Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters
Longlisted for the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 'A thrilling and complex book, enlarges our view of Homer ...There's something that hits the mark on every page' Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New Statesman Where does Homer come from? And why does Homer matter? His epic poems of war and suffering can still speak to us of the role of destiny in life, of cruelty, of humanity and its frailty, but why they do is a mystery. How can we be so intimate with something so distant? 'The Mighty Dead' is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by some of the oldest stories we have - the great ancient poems of Homer and their metaphors of life and trouble. In this provocative and enthralling book, Adam Nicolson explains why Homer still matters and how these vital, epic verses - with their focus on the eternal questions about the individual versus the community, honour and service, love and war - tell us how we became who we are.
'Nicolson's brilliant, passionate, world-wandering love letter to Homer ... his close readings are wonderful and his heady romanticism is far more inspirational than any dry academic exegesis. If the only real test of any book about Homer is that it should make you want to go back to Homer, then 'The Mighty Dead' passes that test in a blaze of glory' Sunday Times 'Nicolson has written the book that was waiting to be written ... a superbly written account of the poems' The Times 'A joy to read' Evening Standard 'A hosanna to Homeric wandering and wanderlust ... breathes new life into an ancient adventure' Observer 'A beautiful study: full of insight, generosity and unaffected passion. The writing is exhilarating. There is a wonderful sense of a community of readers of Homer handing on their insights through two millennia - of the dead talking to the living, of the taking up of a conversation that has never quieted' Guardian 'A thrillingly energised book that travels to the real-life locations of the action ... at the molecular level, it transmits a whole worldview at once decipherable and dramatically strange ... To read Homer is to be struck by what Nicolson calls 'time-vertigo' - and this book is one that holds your hand and encourages you to peer over the edge' Spectator 'As gripping as a thriller and as delicately constructed as a sonnet ... an astonishing tour de force that reveals Homer to be at once as ancient as papyrus and as modern as MTV ... in dealing with the body-thudding side of epic Nicolson proves to be in his element ... Not only does he have an inward understanding of how Homer's poetry works, his own prose also has the sharp glitter of a poet's eye' Telegraph 'Erudite, far-ranging in time and space, and provocative...This rich and adventurous book is Nicolson's own odyssey ... [his] enthusiasm is enriching and his examination of the character of the two epics acute and fascinating. Homer matters because he can stimulate books such as this' Literary Review
Adam Nicolson writes a celebrated column for The Sunday Telegraph. His books include Wetland, Life in the Somerset Levels, Restoration, and the acclaimed Gentry. He is winner of the Somerset Maugham Award and the British Topography Prize and lives on a farm in Sussex.