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Omeros [Paperback]

Derek Walcott
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: 15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

4 Mar 2002
There are two currents of history in the author's poem, the visible history charted in events - the tribal losses of the American Indian and the tragedy of African enslavement - and the interior, unwritten epic fashioned from the suffering of the individual in exile.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (4 Mar 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571144594
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571144594
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 77,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In word and thought, scale and ambition Omeros, is an epic poem, providing yet further testimony to the world status of its St Lucian author, Derek Walcott. Setting out to reimagine the lives and voices of the ordinary people of the Caribbean through Greek myth and epic, Walcott constructs a heightened, and richly nuanced, vernacular able to impart the resonant narrative voices of his tale told predominantly in terza rima. These voices, far from being anachronistic or redundant, capture the essence of the Caribbean demotic in its combination of the old world and the new. Written in seven books in 64 chapters, Omeros, describes the spiritual-ancestral-journey of its black hero, Achille, his jealous love of Helen, the most beautiful black woman on the island, the search for integration and renewal by the white protagonist, Blunkett, and the curing of the wound of Philoctete by Ma Kilman, owner of the No Pain Cafe. It concludes with the story of the I-narrator, whose Greek girlfriend leaves him to go home. If the history of the Caribbean tells of a wounded divide, an enforced severance between peoples and races which the multiplicity and inclusiveness of its culture somewhat belies, in Omeros, Walcott has sought to weave these stories and strands together at the level of both theme and metaphor, intertextual symbols and myth. Transcending the warring impulses of the region's history, Omeros is definitely an epic for the New World. --David Marriott


"No poet rivals Mr. Walcott in humor, emotional depth, lavish inventiveness in language, or the ability to express the thoughts of his characters and compel the reader to follow the swift mutations of ideas and images in their minds. This wonderful story moves in a spiral, replicating human thought, and in the end, surprisingly, it makes us realize that history, all of it, belongs to us."—Mary Lefkowitz, "The New York Times Book Review" (an Editors' Choice/Best Book of 1990 selection) "Characters come fully and movingly to life in Walcott's hands; black and white are treated with equal understanding and sympathy as they go their complicated ways . . . Wit and verbal play . . . enliven every page of this extraordinary poem . . . A constant source of surprise and delight from stanza to stanza, a music so subtle, so varied, so exquisitely right that it never once, in more than eight thousand lines, strikes a false note."—Bernard Knox, "The New York Review of Books" "On

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars so rich and never full of itself 24 May 2008
I didn't know the work of Derek Walcott until I ran into this book. What an amazing book it is! I used to dislike epic poems - they usually just ramble on and on, preferably made to rhyme in the correct places but in such a way that all life is taken out of the lines. This book is different & its author is no less than a genius.

Sometimes I can't really grasp the meaning of a passage, but it doesn't really matter - each page in this book is so full of the most brilliant images & visions, that it almost seems like a book in itself. And although it's so impossibly rich in smells, colours & sounds, it never succumbs, thank God, to the kind of self-importance that sometimes overshadows the work of other truly great writers.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Gem 27 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This book one a prize or two, and attracted a lot of attention for Walcott. Maybe it was the book that swung him the Nobel Prize. There were, of course, severe critics. Craig Raine, for example. Does anyone remember that review: 'With Walcott, Homer means Coma...' No, he didn't like it. Which is his loss, I guess. But then, Walcott has always been received better in the US than he has in the UK. Readers here are perhaps uncomfortable about Walcott's tendency to speak 'for' the people of his Caribbean. But then again, maybe it is inappropriate for white middle class readers here to expect a diffidence more in line with their own etiquette than that of the West Indies, which is, of course, trying to assert an emerging identity, rather than trying to modestly demur from an Imperialist one. (Though there are British writers who employ similar strategies - Tony Harrison, for example) I don't think there have been many intelligent British readings of Walcott. Another problem is maybe a tendency for this writer to be serious, or, worse still for some people, 'earnest'. 'Omeros' can be a grave book. It plays with a tragic and an epic dimension: it renders the sufferings of ordinary Caribbean individuals with great care and sympathy. Don't be deceived. There is a subtle wit and humour always at work with Walcott. But perhaps what's most valuable about this book is the way it encourages us to readdress the classics as well, and ask the old questions about race, heroism, honour, home, identity, history and countless other timeless themes. You'll need to read and re-read this one. Walcott has a subtle accumulative power. His stanzas wash back and forth like waves against the shore. What at first might appear ordinary slowly begins to take on a deeper and deeper dimension. Go on. Make the effort. Books like this don't get written very often.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By J. Noon
Make no mistake, this is not easy-going. But it is an unbelievably rich and rewarding read, if you persevere. On the basis of this poem alone, Walcott deserves the accolades he's received. It is wonderfully refreshing to read a writer who embraces different cultures, and avoids banal stereotypes or resorting to nostalgia. The poem is not merely a rewriting of Homer, but it is Walcott engaging with history, bringing down the classic from its lofty heights and applying it to ordinary people. For these fishermen, their Odyssey is the happenings of their daily lives.
My one criticism of this poem would be the inclusions of the anaphoric references to the Native Indians. To me, these parts are not completely successful, they detract from the central plot. This is but a slight detraction, though. The great strength of 'Omeros' is, without doubt, Walcott's writing. His verse is quite simply beautiful. While you may find yourself lost in the plot, you can't help but get lost in his language, and I mean this in a good way. It has a richness, a mellifluousness that seeps through the stanzas. This richness is echoed in the descriptions of St. Lucia itself, the indigenous flora, fauna, sea and sky combine to construct an image of a most beautiful island. However, language has a more powerful role in 'Omeros'. As the narrator tells us, 'this language carries its cure/its radiant affliction'. In contrast to its colonial past, the language is used as a freer, not enslaver. This is a poem about healing, about history, ancestry and about ordinary human-beings. There is an elation in this poem which is captivating. It is beautiful, breathtaking. Read it.
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