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.
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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 - 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 - Tablet
a dense, vigorous portrait - 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 - Independent, Books of the Year
Ann Wroe is the Briefings and Obituaries Editor of the Economist. After taking a degree in History and a doctorate in medieval history (Oxford, 1975) she worked at the BBC World Service, covering French and Italian politics. She joined the Economist in 1976 to cover American politics, and has held the posts of Books and Arts editor (1988-1992) and American editor (1992-2000). She has written five books: Lives, Lies and the Iran-Contra Affair; A Fool and His Money: Life in a Partitioned Medieval Town; Pilate: The Biography of an Invented Man; Perkin: A Story of Deception and Being Shelley: The Poet's Search for Himself. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Literature. She is married with three sons and lives in London.