no more gods


Zeus would not approve. In Wolfgang Petersen’s 2004 movie “Troy” and now in “An Iliad” (Knopf), the new novelization of Homer’s epic by the bestselling Italian author Alessandro Baricco, we find no gods — none. No Hera or Aphrodite; no limping Hephaestus or weed-bearded Poseidon; the whole fractious, horny, and meddlesome crew is simply…not there.

The omissions in “Troy” we can probably forgive; a swords-and-sandals blockbuster like that, swirling in money and policed no doubt by militant producers, might just not have had room for visions or divine entries. But the godlessness of Baricco’s “An Iliad” is more considered and programmatic: Homer’s Olympians “are probably the aspect of the poem most extraneous to a modern sensibility and often break up the narrative, diffusing a momentum that should rightly be palpable,” he writes in an introductory note. “I wouldn’t have removed them if I’d been convinced they were necessary.”

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