Odysseus, Teller of Tales
Odysseus and his adventures have been a source of inspiration for Dros many times. They feature in her children’s novel De reizen van de slimme man in which a twelve-year-old boy is investigating the mystery behind the old stories which he was once told; in the much-praised metric translation of the Odyssey, also accessible to the young; in an adaptation for youth theatre; and in the idiosyncratic prose narrative Odysseus, een man van verhalen in which the son goes in search of his father, the king of Ithaca, whom he has heard about but never met.
With the first sentence of the prologue: ‘Every son is the son of a hero and every hero’s son wants to be just as great a hero as his father, greater than his father’, Imme Dros places her Odyssey squarely in the tradition of the great epic narratives. Odysseus’s wonderings are seen through different eyes, those of Telemachus who was still a baby when his father fought at Troy. There are also the contemplations of the gods who watch the mortals struggle with irony and sometimes with compassion. Obviously Dros could not and would not tamper with the facts of Homer’s narrative, but by viewing the man of a thousand devices through the emotions of Telemachus the old story acquires a new psychological dimension. What’s the good of having a hero for a father if you never get to see him? In the end every son needs a father if he is to become a man.
For the gods Odysseus is also a teller of tales. Using modern methods to collect information, they amuse themselves with his struggles against the Cyclops, the seductive Sirens and his lengthy sojourn with Calypso. Athene is the only one who consistently stands up for the mortals and wants to turn the fate of Odysseus, Telemachus and Penelope in a more favourable direction. The gods communicate via cordless telephones or VDU’s and use modern day networking techniques. You do something for me and I’ll do something for you.
Both Telemachus’s journey in search of his father and the behaviour of the gods are a sign of the passage of time. The longer Odysseus is away from home, the more urgent is the need for Telemachus to discover his own identity and to perform a heroic deed. Penelope may well turn out to be the powerful woman that, according to her tricks, she always has been. Helena is more a seductive schemer than the victim of her lovers’ passion. Odysseus stays true to Homer’s image of him: an adventurer, hedonist and braggart, but also a man of many talents, with a sense of responsibility and compassion.