Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ransom - David Malouf

"I have endured what no one on earth has ever done before," he says. "I put to my lips the hands of the man who killed my son."

Taking a clue from Homer's epic, Illiud, David Malouf recreate the scene in a dramatic fashion to the readers. The risk of adaptation of themes from Epics ( you a whole lot in India from Mahabharat and Ramayan), it is already deep rooted in the minds of the reader. You can fail miserably if your take is not conforming with that of the reader. In this case, Malouf, as far as I am concerned pulls up a brilliant effort. Written as an encounter between the Trojan King Prium and Achilles, the tale goes from one side to the other through the twist and turns of the internal reflections and remorse of two of the giant figures of the great Greek tragedy.

Achilles had his revenge, killing Hector, fearless warrior and sun of Trojan King Priam in an epic battle. to avenge the killing of his close friend and associate Patroclus by the hands of Hector. His anger is at such that each day he return to the decapitated body of Hector and drag it through the war fields, bringing insult to the great warrior. It is the duty of Priam to retrieve the body of his son and give him proper burial befitting his stature. After evaluating various options, he decided to venture himself to meet Achilles, request his to return the body and bring back to his country. As expected, there was great rejection and turmoil in the court against such a step. However, his decision was firm and he trusted his ability to convince Achilles and bring back the body of his son. He set forth his journey , in simple white dress, removing all his royal insignia, and choose to ride a mule with a support. He was going as a father and not as a fellow King, negotiating terms. All he had was the 'ransom' he collected and loaded to please Achilles. The encounter itself was dramatic and he had to go through great humiliation and insult before good sene prevailed.
It is not the story that is interesting, but the way David Malouf tried to get into the scheme of things and under the skin of his chosen characters. For Priam, it is realisation of the vulnerability of his position. At the end, he is a father, he is also a fellow citizen, whose life he never encountered sitting in the palace. While he managed to retrieve the lifeless body of his son, he also manages to retrieve the pulse of his countrymen.

It is not the story that matters, but the aspect of story telling. David Malouf, going by this book, is a great story teller. His language and style is delicate and lyrical. I also, think that this is also written as a five act play for theatrical adaption. There is an overwhelming presence of the dramatist in the conversations and in the narration. This short novel is a good introduction for me to this good writer and I look forward to read a full length fiction soon.
Ransom ( 2009 )

David Malouf

Vintage Books

224 Pages

Rs 399
Other Reviews : The independent , Guardinan

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