When was Greek mythology practiced

Greek myths corrected in terms of content

"Everywhere people looked for Homer's first book, the original song. They searched and dug under the ruins of Troy, on Leuke, in every Mediterranean country, but to this day none of these scrolls have been found. But they are there. Somewhere. You are in the world. "

Christoph Hein plays a bold literary and intellectual game in his volume of short stories "Before Time". The poems of Homer, so the fiction in one of the 25 stories in the book, did not meet with goodwill from Odysseus and so he instructed the poet to make corrections. Homer did, but hid the original in an unknown location. Only the chants censored by Odysseus came to us today. Thus it is legitimate for one of Homer's successors to think about variants in Greek mythology. Everything could have been different - maybe not entirely different, but a little. Christoph Hein suggests corrections - including the subtitle of the volume - to the ancient myths and retells selected episodes again. The reader is confronted with small rotations, shifts in perspective and details that have apparently not been taken into account before, which make the goings-on of the gods and people appear in a different light.

In a total of 25 stories, Hein practices his stubborn, archaeological method and lets the mythological heroes from Helena to Eros and Hades to Odysseus, Zeus and Heracles appear. As is well known, the latter had to do twelve jobs. However, Hein tells of a 13th work by Heracles that was commissioned by Eurystheus. If the other twelve were dangerous and hardly manageable, this 13th is simply impracticable. It is:

"Defeat Zeus!"

When Heins Heracles wandered through the country in despair and distress, the King of Ligys sent his entire army against him. Heracles kills hundreds of soldiers, but then sinks to the ground exhausted and without any hope. In the face of death, the hitherto invincible Heracles begins to weep and prays to Zeus. This touches the mightiest of the gods, and he saves Heracles. In this way, Heracles defeated even Zeus in Hein's interpretation.

"But no god and no singer dared to report about the 13th Labor, about the victory over Zeus. And even Homer, who knew about the 13th Labor, feared the wrath of the Almighty and kept silent about this outrageous act."

Hein's stories cause productive uncertainty, as the reader can at no point be sure whether the respective myth will follow Homer or Hein. So the reading expands and you are encouraged to refresh your knowledge of Greek mythology in order to fully enjoy your intellectual enjoyment of the book "Before Time". Against the background of Homer's epics, an almost detective-like ambition awakens to explore the shifts in accent in Hein's new stories, which are written in clear, functional language.

Unfortunately, however, Christoph Hein does not seem to have done this kind of intertextual artistry, and he begins to tell from about halfway through the book with a raised index finger. The joy of the literarily and spiritually bold basic idea of ​​Hein's corrections dies away at the latest when he revises the myth of Echo. After the nymph, at the behest of Zeus, distracted his wife Hera from one of his amorous adventures, the doubly betrayed Hera robbed her of the ability to speak independently. From now on Echo could only repeat the last words addressed to her. While she withers with grief in Greek mythology, she does quite differently with Hein:

"The gods are revered and worshiped, they are respected and feared, but only the little Echo is popular with the earthly. One emulates her, one wants to become like them. Whoever succeeds enjoys the affection of all people, not anyone one prefers to listen to him than to him. The powerful of the world listen to him and value his opinion more than anyone else's. They follow his judgment in their decisions and promote his career to the best of their ability. "

Christoph Hein develops his stories more and more into parables with contemporary references and moralizing punchlines. So the cupbearer Tropo, after he had given his king the advice to simply requisition the missing money for his state expenses from the citizens of his empire, is honored with a very contemporary epithet:

"And Tropo has since been considered the first economist in antiquity. And he was also the first to be awarded the title of Economist."

In this way, resentments are mixed up in Hein's stories, which, however, do not seem like salt in the literary soup of the writer from the former GDR, but on the contrary make them bland and watery. A good editor who would have been able to protect Hein from Hein would have been needed here.

This would also have been indicated in the story about Asklepios, the god of healing, if Asklepios, who soothed human suffering, in Hein's version of Hades, was scourged by all means and finally put on the chair of oblivion. The fact that the upright are suppressed by the powerful and erased from public memory may have been a piece of history in the times of GDR censorship. In the western world of hypercomplexity, in which the power relations have decentralized and anonymized, such a parabola only appears flat and woodcut-like.

To sum up, anyone who, as a reader, notices the author's intention and still manages not to be upset, can spend a few stimulating days with the volume of short stories "Before Time".

Book information:
Christoph Hein: "Before the time - corrections", Insel Verlag, 189 pages, price: 19.95 euros