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Penguin Epics : Beowulf Paperback – 4 May 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (4 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141026391
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141026398
  • Product Dimensions: 11.6 x 0.9 x 18.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 865,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Inside Flap

Beowulf is the most important Old English poem and perhaps the most significant single survival from the Anglo-Saxon period.

Though its composition was completed in England in the eighth century, the poem is set in the heroic societies of a fifth-century Scandinavia. Against this background of feuding and feasting, the hero Beowulf kills Grendel and Grendel's mother, but in killing the Dragon is himself killed.

We have here something more than merely a heroic poem of historical interest: Beowulf has a truly epic quality and scope, and this verse translation successfully communicates the poem's artistry and eloquence. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Michael Alexander is Berry Professor of English Literature at the University of St Andrews. For Penguin he has translated, 'The Earliest English Poems', 'The Canterbury Tales: The First Fragment', as well as a prose translation of Beowulf. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Attend! We have heard of the thriving of the throne of Denmark, how the folk-kings flourished in former days, how those royal athelings earned that glory. Read the first page
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Fuficius Fango on 24 Nov 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm sorry, but I think Seamus Heaney's translation is vastly inferior to this one. For Michael Alexander, a sword bites flesh; for Heaney a sword cuts flesh. For Heaney (when the dragon is rising in fury like the Kraken from the depths) there's "a rumble underground". It sounds to me as though Heaney's house is probably built above the Northern Line.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Craig Nelson on 31 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
I too have come to prefer this translation (Michael Alexander's) against Seamus Heaney (no disrespect to an undoubtedly great poet).

It is poetic. It has readability (not easy to obtain with a poem such as Beowulf). Also if you're buying you need an edition with a good introduction and a 'person' key at the end (or somewhere in the book).

The 'monster' bits are quite easy to read but the different names and clans mentioned get a bit confusing when talking about people and not Grendel, his mother or the Worm and in many ways the digressions of the poem are at the core of what it's about so whichever translation you use get an edition with (and use) the reading aids mentioned above.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By MLA VINE VOICE on 6 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback
The Penguin Epics edition of Beowulf is a 117 page translation in verse form by Michael Alexander. It is the same translation as the Penguin Classics edition but does not contain the additional contextual information.

Beowulf is of course the legendary Old English epic written probably over a thousand years ago. It is a Scandic tale rather than an English one, the action taking place in the lands of various Scandic and Germanic factions. What makes it special is its existence as such a great early Old English work. What makes it epic is that Beowulf tells a series of outstanding adventures captured in the literary style of the Germanic peoples who populated northern Europe including Eastern Britain.

There are various translations of Beowulf. This translation makes a very interesting judgement call. It retains a lot of the Germanic sentence structure rather than aiming for a more readable style to modern English users. This makes for a tough read at times in English but a more natural fit in terms of sub-clause use and verb positioning for those familiar with German and its most closely related languages. After a while the more complex composition becomes increasingly readable to the point where a reader can find ease in the word order patterns.

There are occasional points to criticise in the translation. In particular the translation of the word Wyrd. It is hard to skip over the translation of Wyrd as Weird because it makes no sense in modern English. Fate would have been a better translation. It is particularly difficult to skip over when used around the adventure with the dragon give the proximity of Old English Wyrm and Wyrd. Why one has the modern English translation and not the other is hard to follow.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Margherita Muller on 14 Mar 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've tried every possible setting - it's just about readable but the pagination has serious issues.
I thought this was fixed and disregarded a previously bad review on the same Kindle file. Mistake!
I'll try and get a refund or a fixed version.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 16 Sep 2012
Format: Paperback
In Beowulf we return to the heroic society of fifth century Scandinavia, albeit through the lens of eighth century Anglo-Saxon England which is where and when the poem was composed. Telling of the predations of Grendel, a `monster' descending from Cain, and the heroic exploits of the warrior Beowulf, this is an interesting read alongside other epic poems such as the Iliad, the German and Norse cycles, the Icelandic sagas etc.

Especially interesting in this poem is the role of Grendel's mother, never named other than by her relationship to Grendel himself, who takes revenge - always a problematically gendered act - upon herself. Given the narrative's erasure of a father for Grendel, the role of maternity is thus foregrounded in this poem in fascinating ways.

This isn't a long poem as epics go, only 3,200 lines, so about the length of four books of the Aeneid. This is an old translation (1973) which has been lightly revised, and which captures some of the grave solemnity and grandeur of the original. This edition also contains a brief introduction and some useful notes. So this isn't a scholarly edition but it a useful gloss for anyone struggling with Old English, or the general reader wanting to experience this marvellous poem.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are plenty of reviews of Michael Alexander's 1973 translation of Beowolf, so I will limit this to my usual rantings about sloppy Kindle formatting.

Again, we have a terribly formatted Kindle book from Penguin - a mainstream publisher - who, quite frankly, should know better. I now have a number of Penguin books on my Kindle; very very few of them have satisfactory formatting that replicates the print edition, which makes the issues even more infuriating. When you take their excellent editions of the The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights: Volume 1 (Penguin Classics), it makes you wonder why the same level of care and attention hasn't been paid to all books published by Penguin.

I shall be keeping this book because this is the translation I want. But I've decided to write a direct email to Penguin about their formatting issues as the methods of providing feedback via Amazon seem to be futile; nothing has ever come of a feedback submission or live chat.

If you want to see how this epic poem should be formatted, check the "Look Inside" on the paperback version. Unfortunately, you can't get as far as the actual text of the poem on the Kindle sample.
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