“A writer to read and reread.” The Economist
Following the success of Aquarium which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and garnered numerous rave reviews, David Vann transports us to 13th century B.C. to give a nuanced and electric portrait of the life of one of ancient mythology’s most fascinating and notorious women, Medea.
In brilliant poetic prose Bright Air Black brings us aboard the ship Argo for its epic return journey across the Black Sea from Persia’s Colchiswhere Medea flees her home and father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. Vann’s reimagining of this ancient tale offers a thrilling, realist alternative to the long held notions of Medea as monster or sorceress. We witness with dramatic urgency Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.
Atmospheric and spellbinding, Bright Air Black is an indispensable, fresh and provocative take on one of our earliest texts and the most intimate and corporal version of Medea’s story ever told.
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About the Author
Published in 20 languages, David Vann’s internationally-bestselling books have won 15 prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain, and appeared on 75 Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. A former Guggenheim fellow, he is currently a Professor at the University of Warwick in England and Honorary Professor at the University of Franche-Comté in France.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.5 stars “One of the men comes to the stern near Medea to fish in last light. A rough net weighted with stones…. He… flings the net overboard, beautiful pattern in flight, a practiced throw, the stones swirling out a perfect circle just as they hit the water… The surface becomes silver, opaque, molten, as if the sea could be reforged every day, great ingot of tin melted down each night, this fisherman casting his net to capture impurities” Bright Air Black is the fifth novel by American author, David Vann, and is a retelling of the story of Medea. Vann begins his story with Medea, Jason and the Argonauts fleeing Colchis on the Argo, Golden Fleece in their possession, her father Aeetes in pursuit, Medea throwing pieces of her murdered brother Aspyrtus overboard to delay her father’s progress. Their flight from Colchis to Iolcus, taking the daring step of sailing at night, is fraught with danger, both from Aeetes and the elements: “Fear living in close. In the hull and mast that might break, in the rudders, in the air that somewhere holds land, but mostly in the water. Rock and every creature unknown. No limit to the size of what can grow below. All animals on land known but always something new coming from the depths” The sailors are wary of Medea, priestess of Hekate, rightly so, but her power over them holds no sway once they reach Iolcus and meet Pelias, the king Jason intends to usurp. Her grandfather may be Helios the sun, but Vann presents the infamous Medea, magical and monstrous, as a wholly human woman, if a determined, intelligent, tenacious and vengeful one. Vann’s descriptive prose, as always, is stunning: “The sail no inanimate thing. Terrible in high wind, rigid and merciless and powerful beyond imagining, a thing of fear and will. But even now, in lighter winds, filled with desire, a restlessness, capable even of regret and sorrow, falling along an edge, hunching down, refilling but not entirely, some cost to the past. Only with no air, when it hangs fully slack, does it seem like linen. At all other times, this is impossible to believe”, and his personal experience with sailing is apparent on every page. Vann’s evocative title comes from Euripides’s Medea; the beautiful cover shows the type of ship that Argo would have been; his interpretation of this legend from over three thousand years ago is powerful, enthralling and atmospheric.