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December 17, 2018


Quel beau récit touchant... I'm glad you finally got to go to Greece. Can't wait to hear more about it.

This tribute to your mother is deeply moving. Thank you.

Oh Beth, this is so vividly lovely and made me cry too. And so deeply engaging, I can't wait for more xx

I'd never heard of Alice and Martin Provensen. Awake too early on this cold, damp London morning, I just looked them up and found the Brainpickings feature on their Iliad and Odyssey - fantastic! and especially appreciated as I've been thinking about book illustration while enjoying the new edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with prints by Clive Hicks-Jenkins : https://www.faber.co.uk/9780571340163-sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight.html

Dear Beth, a wonderful, heartfelt post, thank you. I wish I'd met your mother. You were very fortunate to have had such an inspirational relationship with her and I'm sure she felt the same about you. It's marvellous that you and Jon got to Greece recently - I look forward to further posts about it. I've been to Athens airport, on my way to the lovely island of Aegina, a short ferry ride from the port of Piraeus. I was there twice to see Philip and Minkey: they've been going to Aegina every summer for at least 20 years and own a plot of land there. I love Greece and Greeks but haven't explored it enough.

It’s wonderful to find out how deep your connection to the Greek culture, myths and stories is. It going back into your mother’s arms is profound and moving. I am an Iliad child myself. I prefer it to the Odyssey exactly because of it making us feel for the Trojans and not for the Greeks, the winners, who are presented in all their weaknesses and failures. No, we feel for the ones fated to lose and to vanish. And so we don’t forget them after they’re gone.
So you see, even the Greeks root for the Trojans. That’s the power of the Iliad.
I’m so glad you’ve been back home, Beth. Looking forward to reading the next post.

I held off from going to Greece until my late seventies, worrying I'd bump into Hellenophiles (a seemingly intense breed) who would talk interminably about the Myths which I'd similarly rejected on the grounds that their logic - assuming it existed - was beyond me. When I did finally go (with friends) it was to the fairly stark village of Diafani on the equally stark island of Karpathos in the Dodecanese. I walked a bit, swam a lot, and ate indigenous food because these activities were all there were. History, other than local events reaching back no more than a hundred years, did not impinge.

I had edited a biography of an American writer who had spent time in these parts but this formed no bridge. The language was against me. I did however eat at a restaurant where the owner, Michaelis, played the modern version of the lyre. Quickly, repetitively, quite difficult but full of hints. I wondered how he'd respond to the Grosse Fuge and contrived get a CD to him.

Then things changed. On the next visit he embraced me and I wasn't embarrassed. As I passed his restaurant I frequently heard op. 133 playing. Michaelis tried to explain its attraction but the language got in the way. The somewhat austere widow-owner of a cafeneion, amazed that I went swimming wearing a tee-shirt (to guard against the sun), took to me and I was able to make her laugh.

Last year I played Strauss's Elektra, a most uncongenial piece of music. Presently I'm reading Plutarch's Lives. But it had to be that way round. The people first, then the culture. I realise that your mother didn't have this option, so I see myself as lucky.

How interesting to hear this account of the line and volume in your delicious art.

In a way, I guess, Rome defined itself as the Illiad's alternative ending. I wonder what happens when entire civilizations understand themselves in part as the also-rans (e.g., Esau) of some other civilization's founding myth.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.