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Seamus Heaney – Beowulf

January 19, 2008

9. Beowulf: A New Verse Translation by Seamus Heaney (2000)

Read by Seamus Heaney
Length: 2h 13m (215 pages)

Genre: Classics, Fantasy

Started: 18 January 2008
Finished: 19 January 2008

Summary: So there’s this monster, Grendel, who’s hanging out at everyone’s favorite bar, being a jerk and eating people and basically harshing on everyone’s buzz. So Beowulf rolls into town and kills the monster with his bare hands. But, it turns out that Grendel was a bit of a mother’s boy, and before Beowulf can really kick back and enjoy his reward, Mommie Dearest comes looking for revenge. So, Beowulf has to go and track down Mama Monster in the swamp and kill her, too. Having wiped out that entire matriline, Beowulf settles down with his treasure and tries to enjoy his retirement, but just as he’s getting cozy, a dragon shows up and burns his house down… and of course he’s not going to take that lying down.

Review: Beowulf is one of those books that I feel like I should have been forced to read during high-school English, but wasn’t, and instead it’s sat around mocking me and being referenced in at least half of the other stuff I read, and making me feel uneducated for never having got to it. I’d heard Seamus Heaney’s translation was the way to go, although I also knew I’d never get through the printed verse without the threat of being called on in class to scare me into reading it. Therefore I got the audio version, rationalizing that it started out as an oral storytelling tradition, so I was getting more of the pure experience… never mind that the audiobook was labeled “Unabridged Selections”. As near as I can tell, this means that the story of Beowulf is present in unabridged format, but some of the unrelated lays are left out. So, given what a lofty and informed perch my point of view is issuing from, I can finally give my opinion: it was pretty good, and less painful than I expected, although I’m probably missing most of the significance (drat my English teachers and their eclectic book selections!) 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you’ve never read it, the audiobook is a painless way to spend 2 1/2 hours of your life filling that hole in your cultural and literary background. If you have read it, you’ll have to look elsewhere for a review – I have no basis for comparison to evaluate the merits of this particular translation.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. anonmyous permalink
    November 22, 2008 1:07 pm

    it is boring


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