12. Beowulf

This is the new translation by Maria Dahvana Headley that everyone was buzzing about over the 2020 holidays, and I have to say — the buzz was well-deserved. The language slides easily between the modern (the oft-cited “bro”) and something approaching the more usual, alliterative style. It is not by any means a simplification of the poem, which remains difficult to read in places (I for one can never keep the family trees and blood feuds straight without resorting to notes), but a sort of retuning. img_4660

Any translation is going to bring differences of focus and emphasis. Headley strikes a deft balance between the brash swagger of the verbal exchanges, the thrill of the battles, and the more reflective sections. She gives a little more to the monsters than some authors have; Grendel and his mother have shades that give them a bit of depth, and the dragon is described in downright breathtaking language.

I think this one is going to need several re-reads.

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