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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War, breathless war, 16 Nov 2011
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This review is from: Memorial (Hardcover)
Would you like to read Homer's Iliad in under two hours? This 84-page book, including 8 pages of the names of fallen warriors, one after the other in the order as they had fallen. Their names appearing as in a memorial of the dead in single columns. Oswald tells us in the first line of her introduction that "This is a translation of the Iliad's atmosphere, not its story". It is a fast paced account of the heroic and tragic moments in tenth year of the war. She skips the proem of the Iliad, which is traditionally in book One, where Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek expedition and Achilles, arguably the most famous name in the Iliad are introduced. Excluded are thus the main events, including one of my favourites - the chariot race in honour of Patroklos' death (traditonally, Book 23). Can the atmosphere of the war be adequately captured with the omissions of those events? The modern reader, familiar with the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the more recent wars against faceless, nameless enemies known only as "Terrorists", will surely appreciate what this book seeks to achieve. Achilles the great hero was only mentioned in passing since only the dead were honoured in this memorial and given names in block letters. And Hector, the main Trojan closes Oswald's book with his death, told in Oswald's verse without fanfare or excitement, just profoundly; the words ring the entire Iliad - as it does all human strife:

"And HECTOR died like everyone else
He was in charge of the Trojans
But a spear found out the little patch of white
Between his collarbone and his throat
Just exactly where a man's soul sits
waiting for the mouth to open
He always knew it would happen".
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Memorial, 8 Oct 2011
This review is from: Memorial (Hardcover)
Memorial elevates Alice Oswald to the position of England's premier poet in my view, building on her superb earlier books. This work is both moving and relevant. Decribed as an "excavation" of Homer's "The Iliad" it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone poem in its own right. A dramatic and serious tone is set from the beginning, with the first few pages listing the names of the war dead: each soldier's name being given the respect and gravity of an individual line. Astonishing writing follows, full of powerful simile and metaphor that made me gasp out loud at times. Oswald is one of only a few modern poets to truly be influenced by Ted Hughes, but it should be stressed she has a distinctive, original, voice of her own. In addition to this her ideas, projects and way of working seem quite unique. She talked in a reading I once saw her give of being interested in oral narratives being passed on through the ages, not only classical but from various cultures around the world, and this interest has reached fruition in this work. The fact it has been written at a time when the poet's own country is deeply involved in war adds to its poignancy.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars powerfully moving, 13 Dec 2011
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David Chaney (newcastle upon tyne uk) - See all my reviews
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I was persuaded to order a copy of this book by a very positive review in a newspaper but was not really sure what I was going to get. In fact it is a stripped down meditation on the Iliad responding to the many many deaths of the also-rans, the largely marginal figures in the story. The accounts of their deaths are brief almost incantatory cries of despair at the futility of war and the hollow-ness of nobility. Cumulatively they become something very powerful that has the immediacy and imaginative force of a great war memorial - one of the most affecting pieces of writing that I have read for a very long time and something to which I am sure I will return many times. I am in awe at what has been accomplished in this work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of genius, 7 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Memorial (Audio CD)
This is the best thing I have bought in a very long time. I heard Alice Oswald read from Memorial in person at a festival recently and was stunned by the power of the work and her rendition. I had never heard of her before. I bought several copies of the book for gifts (they all sold out at the reading) and when I discovered the recorded version I ordered it immediately. I am transported every time I listen to this exceptional poem. I remember hearing the young Seamus Heaney many years ago. This is the same feeling.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly beautiful, 5 Dec 2011
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This is a work of astonishing imaginative power and humanity. It's written in a direct, vivid style that makes it come across with complete clarity the first time you look at it, but it repays repeated rereading for its emotional richness and for sheer pleasure in the beauty of its language. I've read it several times in the last few weeks.

Instead of telling the story of the Iliad, Oswald concentrates on listing the dead, giving us a glimpse of each man's life as she tells us how he died. The sense of loss can be heartbreakingly intense and her pictures of the horror and madness of war are devastating, but the book is anything but depressing: although Memorial repeatedly shows us life in its moment of extinction and shows us so much of its cruelty, somehow it makes life's beauty and energy and its gentler qualities of love and compassion shine out more brightly than anything else I've read recently. That's why I've been drawn back to it so much.

The glimpses of lost lives are interspersed with condensed versions of Homer's epic similes, freed from their original contexts to become wider meditations on different aspects of life. The poem ends with a series of these similes. The two line one comparing tiny dried up old men speaking pure light to crickets leaning on their elbows in the hedges is as beautiful as anything I've ever read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memorial Audio CD, 2 Dec 2011
This review is from: Memorial (Audio CD)
The CD is definetely worth getting. Alice Oswald is a marvelous reader of her own work. It's only an hour long and can be listened to in one sitting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 9 July 2014
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Lynda Mawdsley (united kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Memorial (Hardcover)
Very enjoyable
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5.0 out of 5 stars a remarkable achievement, 5 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Memorial (Hardcover)
Memorial gives us short biographies of heroes of Homer's Iliad - drawn from Homer, descriptions of their deaths, and similes Homer uses to describe their deaths. Alice Oswald sees this as a translation of the atmosphere of Homer, without the narrative.

Remarkably enough, this is very successful. It's many years since I read Homer, but this seems amazingly true to the spirit of much of the poem I suspect there is more to Homer by way of world-view (shame culture etc) over and above the main narrative that is missing here. Indeed, there's a world view, as Alice Oswald move into the final pages with a few similes of wider import, not linked to individual deaths, but which relate to the whole of what's been described. These might suggest something slightly different about war - but I found it all remarkable convincing and would strongly recommend it to others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inexpressibly awesome, 4 July 2013
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This review is from: Memorial (Audio CD)
Powerfully moving. Almost unbearable in its depiction of the horrors of war. Alice Oswald is a genius. Listen to her, please.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Memorial, 23 Sep 2012
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Beautifully written and thoughtful.
We shall think life and learn from fiction .
Our personal and shared memory of fictional events that once existed to narrate the unbearable reality
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Memorial
Memorial by Alice Oswald (Hardcover - 6 Oct 2011)
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