Monday, 17 June 2013

Time Out With Beowulf

For Father's Day, my daughter, Aileen, gave me Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, the edition whose cover is attached, and took me to the Man of Steel (comments on the latter on Comics Appreciation blog) so I am taking time out from Nicholas van Rijn and Dominic Flandry for Beowulf.

The text of Heaney's translation is straightforward and transparent, like a modern novel, something to be read by fans of Poul Anderson. Beowulf is a minor character in Anderson's retelling of Hrolf Kraki's Saga, just as the historical Macbeth is mentioned in his Last Viking Trilogy, which is about the historical Harald Hardrada.

In the twentieth century, fantasy and science fiction became literary ghettos. It is good to be reminded that Poul Anderson's works are integral to the European literary tradition, English-speaking North Americans being an extension of that tradition. 

1 comment:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Hi, Paul!

I quite understand, the wish to take a break from concentrated analysis of the works of Poul Anderson. So, have fun reading BEOWULF!

I've actually read BEOWULF myself, using Burton Raffel's transation. And greatly enjoyed it. And Poul Anderson discussed that poem to me in one of his replies to my letters to him. He used to think BEOWULF a pagan poem with Christian interpolations, but changed his mind (I think because of Seamus Heaney's comments) and came to think of the poem as a Christian work incorporating elements from the Germanic pagan past.

I think HROLF KRAKI'S SAGA is the most Beowulfian of Anderson's work. In some ways, it seems more "pagan" than Beowulf; but, in others, it shows how some characters in that book are close to rejecting paganism.

But just have fun reading BEOWULF!