Posts Tagged With: Mary Renault

A Quick Catch Up

It has been just over a month since my last post and I am afraid to say that in that time I have let my Alexander reading go a bit. As is common with me, I have been rather distracted by other books and writing projects.

One book that has been very much on my mind, or rather, in my ears is Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I have been listening to the audiobook version as read by Jeremy Irons.

Brideshead is one of my most favourite novels. You may know that Irons played the protagonist, Charles Ryder, in the superb 1981 ITV adaptation of the book. If you have not seen it, I can’t recommend the series highly enough. It is faithful to Waugh’s book and utterly sumptuous.

Despite all that, I would not have cause to mention it here except for one piece of dialogue, spoken by Ryder’s wife, Celia in Chapter Two of Book Three. There, Ryder – as the narrator – describes how his wife drew party guests ‘to the subscription list for the book of Ryder’s Latin America‘. He continues,

I heard her say: ‘No, darling, I’m not at all surprised, but you wouldn’t expect me to be, would you? You see Charles lives for one thing – Beauty. I think he got bored with finding it ready-made in England; he had to go and create it for himself. He wanted new worlds to conquer…’

‘He wanted new worlds to conquer…’

Depending on who you read, Alexander is said to have cried either because there were no new worlds to conquer or because when there was an infinity of worlds, he had not yet conquered one (for more on this, see the ‘Disputed’ section of Wikiquotes entry on Alexander here).

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The BBC’s new Troy: Fall of A City series begins on 17th February. I will be writing about it on this blog. The series has aroused interest and controversy on social media due to its representation of certain characters; most notably, Achilles, who is played by a black actor.

What will I be looking for from the series? What with the fall of Troy being a myth, I would like to see a drama that speaks to our age as well as that of Troy: if I wanted The Iliad, I would read the poem. With that said, I would like to see the characters being faithful to Homer’s vision of them. The worst thing that could happen is that they are written as moderns. Period dramas where the characters are men and women of our age are an insult to the past.

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The Fb Mary Renault Reading Group has changed its name to The Alexander the Great Reading Group. From March, the focus will move on to Renault’s Nature of Alexander. The change in name is wise for at some point or another we will move on from Renault. I am very disappointed, though, that we were not able to bring Funeral Games to a finish. The will, however, was simply not there.

I am most disappointed in myself. I enjoyed Renault’s previous Alexander books and I could have made a lot more effort to finish Funeral Games. There was always something else to read, though…

I’m determined not to forget Funeral Games, though; I will dig the book out and will make an effort to continue reading it in the coming weeks/months. I will post any thoughts I have here.

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From Cats to Flowers, Kings to Poets

Linked to Alexander (4)
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30th October 2014
Local cats get national attention with calendar
Alexander the Great… cat from NWF Daily News

31st October 2014
When the Greeks Ruled Egypt
Good to read something about the Ptolemies

31st October 2014
Letter: Alexander wasn’t ‘great’
From the Daily Freeman newspaper

31st October 2014
Homer truths in high places: plant-hunting on Mount Olympus
Robin Lane Fox goes flower hunting

More Alexander
Why not visit this blog’s Tumblr page? I have started a series of short blog posts on Plutarch’s Life of Alexander. Click here to read more.

Are you a fan of Mary Renault? We are reading her Alexander trilogy over at Facebook.

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Politicised Archaeology and other Subjects

Linked to Alexander (3)
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21st August 2014
Mary Renault’s Alexander: history and fiction both
The Guardian Book Club on MR’s Alexander trilogy (see also 24th Aug. 14)

23rd August 2014
Hamblin & Peterson: Alexander the Great wasn’t content to be merely human
On Alexander’s divinity

26th August 2014
Book Review: All our Alexandrias
“Hala Halim examines the long and cosmopolitan history of Alexandria”

26th August 2014
Tom Holland’s web-chat with The Guardian Reading Group on Mary Renault and other subjects
Scroll down to the comments to find the web-chat

1st September 2014
Michael Wood on Alexander the Great and the Middle East
A free talk on Monday 15th September 6-7:30pm

1st September 2014
Amphipolis Tomb: All Circus, No Bread at Greece’s Newly Found “Archaeological Disneyland”
A critical article from the Greek Reporter on the hullabaloo surrounding the Lion Tomb

2nd September 2014
Politicized Archaeology
from ekathimerini newspaper

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Mary Renault Reading Group on Facebook

Alexander-trilogy
Have you read Mary Renault’s Alexander trilogy? Would you like to? One of the the members of this blog’s Alexander the Great page on Facebook has set up a Mary Renault Reading Group page.

The aim will be to read the trilogy and then Renault’s biography The Nature of Alexander.

I have never read Renault’s books before – actually, that’s not quite true; I started one of them a few months ago but got distracted and never went back to it. Being part of a reading group, therefore, will be great motivation to open the books up again.

The Mary Renault Reading Group is for anyone who loves Alexander. It doesn’t matter whether you know a lot or little about him, or whether you have read Renault’s books before, or never even knew they existed. Sharing, learning and – most of all – enjoying are what the group will be about.

Happy reading!

