This week, try reading a ‘first story’, one of the early stories that our ancestors would have known. Maybe something from Greek mythology like Theseus and the Minotaur or Euripedes’ Medea, a truly frightening story of female passion and revenge. There’s a new translation of Homer’s The Iliad available this year, or you could read an Old English story like Beowulf (try the fantastic Seamus Heaney translation.) These kinds of stories are fascinating to read: rich in drama and emotion, and told in beautiful language.
An alternative would be to read a modern work based on an ancient story. This is the premise behind ‘Old Texts Made New: Literary Imitation and Allusion’, a new English course offered here at the University of Adelaide. Join our students and read David Malouf’s prize-winning novel Ransom ( based on the Achilles’ story at the heart of The Iliad) or Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad.
I’d really like to hear from anyone who has read one of the founding myths of another culture, such as the Mahabharata or some of the Chinese legends, or stories of The Dreaming: any thoughts on these? How have these been reworked in contemporary fiction?