I have finally launched myself to read Gisbert Haef's Troja.

I was actually scared that after reading two other HF books on the Illiad, my last year Nano novel project (Damned Linneage, retelling the story of the family of OEdipos of Thebes as if it were historical fact, depicting as exact a Mykeanean culture as I may be able to), which was set some 100 years before the events of Troy, and the (entertaining but horrible) Brad Pitt's movie, I'd be too fed up with the subject and wouldn't enjoy the book. It's happened the same with Alexander the Great (thus I haven't yet read his books on him, though I will, later).

Anyway, I have enjoyed so much the novels I've read of Gisbert Haefs, and his way of writing, of dominating history, culture, warfare, characters, vocabulary, scene management, and basically every aspect of all his novels I've read so far (Hannibal, The First Death of Marcus Antonius and Hamilcar's Garden) that I was scared to spoil the joy because I was uninterested.

So, I've waited until the book called me. And it did. It's fantastic so far. He is certainly a master storyteller, one of the best I've met so far (okay, there are loads of fantastic writers all throughout History, don't push me to choose!).

Wilusa... The name given to Illion by the luvites, who were kin to the hittites, of indoeuropean origins... (see my note about it and Chariots of War in the PD of this entry).

Wilusa... It reminds me of times gone by, where men were so different to us and yet so similar... My greatest complaint of the recent Troy movie was that they changed a fantastic story for all times, to one mediocre only aplicable to the current, western civilization.

Like Gilgamesh (go and read it if you haven't yet!!!), the Illiad speaks of basic, pure, timeless human feelings, worries, the core of humanity... Now retold by Haefs, with a very different source and method, but, as far as I have read, the same background intention: to explore the foundations of humanity through its history and myths.

When I grow up (as a writer), I want to be like him... :-)

My novel has not progressed much, I'm pretty busy in RL and my writing time is so reduced I am intending to at least simply read a bit (and that's a victory)... Hopefully things will be better for next month, and for Nano. We'll see.

Ah, Wilusa...


Aside about Chariots of War: Apropos to Wilusa, and curiously, but probably not surprising at all, one of my favourite computer games is Chariots of War, published by Paradox/Slitherine (link here), (pretty nice guys in general).

It's a turn-based strategical game, with action 3D battles, based on the Eastern world, from Libya and Thrace to the west, to roughly Bactriana and Sogdiana in the East, based on Bronze age civilizations (Arzawas, Hittites, Luvites, Ugarites, etc... dozens of different tribes for all the (known) world, really fascinating) and its variety of units and necessities to play both short campaigns and the Grand Campaign (image), with all the world to conquer, is fascinating. I haven't even finished my only big scenario game ever (now for many, many hours), playing the Thraces, from the left upper corner... I'm currently the master of Greece, Asia Minor, most of Armenia, Assiria, Fenicia, Judea, and my (huge) army is pretty busy fighting riots all over my cities, fighting the (once powerful and almost winners, but currently very weak thanks to, mainly, yours faithfully) Hittites (whom I've pushed away from their origins), the Libyans and the Marhasians or Sakians, not sure right now...

One of the funniest moments of the game was when, emulating Alexander, I crossed the Dardanos and moved to conquer Troy... way cool! :-) The other cool moment was when I was about to lose all the cities in Asia, my poor armies crushed by enemy sparabara and cavalry, and I managed to create an army of heavy cavalry... Oh did I crushed them all under my heavy pawns!

Being such a great strategos myself (ahem!), my favorite combination of troops, given the limitations of the game, and when cities to provide troops are available, is an army of Massarti Spearmen, Sparabara Archers, and, either Pethalle Horse Archers or Qurbuti Cavalry, depending on the amount of sparabara I have, and the amount of spears I estimate the enemy will have... As for chariots, the one I like the most are Ne'arin Chariots (one driver, archer, which are light and maneuverable). For raw penetration power I prefer cavalry, bigger numbers and versatility, if you ask me... (be sure to check the unit list on their web site!).