Mary_Renault

  • The picture of Renault’s trilogy comes from their publisher – Virago Books
  • The photograph of Renault herself is from Wikipedia
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From Macedonia in Fiction to Crete in Fact

Links to Alexander (2)
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5th August 2014
Historical Fiction can speak very clearly to the present and to the past
The Guardian Book Club – references Mary Renault’s Fire From Heaven

8th – 10th August 2014
Counterpunch
The No State Solution
Alexander represents what needs to be destroyed in order for peace to prevail

10th August 2014
Popular Takes on Raksha Bandham
A legendary story of how Roxane used this Hindu festival to help Alexander

12th August 2014
Making Alexander great: creating a hero from zero
The Guardian Book Club on Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy

13th August 2013
USC historian plays with the pieces of an ancient puzzle
“An expert on the Ptolemaic dynasty broadens her studies of Hellenistic Egypt”

Also…

There have been numerous stories around the web on the Lion Tomb at Amphipolis. Dr Dorothy Lobel King says what needs to be said best on her blog PHDiva.

The Patrick Leigh Fermor blog has good news about the publication this autumn of not one, but two books about the abduction of General Kreipe by Leigh Fermor and Cretan partisans during the Second World War.

Last Week’s Links

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14. 3. 2014

By-the-Bye No. 1
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Tom Holland and Mary Renault’s Alexander Trilogy
A few weeks ago on my Alexander Facebook page I mentioned that Virago Books are re-releasing Mary Renault’s Alexander Trilogy. I started reading one of them, The Persian Boy, I think, a while ago but got nowhere with it. Not the book’s fault – the story was being told from Bagoas the eunuch’s perspective, and I’m not really interested in him. I might have another go with the new editions, though, especially as they will come with an introduction-or-three by Tom Holland.
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Alexander the Fourth… Version
Did you know that Oliver Stone is releasing a fourth version of his ‘biopic’ of Alexander? It will be called Alexander The Ultimate Cut and is due for release on 3rd June this year. Here it is at Amazon. I will buy it, if only to see what changes Stone has made. Unfortunately,  I don’t expect to come away thinking ‘Finally, Oliver Stone has made a great picture’. This is because, to my mind, his Alexander is fundamentally flawed; for example, in silly mistakes such as the absurd accents or the insipid interpretation of Hephaestion, but also in the more serious errors such as the hatchet job done on Philip II. This is not to say that the film is and always will be unwatchable – I enjoyed watching Alexander Revisited for my scene-by-scene series and appreciated the film more as a result – but I do think it means that no matter what Stone does to the film he will never get the first class picture that he craves.
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And yet, he must clearly love it to come back to it time and again. If only he would move on and, perhaps, direct or produce a documentary series on Alexander. That would be worthy of his devotion and give him a new chance to write the story he obviously wants.

300 Rise of an Empire
300 Rise of an Empire has just come out in Britain. Lucky us. I am being a little unfair. 300 was immensely silly but enjoyable in its own silly way; I daresay that Rise of an Empire is more of the same. I enjoyed reading Pop Classics’ review of it; particularly as it taught me a new word – parallelaquel, being a sequel that takes place before, during and after the original movie!

Forgotten Dynasties
A couple of days ago I opened the Livius website and started reading about the Attalid and Antigonid dynasties. Before doing so you could have summed up my knowledge of both as – the Attalids? Who? Where? And, Antigonids? You mean the ones defeated by the Romans? So it was good to learn a little more about them both. Next, I should do the same for the Seleucid kings. My heart will always be with the Argeads and Ptolemies but it is good to fill in the blank spaces in one’s knowledge.
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Well Done to The Last of Us et al
The British Film Academy held its annual video game awards this week (Here is the Daily Telegraph’s report). Am I the only one who would love to see a game based on the Macedonian phalanx. It could be a First Person… what? Shooter obviously won’t do; I am going for Stabber and Slasher. I believe there are strategy games based on Alexander’s conquests but the FPS&S would allow the player to get up close and personal at the front of the phalanx. Blood, gore and mayhem. Brilliant.

Pi in the Sky
Happy Pi Day to this blog’s American readers.
The official (??) website claims that this day is celebrated ‘around the world’. Alas, not in Britain where – as you can see from the title of this post – we place the day before the month. Still, the sentiment – that we use the day to celebrate maths – is a good one. As I am as good with numbers as Ptolemy I Soter, though, I fear I will use our different method of dating as an excuse to ignore all things mathematical until tomorrow (and thereafter).
 
2058 Years of Hurt
Speaking of anniversaries – tomorrow is, of course, the Ides of March. Had I been around in First Century BC Rome I would definitely have been on Julius Caesar’s side* so it will naturally be a sad occasion for me. I may have to take a little wine to assuage the pain. If so, I shall raise a glass to the other great man. 

* Well, okay, I would probably have been a peasant but I’m sure we have all harboured thoughts of being a patrician. Haven’t we?

Themes
This blog uses the WordPress “Adventure Journal” theme. I would like to replace it with one that looks more professional without being totally smooth and soulless. Can you recommend one? All ideas are welcome! On this point, if you have any comments about the content of the blog, I am very happy to receive them – this applies not only to what you have read but also anything that you like or dislike about the blog or would like to see etc. I may or may not act upon what you say but I will certainly take your thoughts into account in deciding what to write in the future.

Categories: By the Bye, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

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