New York Times best seller and Whitebread Book of the Year, Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's new translation of Beowulf comes to life in this gripping audio. Heaney's performance reminds us that Beowulf, written near the turn of another millennium, was intended to be heard not read.
Composed toward the end of the first millennium of our era, 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 lives to old age before dying 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 end of the twentieth century, Seamus Heaney finds a resonance that summons power to the poetry from deep beneath its surface.
©2000 Seamus Heaney; (P)2000 Penguin Books Ltd., by arrangement with the BBC. Published by arrangement with W. W. Norton.
"The classic eighth-century English poem is strikingly presented, making accessible the story of a young man's heroic journey to find and slay two monsters." (Publishers Weekly)
Seamus Heaney is a wonderful poet and a wonderful reader: listening to him is like hearing the original poet holding forth. But the reading is abridged, in what seems more like a marketing decision -- trying to fit the audiobook onto a two-CD set -- than an artistic one. "Beowulf" could certainly use some abridgement here and there, and I wouldn't mind if there were only minor omissions; but among the episodes cut is the challenge that Unferth issues to Beowulf about his swimming contest with Brecca. This isn't just empty padding: it's essential to the characters of both Unferth and Beowulf. In many ways this is the best single recording of "Beowulf" available: why couldn't there be an unabridged (or at least a less-abridged) version as well? That would get six stars out of five. No other version comes close to the mastery of language shown by this one.
This is my favorite translation of Beowulf, and I have given multiple copies of this book as gifts over the years. So I was super excited to see the audiobook read by Heaney himself. And while I have no complaints at all about the reader (fabulous) or the text, i wonder what the criteria for the excerpt selections were. Some key episodes are omitted and some of the ones included aren't among the best parts of the book. THe choices are mystifying.
Still, a worthy listen - though I would definitely spring for a full-length audiobook if there is one available
The problem begins with me. I didn't realise this was an abridged version, so I grant myself 3 stars, too. Beowulf is not such a long story that I would have considered abridging it. Seamus Heaney did a wonderful translation of the book, and he reads it so well. I was disappointed that the copy was cut. I hope an unabridged version will be available soon. I will snap it up. Until then, I will have to endure the agony of an incomplete work. <sigh>
-This will remain the definitive translation: It strikes a perfect balance between keeping to the old form, accuracy, and making it flexible within the that form to bring it to a modern audience. It is a joy to read and hear. The author's voice is perfect. What a gift he has given us.
-I would dearly love an unabridged version with the author reading. Please! This is the only reason I dropped a star anywhere. I'd gladly be willing to purchase such again.
-It would also be fun to hear some of the sections read in the original by an expert. (One can hope, wistfully, for such things.) I suggest readers at least listen to a bit of this elsewhere on the net.
-Purchase a parallel copy in paper as a companion to this reading.
I'll be brief, for what else remains to be said about Beowolf? There is a reason this tale is so long enduring and considered a defining example of early literature. In addition to this audiobook I also have the full print version of Seamus Heaney's translation. I am a huge fan of this translation. It is particularly easy to follow, but uses strong imagery and hard, masculine language to maintain a suitably macho and epic tone throughout.
Heaney narrates his own work here, and while his delivery is a little on the dry side, I still appreciate being able to hear the artist himself. It's a shame this was abridged - and heavily at that.
This is a wonderful translation by Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, born in Northern Ireland, whose own poems such as "Casualty" and "Graubale Man" connect ancient to modern violence in a way that indicates the poet's deep and intimate understanding of the cyclical violence that is so central a part of the 8th-century Beowulf. Other reviewers point out that Heaney omits certain key passages from his recording, and that is indeed a pity because some of those passages bring out the perils and contradictions of the warrior ethic to which Beowulf the characher subscribes. I suppose that the cuts were made for commercial purposes, that is, to offer a more univocally heroic Beowulf than the poem itself warrants. All the same, it's a beautiful read, and I would purchase this recording again, particularly if next time Heaney were to offer us his unabridged translation of this great poem.
I am the author of the My Life in My Pocket Series of Books. I live in Wesley Chapel Florida.
It saddens me that there will never be an unabridged audiobook with Heaney's voice. This is a great translation with a great performance, but Audible should make it clear before purchase that this is in fact abridged.
Beowulf is the ultimate epic warrior story. It is fantastical and believable; it is poetic and savage.
This story of a great warrior king and his people was beautifully translated by Seamus Heaney. The translation is modern, but it does not loose any of the beauty of the poetry in its effort to be modern. The descriptions are vivid and the meaning is clear throughout the poem.
As to the narration, Seamus Heany's rendition is masterful. He does not attempt to differentiate between the various voices in the poem, but that allows for better concentration on the poetry, itself. This reading of Beowulf would be best enjoyed before bed with a cup of tea in your favorite chair. I would be interested to hear a narration that does differentiate between the voices, but I did not feel slighted by this reading in any way. Heaney's voice is beautiful, clear, and melodic.
For those who are not familiar with the poem, you should be aware that all does not necessarily end well. That's all I'll say about the plot, itself. As this is the oldest surviving Old English poem (at least to my knowledge), the plot is generally known. Just don't approach it thinking that it's Disney-esque. That's not to say that there is anything that could be considered inappropriate in the poem - it's just to say that little ones might not be ready for everything in it.
I would highly recommend this audiobook to anyone interested in poetry, epic battles, Old English, or even just something different because there's nothing else quite like Beowulf in all of literature.
Beowulf is a Norse/English masterpiece. Seamus Heaney's work is also a masterpiece - of translation. Example: "Fate goes ever as Fate must" is his equivalent of what is literally "Goes ever fate as she wills". Heaney's intonation is perfect. I love this audio performance, but what a travesty to make it an abridgment, terrible decision. Still if you care about poetry listen to this.
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