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The Athenian Murders

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,147 Ratings  ·  122 Reviews
In classical Athens, one of the pupils of Plato's Academy is found dead. Suspecting this wasn't an accident, his teacher asks Herakles, the Decipherer of Enigmas, to investigate. A second plot unfolds in parallel through the footnotes of the translator of the text.
Paperback, 314 pages
Published December 1st 2002 by Time Warner Books UK (first published 2000)
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Community Reviews

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Wildly original! Bizarre but hypnotic and enthralling on every page! There are two plotlines: one, the Straightforward story of murder in ancient Athens right after the Peloponnesian War in an ancient Greek manuscript by an anonymous author COUPLED WITH periodic footnotes by [never named] Translator with his comments, feelings, and reactions. He feels the strange metaphors and similes in each chapter point to SOMETHING hidden in text. Somoza uses a device he calls "eidetic imagery"--"repetition ...more
This is one of the strangest books I’ve read. I thought it was just going to be a mystery set in Ancient Greece, but then it turned out that the book is full of translator’s notes that are actually part of the story. That immediately made the book more interesting to me because I’ve never read anything like it before.

So, the translator is translating The Athenian Murders (originally called The Cave of Ideas, a much better name, I think) and he starts noticing eidetic images in the book (words an
Jan 14, 2016 Lyubov rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Първа среща със Сомоса след доста възторжени препоръки от хора с разнообразен литературен вкус, на чието мнение държа.

Избрах именно "Пещерата на идеите", защото действието се развива в Древна Гърция, а аз обичам нейната култура, както и философия, театър и изобщо всичко символично и многопластово. За съжаление нито авторът, нито книгата оправдаха очакванията ми. Така наречената символика и мета смисъл, с които Сомоса убедена съм сериозно се гордее, моментално губят от очарованието си като непре
Jul 06, 2011 surfmadpig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Italo Calvino
I was handed this book by a friend and started reading it without knowing anything about it, not even having read the backcover. I love it when that happens, because everything is a surprise and there can be no prejudice at all.

So I started, and immediately I thought, "eeek, a "period book". I generally tend to dislike writers who pretend that we know enough about an era to be able to write about its every-day life realistically. I had issues especially concerning the language, because I read it
Nov 26, 2014 Louize rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves mystery in multiple layers!
A very clever book. Set in Plato’s Athens, the story begins with a well-born youth found dead, devoured by wolves near a forest. Diagoras, a tutor at the Academy, acquired the services of Heracles Pontor “The Decipherer of Enigmas” to discover the truth behind his pupil’s death. Heracles, prompted by his own curiosity, agreed to solve the enigma of the youth’s death. Despite their complete contrast -one philosopher and the other a realist- the two worked together in solving the mystery.

Jul 22, 2008 Scurra rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
Like The Club Dumas, this book is not what it appears to be. To say more would spoil one of the most ingenious literary constructs I've had the pleasure of reading: suffice it to say that it's one of those books that you immediately want to start again when you get to the astonishing ending, just to see if the author cheated at any point. Which he never does, and in fact this makes the second reading almost more pleasurable than the first.

Yes at heart it is a murder mystery, and if you don't lik
Rich Stoehr
May 10, 2010 Rich Stoehr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It's a story within a story, within another story. It's an eidetic novel. It's a philosophical progression. It's a self-reflexive text. It's a quest for truth. It's a mystery, in many senses of the word. It's "The Sixth Sense," but rendered in prose and about a thousand times better. It's pure poetry in parts. It's a novel about ideas and words, and whether one can exist without the other.

It's one of the best books I've read in years.

