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Beowulf

Seamus Heaney (Editor)

Overview | Inside the Book
 

New York Times bestseller and winner of the Whitbread Award.

Composed toward the end of the first millennium, Beowulf is the elegiac narrative of the adventures of Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the seemingly invincible monster Grendel and, later, from Grendel's mother. He then returns to his own country and dies in old age in a vivid fight against a dragon. The poem is about encountering the monstrous, defeating it, and then having to live on in the exhausted aftermath. In the contours of this story, at once remote and uncannily familiar at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney finds a resonance that summons power to the poetry from deep beneath its surface. Drawn to what he has called the "four-squareness of the utterance" in ?Beowulf? and its immense emotional credibility, Heaney gives these epic qualities new and convincing reality for the contemporary reader.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • February 2001
  • ISBN 978-0-393-32097-8
  • 6.2 × 8.3 in / 256 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“[Heaney] has made a masterpiece out of a masterpiece.” — Andrew Motion, The Financial Times

“Accomplishes what before now had seemed impossible: a faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right.” — New York Times Book Review

“How did he do it? How did Seamus Heaney fashion verses, singularly handsome verses that not only capture the somber grandeur and mythic vigor of the Anglo-Saxon original, but also reflect the rhythm and timbre of the English we speak today.... This newborn translation makes accessible to everyone the first supremely great poem to be written in the English language.” — Colin Campbell, Christian Science Monitor

“Mr. Heaney's translation beats with a recurring pulse, from homely and concrete to elevated and back again. The great battle scenes are rendered with a power and a grisly horror both increased and made oddly transparent by a freshness and innocence of diction.... In sustaining contrast is the lyricism, quiet yet immediate, of the small passages.” — Richard Eder, New York Times

“As vivid as a tabloid headline and as visceral as a nightmare. Heaney's own poetic vernacular... is the perfect match for the ​Beowulf​ poet's Anglo-Saxon. Heaney uses this idiom not to modernize the epic but to showcase it's surprisingly contemporary feel.... As retooled by Heaney ​Beowulf​​should easily be good for another millennium.” — Malcolm Jones, Newsweek

“Magnificent, breathtaking.... Heaney has created something imperishable and great that is stainless—stainless, because its force as poetry makes it untouchable by the claw of literalism: it lives singly, as an English language poem.” — James Wood, The Guardian

“Excellent . . . has the virtue of being both dignified and sophisticated, making previous versions look slightly flowery and antique by comparison. His intelligence, fine ear and obvious love of the poem bring ​Beowulf​alive as melancholy masterpiece, a complex Christian-pagan lament about duty, loss and transience. . . . Heaney has done it (and us) a great service.” — Claire Harman, Evening Standard

Also by Seamus Heaney All

  1. Book CoverBeowulf: A Verse Translation

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  2. Book CoverBeowulf: An Illustrated Edition

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