Monday, June 18, 2012

ORPHEUS wins Criticos Prize, Ann Wroe on The Daily Beast

Congratulations, Ann Wroe! Wroe's recently published Orpheus: The Song of Life is the recipient of the 2011 John D. Criticos Prize for an original work inspired by Greek or Hellenic culture.  As this year's winner, Wroe will receive £10,000 and join a long list of esteemed past honorees including recent prizewinners Zachary Mason (The Lost Books of the Odyssey, 2010), David Malouf (Ransom, 2009), and Stephen Halliwell (Greek Laughter, 2008). Originally conceived by Greek ship owner and businessman John D. Criticos and officially established in 1996, the prize seeks to uphold the ideals of the Hellenic culture and promote Anglo-Hellenic understanding. This year's award brought more than one hundred submissions from publishers and private individuals across the globe, from which the Adjudicating Committee comprised of Hellenic scholars and writers throughout England and Greece selected Orpheus as this year's winner.

To better introduce readers unfamiliar with the central character in her new book, Ann has written a fascinating piece for The Daily Beast, explaining why the mythological muse continues to haunt us today. Check out this excerpt and visit BookBeast for the entire article.

"Some stories haunt us constantly, and yet we hardly know why. The story of Icarus, who dared to fly too near the sun and whose wax wings melted away; the tale of Oedipus, who cannot help killing his father and marrying his mother; the fable of the Babes in the Wood, who try to mark their trail with crumbs that are eaten by the birds, and who in the end are softly buried by them, leaf by leaf.

Yet perhaps no tale has haunted humanity as Orpheus’s has: the musician who sang so sweetly that he persuaded the powers of death to give him back his wife, and then lost her. Poets, from Virgil and Ovid to Mallarme and Rilke, have written his story. Composers from Monteverdi to Gluck, to Stravinsky, to Philip Glass, have told it in music. Rubens, Giorgione, Klee and Corot have painted it; Jean Cocteau has turned it into film. Only last year, I saw his story staged as a musical by players who were crippled or blind, and they acted it with such fervor that it was clearly fountain-fresh to them, at the start of the 21st century. They acted out his life as though it was theirs. And in a way it is.
His character is immensely old. Though he emerges by name in the 6th century B.C., I have seen an Orpheus figure on a vase seven centuries earlier, in the museum at Heraklion in Crete: a man with a giant lyre who is headed and beaked like a bird, and to whom the charmed birds fly down. He may have come originally from India, a fisher-god pulling up souls, or from Asia Minor, a vegetation god, not long after the dawn of civilized time. Yet ancient as he is, lost in the mist of ages, he lingers. It seems often that Orpheus still wanders through the world, like the traveling musician he possibly was, reminding us of something, tapping at the window glass, refusing to be forgotten. Mention the name Orpheus to almost anyone, and they will immediately say: 'In the Underworld'—a phrase that is shorthand for a whole life of singing, and mystery, and love, and loss."

Praise for ORPHEUS

"Orpheus is a book of wonders, learned, playful, and passionate ... For all her studies, her wide reading, her historical diligence, Wroe's method is instinctive, as she searches for inspirations and connections across the millennia." John Banville (The Guardian)

"A transformative adventure of myth ... A book to make readers laugh, sing, and weep." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"The book sings in a learned, singular manner." Publishers Weekly
"Wroe combines a scholar's attention to evidence with a poet's flair for words in this startlingly original history that traces the obscure origins and tangled relationships of the Orpheus myth from ancient times through today." Library Journal

No comments: