Beowulf: A New Translation

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9780141802473: Beowulf: A New Translation

Seamus Heaney's translation of BEOWULF is a work that is both true to the original poem and an expression of something fundamental to Heaney's own creative gift. One of the great classics of European Literature, the poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, being exhausted by it and then having to live on, physically and psychically exposed, in that exhausted aftermath. There are obvious parallels to be found in the history of the twentieth century and Heaney's BEOWULF cannot fail to be read partly in the light of his Northern Irish upbringing. But it also transcends such considerations, revealing psychological and spiritual truths that are both permanent and liberating.

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Review:

What could be a more promising poetic project than the greatest of early English poems, Beowulf, newly translated by arguably the greatest of living poets writing in English, Seamus Heaney? The literary pedigree of this great fabular epic in the hands of Nobel Laureate Heaney matches Ted Hughes' award-winning rewrite of Ovid's Metamorphosis, Tales from Ovid. Heaney has chosen the plain, prosaic yet subtly cadenced vernacular of his Northern Irish roots as the poetic voice into which he renders this famous Anglo-Saxon fabular epic of a dragon-slaying Danish warrior. The result is an engaging evocation of the highly alliterative, densely metaphorical texture of Anglo-Saxon verse, which is famously hard to capture in modern English poetic forms.

"It's narrative elements may belong to a previous age but as a work of art it lives in the present," writes Heaney of this tale of monstrous, murderous Grendel, heroic, kingly Beowulf, blood-feuds, dragon-slaying and spiritual grace. The very plain-spokenness of Heaney's translation makes it admirably easy to read and understand, whilst rendering an often true translation at a galloping narrative pace. Heaney's Beowulf opens up one of the most famous founding epics of European literature to a modern world of new readers. --James Barry

Review:

Heaney's intelligence, fine ear and obvious love of the poem bring Beowulf alive as a melancholy masterpiece, a complex Christian-pagan lament for duty, glory, loss and transience. Heaney has done it (and us) a great service.'

(Claire Harman Evening Standard)

A wonderfully unfazed and unfussy riding round the great barrow of the text itself. (Paul Muldoon Times Literary Supplement)

The whole performance is wonderfully intermediate - poised between the Bible and folk wisdom, between the Light Ages and the Dark Ages - and at the same time pulverisingly actual in its language. He has made a masterpiece out of a masterpiece. (Andrew Motion Financial Times)

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