Ragnarok is narrated by Harriet Walter and retells the finale of Norse mythology. A story of the destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves: what more relevant myth could any modern writer choose? Just as Wagner used this dramatic and catastrophic struggle for the climax of his Ring Cycle, so A.S. Byatt now reinvents it in all its intensity and glory.
Ragnarok is the story of the end of the world. It is a tale of destruction of life on this planet and the end of the gods themselves. What more relevant myth could any modern writer find? As the bombs rain down in the Second World War, one young girl is evacuated to the English countryside. She is struggling to make sense of her new wartime life. Then she is given a copy of Asgard and the Gods - a book of ancient Norse myths - and her inner and outer worlds are transformed. War, natural disaster, reckless gods and the recognition of impermanence in the world are just some of the threads that A.S. Byatt weaves into this most timely of books. Just as Wagner borrowed from this dramatic Norse saga for the climax of the Ring Cycle, so Byatt reinvents it for our time in all its intensity and glory.
Linguistically stunning and imaginatively abundant, this is a landmark piece of storytelling from one of the world's truly great writers. Harriet Walter narrates with much feeling and integrity.
©2011 A.S. Byatt (P)2011 Canongate Books
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I’ve always found it difficult to read the myths: whether the Greek, Roman, Nordik - whatever - there’s something about them that makes them incomprehensible to me; I quickly get lost amongst all the names and creatures and feuds, and I always thought that it was because I didn’t have the background knowledge, or the ‘classics’ education, to be able to follow the stories. And that's just how it was feeling, once again, as I was listening to this ... I love the stories, and the sheer imaginative strangeness of the tales, but couldn’t help feeling I was missing more than I was picking up, and if the book wasn’t so short I probably wouldn’t have made it to the end - and that wonderful last chapter. In it, A.S. Byatt explains her own difficulty with the myths - even after a lifetime of reading, studying and retelling them - and she gives a beautiful account of how they've shaped her view of humanity, and her work too, and in so doing she made the whole tale of Ragnarok make (some sort of) sense to me ... Wonderful stuff. I'll definitely be listening to this again in the future. (It helped that the narrator was brilliant: perfect tone for this tale.) So, overall a very satisfying and enjoyable experience, and a thoroughly recommended part of the Cannongate Myth series - though I would say to listen to the last chapter first!
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I had kept this in my wish list until I had a cash credit and wish I had bought is months ago. It is definitely worth a credit. The story is, as it says in the review, based around Norse mythology from the perspective of a modern - 2nd world war -perspective. It is so much more. It contemplates 'the big questions' of creation and destruction using beautiful language and vivid imagery. the story is told from the view point of a child growing and developing in wartime. Her views and understanding shift and evolve as she assimilates classical mythology into her present reality.
There are a dozen or more lovely moments. The imagery is perfect; poetic thought inspiring but not to flowery. That said the use of common names for the 'flora and fauna' in the descriptions were very good. The seasons for flowers were correct - I'm a Botanist and it jars me, out of the story, when this sort of detail is wrong. I know nothing of Norse mythology this story made me curious.
Personally I enjoyed the descriptions of the girl's walk to school. It brought back memories from my own -although different -childhood and captures the joy of playing outside, discovering and being a part of nature.
The story made me reflect and day dream. In fact I fell asleep listening to it, not at all because I was bored. I was so relaxed imagining the pictures painted by the words and excellent narration that I drifted away, odd really as some of the descriptions are quite gruesome. Definitely worth a listen.
The only bit I didn't like was the end, sorry. No need for the thoughts on myths bit.Metaphor is a better medium.
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