An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic

9780007545124: An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and an Epic

From the best-selling author of ‘The Lost’, a deeply moving tale of a father, a son and the lessons of a lifetime told through a transformative journey in reading – and reliving – Homer’s epic masterpiece.

When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enrol in the undergraduate Odyssey seminar his son teaches, the two find themselves on an adventure as profoundly emotional as it is intellectual.

For Jay, a retired research scientist who sees the world through a mathematician's unforgiving eyes, this return to the classroom is his "one last chance" to learn the great literature he'd neglected in his youth – and, even more, a final opportunity to understand his son, a writer and classicist.

But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that the two men explore Homer's great work together–first in the classroom, where Jay persistently challenges his son's interpretations, and then during a surprise-filled Mediterranean journey retracing Odysseus's famous voyages–it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too: Jay's responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the son to understand his difficult father at last.

As this intricately woven memoir builds to its wrenching climax, Mendelsohn's narrative comes to echo the Odyssey itself, with its timeless themes of deception and recognition, marriage and children, the pleasures of travel and the meaning of home. Rich with literary and emotional insight, An Odyssey is a renowned author-scholar's most triumphant entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.

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From the best-selling author of ‘The Lost’, a moving memoir about a father, a son and the lessons of a lifetime.

An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic twines an ongoing reading of the most popular and beloved works of literature, Homer’s Odyssey – with its irresistible tales of travel and adventure, and its eternal themes of transformed identities and climactic recognitions—around a personal journey of modern family life.

This intimate narrative is a father-son story: an account of a year-long reading of the poem that Mendelsohn undertakes with his ailing father, first in the classroom, then on their travels around the Mediterranean in the footsteps of Odysseus. How the ancient tale effects its own unexpected recognitions and transformations in the relationship between father and son, and eventually, in the enduring questions that they faced once he fell ill and began to die, becomes a moving adventure of both the real and the metaphorical.

Exploring the old poem, about long journeys and long marriages and long estrangements and about wanting to go home, An Odyssey illuminates some remarkable and unexpected similarities between the past of our forefathers and the present of our own fathers.


Praise for ‘The Lost’:

‘Daniel Mendelsohn has written a powerfully moving work of a 'lost' family past, reminiscent of the richly expansive prose works of Proust and the elusive texts of W.G. Sebald. A remarkable achievement’ Joyce Carol Oates

‘Epic and personal, meditative and suspenseful, tragic and at times hilarious, “The Lost” is a wonderful book’ Jonathan Safran Foer

‘A stirring detective work in its own right, “The Lost” is set in the context of stories of the enigmatic interventions of God in human affairs, and deepened by reflections on the inescapable, incomprehensible part that chance plays in history’ J.M.Coetzee

‘(Mendelsohn) is a brilliant storyteller, influenced by the Greek masters he so admires, eschewing the chronological, looping forward and back, teasing the reader with hints of what the gods may have in store’ Sunday Times

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