It's difficult to say anything specific about "The Athenian Mu
Mar 23, 2014 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Mildly interesting effort to weave a debate about Dionysian mania vs Platonic forms into a 'postmodern' mystery novel set in Athens after the Peloponnesian War. Involves a translation theme.
Jan 15, 2016 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Set in ancient Greece in the time of Plato’s Academy, this postmodern, heavily footnoted murder mystery was ostensibly a scholar’s translation of a Greek text, also called The Athenian Murders, written by an anonymous author just after the Peloponnesian War. Like the Quixote, therefore, it was a meta-translation, a text put forward as a translation of a fictional original by a narrator who was conscious of the fact. Here, the fictional translator himself gave his comments on the story and his tr ...more
Jan 26, 2009 Dan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: metafiction aficianados
Shelves: novels
In a blurb on the back cover, a reviewer compares this book to Pale Fire and The Name of the Rose. I would agree with that, but with the qualification that Somoza's book is a lot less demanding of the reader's work. Moreover, I'd add another couple of titles that came to mind while reading this: If on a Winter's Night a Traveller and Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter: A Novel (perhaps also The Mezzanine and Mulligan Stew: A Novel?). Readers who liked these metafictional works will likely enjoy Som ...more
Ria Naydenova
Dec 07, 2015 Ria Naydenova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Театърът на сенките е безмилостно жесток:
„Пещерата на идеите“, Хосе Карлос Сомоса, изд. „Колибри“

„Пещерата на идеите“ бе четена до късно през нощта, рано сутринта в автобуса, на моменти ме караше да я затварям и да се пренасям в стая, в която има и други хора, за да се успокоя, и накрая бе довършена на настолна лампа под бюрото, за да е сигурно, че никой няма да ме прекъсне. Като в пещерата на Платон, две седмици живях и сънувах само мрака на историята.
At best mediocre. I simply couldn't suspend my disbelief at the underlying conceit of the novel, and the prose and characterisation were too weak and ham-fisted to compensate for that. Also, Somoza appears to have a grasp of Plato's theories which I would find weak in a first year undergraduate—ironic in a book which seems designed as a showpiece for how clever the author is.
Violeta Petrovska
Уникатно, ме воодушеви книгава, со нетрпение чекам нова книга од авторов....
My Inner Shelf
J’ai eu du mal à choisir ma lecture après avoir lu Clara et la pénombre, j’ai donc fait simple en ne prenant pas de risque, et en lisant un autre Somoza. Cette fois il nous expédie à Athènes, où l’on croise un Hercule Poirot antique et Platon, rien de moins. Tout commence par la mort d’un éphèbe, et l’inquiétude de son mentor qui s’interroge sur les derniers jours de son jeune élève. Il fait appel aux services d’Héraclés Pontor (ahah !), Déchiffreur d’énigmes, un homme sympathique mais peu encli ...more
Lance McMurchy
This book is something special! There is a warning though, it’s not the easiest read with all the philosophical theories of Plato and others, and with how these theories are worked in to the book. Even I, with a degree in philosophy, had to stop and think about want was going on – so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone without a certain level of schooling in the liberal arts. While the mystery itself is pretty straight forward with it twists and turns, the parallel contemporary story that works al ...more
Terri Lynn
This book was a surprise to me. I love ancient history/culture/mythology and I also love mysteries. This book was a wonderful blend of both. We start with a modern day translator of an ancient text laying out what happened. His "footnotes" are actually part of the story. As he goes along, he becomes convinced that the ancient writer has hidden secret messages in the text and as he continues to translate , he finds that these secret messages begin to refer to HIM and in a threatening way!

The que
Eva Grace
Mar 26, 2008 Eva Grace rated it liked it
A well thought out book but I'm not too sure it works.

As a philosophy student I was interested enough in the ideas behind it but I seem to remember being left thinking "Hmmm there's something not quite there" as opposed to a perhaps more positive response of "Ohhh you clever little devil."

