Beowulf: A New Translation
Scribe Publications, 2021 - Beowulf - 176 pages
A new, feminist translation of Beowulf by the author of The Mere Wife.
Nearly twenty years after Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf - and fifty years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world - there is a radical new verse interpretation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements never before translated into English.
A man seeks to prove himself as a hero. A monster seeks silence in his territory. A warrior seeks to avenge her murdered son. A dragon ends it all. These familiar components of the epic poem are seen with a novelist's eye towards gender, genre, and history. Beowulf has always been a tale of entitlement and encroachment - of powerful men seeking to become more powerful and one woman seeking justice for her child - but this version brings new context to an old story. While crafting her contemporary adaptation, Headley unearthed significant shifts lost over centuries of translation; her Beowulf is one for the twenty-first century.
' The Mere Wife includes some tantalising snippets of Beowulf as translated by Headley. Now we have the full version, and it is electrifying ... It is brash and belligerent, lunatic and invigorating, with passages of sublime poetry punctuated by obscenities and social-media shorthand ... With a Beowulf defiantly of and for this historical moment, Headley reclaims the poem for her audience as well as for herself.'
-Ruth Franklin, The New Yorker
'An iconic work of early English literature comes in for up-to-the-minute treatment ... Headley's language and pacing keep perfect track with the events she describes ... giving the 3,182-line text immediacy without surrendering a bit of its grand poetry. Some purists may object to the small liberties Headley has taken with the text, but her version is altogether brilliant.' STARRED REVIEW
'The author of the crazy-cool Beowulf-inspired novel The Mere Wife tackles the Old English epic poem with a fierce new feminist translation that radically recontextualises the tale.'
-Barbara VanDenburgh, USA Today
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