Adam Nicolson sees the Iliad and the Odyssey as the foundation myths of Greek—and our—consciousness, collapsing the passage of 4,000 years and making the distant past of the Mediterranean world as immediate to us as the events of our own time.
Why Homer Matters is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past, sewn together by the poems themselves and their metaphors of life and trouble. Homer's poems occupy, as Adam Nicolson writes "a third space" in the way we relate to the past: not as memory, which lasts no more than three generations, nor as the objective accounts of history, but as epic, invented after memory but before history, poetry which aims "to bind the wounds that time inflicts."
The Homeric poems are among the oldest stories we have, drawing on deep roots in the Eurasian steppes beyond the Black Sea, but emerging at a time around 2000 B.C. when the people who would become the Greeks came south and both clashed and fused with the more sophisticated inhabitants of the Eastern Mediterranean.
The poems, which ask the eternal questions about the individual and the community, honor and service, love and war, tell us how we became who we are.
Adam Nicolson's books include the New York Times bestseller God's Secretaries, Sea Room, Sissinghurst, and Seamanship. Among his honors are the Somerset Maugham Award, the W. H. Heinemann Prize, and the British Topography Prize; he lives on a farm in Sussex with his wife and their five grown children.
Early in the year, Adam Nicolson decided to leave his comfy life at home on a Sussex farm and go on an adventure. Equipped with the Auk, a forty-two-foot wooden ketch, and a friend who at least knew how to sail, he set off up the Atlantic coasts of the British Isles: Cornwall to Scilly, over to Pembrokeshire and the west of Ireland, to the Hebrides and its offliers, St Kilda and North Rona, before heading on to Orkney, and finally to the Faroes, a two hundred mile leap out into the autumn winds of the North Atlantic.
But the book is not just a travel journal. Adam Nicolson writes of his own yearnings for the sea and for wide open spaces. His year is strung between the competing claims of leaving and belonging, of thinking that no life could be more exhilarating than battling a big gale driving in out of the Atlantic and of wanting to be back, in harbour, safe, still and protected. Running throughout the book is a dialogue within the author himself between the attractions of home and not home, the certainties of what you know and the seductions of what you don't.
Reflective and poetic, this book is full of rich experience. It is a story passionately engaged with the beauty and marvels of the wild Atlantic coast, but is also a self-portrait of a man in the middle of his life who is determined to find out what it’s all for.