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A powerful and poetic work of history on the figure of Orpheus: his life and myth, and his representation and imagining from the sixth century BC to the present day.

For at least two and a half millennia, the figure of Orpheus has haunted humanity. Half-man, half-god, musician, magician, theologian, poet and lover, his story never leaves us. He may be myth, but his lyre still sounds, entrancing everything that hears it: animals, trees, water, stones, and men. In this extraordinary work Ann Wroe goes in search of Orpheus, from the forests where he walked and the mountains where he worshipped to the artefacts, texts and philosophies built up round him. She traces the man, and the power he represents, through the myriad versions of a fantastical life: his birth in Thrace, his studies in Egypt, his voyage with the Argonauts to fetch the Golden Fleece, his love for Eurydice and journey to Hades, and his terrible death. We see him tantalising Cicero and Plato, and breathing new music into Gluck and Monteverdi; occupying the mind of Jung and the surreal dreams of Cocteau; scandalising the Fathers of the early Church, and filling Rilke with poems like a whirlwind. He emerges as not simply another mythical figure but the force of creation itself, singing the song of light out of darkness and life out of death.

Reviews

This insightful and visionary study, treading a perfect line between imagination and scholarship, is as readable and necessary as a fine novel. Ted Hughes, another mythographer, would have loved it

Independent

Ann Wroe has an acute eye for pastoral detail...and takes a novelist's care in exploring character and evoking atmosphere... [Orpheus] will leave you dancing

New Statesman

This is a most remarkable book... most rewarding... [a book] that will surely enhance Ann Wroe's already considerable reputation

Irish Times

Orpheus: The Song of Life is a book of wonders, learned, playful and passionate...For all her studies, her wide reading, her historical dilligence, Wroe's method is instinctive, as she searches for inspirations and connections across the millennia

John Banville, Guardian

Curious... there are moments of sublime writing

Scotland on Sunday

strange, original

Sunday Times

This one really is a song ... It evokes, but it also embodies, its subject

Brian Morton, Tablet

a dense, vigorous portrait

Maggie Fergusson, Intelligent Life

Manages, in prose both rhapsodic and precise, to convey the allure of the legendary bard from ancient Greece to modern times. This myth has flowered into truth

Boyd Tonkin, Independent, Books of the Year

This insightful and visionary study, treading a perfect line between imagination and scholarship, is as readable and necessary as a fine novel. Ted Hughes, another mythographer, would have loved it."

Independent

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9781845951689

    July 15, 2012

    Pimlico

    272 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • Hardback

    9780224091367

    July 15, 2011

    Jonathan Cape

    272 pages

    RRP $39.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile
    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781446400906

    July 15, 2011

    Vintage Digital

    272 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
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    • Kobo Ebook
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    • eBooks

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