Saturday, 26 August 2017

Beowulf: The New Translation by Gerald J Davis

Beowulf: The New Translation by Gerald J Davis
This translation published in the UK by Insignia Publishing in August 2013.

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The origins, history and authorship of BEOWULF are shrouded in uncertainty. This heroic epic probably began, as most do, with a wandering troubadour strumming a stringed instrument, sitting before a hearth-fire, and singing the verses to a spellbound audience arrayed before him. At some point, the words of the troubadour were inscribed in manuscript form, in order to preserve the story for posterity. The events depicted in this story take place during the late fifth to early sixth century. However, there is great dispute among scholars as to when the manuscript itself was actually transcribed. Tolkien believed it was written about the eighth century, while other serious experts assert it was written as late as the early eleventh century.

BEOWULF is a rousing adventure story, filled with intrepid heroes, monsters and fire-breathing dragons, which can be read for the sheer enjoyment of the tale.

I downloaded Gerald Davis' translation of Beowulf after having read his other translation of Gilgamesh which I enjoyed reading, and the historical Northumberland novel Edwin by Edoardo Albert, who mentioned Beowulf and the Anglo Saxon Chronicles amongst his inspirations. I have vague memories of Beowulf-themed Primary School music and movement classes on the radio: 'and then Beowulf and his men went into the dark forest. Can everyone make themselves into a wild tree for the duration of this interminably long piece of music?' I loathed music and movement classes!

Other than the fab Baba Brinkman rap, I didn't think I really knew the Beowulf story, but reading it here, the events did all seem familiar so I must have absorbed it through cultural references over the years. Or maybe the story arc, like that of the Odyssey and Iliad, has been reused so many times since that the original no longer seems, erm, original. I greatly appreciate being able to read these ancient stories and love that they survive and are still studied and republished so widely. This translation does end with a very scholarly essay attempting to prove links to other contemporary works and real people. I tried to read that too, but had to give it up!

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  1. I haven't read the entirety of Beowulf before, but I have read parts of it. I am thinking of going back and reading the full thing - I am glad to see you really enjoyed this translation.

    1. I loved how accessible the story is in this translation