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The Paths of Survival by Josephine Balmer

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The Paths of Survival explores the fragility of the written word; the ways in which it is destroyed and the ways in which, by each fresh miracle, it endures against all the odds. Tracing the few surviving fragments of Aeschylus’s lost tragedy, Myrmidons, which notoriously depicted the doomed love of the Greek hero Achilles for his fellow warrior Patroclus, the volume moves backwards in time across two and a half millennia; from a tiny scrap of papyrus in a present-day Oxford library to the dying Aeschylus revising his masterpiece in fifth-century BCE Sicily. Along the way, the poems’ dramatic monologues introduce clerks and conquerors, pagans and popes, tyrants and tricksters, as well as translators, anthologists, editors, librarians – and, of course, readers – as each one responds to the text, transforming and perverting it, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unwittingly, for better, for worse, but always with passion. Poignant and, in our own times of cultural conflict, pertinent, The Paths of Survival unravels the intricate serendipity of what time corrodes and what it spares’.

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