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Seamus Heaney's version of "Beowulf" is a wonder, a totally modern translation of the poem that somehow manages to sound like it's been around for a thousand years. For a long time, his translation was only available on Audible in a badly abridged version - badly abridged even though it was read by Heaney himself: enough of the story was cut that some passages were incomprehensible. Recorded Books has had this complete version for several years, and it's finally available on Audible as well.
If we can't have Heaney doing the whole thing, George Guidall is a great alternative: he has a deep, rich, old-soul-sounding voice that works beautifully on this kind of epic verse. (See "Gilgamesh" and "The Inferno" for other examples.) This is, in my opinion, the best version of this work available in audiobook format. Bear in mind, though, that I've been a fan of the poem for many years, and have read at least some of it in the original (in an undergraduate Old English course forty years ago). My recommendation may be less useful for someone trying to get a first-time gist of the story. I honestly don't know how this would come across to someone who'd never heard the story before.
If you want another interesting treat, listen to Guidall giving the other side of the story, in the audiobook version of "Grendel" by the late lamented John Gardner.
37 of 37 people found this review helpful
What a great way to review (or meet!) Beowulf! Heaney's translation is fantastic, and while I'd love to hear a Irishman, a Dane, or a Scotsman read it, Guidall is skilled if neutral. The inclusion of the introduction at the end is surprising (why not include it at the start?) but fantastic, and helps enrich the whole experience. I've read and taught Beowulf before, but I never really enjoyed its story fully until I listened to it. HIGHLY recommended. Yup, even the middle section while they're all boasting and trading loot. Listen to this and skip the terrible cartoony version with Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mom!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful