One of the things I wanted to do at my mom’s was read Ransom by Australian writer David Malouf. Ransom is Malouf’s retelling of a section of the Illiad – the killing and desecration of Hector by Achilles and Priam’s attempt to ransom his son’s body. I was already to start the book the other day when my dad grabbed it up but fortunately for me, he finished it (and really enjoyed it). I have only read a few pages and I can’t wait to share the opening paragraphs with you.
The sea has many voices. The voice this man is listening for is the voice of his mother. He lifts his head, turns his face to the chill air that moves in across the gulf, and tastes its sharp salt on his lip. The sea surface bellies and glistens, a lustrous silver-blue – membrane stretched to a fine transparency where once, for nine changes of the moon, he had hung curled in a dream of pre-existence and was rocked and comforted. He hunkers down now on the shelving pebbles at its edge, bunches his cloak between his thighs. Chin down, shoulders hunched, attentive.
The gulf can be wild at times, its voices so loud in a man’s head that it is like standing still in the midst of battle. But today in the dawn light it is pondlike. Small waves slither to his sandalled feet, then sluice away with a rattling sound as the smooth stones loosen and go rolling.
The man is a fighter, but when he is not fighting he is a farmer, earth is his element. One day, he knows, he will go back to it. All the grains that were miraculously called together at his birth to make just these hands, these feet, this corded forearm, will separate and go their own ways again. He is a child of the earth. But the whole of his life he has been drawn, in his other nature, to his mother’s element. To what, in all its many forms, as ocean, pool, stream, is shifting and insubstantial. To what accepts, in a moment of stillness, the reflection of a face, a tree in leaf, but holds nothing, and itself cannot be held. (pgs. 3-4)