This review is taken from PN Review 35, Volume 10 Number 3, January - February 1984.OF HEKTOR TO US
The opposition of The Enemy and Us is probably the most basic of contraries. Hobbes's picture of primitive man is still persuasive. Man's need for an enemy seems not to have diminished as his natural enemies have been overcome - a phenomenon which would matter less if technology had not supplied the twentieth-century's mutual enemies with sufficient weapons to destroy each other twenty times over. And Moscow, for the time being, is our Troy.
Or perhaps we are the Trojans and the Russians our Greeks. The naming of the sides scarcely matters. The crux is that warfare tends to be a dominant motif in those works of art which appear early in the history of a culture and which remain a decisive influence over its subsequent history - or, in the case of Homer's poems, two cultures, the Greek and by various historical accidents our own. The difference which might have been made if the master-poet had seen events from the Trojan side is incalculable - beyond the virtual certainty that the Greeks would have destroyed his work along with everything Trojan.
Brian Coffrey's Death of Hektor begins, 'Of what we are to Hektor Nothing to say/Of Hektor to us' and his relatively short poem (230 lines) manages to condense not only 'what Hektor is to us' - us moderns and our immediate ancestors - but a remarkable number of other matters: Homer himself, his attitude to Hektor and the Trojans, the character of Achilles, ...
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