Ransom Study Guide

David Malouf's Ransom (2009) is a profound novel of immense suffering, sorrow, and redemption.

It retells the story of Homer's Iliad from books 22 to 24. While the Iliad covers the entirety of the last year of the Trojan War, a famous conflict in Greek myth between the allied Greeks and the citizens of the city of Troy, Ransom deals specifically with the aftermath of the death of the Trojan prince, Hector, and his father's attempt to get back Hector's body so he can give him a proper burial. Ransom differs from the Iliad in several key respects. First, Somax, who drives the cart Priam rides on his way to his negotiations with Achilles, is not mentioned in the original narrative; this change leads to a drastically different mode of interaction with Hermes in Ransom. Also, Priam and Achilles are covered much more in Malouf's Ransom, which leads to more differences between the two texts.

Speaking to his inspiration for writing the novel, Malouf said, "seeing the physical disintegration of the Twin Towers in real-time on television, continued the chain of events that led to me writing Ransom—this idea of the demise of the city."

Upon release, the novel was met with great acclaim by quite a few major publications, including The New York Times Book Review and The New Yorker. Similarly, it was on the shortlist for the 2011 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and has also received the 2009 John D. Criticos Prize for Greek literature. Says Malouf: "I think Ransom's popularity is based on the fact that the book presents itself as a simple story, and story-telling fulfills a primitive human need—to occupy someone else's life which temporarily relieves us of our own." Says Steve Coates of The New York Times Book Review: "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."