Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Songs of the Kings: A Novel by Barry Unsworth

Before there was the Iliad, before the Odyssey, Sophocles, Euripides, or Aeschylus, there were the songs, the songs of the kings. Do they still hold fascination for us? Do they have the power to illuminate, to instruct us? This book may give you some clues, clues about who we are and where we are going. Are things so different now? Our songs, do they redeem or condemn us?

These are the questions you might ask yourself after reading this story of King Agamemnon and the combined expeditionary force of Greek tribes assembled at Aulis to set sail for Troy. They are thirsty to regain honor after the abduction of Helen by Paris, the Trojan prince. But the wind is blowing in the wrong direction and it will not let up. Something must be done. A sacrifice must be made. An innocent must die. Iphigeneia, the daughter of the king, is sent for. Surely, if they do the right thing, the wind will run true. Their cause, after all, appears to be just.

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