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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation - Seamus Heaney, Anonymous Beowulf is about a time when fighting monsters and slaying dragons was what gave life meaning. I’m glad I wasn’t living then because I would have ended up as one of those poor helpless guys who were eaten by Grendel the monster.

Beowulf is an Old English epic poem that is available in many different Modern English translations. I didn’t consider reading it to be much fun. However, the discussion of the book at the meeting of the Great Books Kansas City book group was very interesting because it was filled with people smarter than me.

In particular, one member at the meeting was able to recite portions of the poem in Old English. The Old English sounded as if it had about twice the consonants as does modern English. I didn’t understand the Old English, but nevertheless it sounded scary enough to give me nightmares. I’m sure the monsters and dragons are much more real in Old English.

Beowulf is one of the most important works of Anglo-Saxon literature. It was written between the 8th and early 11th Century based on a story that dates back to the late 5th Century. It survives by way of a single manuscript that has burn marks from a fire that it barely survived. The work fell into oblivion for many centuries, and its existence did not become widely known again until it was printed in 1815.

The following is a copy of the short review of the Seamus Heaney translation of Beowulf that was on the PageADay book lover’s calendar:

The English National Epic-
"Grendel was the name of this grim demon haunting the marches, marauding round the heath and the desolate fens." What finer way can there be to found a great world literature(somewhere between A.D. 600 and 1000) than with the awesome monster and his monstrous mother? Novel laureate Seamus Heaney does the honors in this widely acclaimed translation that brings to life a dark and primitive world full of honor and grandeur
Title-Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
Author-Anonymous, translated from the Old English by Seamus Heaney
Published-2000 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux