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The Greek Generals Talk: MEMOIRS OF THE TROJAN WAR by Phillip Parotti (University of Illinois: $11.95; 164 pp.)

September 21, 1986|Nicholas Goodhue | Goodhue is the author of several publications in the field of classical archaeology. and

This latest volume in the Illinois Short Fiction series is cast in the form of reminiscences by 12 Greek veterans of the Trojan War. To create these highly affecting monologues, Phillip Parotti has drawn upon an impressive familiarity with Greek history and culture, but his own experience of military life, tactics, and strategy gained as a naval officer is in evidence as well.

Parotti's generals offer their recollections from a perspective of nearly 60 years after the war, when the Greek world was poised at the dividing line between the Heroic Age and the coming Dark Age; "Achaia like the tide has entered her ebb," one of them observes, and frequent reference is made to the northern barbarians who have already begun the initial thrusts of the invasion that will end Mycenean civilization but lead ultimately to the emergence of the Greek city-state centuries later.

The generals are aware of the horrors of war in general and of the Trojan War in particular, which was "awful, vicious, endless." But sometimes there is no choice: "Justice must be preserved or life defended," and had they not gone to Troy to recover Helen, who had been carried off by the Trojan prince Paris, "we would have wandered the earth faceless and nameless in our shame, unable to call ourselves men . . . we would have lost our selves ."

Interspersed with the recollections of the Trojan War are many asides relating to the details of daily life, such as descriptions of particular kinds of food and drink. Such details enhance the illusion of these accounts as actual monologues.

This book may be recommended to anyone interested in ancient classical civilization, perhaps not least to those whose interest may first have been engaged by the recent television series "In Search of the Trojan War" and the companion book of the same title reviewed in these pages several weeks ago (Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 6, 1986).

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