Luc Ferry writes that the Odyssey is the first representative of an attempt at creating a cosmic wisdom, a ‘secular spirituality’ and a compelling definition of the good life. He is referred to as the ‘divine Odysseus’, the wisest of men. His quest is to attempt to create a cosmos out of the chaos of the world he lives in.
In Odysseus’ world nothing can be relied upon. His is the story of encountering impossible monsters: Scylla, Charybdis, and the cyclops. These episodes are told as if true. But Odysseus also tells tales, according to Adam Nicholson. Parts of his story ventures out into Egypt and Sicily – he is a fraud who moves between honour and deceit. He can be soothingly persuasive and elegant, his words ‘fall like winter snowflakes’.
Chaos is caused by the sacking of Troy where the Greeks conduct themselves like swine. The Odyssey is a tale of troubles: The apple of discord, the war, squabbling generals, tempests inflicted by the gods, and suitors in the homeland who also behave like swine. Later, Poseidon takes revenge on Odysseus for blinding one of his son’s, Polyphemus.
While his rivals seek to plunder his home and take his wife and Kingdom, Odysseus finds refuge on Calypso’s isle of voluptuousness, the cavern of desire. She is the goddess of longing, promising her captive immortality. She is the earth’s navel, the origine du monde.
Odysseus is, writes Nicholson, “a multiple of multiples: Polymetis, many-skilled; polymechanos, very ingenious; polytlas, much enduring; and best of all poikilometis, dapple-skilled, with so much woven into him he shimmers and flickers like an embroidered cloth”. Odysseus is uncatchable, not just physically, but his mind state too is fluid, always changing.