2010 Reading Highlights: Moira Lovell

2010-12-01 00:00

Stepping Stones (Faber and Faber, 2008) records a series of interviews conducted by Dennis O’Driscoll with Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. The poet speaks engagingly of his origins, the genesis of many of his poems, the process of writing, his associations with other poets (notably Ted Hughes and Czeslaw Milosz), the experience of winning the Nobel Prize (1995), and his current work. As interviewer, O’Driscoll is skilled and well informed, and the result is an immensely readable text which combines, in the poet’s responses, both colloquial spontaneity and distilled thought.

Heaney’s recent (2009) translation of The Testament of Cresseid and Seven Fables provides access to the work of little-known medieval Scot, Robert Henryson. Inspired by Chaucer and a subsequent anonymous text, Henryson conceives a moving demise for the hapless Cressida, who resorts to prostitution following her abandonment by the Greek Diomedes and is cursed (by a coterie of vengeful gods) with leprosy.

In The War that Killed Achilles (Faber and Faber, 2009), Caroline Alexander argues that Homer’s Iliad­ might be read as a criticism, rather than as a celebration of war. Scrutinising the text and making comparisons with contemporary killing fields, she highlights the futility of the conflict, the disillusionment of the combatants and the tragic waste of life which extends even to its greatest (and reluctant) hero.

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