Hot air over Troy

In The Fall of Troy, Peter Ackroyd goes to windy Troy in the mid nineteenth century, its ruins crudely exposed to its omen-filled plain. He draws the real Schliemann, Troy’s archeologist, as Obermann, a loud, portly German Romantic digging for the world of Homer and discarding all else to his rubbish heap.

We travel with the new Mrs Obermann and learn of Obermann with her, see him watched by the Turks, helped by his oddball minions, challenged by two moderns, analytical men who can and want to see beyond Homer, let the stones speak for themselves. We see omens in the eagles, owls, wolves, snakes and witness denial, destruction, theft. Large, loud life is exposed as hollow.

Ackroyd takes only Schliemann’s essence. His life is polished to make personal secrets for a short, clear story peppered with melodrama. Homer hovers, but is not relived. We tour his places in crisp words but he is long gone, despite Obermann’s volume.

Can you appreciate the novel without Homer? Perhaps. But the gulf between changing, brooding Achilles and his hollow, wordy champion needs the Poet.

Is Obermann relevant for the fourth century searcher? Think of finding only what you believe already, avoiding the uncomfortable, printing the myth.

4 Responses to “Hot air over Troy”

  1. jett Says:

    Schliemann was an interesting character. I keep wishing someone would make a movie about him. Actually, he probably would enjoy the extra noriety. I saw some of the treasures he dug up once in a museum in Moscow and could only imagine the excitiment of the find. It was pretty fascinating stuff. Amazing, all these centuries later, Troy in some ways still captures the attention of the world.

  2. conor Says:

    Troy’s not what it was - the font of legitimacy. Of ancient things, only Jerusalem hangs on. I agree on Schliemann. So self-made in all meanings of the word. Here’s a myth maker, trying to bring a myth to ground. Were Troy still calling loud, he would be too. Damn the twentieth century. It ruined all the old tales.

  3. jett Says:

    Yeah, you’re probably right about Jerusalem. If you haven’t seen it, you’d love it although modern times are crouching in on it.

  4. conor Says:

    Moscow and Schliemann, Jerusalem too. Jett jets. I would love to see Jerusalem and the coast, “tombs” around Troy. I made my way up the Turkish coast a while ago but stopped short of the Troad. Stupid that.

    One last thing (for this post!). Ackroyd was unfair to Schliemann. He found what most claimed never existed. Last quote from the old German …

    May this research with the pickaxe and the spade prove more and more that the events described in the divine Homeric poems are not mythic tales, but that they are based on real facts; and, in proving this, may it augment the universal love for the noble study of the beautiful Greek classics, and particularly of Homer, that brilliant sun of all literature!

    Today’s Archeologists are rarely so religious.

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