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Author Topic: What's Everyone Reading?  (Read 140891 times)

peter horn

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #30 on: April 22, 2011, 02:36:33 PM »
I'd like your opinion.

The Beowulf I have is the Penguin Classics version but I've been hearing a lot about a fairly new version by Seamus Heaney.    Is it very different from the Classic and is it worth buying?

It appeals to those who like his poetry in general.
It is good to have a number of translations, but Heaney' version is not to my liking
peter

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #31 on: April 23, 2011, 02:39:50 AM »
I think it's very worth buying. It's easily the best translation I've read (and I've read a few). But I do like Heaney's poetry, and as Peter said, that's key.

Pros - He's a Nobel Prize winning poet. I believe that Beowulf is a notoriously difficult to translate. Most other translations come off slow, repetitive, convoluted or archaic, but you don't get that in the original language. I feel Heaney has made a poem that is as readable as the original. It's got the gravitas, but it's also got the flow, which is quite an achievement. He also has a verse style that echoes the original accentual alliterative metre. It's good to listen to.

However, Heaney has a very distinctive voice, and this is definitely Heaney's Beowulf, like Beowulf doing a Seamus Heaney impression. In my opinion, verse translations are the only way to go, and you have to pick a verse form as close to the original as possible. If Barbara Reynolds can translate Orlando Furioso in the original verse form, and Dorothy Sayers can do the same with Chanson de Roland, I don't see why people can't do it with Beowulf. Yeah, OE verse is a swine to write in but George Johnston does some good stuff in this metre, and JRR Tolkien did the whole Sigurd Saga in this metre. Heaney's does not write in OE accentual alliterative metre. Also, he's not an Old English scholar. He painstakingly went through the original line by line with a dictionary and a grammar. It's an academic point, but one worth making.

Graegwulf

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #32 on: April 24, 2011, 11:20:22 AM »
As Steve Pollington pointed out, Heaney's Beowulf isn't a translation, as he has no specialist OE knowledge.  It's a rendering or re-telling.

I quite liked it, and to be honest any modern English version that sticks very close to the OE original is going to sound rather forced and stilted.  If you want to be a purist, the only option is to learn Old English.

Paul

Bowerthane

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #33 on: April 27, 2011, 12:31:40 PM »
I’ve just given Michael Wood’s Domesday, A Search for the Roots of England ( ISBN 0-563-55128-3, originally 1986 BBC Books) a chance.  It’s been sitting in Peterborough Central Library for many a long winter, but I took it for a coffee-table kind of book; full of pretty illo’s and the Dick-and-Jane version of things I learnt years ago.

Well it’s not quite.  Wood makes some shrewd and original observations about King Alfred’s resettlement policies and why they couldn’t always be popular, and for why the Tribal Hidage ought to be a much more important public document than anyone seems to give it credit for.  He certainly gives a clear and effective version of the case that Domeday Book did not jump, fully-fledged out of a hole in the ground but had a long hinterland in “the most efficient system of government in western Europe” as achieved by the Old English.  That the Normans were quite incapable of maintaining.     

As a Fenlander born in the Soke of Peterborough I was also unexpectedly chuffed to read his case for my ain folk, and East Anglian sokemen generally, making for proof that defining Englishness by a tradition and temperament for individual freedom is not pure myth-making or wishful thinking.  In this connection I cannot forebear to mention that Lady Thatcher’s grandmother, Phoebe Crust, was born and bred in the Fens; in case you were wondering where all that pertinacity and stuff-the-Joneses individualism ( called “stubborn” by spineless townies), and all-round sense, guts and backbone came from.  I mean, how the hell would the Foreign Office know the Falkland Islands were “militarily indefensible” and MoD know they were “irrecoverable by military means”?  How hard were they trying?  We’ve been holding out on our little islands since Hereward the Wake.  Going 8,000 miles to kick arse is the sort of thing we’d do just to piss off the Abominable No Men, as I call people lacking the can-do cojones.
 
Freedom, individualism and pertinacity, then, because wetlands are unattractive areas that put off the weaker-willed or just plain health-loving ( “the ague”, possibly a variety of malaria, was a common Fenland ailment well into Victorian times) but where manorial and government control is weakest and therefore attractive to the freedom-loving and the nimby.  So in a typical bloody Fenlander you may be seeing an honest-to-goodness throwback to the England that William the Bastard never conquered.

After all, it must have been the Fenfolk of the Athelney Marshes who rallied round King Alfred.  Right?
   
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The moral right of the author to be identified as a Great Old One has been asserted.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2011, 12:45:27 PM by Bowerthane »

Jayson

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #34 on: April 27, 2011, 02:23:29 PM »
---thanks to Peter Horn and Graegwulf for their comments on Seamus Heaney's version of Beowulf  --  I think I'll try the library for a copy first before deciding whether to buy or not.

And may I thank Bowerthane for his rousing comments on A Search for the Roots of England!   That's another I'll hunt for, particularly as I have a great fondness for The Falklands  --  my grandfather was on a ship, The Good Hope, which was sunk with all hands at the Battle of Coronel (the first sea battle of the First World War) which was then revenged a couple of months later at the Battle of the Falklands.   Maggie would have been proud...
Wessex Woman

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #35 on: April 27, 2011, 06:54:33 PM »
---thanks to Peter Horn and Graegwulf for their comments on Seamus Heaney's version of Beowulf .

