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Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles

(Canongate's The Myths #3)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  5,922 ratings  ·  612 reviews
“When I was asked to choose a myth to write about, I realized I had chosen already. The story of Atlas holding up the world was in my mind before the telephone call had ended. If the call had not come, perhaps I would never have written the story, but when the call did come, that story was waiting to be written. Rewritten. The recurring language motif of Weight is ‘I want ...more
Hardcover, Canongate Myths, 151 pages
Published October 5th 2005 by Canongate U.S.
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  5,922 ratings  ·  612 reviews


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İntellecta
I think the history of Atlas is already known to those who are interested in mythology. I also thought that the comment section of the story was pretty weak.
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Mar 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: literature
This book is a disease-ridden hooker in a business suit. It's a sand pail made of tissue paper. All pretense and no heart, this retelling of centuries old myths features heaping spoonfuls of stereotypes, cliched metaphors, sexist commentary, baseless pomp, and comically bad dialogue. Who tells a person that 'you're my fate...drop dead gorgeous'? Anyone in their right mind would have maniacally cackled in his face rather than let him ejaculate all over them. She's Hera, for fucksake. HERA. She kn ...more
~Jo~
Feb 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'll begin with stating that I am a die-hard Winterson fan, so I suppose I'm a little biased in my reviews, but to be honest, I have good reason to be this way as personally, I think Winterson is eloquent in the way she writes. She is unique, and she has definitely left her mark upon my soul.

This particular book is her retelling of the myth of Atlas. Atlas is portrayed as being calm and patient, and our other main character, Heracles, is the complete opposite. He always wants to be in the actio
...more
Richard Derus
Real Rating: 3.75* of five

Autobiography is not important. Authenticity is important. The writer must fire herself through the text, be the molten stuff that welds together disparate elements. I believe there is always exposure, vulnerability, in the writing process, which is not to say it is either confessional or memoir. Simply, it is real.

No one can ever say Jeannette Winterson lacks authorial chops. Self-aware aphoristic ones. That is a beautiful distillation of the purpose of becoming an aut
...more
Ashleigh (a frolic through fiction)
This book was read as part of a themed vlog - to see more thoughts, check it out here!

Rated 4.5/5 stars!


I adored this book. I'm a huge fan of greek myth retellings, so there was a good chance it would go well anyway. But Jeanette Winterson managed to make the myth of Atlas and Heracles more human, infuse it with emotion but also keep the sense of wayward arrogance that comes with most mythological characters. I didn't initially know how well the book would work, with there not being much to go a
...more
Vartika
Oct 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeanette Winterson is a marvellous writer. There is a delicate, intricate lyricism in her words; a force strong enough to carve out trains of favouritism in the most objective of readers. Her prose is deeply meditative and effortlessly fluid — often and infinitely more poetic than most poets can manage. One can not approach Winterson's works with pre-conceived ideas and still manage to successfully penetrate the field of her works; which, all in their own significant ways, subvert the very conc ...more
Teresa
Nov 11, 2008 rated it liked it
I felt that this book started off slow and that perhaps it was just Winterson's style that wasn't engaging me. But the story picked up when Heracles came into the picture; and I liked the meditations on fate versus choice, that perhaps we pick our own burdens and 'punishments', that they are not fated, that we can walk away from them when we feel we are 'home.' She even brings her own story into the book, which I liked, though as she'd already used first-person for Atlas' voice, it was a bit con ...more
Donna
Jul 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Hercules, Jeanette Winterson. New York: Cannongate, 2005. Hardcover, $18.00 ISBN 1-84195-718-6

Have you ever read someone you're a fan of and thought; there's no way to do it better than this? For me it's Jeanette Winterson, her lyricism, her wide flung knowledge of mythology and science, and humanness and above all else, her risk taking. At the end of each of her books I walk away feeling like she’s left everything on the page the way an athlete leaves everything on
...more
Sara
Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Atlas is perhaps the forgotten Titan, the afterthough. He's not as well known as his brother Prometheus but his punishment for rising up against the Gods is no less severe. To carry the weight of the world upon his shoulders forever. A lonely and unforgiving job.

This starts with the concept of Atlas between the earth and the sea, and the visual imagery is a wonder to read. To combine nature with lust and love, exploring sexuality in this extremely sensual and carnal way is cleverly done and set
...more
Vanessa
3.5 stars.

