The Mythic Imagination, with Lindsay Clarke

Whitbread Prize winning author Lindsay Clarke on the role of story in our lives from Ancient Troy to Modern Times. What is story? Who hasn’t heard for Helen of Troy and the Trojan Horse? Why do some stories run and run?


Lindsay Clarke won the Whitbread Prize for fiction in 1989 for his classic novel, The Chymical Wedding, and is the author of 7 books including The War at Troy, his masterly re-imaginings of the Homeric epics.

The myths and stories which we have told over the millennia make sense of and give shape to our world. We are born into, and make our lives inside a complex and often conflicting world of stories, and it is through the stories we tell that the raw events of our lives – both what we do and what is done to us – are converted into experiences filled with meaning and value.


Ever since the destruction of Troy around 3000 years ago, the myths that accumulated around the war fought for that ancient city have haunted the European imagination.

By taking a fresh look at the questions and issues arising out of the stories of that war and the bloody events of its aftermath we can begin to see how our shared narratives can become the basis for our sense of belonging, but also for our sense of enmity and difference.

In November, Lindsay will be giving a talk on this theme at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle to an audience from both sides of the sectarian divide in Ireland.

Anyone interested in the power of story should come hotfoot to the Ebenezer on the 14th for our first lecture of the season.

Lindsay Clarke is the author of seven novels, including The War at Troy, The Return From Troy, The Chymical Wedding (which won the Whitbread Fiction Prize), Parzival And The Stone From Heaven, and his latest novel The Water Theatre.

He is an Associate of the Creative Writing Programme at Cardiff University, and has taught and lectured widely in this country and abroad. He is also a creative consultant to the Pushkin Trust through which he has worked with children, teachers and civil servants from both sides of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland.


The War at Troy

Ted Hughes: 'I'm awed by the web you've spun. Not only the beautiful complexities of it but the fine texture of the threads ...Full of wise things.'

Alan Sillitoe: 'I found The War at Troy a triumph of retelling the ancient story of the siege and its aftermath, a readable and freshened version that keeps one turning the pages'

Peter Preston ~ The Observer: : 'Clarke does not retune or update Homer in any grating way. This is no blue-jeaned, right-on Iliad. He is faithful and meticulous as he spins his web. But, in the spinning, he also lets the legends speak for themselves, and it is they, without artifice, which strike the contemporary chords.'

The Chymical Wedding:

John Fowles: 'Lindsay Clarke’s novel excited me more than any other English fiction for some time.'

'A modern masterpiece.' Val Hennessy, The Daily Mail

The Water Theatre:

Antonia Senior - THE TIMES : 'It is huge in scope, in energy, in heart...It is difficult to remember a recent book that is at once so beautiful and yet so thought provoking.'

2011Martin Keeley