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THE KING OF THE ANTS by Zbigniew Herbert

THE KING OF THE ANTS

Mythological Essays

By Zbigniew Herbert

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 1999
ISBN: 0-88001-618-3
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Eleven retellings of classical and biblical stories, selected The King Of The Ants ($22.00; Feb. 18; 96 pp.; 0-88001-618-3): Eleven retellings of classical and biblical stories, selected from volumes published previously by the great Polish poet and essayist (1924—98) whose fondness for both quaint and curious lore and hybrid literary forms links him with the late Jorge Luis Borges. Herbert’s firm anticommunist bias emerges in the extended commentaries that prevent these generally amusing “tales” from being fully fictional—though a lively exception, “The Infernal Dog,” features some delicious conversational exchanges between hellhound Cerberus and the god Herakles, who subdues, then exploits, the beast. “Endymion” (interpreted as a love affair that challenges class boundaries) and “Securitas” (which deftly dramatizes the Roman Empire’s paranoia) are also stand-outs in an odd little book that’s simultaneously flimsy and fetchingly urbane.