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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful translation but the "look inside" preview is misleading
This is an absolutely beautiful translation of Beowulf and Seamus Heaney has done a wonderful job of conveying the rhythm and spirit of the original in a way that manages to be both faithful and inventive.

However I can't give my review 5 stars since I was disappointed to find that this is NOT the bilingual edition used in the "look inside" preview...
Published on 30 July 2011 by London reader

versus
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What does "unabridged selections" mean?
I was such a fan of the Heaney translation that, after reading the text, I ordered the tapes. Reading again as I listened to the recitation, I first noticed a word missing and then a word changed. Imagine my disappointment when I noticed entire lines and blocks of lines missing. You won't see the words "unabridged selections" in the online catalog, but you...
Published on 9 Mar 2000 by Kenneth E Charlton


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful translation but the "look inside" preview is misleading, 30 July 2011
This is an absolutely beautiful translation of Beowulf and Seamus Heaney has done a wonderful job of conveying the rhythm and spirit of the original in a way that manages to be both faithful and inventive.

However I can't give my review 5 stars since I was disappointed to find that this is NOT the bilingual edition used in the "look inside" preview.

The Amazon preview pages relate to a different edition which has the Old English throughout - which is what I thought I was purchasing. This edition (the one with the red and blue jacket) has only one page of Old English and the rest is solely the translation.

Amazon - please change the preview or flag the difference in the blurb. At present this listing is misleading.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Appreciation of hearing poet reading his own translation, 20 Jan 2000
By 
Marian (Nr Southampton, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Beowulf (Penguin) (Audio Cassette)
I cannot recommend too highly the experience of listening to Seamus Heaney reading - or should it be reciting? - his own translation of Beowulf. The original poem was not intended to be read on the page, but to be heard, and Seamus Heaney has carried over this intention into his own words, and his manner of delivering them. He held me fascinated. The sound of Heaney's voice adds also to the sense that the poem has a contemporary resonance in the troubles of Northern Ireland. The poem deals with the longing of a community to be rid of a malevolent bringer of violence which has killed many men over many years, and it sets out as admirable those who deal fairly with those from a different community, who honour commitments and hold no grudges. There is a passage in which the poet describes how old men goad young men to break up a peaceful wedding celebration by dragging up old resentments and humiliations to be avenged. You feel that Heaney recognises in the ancient poem a terrible truth that goes on and on spurring men to murder and hatred through century after century, even to present day Ireland and Kosovo and Rwanda. If you think you know Beowulf, perhaps because you had to study it at university, listen to Heaney's poem and be amazed at how it springs to life.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable book, 26 Dec 2003
By 
Sally-Anne "mynameissally" (Leicestershire, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
I'm the average reader: not a student or scholar studying the book, but a person who has just read the story for the first time. Also, I have no ear for poetry, which could well be perceived as a profound disadvantage when reading an epic poem. So I'm pleased to announce that the book is readable and enjoyable. Seamus Heaney's introduction is helpful, moving and filled me with anticipation so I could hardly wait to start reading his translation. As expected, the poetry element was almost entirely lost to me but I could, at least, tell that it's beautifully written. The story itself is a gripping yarn and disbelief needs to be suspended, especially for aquatic sections where Beowulf appears to be able to function under water for hours and swim for weeks dressed in mail. He could have been an early model for Superman. I've never read anything like this book before and enjoyed it despite the fact that it seemed very odd to me. My only criticism is that I thought a glossary would have been useful.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A translation that fits the story, 1 Nov 2006
Beowulf is an exciting tale and this fast-paced and wonderful translation allows modern readers to explore the story in all of its glory. I first had to read Beowulf as an assignment and was skeptical about reading a story written so long ago. Fortunately, I picked up this translation by Seamus Heaney. As a result I have discovered the wonderful world of medieval literature and it's all thanks to this book. Buy it and read it. Who knows, maybe you'll discover that you've been missing out on a really great thing.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What does "unabridged selections" mean?, 9 Mar 2000
By 
Kenneth E Charlton (Sagle, ID United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Beowulf (Penguin) (Audio Cassette)
I was such a fan of the Heaney translation that, after reading the text, I ordered the tapes. Reading again as I listened to the recitation, I first noticed a word missing and then a word changed. Imagine my disappointment when I noticed entire lines and blocks of lines missing. You won't see the words "unabridged selections" in the online catalog, but you will find them on the back of the cassette case.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beowulf, 14 Mar 2006
By A Customer
I'd been promising myself to read this book for years. Now I finally have. Wow! I was not disappointed.

Heaney's translation makes it easy to read this thoroughly enjoyable tale. I was afraid I'd find it rather dry and dull since it is often studied in schools and places of higher education. I needn't have worried!

If you like heros and tales of honour and daring-dos then this is for you. A stonkingly good yarn, imo! This book has made me want to explore other translations of Beowulf.

I hadn't realised that the film 'The 13th Warrior' was based on this book until I started reading.

Loved it!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Truely Great Book., 20 Mar 2003
Having already read a translation of this fantastic story from the fifties, and being a poor student, I was not really looking for another version to bite into my limited 'book fund'. However, when I saw that Seamus Heaney had written a new translation that had also won the coveted 'Whitbread Book of the Year', I couldn't resist.
I am so glad I bought this book. I always felt that the early version was somewhat slow and difficult to read, but Heaneys text flows off the page and ignites the imagination the way I'm sure the original author intended.
The prose is elegant in its simplicity, "I shall... prove myself with a proud deed, or meet my death here in the mead-hall". A true poet of Heaney's stature is needed to do justice to a work such as Beowulf.
The story itself is certainly the most imaginative and inspirational I have ever read. It also gives a remarkable insight into dark age warriors lives and beliefs.
In summary I cannot recomend this book enough. This version is accessible to anyone not just students of literature. With one click of your mouse you could read one of the greatest and most important works of literature ever written!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like it or not, this is our heritage., 15 April 2000
By A Customer
Beowulf could be an essential part of the culture of the Klingon Empire. Instead, it is part of our own. A bizarre tale of Beowulf's three battles against varying monsters, it is set amongst a background of blood feuds, ancient nationalism, and the honour of the battlefield. The origin of the tale is not English, but is Scandinavian in origin and must have been part of the culture of the Scandinavian or Danish invaders who settled here somewhere between 700-900 AD.
Somewhat strangely, the story was probably originally conceived in pagan Scandinavia, but at the time of the original poem, England had been converted to Christianity. The writer has felt bound to place the poem in the framework of Christianity, and the tale sits unhappily in this structure. These are the mead-hall denizens of Thor and Odin, yet they thank God for his Almighty Grace. If you've ever wondered how Christianity ever gained predominance in this country, this book surely hints at what a weak foundation it was built on.
This is not a book to read and put aside. This is a book to read and re-read, because it exists on different planes. The first time you read the book you are engrossed in an absolutely gripping yarn. Seamus Heaney's translation (apart from the infliction of occasional Ulster dialect) is absolutely commendable, and is key to the relentless pace of the book.
It is in re-reading it that you can indulge yourself. Find your favourite passages and re-live the compelling tension of the battle scenes, or get to grips with the politics of who killed who in ancient and fragile kingdoms. But whatever you do revisit The Father's Lament (commencing Line 2444). This is hundreds of years ahead of its time in terms of poetic tragedy.
In short, this is not only a most readable book, but one which provides us with a time warp of our values and culture more than a millennium ago. Nothing else like it exists.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "A Somewhere Being Remembered" Unheroicly, 8 Feb 2013
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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Heaney's translation of the Anglo-Saxon poem `Beowulf' was the Whitbread Book of the Year for 1999. I came to the book recently and belatedly, having never read any other version.

