Here’s where my pretensions start to break down a little. As much as I like to read (and despite whatever, I do) I am not really a student of literature. So what have I to say about this ancient classic of narrative poetry? Isn’t it ridiculous to review it alongside Nick Hornby and score it out of 10?
Probably but I am going to anyway. Mostly because I did read it and I don’t have the tools to tackle it any other way – nor am I likely to acquire them any time soon.
Beowulf, in case you don’t know, is the story of a hero who fights and defeats first a monster, then the monster’s mother and then a dragon. Somewhere between the last two Beowulf becomes king and rules for 50 years.
I have to say I appreciated the translation. The language was plain and had the feel of an earlier, earthier culture without seeming false. Also it retained a sense of poetry. However I did find that it got in the way of the story a little for me. There were times when I read a phrase, or a stanza, enjoyed it and then realised I needed to go back to see what was actually happening. That made reading Beowulf less of a treat and more of a chore than it might have been. Maybe I’ll re-read it one day and the familiarity with the basic story will help.
The other thing that was odd was the story-telling structure. Probably things have changed in a thousand years but I still found it odd that we get a fuller description of parts of the second fight when it’s being recounted later, in passing, than we do at the time.
This is another one that I’m glad I read rather than enjoyed the reading per se.
7/10 – poetic, epic but slightly confusing.