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DEMOPHON

by FORREST REID

 With an Introduction by Michael Matthew Kaylor 
Price: £14.99  ISBN-13: 978-1-908274-05-2   Book Dimensions: 210 × 148 mm
Hardback with dustjacket    Publication: Summer 2014
forrest reid, demophon‘Beyond the grave of laurels sacred to Artemis lay a blue, crinkled sea. It glittered dazzlingly in the hot sunshine; and far out in the bay where water and sky met, the dark rocks of Salamis rose like a dream-island, because a God had dropped a haze about them.’

So begins this magical odyssey of ancient Greece, a tale of enchanted seas and islands, where all the world was young; a romance of wonder and adventure, of Gods and men and beasts, of the strange and familiar.

Admired, amongst others, by E.M. Forster and Walter de la Mare, Forrest Reid brought to literature something new, creating a world unlike any world that has been created before, a vision and a perception of beauty, previously unexpressed.

From the opening line of Demophon, the reader is transported to Greece; and, for the duration of one year, he never once leaves the "golden isles". Details drawn from the everyday life of an agricultural people give an earthiness to this imaginative tale. Keleos, Demophon's father, on the threshold of old age, seems like a figure of Father Time as he walks home with his daughter, who "rubbed a dirty hand" across a "very dirty face." His "beard was grizzled, his skin tanned like leather, and the sweat ran in beads from the roots of his matted hair." Reid captures with this figure of venerable old age with a child by the hand the simplicity of a rustic character who takes his nobility from the earth itself. Again, in an image of fields "yellow with ripened corn" until "the spirit of the great earth mother passed over them changing their colour," Reid paints a description of earth's fertility and bounty.

   Within Demophon's educational odyssey, Reid thematically structures a search for spiritual meaning as a search for a divine friend. Like each of Reid's imaginative, exceptional boy heroes, Demophon is marked by "a touch of the divine" that makes him different from ordinary boys. Demeter, the goddess earth mother, saved him from death by anointing his body in fire which purged grossness and sensuality from it. Because his mother Metanira in­terrupted the deification process, Demophon feels incomplete and lonely; and, when his cosmic and personal loneliness cries for com­panionship, his desire brings Hermes from the woods. Hermes, a boy of Demophon's age, is first called brother and later friend; he appears whenever Demophon needs him; and by the end of the story Hermes promises to remain forever with him. To Demophon, Hermes is "the most wonderful person in the world. He could make toys out of wood or clay or pomegranate skin; he made a pipe of hemlock stalks (binding the hollow stems with white wax), and when it was finished he showed Demophon how to blow out of it musical sounds, He taught him how to throw a spinning quoit; he taught him how to run and leap and wrestle and box and swim; he turned the sylvan glade into a green gymnasium and Demophon himself into the smallest of small athletes."


In his review of Norman Douglas’s Birds and Beasts of the Greek Anthology (1928), the Ulster novelist Forrest Reid (1875-1947), who ever resided in Belfast, claims that his own imagination had always been rich enough to transfigure what he felt to be the provincial surroundings of his upbringing into some place elsewhere: ‘[I] created in boyhood an imaginary Greece on the banks of my native river [the Lagan].’ This never changed, such that a critic for The Times Literary Supplement was able to assert in March 1953 that, for his entire life, Reid ‘sought, in Belfast, to live in accordance with the spirit of Greek Mediterranean culture.’
Though needful for an introduction to Demophon, such biographical and contextual considerations will begin immediately to dissipate when even an informed reader begins this ‘little Odyssey’, for the novel within these covers is so splendid and self-contained, so intriguing and elegant, that all extraneous considerations (however interesting they are for a scholar such as myself) will be duly and pleasantly brushed aside and forgotten. A reader of Demophon cannot but be transported beyond such considerations, into a world endowed with mystery, a world where centaurs, pirates, giant serpents, witches, and gods are as real as such staples of adventure have ever been.

From the Introduction by Michael Matthew Kaylor




 forrest reid, demophon, the sundial press
Forrest Reid
(b. 24 June 1875, Belfast, Ireland; d. 4 January 1947, Warrenpoint, County Down) was an Irish novelist, literary critic and translator. He was, along with Hugh Walpole and J.M. Barrie, a leading pre-war British novelist of boyhood. He is still acclaimed as the greatest of Ulster novelists and was recognised with the award of the 1944 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Young Tom. Comparisons have been drawn between his own coming of age novel of Protestant Belfast, Following Darkness (1912), and James Joyce's seminal novel of growing up in Catholic Dublin, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1924).

Faber Finds have reissued Apostate (1926), Private Road (1940) and Peter Waring (1937).

This edition of Demophon, the first since the novel's original publication in 1927, is newly typeset and features an illuminating introduction by Michael Matthew Kaylor, an acknowledged authority on Forrest Reid.

 


forrest reid, demophon         forrest reid, demophonforrest reid, demophonforrest reid, demophon first edition cover
New front coverTwo earlier Sundial coversFirst edition cover (1927)


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