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La caverna de las ideas

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,536 ratings  ·  169 reviews
Published April 5th 2006 by Editorial Alfaguara (first published August 1st 2001)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  1,536 ratings  ·  169 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
Dimitris Passas (TapTheLine)
"We live in a strange world Heracles. A world where nothing can be entirely rationalised or understood. A world that doesn't always behave according to the laws of logic, but to those of literature". (pp. 199-200)

Wow! That was really something else! I am an ardent fan of Jose Carlos Somoza work and I absolutely loved some of his novels such as "Zig Zag" and "The Art of Murder". In "The Athenian Murders", the author delves in an uncharted territory where literary mystery meets Ancient Greek
Jul 02, 2011 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
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rich Stoehr
May 10, 2010 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
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: transleighteen
This is such a peculiar book, it so cleverly plays with both the novel form and the characters. It is also genuinely creepy in places and I didn’t expect that.

So that’s an excellent start to #transleighteen.
Jan 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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.
Madhulika Liddle
In ancient Athens, Heracles Pontor, the Decipherer of Enigmas, is commissioned to investigate a death. The man who commissions Heracles is Diagoras, a teacher and philosopher at the Academy founded by Plato; the dead youth is a student of Diagoras’s, to all appearances mauled and with his heart torn out by wolves up in the hills—but Diagoras and Heracles think otherwise. Heracles sets out to find the truth…

But this is nothing more than a novel, an ancient Greek work by an anonymous writer. It’s
Read for school. This is such a strange but absolutely fun book. I'm quite disappointed that eidesis is not a real literary technique, but I'd probably get obsessed, just like the translator, if it was real. It's interesting because the violent and repeated images of the eidesis left uneasy impressions on my mind, like the afterimages after seeing bright colors. The text bleeding into the translator's life (and its implications) made me more and more uneasy as well. I read this in broad daylight ...more
Jul 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having left the novel I was reading sitting on the kitchen counter as I ran out of the house for a weekend away, I was inconsolable when I discovered my loss! Fortunately the husband decided to drop into the local Oxfam shop to get me something he hoped would dull my separation anxiety. What a wonderful chance encounter it became. The Athenian Murders is an innovative take on writing, Greek philosophy, the meaning of ideas, religious worship, and the role of the translator/reader. Two stories ...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 ...more
Nicholas Davies
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the category of English translation of a Spanish novel about translating an ancient Greek Poirot mystery, this is far and away the best, and likely the only one you ever need to read.
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!

Eva Grace
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.
It was an enjoyable reading but a bit too macabre for my taste. I won't refer to details as they will probably be spoilers. Nevertheless it was a nice trick to refer to both ancient Athens and modern times at the same time. I am wondering though if all these greek words that are in the text so close to the original ones although in english are easy for a non greek reader to be understood.
Aug 03, 2011 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!!!
150113: ...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...
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
my first window into athenian lifes the climax was just super. The elements of idea was intruiging
OK, book. Very interesting story-telling technique.
Jay Maxfield
This novel has perplexed me (I am an avid reader of classic crimes as well as historical crime fiction) as the Athenian theme and literary techniques used in this book are impressive - however the use of specialised words to describe the Greek world of 2000 years ago was in part hard going as I had to look up many of the words & the use of an eidetic text (where an unrelated story or description is embedded within a story) was exceptional irritating at times as the secondary story distorted ...more
I think this is a book whose reach exceeds its grasp a bit. I liked it much less until the ending, which is an absolutely wild, delightfully absurd twist, and answered some of my earlier complaints. I had been irritated that the position of the translator as a scholar doesn't really make sense - his project is translating a book while apparently reading it for the first time, and he never really explains how it fits into a realistic academic professional (or amateur) life; but...

(view spoiler)
Andrew Nierenhausen
This book is filled with novel and interesting ideas. Sharing metafictional themes with books like House of Leaves, and Valis, The Athenian Murders deals with the relationship between reader, writer, and idea. The use of Platonic ideals to talk about this relationship was fascinating, and the use of the mystery genre helped to add tension throughout the work. The quality that stands out the most, however, is the absolutely astonishingly beautiful language that is used to present eidesis ...more
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bücherei
This is what happens when someone tries to write something clever and doesn't have the means to pull it off.

At the beginning there still seems to be a plot but then it's all just confused attempts at creating a philosophy, at best boring but partially outright annoying.

I don't know if it's partially a problem of the translation to English (pun unintended) but the attempts at creating some sort of unusual literary device simply fail.

Yann Martel or Julian Barnes can pull off this sort of musing.
Roger Smith
A tour de force in which a translator adds an additional story line in his notes to a fairly ordinary murder mystery set in ancient Athens at a time when the Academy flourished. It is unclear whether
"eidesis" (repeated groups of metaphors) is an actual literary device - ancient or modern. The dual story is more showy than effective. The striving for effect is what shows.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting story that does a fantastic job of blurring the narrative and meta narrative of the book itself. It follows the story of a translator working on translating an ancient Greek murder story. It's hard to comment too much on it without spoiling a lot of the book, since it is a murder mystery after all. Well worth the read.
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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.
“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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