Harumph!
 ;)

Blackdragon

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #36 on: April 27, 2011, 10:16:16 PM »
I have just finished 'Conquest' by Stewart Binns, a chunky fictional book based around some exploits of Hereward the Wake. (hurrah!)
Since a lot of stuff about him is open to question anyway, I think using him as a basis for semi - fiction is fine by me. On the factual side it has some useful genealogies and maps in the back. Its about 500 pages, published by Penguin at £6.99 and worth a read for a bit of light relief from serious academic factual stuff.
Pete Jennings

peter horn

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #37 on: April 29, 2011, 02:15:25 PM »
---thanks to Peter Horn and Graegwulf for their comments on Seamus Heaney's version of Beowulf .

Harumph!
 ;)

never mind, I thought you made some good points

peter horn

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #38 on: April 29, 2011, 02:23:40 PM »
I cant stop reading W G Sebald, who is in a class above all others.
not much AS content though, except his discussion of Thomas Brown's 'Urn burial,'
these are the earliest records of AS pots, but taken for a while to be of Roman origin
and Thomas's work is described by Sebald as 'part-archaeological and part-metaphysical treatise.

Karen Carlson

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #39 on: May 07, 2011, 03:37:27 PM »
I'm thoroughly enjoying Beowulf, the novel by Stephan Grundy (aka Kveldulf Gundarsson).  It you take the poem as history, this novel is historical fiction -- filling in a wealth of detail about how it might have happened.  If you are familiar with Beowulf (the poem), the Havamal, the rune poems, etc., you'll hear a lot of echoes.  If you aren't familiar with the old literature, it's still a fun read.

Karen

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #40 on: May 21, 2011, 06:49:17 PM »
Rereading The Song of Roland, translated by Dorothy L. Sayers. It's full of archaism and inversion, but I like it because it tries to replicate the verse metre of the original, and it's got a nice brisk pace to it. Good fun. I might reread Orlando Furioso after this.

Jayson

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #41 on: May 28, 2011, 06:03:04 PM »
---I've just started reading 'A Thousand Years of Annoying the French' by Stephen Clarke (Black Swan 2010) and although only the first chapter is concerned with our period, it's great fun.   I do recommend it  --  although it's a long read, 650 pages.
Wessex Woman

Horsa

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #42 on: May 28, 2011, 06:51:11 PM »
---I've just started reading 'A Thousand Years of Annoying the French'

Nice! There's a copy of this in the Toronto library system. It'd be interesting to read this after Roland. I need to brush up on my Napoleonic wars. All I know about that I got from Sharpe. It is interesting that the antagonism can be traced back to the Pre-conquest period.

Anyway, reminds me of the Al Murray Pub Landlord bit about tax. Skip to 2.50.

Bowerthane

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #43 on: June 01, 2011, 09:14:12 PM »
Well I’m working my way through Britain after Rome: The Fall and Rise 400 to 1070 by Robin Fleming ( ISBN 978-0-140-14823-7, Penguin 2011) and it’s getting good.

At first my heart sank to see a timespan as diverse as AD 400-1070 blithely summed up as ‘after Rome’.  To give colour to the ignorant prejudice that nothing much worth mentioning went on in Blighty between the Romans pulling out and the Normans barging in, and associating the latter with a “Rise”.  Ay-bloody-hum.  But it doesn’t half have a photograph of part of the Staffordshire Hoard on the front cover, and bugger all else new about the Old English period has popped up in Peterborough Central Library in many a long winter unless it was me using the long loan. 

Needless to say you can’t call a book treating the Sub-Roman and Anglo-Saxon Periods together exactly packed with detail.  But its details are up-to-date and collated from graveyard excavations more recent than I’m used to reading about.  Which brings me to one positive aspect of handling the Roman-Britons and Anglo-Saxons together, because this makes plain that the poor Old English are not somehow unique in, or uniquely blighted by, the unattractive and grimmer sides of Dark Age and medieval life.  Unless it’s just me, I find that that the poor Old English are always picked on for examples of the ‘yuk’-factor even when you don’t come across the “farmers in mud huts” mentality of those who dismiss Old English civilisation as if it were no more than a load of smelly grunts living in “mud huts”.  Flemings goes into porotic hyperostosis in skulls and cribra orbitalia on bones ( signs of childhood anaemia, in turn caused by malnutrition, diarrhoeal conditions and viral infections) and enamel hypoplasia on teeth ( commonly caused by malnourishment, low birthweight and parisitic infections) and makes some interesting observations about the kind of society these make for.  But she makes it implicitly clear that everyone had these problems in pre-Conquest Britain: the Celts weren’t singing in the trees farting perfume, or holding hands and dancing round in circles kissing one another in slow-motion with flowers in their hair like the slushy bits from Love Story, whilst beetle-browed Anglo-Saxons where scaring off rats with their raucous BO and bad teeth before staggering off to die of leprosy.

Of the interesting general observations she makes one is the high female mortality rate meant a society short on adult female labour ( so who made all the clothes?).  Another it that, given the long time it took them to grow to adult size ( twenty-seven years sometimes), adult male muscle-power must have been at a premium, too.

I’m still in the middle of it but it is, as you see, shaping up rather well.  A useful, refreshing and up-to-date briefing, I’d call it.



( PS: I enjoyed that A Thousand Years of Annoying the French too!  Biggest laugh since the euro went pear-shaped.)


WRT

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Re: What's Everyone Reading?
« Reply #44 on: June 01, 2011, 09:42:31 PM »
I found in the Library a book by Stewart Binns called 'Conquest'. It is the story of Hereward of Bourne (The Wake). Who is outlawed in England travels the Europe of MacBeth to William of Normandy and returns for 1066. The story is told in retrospect. Hereward is an old Man recounting his story to two Byzantine Princes as a hermit in Greece. The Princes have been sent by their father to learn the story of Hereward who had served him in the Varangian Guard.
This book has got some good moments. However, his history is not bad but the personal relationships seem a bit stunted.
In fairness have not yet finished this book.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2011, 09:15:50 PM by WRT »