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Orpheus: The Song of Lifeby Ann Wroe
Synopses & Reviews
The captivating "history" of the figure of Orpheus, his enduring legacy as the force and muse of creation itself. For at least two and a half millennia, the figure of Orpheus has haunted humanity. Half-man, half-god, musician, magician, theologian, poet, and lover, his story never leaves us. He may be myth, but his lyre still sounds, entrancing everything that hears it: animals, trees, water, stones, and men. In this extraordinary work, Ann Wroe goes in search of Orpheus, tracing the man and the power he represents through the myriad versions of a fantastical life: his birth in Thrace, his studies in Egypt, his voyage with the Argonauts to fetch the Golden Fleece, his love for Eurydice and the journey to Hades, and his terrible death. We see him tantalizing Cicero and Plato, and breathing new music into Gluck and Monteverdi; occupying the mind of Jung and the surreal dreams of Cocteau; scandalizing the Fathers of the early Church, and filling Rilke with poems like a whirlwind. He emerges as not simply another mythical figure but the force of creation itself, singing the song of light out of darkness and life out of death.
"Western icon and poets' poet, Orpheus is so mutable that, like many figures of ancient religious traditions, it's difficult to tell where reality leaves off and myth begins. Wroe (Being Shelley: The Poet's Search for Himself), a writer and editor for the Economist, seeks out the archetypal dimensions of her exquisite figure, one discovered not only in Greek and Roman writings but also in Hindu Vedas, Babylonian scripture, and Irish stories. She is deliberately less clear in separating story from fact. Real or not, as supposed inventor of the alphabet, Orpheus remains male muse to writers and composers as diverse as Rilke, Anouilh, ValÃ©ry, Bacon, Plato (who was not known for worshipping at the gooey altar of art), Ovid, Cocteau, Milosz, Monteverdi, and more. Orpheus even passes from history in a Christ-like manner; overtly identified with Jesus by the fifth century, he is said to have been violently killed at sunset. It remains unclear whether the musician-poet is buried in the foothills of Mount Olympus or near lesser known Kardzhali in Bulgaria. Wroe develops her odd blending of real and unreal, somewhat reminiscent of the writing of Edith Hamilton, within seven chapters, one for each string of Orpheus's lyre, and the book sings in a learned, singular manner. Agent: Andrew Wiley, The Wiley Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Ann Wroe writes for The Economist. After earning a doctorate in medieval history from Oxford, she worked at the BBC, covering French and Italian politics. She joined The Economist in 1976 and has held the posts of Books and arts editor and American editor. She has written five other books and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Literature.
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