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Ransom: A Novelby David Malouf
Synopses & Reviews
The sea has many voices. The voice this man is listening for is the voice of his mother. He lifts his head, turns his face to the chill air that moves in across the gulf, and tastes its sharp salt on his lip. The sea surface bellies and glistens, a lustrous silver-blue-a membrane stretched to a fine transparency where once, for nine changes of the moon, he had hung curled in a dream of pre-existence and was rocked and comforted. He hunkers down now on the shelving pebbles at its edge, bunches his cloak between his thighs. Chin down, shoulders hunched, attentive.
The gulf can be wild at times, its voices so loud in a man's head that it is like standing stilled in the midst of battle. But today in the dawn light it is pondlike. Small waves slither to his sandalled feet, then sluice away with a rattling sound as the smooth stones loosen and go rolling.
The man is a fighter, but when he is not fighting he is a farmer, earth is his element. One day, he knows, he will go back to it. All the grains that were miraculously called together at his birth to make just these hands, these feet, this corded forearm, will separate and go their own ways again. He is a child of earth. But for the whole of his life he has been drawn, in his other nature, to his mother's element. To what, in all its many forms, as ocean, pool, stream, is shifting and insubstantial. To what accepts, in a moment of stillness, the reflection of a face, a tree in leaf, but holds nothing, and itself cannot be held.
As a child he had his own names for the sea. He would repeat them over and over under his breath as a way of calling to her till the syllables shone and became her presence. In the brimming moonlight of his sleeping chamber, at midday in his father's garden, among oakwoods when summer gales bullied and the full swing of afternoon came crashing, he felt himself caught up and tenderly enfolded as her low voice whispered on his skin. Do you hear me, Achilles? It is me, I am still with you. For a time I can be with you when you call.
He was five then, six. She was his secret. He floated in the long soft swirlings of her hair.
But she had warned him from the beginning that she would not always be with him. She had given him up. That was the hard condition of his being and of all commerce between them. One day when he put his foot down on the earth he knew at once that something was different. A gift he had taken as natural to him, the play of a dual self that had allowed him, in a moment, to slip out of his hard boyish nature and become eel-like, fluid, weightless, without substance in his mother's arms, had been withdrawn. From now on she would be no more than a faint far-off echo to his senses, an underwater humming.
He had grieved. But silently, never permitting himself to betray to others what he felt.
Somewhere in the depths of sleep his spirit had made a crossing and not come back, or it had been snatched up and transformed. When he bent and chose a stone for his slingshot it had a new weight in his hand, and the sling had a different tension. He was his father's son and mortal. He had entered the rough world of men, where a man's acts follow him wherever he goes in the form of story. A world of pain, loss, dependency, bursts of violence and elation; of fatality and fatal contradictions, breathless leaps into the unknown; at last of death-a hero's death out there in full sunlight under the g
A tale of suffering, sorrow, and redemption, "Ransom" is a retelling of one of the most famous stories in all of literature--Achilles's slaughter and desecration of Hector, and Priam's attempt to ransom his son's body in Homer's "The Iliad."
In his first novel in more than a decade, award-winning author David Malouf reimagines the pivotal narrative of Homer's Iliad--one of the most famous passages in all ofliterature.
This is the story of the relationship between two grieving men at war: fierce Achilles, who has lost his beloved Patroclus in the siege of Troy; and woeful Priam, whose son Hectorkilled Patroclus and was in turn savaged by Achilles. A moving tale of suffering, sorrow, and redemption, Ransom is incandescent in its delicate and powerful lyricism and its unstated imperative that weimagine our lives in the glow of fellow feeling.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
David Malouf—winner of the inaugural Australia-Asia Literary Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Prix Femina tranger and the Los Angeles Times Book Award—is the author of, among other works, Remembering Babylon, An Imaginary Life andThe Conversations at Curlow Creek. He lives in Australia.
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