The Iliad is one of the oldest works of western literature. Composed during the 8th century BC, it still maintains a powerful hold on the human imagination. Essentially, the story takes place over three days during the 10th year of the Trojan War. Achilles continues to refuse to join the Greeks fighting the Trojans because of Agamemnon’s theft of his war prize, the beautiful maid Briseis. The battle goes back and forth, with the Trojans gaining the upper hand. Patroclus, Achilles’ closest friend, convinces Achilles to lend him his armor and lead his warriors into battle. Hector, the hero of Troy, kills him. This enrages Achilles, so he joins the battle, kills Hector, and then drags his body around the city walls to humiliate him further. Priam, Hector’s father, approaches Achilles and begs him to return Hector’s body for proper burial. Achilles is moved by Priam’s humility and emotional plea, so he concedes. The story ends with Hector’s cremation and burial.
Baricco’s interpretation is unique and insightful. He has edited out repetition, stylized the language for the modern ear, made the narrative subjective, and added some commentary, albeit minor. Overall, this is an original and inspiring rendition of a classic, well worth revisiting.