A Feminist Iliad

The Booker winning novelist Pat Barker told the Hay Festival today how her retelling of the Greek myth puts the experience of women at the heart of the novel. It reframes the story through the standpoint of Briseis a princess whose husband and brothers are murdered in a battle, and who becomes a trophy for the conquering Achilles.

A huge row then ensues between Achilles and Agamemnon after Agamemnon refuses to give Briseis to Achilles. In Barker's telling the action shifts from the men  to the raped, enslaved widowed women.

Barker acknowledged that the retelling of Greek myths by modern writers was currently enjoying something of a renaissance, while pointing out that lots of things on television are ephemeral she said "people want something that has stood the test of time."

She said she also believed Homer had witnessed battles first hand, her evidence being his vivid  and realistic descriptions of war wounds that run through The Iliad.

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