DSCN0722 (1)

In Harold Bloom’s introduction to David Rosenberg’s translation of The Book of J, he floats the notion that it was a woman who authored this ancient portion of the Torah.

nausicaaToday I read Samuel Butler’s thesis in his 1897 treatise, The Authoress of the Odyssey, in which he develops the idea that “Homer” did not compose The Odyssey, but a Sicilian woman did.

Comparing the two theses, Butler’s seems the more likely. Butler has more to work with. His arguments are a bit stronger.

Neither idea is all that important, I admit, though both spark interest, a very human interest in the authorship questions. Which Butler directly addresses early on in his book:

Bulterodd1

While I deny that art is only as interesting as its revelation of an artist — deny quite strongly — I nevertheless understand Butler’s scratching of an ancient phantom limb.

Butlerodd2

I am now going to have to read Butler’s translation of the Odyssey. But once I have set my mind to that, reading his prose Iliad seems a pre-requisite, no? Alas, I tend not to read long fiction, any more — I call it my “Bleak House Rule”: no long novels until I have read Bleak House, and since I haven’t yet read the Dickens masterpiece. . . well, you get the idea. So my new project seems a bit daunting. And doubly so, since the first few pages of Fagles’s poetic translation of the first Homeric epic strikes me as far more entertaining than Butler’s rendition in prose. Well, I would become neither the first nor last reader (or writer) to kick himself.

Butlerodd3

FullSizeRender 4According to Samuel Butler — whose Erewhon is a strange sort of masterpiece of science fiction, a sort of comedy of ideas (I wrote a foreword to an ebook reprint edition) — it is Homer’s Iliad and Nausicaa’s Odyssey. The sheer bravado of the thesis reminds me of other great revisionisms, such as Freud’s outrageous reinterpretation of Moses or Julian Jaynes’s speculative history of the “breakdown of the bicameral mind.”

This could be fun.

twv

IMG_3783

 

Advertisements