Terence Hawkins and The Rage of Achilles
Recently, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting Terence Hawkins in a writing group. We share a mutual passion for history and writing, so we were probably bound to meet at some point, and I’m thrilled that it happened sooner rather than later. He is absolutely brilliant.
Ideas drive all of Terence Hawkins’ work. His latest book, The Rage of Achilles, is a recreation of his first novel, extensively revised and re-imagined in a new edition. Within its pages, Homer’s epic heroes are no more glorious than the tired, scared grunts they command. Informed by Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind, its gods are only the hallucinations of men and women desperate for direction in the collapsing society of the late Bronze Age. Hawkins’ realistic account of Homeric warfare has been described as “visceral,” and his prose “elegant and terse.”
“We know what will happen to Achilles, and it can’t change: but seen through Hawkins’ eyes, the story will be new and grippingly real to readers of this age.”-John Crowley, World Fantasy Award Winner and author of Ka and Little, Big
In The Rage of Achilles, Terence Hawkins re-imagines the Iliad as a novel and a Trojan War that really happened. Though he adopts Homer’s characters, those fabled warriors are no more noble than the scared, tired grunts they command, exhausted and bitter after ten years of brutal Bronze Age warfare. And however savage the fighting, over all hangs the terrible truth that the objective of combat is not glory, but the enslavement of the defeated.
This realism extends to the gods themselves. Informed by Julian Jaynes’ groundbreaking theory of the bicameral mind-the basis of HBO’s “Westworld”-The Rage of Achilles takes place in a world in which the modern human consciousness struggles painfully to be born. The gods are only the hallucinations of men and women desperate to be told what to do in a terrifying and confusing world.
Told in taut, elegant prose that captures both the Homeric lyric and military grit, The Rage of Achilles is a fast-moving take on literature’s foundational epic.
Ideas drive all of Terence Hawkins’ work. His latest book, The Rage of Achilles, is an extensively revised and re-imagined edition of his first novel. In it, Homer’s epic heroes are no more glorious than the tired, scared grunts they command. Informed by Julian Jaynes’ theory of the bicameral mind, its gods are only the hallucinations of men and women desperate for direction in the collapsing society of the late Bronze Age. Hawkins’ realistic account of Homeric warfare has been described as “visceral,” and his prose “elegant and terse.”
In a Best Book of 2020 review, Kirkus called Hawkins’ short story collection Turing’s Graveyard “extraordinary stories that will make readers laugh, shiver, or perhaps both.” Booklist described it as “a beautiful reading experience” and compared it to the Twilight Zone.
In naming his second novel, American Neolithic, a Year’s Best, Kirkus described it as “a towering work of speculative fiction.” Its revised edition was compared to Orwell’s 1984 in Midwest Book Review.
Kind words from a Master of Military Fiction: Phil Klay is a Marine vet whose debut collection, Redeployment, won the National Book Award. His first novel, Missionaries, was one of President Obama’s favorite books of 2020.
He had these generous words: “The Rage of Achilles is a fresh, disorienting, modern spin on the Iliad, a tale of warfare that takes the force of myth and introduces the complexity of reality.”
Hawkins was the founding Director of the Yale Writers’ Conference, which he managed and developed from 2011 to 2015. In 2014, he started the Company of Writers, offering workshops and manuscript services to writers at all levels of experience. The Company has hosted seminars with Amy Bloom and Colum McCann, as well as a program on the intersection of literary and genre fiction with John Crowley and Louis Bayard.
Hawkins grew up in a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania. His home county was the site of the original “Night of the Living Dead.” His grandfathers and several uncles were coal miners. He graduated from Yale, where he was publisher of the Yale Daily News. He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and now writes and teaches. Hawkins has been a mentor in Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Visible Ink creative writing program for cancer survivors since 2018.