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Holocaust Literature

I am reading Robert Fagles’s translation of the Iliad (Penguin, $26pb, 0 14 027536 3). Achilles is sulking in his ships while the Trojans and Achaeans slaughter each other. Choreographing the moves with astonishing wilfulness are the self-serving, all-powerful gods. The brilliance of the poetry keeps the brutality always in the high beam. Every spear thrust, every disembowelment, every spillage of brains, every spurt of blood is revealed with lyrical clarity. The violence is unrelenting; this poem is almost unbearable.

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How does Arnold Zable do it? After two finely wrought, deceptively simple books on Holocaust themes, he has brought out another, linking tales of the Greek island of Ithaca with the stories of his parents, Polish Jews, and their contemporaries who settled in Melbourne just before or just after the Annihilation, as Zable prefers to call the Holocaust.

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