Book 2 of my 2016 Booktube Recommends project - thanks to Jean at BookishThoughts for recommending me this one (and gifting it for my birthday ;D)!

I wasn't very aware of the figure of Atlas in mythology, or in general - I had an image of a man holding up a globe on his back, but that was literally it. And Heracles? Well, I'd seen the 90s Disney film! (psst, it's one of my favourites) So this was definitely one of the Canongate Myths series that I knew I wanted to get to.

After reading
...more
Nicky
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
As always, with Jeannette Winterson's work, there are parts of this that caught at me -- phrases, quotable bites, a scene here and there -- but for the most part I was underwhelmed. More underwhelmed than usual, perhaps. It had a very light, dismissive tone that just didn't work for me, and the characterisation of Heracles as a big idiot just... isn't anything new. That exact character has been given so many names.

Also, weird sex-stuff between Heracles and Hera. Just, what? And weird interludes
...more
Leah Craig
Jul 11, 2018 rated it liked it
This was very beautifully written. I’m a sucker for any story about Hercules, and he was a bit of a frat boy in this version, but.... accurately, I must admit. Definitely one of my favorites from the Myth series so far!
Ebba
Jan 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*5000/5 stars

This book is the definition of perfection. I went into this book, basically only knowing that my favourite author Jeanette Winterson wrote it, and that it had something to do with greek mythology. Since it's Jeanette Winterson, I should probably have been prepared for this mind-blowing "my-life-will-never-be-the-same-again" feeling that I now have in my body, but still I'm amazed and shocked. Where shall I even begin? Okay, let's start with saying that this is a retelling of the gr
...more
Sofia
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, eagerly-read, novels
Very different types Atlas and Heracles.

Heracles is more the type to go out and lop of heads and then think about it later, if at all. Atlas on the other hand is the thinking type, for him actions and consequences are a thing. Both had burdens, Heracles seemed to shrug his off quite easily whilst still paying a price for rushing heedlessly into things. But Atlas oh, he carried his burdens with care.

But where there is nothing and everything is a story, do burdens really exist? We must admit that
...more
Anwen Hayward
What a disappointing book. Almost masturbatory in some areas, and I don't just mean the extended bits where Heracles strums his own trumpet - you can actually imagine Winterson writing this and thinking to herself 'oh yeah, that's for the academics, that's the stuff'. Winterson clearly fancies herself up there with the greatest philosophers of all eras, and the texts she produces just don't merit that belief. This book pertains to discuss Atlas' burden as being not a physical burden, but more a ...more
Renée Paule
One third of the way through this book and I'm discarding it. This is not the intelligent read I thought it would be and that's all I'm prepared to say about it. ...more
Melissa  Jeanette
Now one of my favorite books of all time. If I could somehow shrink this down into a miniature size, I would wear it as a necklace and keep it near me always. I'm not ready to leave it's universe.

For the rest of you not yet sucked into it's orbit, here are a couple points that may draw you in. It's a quick read, but it is in no way diminished by its easy readability. And when I say it's a quick read, I mean really quick. I'm about the slowest reader on the planet and I read it in 3 1/2 hrs. It'
...more
Vicky "phenkos"
Jan 20, 2017 rated it liked it
I very much enjoyed the re-working of the myth of Atlas (and a dumb Heracles was a refreshing change) but did Winterson really have to include the auto-biographical bit? It does nothing to enhance the tale, and anyway if the reader wants to know more about her life, I'm sure there are better places to look... ...more
Dergrossest
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I read this book with some trepidation since most remakes of the classics are forgettable, if not insufferable. This is the exception.

Atlas and Heracles are two of the most compelling figures in classic Greek Mythology and this modern re-telling of their stories only makes them more so, although you really need to know their stories before reading this to appreciate what the author has accomplished. She cleverly weaves a scientific thread into their stories to help make them both more modern and
...more
Robert
Jul 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I never really liked Jeanette Winterson but after her re-telling of Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale, I was curious to read her re-telling of Hercules and Atlas' encounter.

It is excellent - Hercules is portrayed as a sex crazed yob, Atlas as a misunderstood Titan. There's a lot of laughs, something rare in Winterson's novels and the ending took me by surprise. It is tender and delicate and puts our universe, and in a way the whole concept of Atlas, in perspective: It's nothing. (you'll get what I
...more
Daniel
Mar 25, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Ugh. What an awful book.

