A New Translation


Published Aug. 25, 2020 by Macmillan Audio.

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5 stars (4 reviews)

A new, feminist translation of Beowulf by the author of the much-buzzed-about novel The Mere WifeNearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf'and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world'there is a radical new verse translation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, recontextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes into a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us. A man seeks to prove himself as a hero. A monster seeks silence in his territory. A warrior seeks to avenge her murdered son. A dragon ends it all. The familiar elements of the epic poem are seen with a novelist's eye toward gender, genre, and history.

Beowulf has always been a tale of entitlement and encroachment, powerful …

3 editions

How does one review a millenium-old poem?

No rating

I guess in two halves. This translation is 97% wonderful, with the other 3% being occasional grating patches. It is the most alive and readable version I've read, and I think the stylistic choices Headley made all make sense, from the repeated exhortations of "bro" to the ways she works to treat the women of the story--especially Grendel's mother, but not only her--better than other translations I've read. Using the techniques of heavy alliteration and kenning compounds with all modern language really brings home how driving they can be, and the originals must have been when their vocabulary was current. Sometimes "bro" and "daddy" felt over-repeated, and then started to grate, but that really is an occasional glitch in a wonderful translation (and I wonder if I'd even have felt that if I'd listened to the poem rather than reading it, or read it more slowly instead of in …

A masterpiece - try the audiobook

No rating

I listen to a lot of audiobooks. Even if you don't this one is worth trying. It's an epic poem that was certainly passed down orally for generations before it was ever written down. Imagining the changes it would have gone through during that process makes me enjoy this modern-language translation even more. It might not be a translation that hold up forever, but it fits here and now.

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