The Ballad of Captain Kelly: An ANZAC Iliad

By Jonathan Wicken

 "I will tell you about the terrible anger of Captain Kelly, and may the angels inspire me to tell all the story correctly: of the quarrel between Captain Kelly, bravest of all the men at Gallipoli, and his Commander General Agnew-Menning; of the terrible anger that Captain Kelly nursed against General Agnew-Menning because of the insult done to him; and of the terrible suffering inflicted on the Allies by the wilfulness of these two proud men."

The Ballad of Captain Kelly is a close adaptation of Homer’s Iliad set at Gallipoli in 1915. It is a highly unusual work which tells a specifically Australian story in an unusual and innovative way. Closely following the structure and content of the Iliad, the work is not realist historical fiction, instead it is a prose poem, written in a high-epic style which consciously evokes the oral tradition of Homer.

The events and characters of the Iliad are translated to a fictional, fantastical Gallipoli. Angels watch over and intervene in the battle, evoking the legend of "the angels of Mons". Many events in the work are inspired by historical research, memoirs and popular culture of the time, however, the action which unfolds is mythologically heroic.

The famous Homeric similes are recomposed using imagery from Australian and New Zealand culture and history. Australian, New Zealand and Turkish places are frequently referred to, and the characters use early Twentieth Century slang.

The setting of The Ballad of Captain Kelly is Gallipoli, but the story evokes a multitude of experiences of The First World War.

Jonathan Wicken

Jonathan has a BA(Hons) degree in Classical Studies from the University of Otago in New Zealand, and while studying developed a passionate love for Homer and Ancient Greek literature.

Inspired by his studies he created several theatrical performances of Classical literature, including producing and directing full-length performances of Iliad, Odyssey, and Gilgamesh, He also wrote and performed an original play, Penthesiliea.

Jonathan now resides in Melbourne, is a successful graphic artist, and is currently working on several writing projects including another Classically-inspired play, and a contemporary novel inspired by Les Liasons Dangereuses.

The Ballad of Captain Kelly is Jonathan’s first novel.

The Ballad of Captain Kelly: An ANZAC Iliad

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