Today we talk about Homer’s The Odyssey, a book by John Chambers published with our publishing house Europe Books.
Europe Books had the pleasure of interviewing the author John Chambers to get to know him better, the moment that brought him to the writing of his book Homer’s The Odyssey, as well as the authors of the present and/or the past he takes as a model.
Below you can find our interview. Take a seat and enjoy your reading!!!
- What is the moment that brought you to the writing of your book?
This timeless story has held a long fascination for me. Homer’s tale of one man’s extraordinary journey composed almost three thousand years ago, has never been eclipsed. The very title has been anchored in our language to describe an epic and challenging journey. It is the wellspring of our literature, the forerunner of all our storytelling genres: travel, romance, comedy. science fiction, horror, adventure and espionage. It is the oldest extant work in western literature, most likely composed in the 8th century BC. In 2018 the BBC conducted a survey among international authors and journalists to list 100 stories that shaped our world and The Odyssey topped the list! It is written deep within all our stories. Of course, the challenge level rises to stratospheric heights when you try to take on one of the world’s most significant literary works and attempt to rewrite Homer’s epic in sonnet form! I chose the 5 beat iambic line (the closest to that of everyday conversation) to retain a storytelling immediacy and have tried to steer this amazing story using language that is clear and precise while at the same time staying faithful to Homer’s original text.
- What are the crucial themes of your book?
One of the central themes of this great story is that of nostos- a longing for home. The central character, Odysseus, is a family man who has left his wife, Penelope and his newborn son, Telemachus for 20 years to fight in the Trojan War. Our word nostalgia derives from the words nostos and algos which can be translated as an aching desire for home. The return is not only about coming back home but also focuses on the hero’s identity and status upon arrival. Nostos means several things in The Odyssey- it involves overcoming challenges along the way and facing unexpected ones at home. The idea of nostos means that a hero’s greatest victory comes when he returns from war to his own home and family.
- What is the message you want to communicate to your readers?
The Odyssey, composed almost 3,000 years ago, is remarkably relevant to our modern world. Although it paints a marvelously detailed and evocative portrait of an ancient society, it holds a mirror to our modern one. It examines issues such as mortalit, honour, class division, hospitality, the search for meaning in life, a refugee’s yearning for home as well as the struggle between glory and inner peace. Homer’s story explores the theme of hubris or arrogance where excessive pride can lead to long term suffering. This hubris can be seen in different characters throughout the story but most clearly in Penelope’s suitors. Their arrogant behaviour leads to their downfall. The theme of hubris is linked to that of hospitality or Xenia This is a highly prized virtue in The Odyssey. Our individualistic society often ignores the needs of other people. Homer’s Odyssey is acutely relevant to today’s reader as it presents powerful messages on how to live the best life. It tells us that we should live life to the fullest, remember our dead, avoid arrogance and be generous in our dealings with others. In today’s world of rampant individualism, this timeless story can help us lead better lives.
- Which authors of the present and / or the past do you take as a model?
I enjoy the novels of Charles Dickens for their brilliant storylines, stunning cast of characters and for his effervescent humour. Another favourite writer is Joseph Conrad whose narrative style is so spellbinding. It’s hard to believe that Conrad only learned to speak English, the language he mastered so beautifully throughout his novels, as a young man. John Steinbeck is another favourite writer. His work explores the human condition, covering a wide range of social, political and moral issues, using archetypal themes of family, migration and loss of innocence. Another favourite American author is John Updike whose depiction of Protestant middle-class small-town America is illuminated through prose of lyrical beauty. My favourite poets include the Irish writer WBY eats whose work stays so relevant to our world, troubled by war and civil unrest. His unwavering attention to craft is a model to all poets. Seamus Heaney is another great poet whose wonderful gift of ear and eye illuminates his life in Northern Ireland, its politics, history and culture. I also enjoy Paul Muldoon’s verse. He is another Northern Ireland poet whose playful but deeply serious work is riddled with wordplay, jokes and half-truths.
- Are you working on a new writing project you can tell us about?
Having completed the daunting challenge of rewriting Homer’s epic The Odyssey, into sonnet form, I reached Ithaca, 570 sonnets later, exhausted but elated. Never again, I said! But Homer’s other masterpiece, The Iliad, would not let me go. For a while I resisted its Siren’s call but eventually gave in, knowing that I would never have peace until I had made an effort. Maybe it’s a form of madness- a crazy addiction to writing sonnets. Maybe it’s what WBY eats called “the fascination of the difficult” Maybe I need therapy! So, I have embarked on this new adventure and with just over 100 sonnets completed have finished the first two books of The Iliad. It is a very different book to The Odyssey, charting a brief but crucial period of the Trojan War when Greek city states besiege the city of Troy to rescue the beautiful Helen, who had been abducted from her home in Sparta. I hope to have it finished by late 2024.
Europe Books thanks the author John Chambers once again for taking the time and answering our questions. We are really pleased to have walked alongside him on the editorial path that led to the publication of his book Homer’s The Odyssey. We wish him the best of luck for his book and for his future works.
To you, my dear reader, I wish the values and teachings told in the story of the Odyssey and extremely relevant in today’s world will be useful to you all on how to live a better life.
So, my dear reader, all I have to say is to enjoy your reading!