All the same, a relatively enjoyable and fast paced read.
Aug 05, 2011 Jasminka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own, 2011
A unique story! Unusual structure, superb and intriguing, one of the most original new novels of fiction, intelligent and full with philosophy... Reminds me a lot of Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose", which is one of my favorite novels! A brilliant mystery-novel of story within story within story...
I won't say anything specific, only - My highest recommendation!!!
the gift
...but then, I like postmodern, like crime, like translations, like philosophy, like historical, like social and religious satire, like ideas that can transcend land and when of origin, yes, great intro to his work, better than zig zag, compelling, playful, thoughtful work.
Amarnath nair
Nov 19, 2016 Amarnath nair rated it really liked it
my first window into athenian lifes the climax was just super. The elements of idea was intruiging
Mar 30, 2010 Vanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intéressant... mérite certainement réflexion.
Aug 04, 2015 Boris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Мисля, че съм прекалено тъп, за да харесам тази книга. :/
Nov 07, 2016 Joachim rated it liked it
OK, book. Very interesting story-telling technique.
Apr 03, 2015 Edward rated it liked it
A postmodern murder mystery set in ancient Athens? Sounds too clever for its own good, and yet a reader gets convincingly pulled into this labyrinth based on an ancient text. A modern translation (forget that there's an additional layer of translation here, from Spanish to English) is being provided by a Greek scholar who feels himself being pulled into the story as well,. Literally, as we come to find out, Montalo, who collected the papyrus fragments on which the translator is basing his work, ...more
Simon Mcleish
Feb 01, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it it was ok
Originally published on my blog here in June 2003.

This novel seems to have been one of literature's recent success stories. It is basically a crime novel, an investigation into the death of a young student at Plato's Academy, initially thought to have been caused by a wolf attack but leaving grounds for suspicion of something more sinister. The Athenian Murders takes the form of a translation of an ancient manuscript telling the story, complete with copious footnotes by the translator, who is fa
Darcy Conroy
An interesting idea which the author, unfortunately, simply does not pull off. The internal logic is flawed, as is the logic of his (straw man) detective character. The author's presentation of philosophy and logic as well as Plato's theory of the forms (which he insists on calling 'the existence of Ideas") are simplistic, and will annoy anyone who has studied it in any depth, at least as much as the liberties his translator says he takes with the text will annoy real translators. But none of th ...more
Sep 28, 2016 Marina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-school
Oct 23, 2015 Romain rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blog
Héraclès Pontor est l'alter ego antique du détective Hercule Poirot. Cette profession portait à cette époque le nom bien plus poétique de "déchiffreur d'énigme". Un éphèbe est retrouvé mort, le corps couvert de profondes lacérations. Ses blessures donnent à penser qu'il a certainement été attaqué par des loups. Héraclès est sollicité pour examiner le cas, par un des plus fidèle disciple du grand Platon. Le détective et son employeur ont des idées diamétralement opposées et n'auront de cesse de s ...more
Ein meisterhaftes Kastenteufelchen

„La caverna de las ideas“ ist bislang das einzige Buch, das ich von Somoza gelesen habe, und so war ich denn auch anfangs überrascht über die groteske Unbeholfenheit des Stils, die mich annehmen ließ, hier habe jemand in einer Fremdsprache geschrieben und sich dabei eines Übersetzungsprogramms aus dem Internet bedient. Eine kleine Kostprobe, gleich von der ersten Seite: „El frío erizaba la piel azul de la Noche, y el Bóreas hacía ondular la cabellera dorada de l
Jan 14, 2014 São rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aparentemente estamos perante uma intrigante história policial passada na Grécia antiga. Três jovens alunos da Academia de Platão, surgem assassinados nas ruas de Antenas, com os corpos mutilados, e pelas características pensa-se, inicialmente, que poderá ter sido um ataque de lobos.
Diágoras, mestre dos três jovens e seguidor de Platão, solicita a Heracles Pontor, famoso Decifrador de Enigmas, que o ajude a perceber o que terá levado a estes crimes horrendos e que chocam quer a Academia, quer a
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José Carlos Somoza is a Spanish author born in Havana, Cuba. In 1960 his family moved to Spain after being exiled for political reasons. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in psychiatry, but he gave up medicine in order to be a full-time writer in 1994.
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“Ah, a literatura!... - exclamou. - Meu amigo, ler não é pensar a sós: ler é dialogar! Porém o diálogo da leitura é um diálogo platónico: o teu interlocutor constitui uma ideia. Contudo não se trata de uma ideia imutável: ao dialogares com ela, modifica-la, torna-la tua, chegas a acreditar na sua existência autónoma...” 0 likes
“Prefiero una pequeña asamblea donde poder gritar a un vasto imperio donde tuviera que callarme” 0 likes
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