I came to `Beowulf' more with the eye of an historian than a literary critic, for any study of Anglo-Saxon history or archaeology is imbued at some point with the aura of `Beowulf', the Anglo-Saxon author writing, as Heaney says, "from his perspective as an Englishman looking back at places and legends that his ancestors knew before they made their migration from continental Europe to their new home."

Yet, like `The Iliad' or `Macbeth' (both of which I love), on the page `Beowulf' is not actually great literature relative to, say, the contemporary novels of John Banville or Julian Barnes. But, then, not one of these three works was meant to be read; rather, they were meant to be told.

So, as with Homer and Shakespeare, `Beowulf' did indeed come alive when I imagined the story being told to me aloud (in this instance by someone sounding very similar to Anglo-Saxon historian Michael Wood). `Beowulf' is an oral epic rather than a literary classic. (And this may also be why watching the recent film version directed by Robert Zemeckis was an even better experience than reading it.) Only when imagining the story being told to me aloud, could I conceive of `Beowulf' as - in Heaney's words - "not just metrical narrative full of anthropological interest and typical heroic-age motifs ... [but also] ... poetry of a high order."

Although written as a poem, Heaney's interpretation was read by me as a nicely-balanced prose interpretation but one devoid on many pages, I'm afraid to say, of poetic inspiration. There are flashes of genius, such as Hrothgar declaring, "I who am telling you have wintered into wisdom", or enemies with their "hate-honed swords." "Tail-turners", yes; but I'm not sure of such clumsy choices as "battle-dodgers."

Reading Heaney's version, and only then reading his perceptive twenty-page introduction, I would never have guessed that the words were those of a Nobel-prizewinning author; that is until I reached about halfway through the introduction, when Heaney turns personal and talks of his own linguistic heritage as a route into `Beowulf'.

Here he manages to describe the indescribable (or what I thought was so). At university, "The Irish/English duality, the Celtic/Saxon antithesis were momentarily collapsed and in the resulting etymological eddy a gleam of recognition flashed through the synapses and I glimpsed an elsewhere of potential that seemed at the same time to be a somewhere being remembered." He goes on to explain his method of translation, what he calls finding "the tuning fork that will give you the note and pitch for the overall music of the work." So, rather than an "archaic literary" approach, he plumped for "forthright delivery".

But for the writer Justin Hill, who chose `Beowulf' as his `Book of a Lifetime' for the `Independent' newspaper, Heaney's version "delighted me with its differences" and he gives examples. Hill was brought up on what Heaney refers to as the "archaic literary" approach that produced "A foam-throated seafarer on the ocean's swell", where Heaney himself has "A lapped prow loping over currents." But something deep inside tells me that the former is more apt in conveying the heroic intent of the work.

In conclusion, I think I may have read the wrong version of `Beowulf'.

The text is helpfully accompanied by marginal glosses.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Epic stuff!, 10 April 2008
By 
Annabel Gaskell "gaskella2" (Nr Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This was my first encounter with Beowulf, (I haven't seen the film either). I chose the bilingual edition to see what the Old English looked like and although I could barely recognise a word, it did help to see the shape, metre and style of the original. Heaney's translation is easy to read, very straight-forward in language, and the accompanying essay helps you see how much work goes into preserving some of the form of the original in the modern translation.
With the original and Heaney's version printed side by side, it affected the way I read it. I tended to readi it aloud to myself (but in my head), trying to see the translation's cadence resonating with the original's two parts to each line. This was novel for me and enjoyable for one who doesn't normally do poetry!
As a story, you can see why it survives, but there is too much pontificating on the glories of war, fighting and serving the king and not enough action; Beowulf's dispatching of Grendel seemed to be little more than arm-wrestling and was over in a couple of pages.
I'm glad I read it and am sure I will refer to it again.
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Beowulf: A New Translation by Seamus Heaney (Audio CD - 28 Sep 2000)
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