BTW, I win nothing by telling you this, but I have had dozens of hours of pure fun and dispair playing this grand campaign... Next one will be starting as Persia (probably :-)


Pacal said...

The Game sounds way cool and so does the Novel. I like it when people try to be historically accurate about the time period they are writing about. It frankly makes for a more interesting read. otherwise it can be a "throw the book against the wall" experience.

My favorite Historical novel(s) are Robert Graves, I Claudius, and Claudius the God. I thought it was way cool when it turned out after reading some of Graves more bizare plot twists that he wasn't making it up!! Whether or not it actually happened he got it from a Roman source. For example the way cool, (in a campy soap opera way) scene in which Livia poisons Augustus by smearing poison on figs that Augustus is plucking and eating is tres outre but comes from Dio Cassius!! Even the truly luney doings of Caligula are largely from the sources.

So history based on the facts can be a truly enjoyable romp. My only concern is if the author of the Novel gets it into his head that the Iliad and the Odyssey are accurate portrayls of the Social- Economic reality of the Mycenean age. Although I think there is some History in the Iliad / Odyssey. I.E., the war at Troy, (which I suspect is completly gummed up the way the Song of Roland gummed up Charlmange's Spanish campaign). I frankly think the Beaucratic world of the Mycenean tablets is very poorly reflected in the Heroic world of the poems. I suspect Homer and his fellow poets wanted the world they talked about to make sense to their listeners, to say nothing of the effect of several centuries passing and the Bronze age collapse. So I frankly don't see Agamemnon as a Mycenean King but has a "Heroic" King, and I have no idea what Age he belongs too. Epic poets are rather notorius for juggling people around from different times.

So I'll look up the Novel you suggested.


Excalibor said...

Pierre, finished the book (by Haefs). It's absolutely brilliant! He intertreted the tradition and re-created a more realistic environment, full with hittites, luvites, arzawas, canaanites, egyptians and a host of other cultures, greeks aren't even the starrings...

The characters are absolutely believable, and the situation and description he makes, is believable... One could accept it really happened the way he tells... He also threw out a couple of stabs to the end of the Mykaenean civilization and the origins of the 'Peoples of the Sea'... pretty interesting...

As for History, agreed! Reality often surpass any fiction we may create... I have queued the BBC TV series based on 'I, Claudius'... I'm hoping for some holidays to watch it!

And finally, about Gilgamesh... The book is absolutely brilliant. I recommend you any translation that doesn't try to "fill in the gaps" from different origins... Stick to the sumerian (or assirian, not sure right now) version, and read it through as a whole... you can then fill in the blanks with the blanks with the other texts (hitties, assirian, babilonian, etc...)

My preferred book (I have several books about Gilgamesh, of course :-) is a translation from a french author... I don't have it handy, but I'll be sure to look for it and send it along, it's the best I have found so far (not that many, though I'm thinking about getting one of the classical english versions)... I was told to read it aloud, as these poems were thought in declamatory mood, and the book certainly is up to the task (even translated, where rythm is lost)...More than 3,000 years haven't made a dent on its validity and force...

I have a project about a project of writing a historical novel about it, but all my initial setups have finished as best-seller formats, which I enjoy from time to time, but it's really not my style... I may end up writing it again, as a full blown out historical reconstruction and interpretation... Whichever, a fascinating project, really...

In the meantime, I am slowly advancing on Inaros, the Delian fleet is about to meet the Canaanites in the Nile... Fun, fun, fun! :-)

thanks for your help and support!

Excalibor said...

OK, took the chance to go home for lunch because I had to go to the hospital for a flu vaccine shot, and checked on the Gilgamesh book.

It's the spanish translation of Jean Bottéro, L'Epopée de Gilgamesh. You'll be able to find his works both in french and english without problem, he was a great scholar of the Near East cultures.

Among the available English editions (if you can find Bottéro's I really think it's valuable) I have been recommended the following:

Mason, Herbert. Gilgamesh. A Verse Narrative by Herbert Mason with an afterword by John H. Marks. A Mentor Book. N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1970.

Enjoy it :-)