The Road to Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles

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9780701165468: The Road to Delphi: The Life and Afterlife of Oracles

In this fascinating and highly original book Michael Wood combines vivid story-telling and acutely perceptive analysis to give a sympathetic and entertaining account of humanity's persistent belief in 'signs'. He begins with the oracles of ancient Greece, explaining how people consulted them when they had to make crucial choices. Yet the key point was that the oracles spoke in riddles and gave ambiguous answers - it was up to humans to interpret what they said. Like horoscopes today, this allowed the hearers to fit the message to what they wanted, and sometimes, as in the disastrous tale of the Persian general Xerxes, or in the great drama of Oedipus and the riddle of the Sphinx, - and much later in Shakespeare's tale of Macbeth and the witches' prophesy - the listeners have got things horribly wrong. Michael Wood does not only look at Europe - he considers oracles in the old civilisations of the East, and particularly in pre-Hispanic America. He also explores modern examples, like the puzzles in the Kafka's fiction. And he brings the story up into our own lives, examining oracles in the film The Matrix and looking at the way we 'interpret' authorities we don't quite understand - as in the doctor's consulting room - or avidly puzzle out the meaning of astrology columns of the press. Lively, engaging and revealing, full of warmth and humanity as well as scholarship, The Road to Delphi is a book that sticks in the mind. It is remarkable both for the stories it tells, and the way it makes us think again about our dangerous longing to trust in signs - just as long as we have that tiny bit of freedom to twist them to promise what we hope for.

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About the Author:

Michael Wood taught for many years at Exeter University, before moving to become Professor of English at Princeton. He is well known here for his witty and brilliant reviews of modern fiction and film in the London Review of Books. His own books include a study of Nabokov, The Magician's Doubts, and the essays Children of Silence (both in Pimlico). (His daughter, Gaby Wood, is now also a well known journalist at writer)

From Booklist:

The oracular tradition is an immensely rich and provocative subject, and literary critic Wood's wide-ranging and penetrating scrutiny is cogently philosophical, keenly aesthetic, and gratifyingly entertaining. The allure of oracle stories resides in the fact that ambiguity and skepticism are intrinsic to the proceedings: the pronouncements of oracles tend to take the form of unsolvable riddles and puns. As Wood ponders the perverse inscrutability of prophecies, he wonders if fate is escapable, muses over "our need for stories of equivocation," and places "the labor of interpretation" high among humankind's most persistent habits of being. The story of Oedipus is Wood's touchstone, and he adeptly parses an array of interpretations from the classics to the work of Stravinsky. He traces the fate of oracles after Christ, analyzes the role of oracles in Shakespeare and Kafka, then delves into such lesser yet nonetheless effective vehicles as The Matrix. What emerges most poignantly from Wood's imaginative and learned inquiry is a renewed appreciation of our species' creativity and contrariness, and the universal and timeless power of stories. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Wood, Michael
Editore: Chatto & Windus, London (2004)
ISBN 10: 0701165464 ISBN 13: 9780701165468
Nuovi Rilegato Quantità: 1
(Christchurch, Regno Unito)
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Descrizione libro Chatto & Windus, London, 2004. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Condizione sovraccoperta: New. Reprint. New. Jacket is price clipped. Codice libro della libreria 018568

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