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David Malouf shines new light on Homer’s ILIAD, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant.

David Malouf shines new light on Homer’s ILIAD, adding twists and reflections, as well as flashes of earthy humour, to surprise and enchant.

In this exquisite gem of a novel, Achilles is maddened by grief at the death of his friend Patroclus. From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son, Hector, being dragged behind Achilles’ chariot. There must be a way, he thinks, of reclaiming the body - of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against the old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, an old man sets off for the Greek camp ...

Lyrical, immediate and heartbreaking Malouf’s fable engraves the epic themes of the Trojan war onto a perfect miniature - themes of war and heroics, hubris and humanity, chance and fate, the bonds between soldiers, fathers and sons, all newly burnished and brilliantly recast for our times.


That this tender novel lingers so long and hauntingly in the mind is a testament both to Malouf’s poetry and to his reverence for the endless power of myth.

Steve Coates, New York Times Book Review

... profound ... subtle and extremely moving. Malouf’s paraphrases of Homer are highly inventive, embroidered with imaginative details that often reanimate familiar elements of the epic. This is tampering at its very best.

Daniel Mendelsohn, New Yorker

David Malouf’s Ransom enters another distant realm – that of Homer’s epic poem and foundation text of our culture, the Iliad. In the novel Malouf treats particularly a key, poignant and puzzling episode near the poem’s conclusion, when the Trojan king, Priam, seeking to recover the body of his dead son, Hector, ventures into the camp of his prime Greek enemy, Achilles. An old tale is both made unfamiliar, yet brought closer to us in Malouf’s plangent, terse but unhurried narrative. Rejoicing as always at the plenitude of stories within his span, Malouf has shown again his powers of creative renewal, of the fresh departures that his art has so long made.

Judges, the Prime Minister's Literary Awards

Australia’s finest writer

Miriam Cosic, The Australian

Though Malouf’s sparingly deployed details, vigorous language, and sly wit humanize these tragic heroes, the story is unmistakably epic and certainly the stuff of legend.

â??Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Ransom, his first novel in 10 years it must be said at once is a masterpiece, exquisitely written, pithy and wise and overwhelmingly moving, constructed with invisible, successful craft that leaves the reader wondering how in the world it had been done. ... fiction, in Malouf's hands, becomes the art of rendering the world coherent. For this we must be grateful.

Alberto Manguel, Australian Literary Review

David Malouf writes with the voice of a poet: his graceful fiction deals in truth and is always beautiful. He has taken Homer’s epic and given it fresh life in Ransom. This is a book that will engage and inspire you.

Eileen Battersby, Irish Times

‘In austere, elegant prose that subverts Homer’s Iliad in significant ways, David Malouf has created in Ransom an imaginative terrain that is both new and old.’ Rod Jones, The Age

A work of immediacy, humanity and tenderness.

Philip Parker, Financial Times

I thought I'd just dip back into Ransom and read a couple of pages. I didn't get out of there again. The way he caresses you, he just he caresses you and surprises you. It's still one of the great moments in writing in this country in the last 50 years. There's a moment in Ransom, where you just sit up and go, "God! I can't." I love surprise. I love surprise. And it has one of the great surprises in it.

David Marr, First Tuesday Book Club

‘The sheer potency of this slim volume can hijack your senses and emotions.’ The Courier Mail

‘This book shines new light on this story of the Trojan War, adding twists and reflections as well as flashes of earthly humour.’ Brisbane News

... lithe, graceful and deeply moving tale ... These pages of Ransom are nothing short of magical. Malouf’s prose is delicate, marvellously alert to the natural world and endowed with a quality that has one name only: wisdom. There is something Shakespearean about this section: not the Shakespeare of the great speeches but those quiet moments …when time stands still and the nature of life is mysteriously disclosed.

Andrew Riemer, The Sydney Morning Herald

Malouf’s rendering of Ancient Greece is gorgeous, fantastical, and yet earthly, humble and relatable.

Australian Bookseller + Publisher

“RANSOM is a diamond of a novel, tiny but flawless, prose so pared away and carefully constructed that however many times you read it, it persists in revealing new meanings and unfolding new images to the mind’s eye.”

Sarah Bower, Editor’s Choice, HNR

“it’s a marvel - beautifully written, surprisingly moving, quietly rather brilliant.”

Harry Ritchie, The Daily Mail

“David Malouf has written a rich, moving and sometimes disturbing novel, one to read, as it demands, in a sitting and then return to and read slowly.”

Alan Massie, The Scotsman

“the prose is consistently fine. Malouf is incapable of an ugly sentence. The style is so sure, so unostentatious, that we can overlook how good it is ...”

Peter Rose, ABR

"By the time Nikos Kazantzakis completed his sequel to The Odyssey, in 1938, The Iliad had shown itself to be better suited to our imperilled, capsizing world. The twentieth century's wars were fought under the sign of Homer's epic. Rupert Brooke recited The Iliad on the troopship to Gallipoli, and ecstatically anticipated a death that would eternalise his name ... Now David Malouf's meditation on one small episode from The Iliad in his novel Ransom gives the epic a renewed relevance."

