By Gabe Garcia-Leeds, student work study assistant
In Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson reconstructs an ancient Greek myth, Herakles’ murder of a winged red monster, into a vivid, dreamlike journey through youth, love, and the unease of existence. Surreal, tragic, and disarmingly intimate, Carson invites us into a world full of poetry and color, turbulent and brimming with volcanic energy.
The original myth goes as follows: Greek hero Herakles, envious of the monster Geryon’s red cattle, travels to an island and slaughters Geryon and his small red dog. Carson refigures this myth into a deeply personal coming-of-age story, exploring trauma, depression, and the troubles of love. Geryon’s world is ripe with a very visceral darkness, alternating between moments of bitterness and profound beauty.
This novel is composed entirely in poetic verse. Operating outside the confines of conventional literary style, Carson allows her writing to transcend language. Like a labor of mad alchemy, she transmutes words into something electric. In Autobiography of Red, Carson displays a masterful ability to coax images and emotions from mere words on a page. In Geryon’s world, one wakes up to “a soiled white Saturday morning in Lima,” surrounded by the “intolerable red assault of grass.” Autobiography of Red is a fascinating read not only because of the timeless story it tells, but also for its inventive poetic structure and the unique, singular voice of Anne Carson.
Autobiography of Red is available at the Greenfield Library, call number PS3553.A7667 A94 1999.