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Journey’s end

Books | By Hamish Robinson

An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic By Daniel Mendelsohn

The ending of The Odyssey can come as a surprise to modern readers. One might have expected a desire for peace after such extended suffering, a capacity to suffer little losses after so many reversals, and a more reflective view of life generally: a sense of the underlying dissolution after having drawn so near to the void etc. But no, after twenty years of war and wandering, Odysseus seeks a violent and exacting revenge and the complete restoration – with advantages – of the status quo ante. Moreover, far from being an endnote, this process is the second half of the book. No detail of the rather dry, local politics – what the swineherd said to the goatherd etc – is spared. After the far horizons of the first half, the modern reader can feel not only a certain distaste for such point-scoring thoroughness, but also exhausted by it. He...

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