Robert Irwin

Virgil among the Ottomans

Homer’s Turk: How Classics Shaped Ideas of the East

By

Harvard University Press 306pp £22.95 order from our bookshop

Many years ago I was in the same creative writing class as an eccentric would-be novelist who explained to the rest of us how a novel should be written: first, all the relevant locations should be described, then one should provide detailed portraits of the novel’s protagonists, and only after all this had been got out of the way should the actual story start. A reading of Homer’s Turk brought this procedure back to mind, since Jerry Toner’s technique is a little bit similar. His preface is followed by fully sixty pages of methodological throat clearing and preliminary generalities and only then does the detailed argument get under way. Yet, despite this reservation (and others, which I shall come to), the main thing to be noted is that Toner’s thesis is both convincing and important. Greek and Roman literature did crucially shape subsequent Western perceptions of the Orient and, in doing so, was only slightly less important than biblical references and Christian theological preoccupations.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Something of an 'eccentric billionaire’s hobby': reviews 'The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and… ,
    • "At the age of fifteen, drunk on stolen Chardonnay or stoned on pot at a swimming party, the thoughts that come imm… ,
    • For the latest Bookends, here's Alan Taylor musing on his stint as an assistant librarian. ,
    • A ‘pretentious ass and impotent arriviste’ who surrounded himself with ‘degenerates, hooligans, childish layabouts,… ,
    • . reviews 'Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life' by ,
    • "As Beevor shows, it was one of the most daring, dangerous and fiercely fought operations of the whole war. It was… ,
    • "The characters are very rich and very male, with astronomical ambitions. The potted biographies in this book sugge… ,