LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE 2017
From the award-winning, best-selling writer: a deeply moving tale of a father and son’s transformative journey in reading – and reliving – Homer’s epic masterpiece.
When eighty-one-year-old Jay Mendelsohn decides to enrol in the undergraduate seminar on the Odyssey that his son Daniel teaches at Bard College, 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.
But through the sometimes uncomfortable months that follow, as 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’ legendary voyages – it becomes clear that Daniel has much to learn, too. For Jay’s responses to both the text and the travels gradually uncover long-buried secrets that allow the Daniel 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 writer’s most revelatory entwining yet of personal narrative and literary exploration.