Peter Conrad, the Monthly

“David Malouf, one of Australia’s most admired writers, has taken a sliver of Homer’s ILIAD and augmented and embellished it. The result is a beautiful tale that acknowledges its place as a fragment in a larger narrative yet stands alone.”

Nina Caplan, Time Out

“David Malouf’s retelling of the final chapters of Homer’s ILIAD stands alone as a magnificent tribute to the poetic strength of its tumultuous source and a quietly poignant critique on the futility of war. This is a great story in its own right ... But Malouf’s beautiful language puts fresh flesh on to these characters.”

Claire Allfree, Metro

“ ... a work of immediacy, humanity and tenderness. Malouf succeeds beautifully in transporting the reader into the world and thought patterns of archaic Greece and then in part subverting them. His elegant prose is delightful.”

“David Malouf has written a rich, moving and sometimes disturbing novel, one to read, as it demands, in a sitting and then to return adn read it slowly.”

Allan Massie, The Scotsman

“The themes of this apparently simple, yet immensely moving, modern novel are still vast: loss, forgiveness, love and redemption. Lyrical, witty, gentle, this is above all a story of transformation.”

Elizabeth Speller, The Independent

“David Malouf writes with the voice of a poet; his graceful fiction deals in truth and is always beautiful. RANSOM is a dignified performance. Here is fiction as art, epic re-imagined as a simple tale of a father fulfiling his duty. Serious questions are raised: honour, grief, retribution, mortality. In writing this novel Malouf is honouring a great work and also making it his own.”

Eileen Battersby, The Irish Times

“David Malouf’s RANSOM [is] a wonderful retelling of the encounter between Achilles and the Trojan King Priam in prose that’s so good you want to eat it.”

Mariella Frostrup, The Guardian

Just a short email to tell you how much I enjoyed `Ransom’ by Malouf. The blurb on the back of the book said something about finishing the short novel and then immediately starting it again, which is exactly what I did.

The language and imagery is just wonderful – I loved it. If we have a greater writer in Australia, I don’t know who it is!

Talk to you soon, and again, thanks for the reading copy.

Lyn, Coaldrake’s Bookshop

“. . .I have been lucky enough to read an advance copy of David Malouf’s first novel in more than 10 years, Ransom (due in April) – a powerful, visceral and haunting revisiting of Hector’s Troy. It’s a thrilling reworking of a classic subject.”

David Gaunt, Gleebooks

Why read a retelling of a classic of Western literature? Read David Malouf’s latest to find out. Beautiful and so very lyrical, Ransom is Malouf’s version of Homer’s Iliad, delving primarily into the relationships between men in the midst of a long and bloody war.

The great Greek warrior Achilles mourns the death of Patroclus which spurs him on to defile the body of the heroic Trojan, Hector. Hector’s father King Priam, grief-stricken, resolves to ransom his body with treasure from his kingdom’s coffers. And along the way, another man, the humble cart-driver Somax who bears Priam to Achilles, becomes an unlikely ally to the king. This is simply stirring writing. With great sensitivity and insight, Malouf explores the bonds between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, comrades in arms, and men of different stations in life who have been thrown together with a common purpose. What could have been an overly masculine story, in Malouf’s hands, becomes a compelling novel about grief, love and pride that will resonate with every reader. Read it slowly and savour every word.

Kabita Dhara, Readings Carlton

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Formats & editions

  • Paperback


    March 1, 2010

    Vintage Australia

    240 pages

    RRP $19.99

    Online retailers

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

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    July 1, 2012

    Random House Australia

    240 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
    • Google Play
    • Kobo

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Awards and Recognition

  • ALS Gold Medal Award
    ALS Gold Medal Award
  • Queensland Literary Awards
    Queensland Literary Awards
  • The Age Book of the Year Award
    The Age Book of the Year Award
  • WA Premier's Literary Awards
    WA Premier's Literary Award (Fiction)
  • Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature
    Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature
  • APA Book Design Awards
    APA Book Design Awards
  • NSW Premier's Literary Awards
    NSW Premier's Literary Awards
  • Prime Minister's Literary Awards
    Prime Minister's Literary Awards

Also by David Malouf

The One Day: Short Black 7
Being There
The Writing Life
A First Place
Earth Hour
Harland's Half Acre
The Conversations At Curlew Creek
The Happy Life: The Search for Contentment in the Modern World
The Happy Life: The Search of Contentment in the Modern World: QuarterlyEssay 41
The Complete Stories
On Experience
Revolving Days: Selected Poems
Every Move You Make
Typewriter Music
Made in England: Australia's British Inheritance: Quarterly Essay 12
Dream Stuff
Jane Eyre
The Great World
12 Edmondstone Street
Fly Away Peter
An Imaginary Life
Child's Play


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
Echo Burning
A Gentleman in Moscow
Best Laid Plans
Fool Me Once
The Golden House
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
Swing Time
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Girls
Cold Blood
Fifty Shades Darker
The Trip of a Lifetime
The Light Between Oceans
Ready Player One