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Glorious Exploits: An Original and Brilliant Irish Debut

In a literary landscape teeming with historical fiction, Glorious Exploits by Alan Cumyn stands tall, a beacon of originality and brilliance. Set in 412 BC Sicily, this Irish debut novel captivates readers with its unique blend of dark humor, classical Greek culture, and poignant exploration of survival, art, and storytelling in the aftermath of war.

Mediterranean Heritage and Historical Context

Cumyn’s fascination with ancient Greece began in childhood, ignited by the tales of mythology and history that filled his imagination. While his Libyan heritage did not directly influence his interest in the region, the upheaval in Libya in recent years may have played a role in his exploration of the aftermath of violent conflict as a subject for his novel.

Humor and Classical Greek Culture

Cumyn deftly weaves humor into the novel’s dark fabric, a testament to his belief that humor was an integral part of classical Greek culture often overlooked in popular conceptions. This unexpected juxtaposition creates a more accurate and nuanced portrayal of the period, challenging readers’ preconceived notions of ancient Greece as a somber and serious place.

Contemporary Voices in an Ancient Setting

One of the most striking features of Glorious Exploits is the use of contemporary Dublin voices by the novel’s narrator, Lampo, and many of its characters. This unexpected choice jolts readers, conveying the sense of the ancient Greek world as a hybrid place with contested identities and cultures. Cumyn’s use of Hiberno-English underscores the universality of human experience, showing that these ancient characters were just as contemporary to themselves as we are to ourselves.

Extensive Research and Historical Accuracy

Cumyn’s background in history and classics is evident in the novel’s meticulous historical accuracy. He immersed himself in the mindset of the time, conducting extensive research that included visits to Sicily and Greece, and reading widely about the period. Cumyn’s goal was to write a book that was both historically accurate and accessible to modern readers, avoiding unnecessary details that might bog down the narrative.

Literary Influences and Cinematic Inspiration

Cumyn draws inspiration from a diverse range of literary and cinematic sources. He cites writers like Melville, John Fante, Sean O’Casey, Hilary Mantel, and Mary Renault as influences, while directors like Kurosawa, the Coen Brothers, and Sergio Leone inspired his approach to depicting the classical world in a fresh and unfamiliar way.

Current Projects and Literary Pilgrimages

Cumyn is currently working on his second novel, which is also historical but more epic in scope. He prefers not to discuss works in progress in detail, but he has undertaken several literary pilgrimages, tracking down significant locations associated with writers like Joyce, Orwell, and Beckett in Paris.

Writing Advice and Recommendations

When asked about the best writing advice he has received, Cumyn offers a simple yet profound maxim: “You can’t improve what you haven’t written.” He encourages aspiring writers to embrace the writing process and to not be afraid to make mistakes. He also recommends Claire Kilroy’s Soldier Sailor, the film Barry Lyndon, and John Fante’s Road to Los Angeles and Brotherhood of the Grape as sources of inspiration and enjoyment.

Personal Possessions and Dream Dinner Party

Among Cumyn’s most treasured possessions is an Athenian tetradrachm coin from the Peloponnesian War era, a tangible link to the ancient world that continues to fascinate him. His brother gifted him two rare books: a signed first edition of Muhammad Ali’s autobiography and a first edition of John Barleycorn by Jack London. Cumyn’s dream dinner party guest list includes an eclectic mix of literary luminaries, from Euripides and the Bront√ęs to Dostoevsky, Hilary Mantel, Roberto Bolano, and Joyce.

Favorite Fictional Character and Books to Evoke Laughter and Tears

Cumyn’s favorite fictional character is Don Quixote, a figure who embodies the power of imagination and the futility of idealism. For books that evoke laughter, he recommends John Fante’s The Road to Los Angeles, while for tears, he suggests Brotherhood of the Grape, also by Fante. Cumyn emphasizes Fante’s brilliance and uniqueness as a writer, praising his ability to capture the human condition with humor, pathos, and an unwavering eye for detail.

Glorious Exploits is a literary triumph that transports readers to an ancient world brought vividly to life through Cumyn’s masterful storytelling. Its unique blend of humor, historical accuracy, and contemporary relevance makes it a must-read for anyone interested in ancient Greece, historical fiction, or simply a well-crafted and entertaining story. Immerse yourself in the world of Glorious Exploits and discover the brilliance of Alan Cumyn’s literary debut.

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