Madeline Miller at the Kolkata Literary Meet 2013, India
July 24, 1978 |
Boston, United States
|Notable work(s)||The Song of Achilles|
|Notable award(s)||Orange Prize for Fiction
Madeline Miller is an American novelist, whose debut novel was The Song of Achilles. Miller spent ten years writing the book while she worked as a Latin and Greek teacher. The novel, set in Greece, tells the story of the love between Achilles and Patroclus. The Song of Achilles won the Orange Prize for Fiction, making Miller the fourth debut novelist to win the prize.
Miller was born on July 24, 1978 in Boston and grew up in New York City and Philadelphia. After graduating from Brown University with a bachelor's and master's in Classics, Miller went on to teach Latin, Greek and Shakespeare to high school students. She also studied at the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought and at the Yale School of Drama. Miller lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she teaches and writes.
The Song of Achilles
The Song of Achilles, Miller's debut novel, was released on September 5, 2011. The book took her ten years to write. After discarding a completed manuscript five years into her writing, she started again from scratch, struggling to perfect the voice of her narrator. The Song of Achilles, set in Greece, tells the story of a love affair between Achilles and Patroclus. Miller was inspired by the account of the two men from Homer's Iliad and said she wanted to explore who Patroclus was and what he meant to Achilles. On her inspiration for the novel, Miller explained:
|“||I stole it from Plato! The idea that Patroclus and Achilles were lovers is quite old. Many Greco-Roman authors read their relationship as a romantic one—it was a common and accepted interpretation in the ancient world. We even have a fragment from a lost tragedy of Aeschylus, where Achilles speaks of his and Patroclus' 'frequent kisses.' There is a lot of support for their relationship in the text of the Iliad itself, though Homer never makes it explicit. For me, the most compelling piece of evidence, aside from the depth of Achilles' grief, is how he grieves: Achilles refuses to burn Patroclus' body, insisting instead on keeping the corpse in his tent, where he constantly weeps and embraces it—despite the horrified reactions of those around him. That sense of physical devastation spoke deeply to me of a true and total intimacy between the two men."||”|
Miller had become transfixed by Achilles after her mother read the Iliad to her when she was younger. She also found Patroclus "tantalizing" because he is a minor character that later had a "big impact" on the outcome of the Trojan War. The writer used classical texts by Ovid, Virgil, Sophocles, Apollodorus, Euripides and Aeschylus to help with the plot, as well as accounts of Achilles' childhood friendship with Patroclus and his martial training. Miller also uses quotes from Homer in the text.
The Song of Achilles was the winner of the 17th annual Orange Prize for Fiction. Carolyn Kellogg of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it was a surprise win, with Miller being "the dark horse in this year's race". Joanna Trollope, chair of the judges, commented "This is a more than worthy winner – original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her." The book was also shortlisted for the 2013 Chautauqua Prize.
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- "Book Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller". The Book Smugglers. December 21, 2011. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
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- Ciabattari, Jane (March 21, 2012). "Madeline Miller Discusses 'The Song of Achilles'". The Daily Beast. Retrieved June 1, 2012.
- Ron Charles (May 15, 2013). "Timothy Egan wins Chautauqua Prize for “Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher”". Washington Post. Retrieved September 26, 2013.