Iliad...period. Better than Pope

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