The author wants to tell the story of Heracles and Atlas. Cool. Apparently she thinks she's the first person to make to connection between this ancient tale and the story of Jesus, insofar as interrupting the story with an entire chapter explaining the whole "bearing the weight of the world" emotion. (Though, curiously, she seems to have forgotten about St. Christopher).

She also seems to have learned a new dirty word: "prick". Since Winterson has apparently decided to tu
...more
Liz Janet
I do not think I have ever seen a more accurate description of Heracles/Hercules in all of the books I have read about him, he is the perfect misogynist he historically was, and the abhorrence of his person.
Maria
Oct 22, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5/5

I've wanted to read one of Winterson's book for so long now after reading Frankissstein: A Love Story. I picked Weight because it was short and it was a story that all--or most of us--already know. Whilst all authors are different, I was expecting something similar to Circe and this is why I was taken by complete surprise by this tale. Weight is a re-imagining of the myth of Atlas and Heracles (sometimes known as Hercules: a demi-god) that combine two different mythologies (both greek) that
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I've had this on my shelf for a while now. Last year I pulled it out to sit on my "read this year" shelf with my other mythology related books, to read for my "read more mythology" goal that stayed dormant all year. I think the idea that I don't know enough about mythology has not been enough to make me care more about it.

And Jeanette Winterson, one of my favorite authors, has also not succeeded in making me care much more about Atlas and Heracles. Actually I had never heard of Heracles and she
...more
Christine
I never really liked Hercules. Okay, I liked the Kevin Sorbo series, but Hercules wasn't my favorite character, and Sorbo's Hercules wasn't the Greek Hercules, not really. There was something about Hercules I never liked. Maybe because he was so self-centered. Maybe because he killed horses. Maybe because I always liked Hera and wanted to take her side in everything. I don't know. I prefered Troy, Jason, Altanta, anything but Hercules.

Winterson makes me feel something about Hercules, not like, t
...more
Ree.
Nov 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: highly-recommend
This book takes on the myth of Atlas and Heracles.

Heracles (Hercules in Greek), being the only one in Greek mythology that can also carry the weight of the world, approaches Atlas for help in completing a task in exchange for some "time-off" for Atlas.

This book is about that myth.

And it isn't.

It is about the weight of the world.
Our own personal burdens, and how nothing can also feel like everything.
It's about how we relate to stories.
Our own intertwined with others, changing a little every
...more
Lily
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
For a long time, Atlas gazed at [the apple], and he thought he could see continents under its skin, and the rush of rivers that flowed from one country to another. He laughed, and he felt affection, and pride, and that unbearable tightening in his chest again. He wanted to cry, his tears pouring over the apple, like rain.

He was not used to feeling.


Not gonna lie: the main reason that I picked up this retelling of the Atlas myth was that it promised a happy ending for Laika: a bringing together
...more
Mary
Jan 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of lyrical prose
Poets across the world groan at the sheer injustice of Jeanette Winterson's ability with words. If ever anyone could turn a phrase, Winterson can, and so as always, I was thoroughly immersed in her language and her compelling take on a story I thought I knew. Unfortunately, - also as usual - I had trouble relating with major aspects of her characters. (For instance, the fact that Heracles is a serious sex-fiend.) Although I tend to find myself wishing Winterson would tell different stories than ...more
stephanie
Nov 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
i've been disappointed in winterson lately, but i have always loved her best when she is messing with stories people already know.

she did not let me down. it wasn't fabulous (i could have done without all the scenes of heracles' prick dripping) but the story itself . . . there were lines that made me sooo happy and wish i had written them myself.

i loved the ending especially. laika gets saved! atlas is a fabulous character, and i loved hera in this. i want to read everything in the canongate m
...more
Julie
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
When I read Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, I learned that it was part of a series of modern reworkings of myths, and of course I was interested in reading the others. The problem is that I picked up this book thinking of Margaret Atwood, and it was not written by Margaret Atwood. I had trouble getting into it and ended up skimming much of it.
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5,442 followers
Novelist Jeanette Winterson was born in Manchester, England in 1959. She was adopted and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, in the north of England. Her strict Pentecostal Evangelist upbringing provides the background to her acclaimed first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, published in 1985. She graduated from St Catherine's College, Oxford, and moved to London where she worked as an assi ...more

Other books in the series

Canongate's The Myths (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • A Short History of Myth
  • The Penelopiad
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  • Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson
  • Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams
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