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War Music

Christopher Logue

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For the second half of his long life, Christopher Logue (1926-2011) – political rebel, inventor of the poster poem, pioneer of poetry and jazz – was at work on a very different project: a rewriting of Homer’s Iliad. The volumes that appeared from War Music (1981) onwards were distinct from translations, in that they set out to be a radical reimagining and reconfiguration of Homer’s tale of warfare, human folly and the power of the gods, in a language and style of verse that were emphatically modern. As each instalment, from Kings to Cold Calls, was published, it became clear that this was to be Logue’s masterpiece.

Sadly, illness prevented him from finishing it. Enough, however, of his projected final volume, Big Men Falling a Long Way, survives in notebook drafts to give a clear sense of its shape, as well as some of its dramatic high points. These have been gathered into an appendix by Logue’s friend and one-time editor, Christopher Reid. The result comes as near as possible to representing the poet’s complete vision, and confirms what his admirers have long known, that Collected War Music is one of the great poems of our time.

Critic Reviews

One of the most remarkable and idiosyncratic works of postwar British literature. To read War Music in its entirety is to appreciate just what an impact it has had on anglophone poets. Both Robert Fagles' superb translations of Homer and Alice Oswald's haunting and lapidary Memorial (2012) recognisably carry its stamp. All of them bear witness to the remarkable fact that still, after more than two and a half millennia, the Iliad continues to rank as the most heart-stopping, the most terrifying, the most tragic poem ever written.

Tom Holland, The Times
Critic Reviews

This wonderful new edition brings together all the published sections of the poem - and it is a joy to be able to read them continuously for the first time ... A definitive text of one of the strangest and most thrilling English poems of the past century. It also confirms that Logue's Homer deserves a place alongside those of Chapman and Pope.

Henry Power, Evening Standard
Critic Reviews

An ambitious, ferociously compelling re-casting of Homer's Iliad.

Sean O'Brien, Independent, Books of the Year
Critic Reviews

It is neither translation nor recounting, neither imitation nor metamorphosis ... it is the inspired transcription of Logue's listening ... the result verges on genius.

George Steiner

Christopher Logue (1926-2011) was educated at Prior Park College, Bath, and at Portsmouth Grammar School. He served as a Private in the Black Watch and spent sixteen months in an army prison. His publications include several volumes of poetry and a pornographic novel. The first collection of his reinterpretation of Homer’s Iliad, War Music, was shortlisted for the 2002 Griffin…

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