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Publisher's Summary

Hugo Award for Best Related Work, 2021

"Narrator JD Jackson addresses his listener as 'bro' in this decidedly contemporary retelling of the classic saga ... His brilliant performance captures all the artistry, wit, and immediacy of this fresh translation, and breathes new life into what for most has been a literary fossil." (AudioFile Magazine, Earphones Award winner)

A new, feminist translation of Beowulf by the author of the much-buzzed-about novel The Mere Wife

Nearly 20 years after Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf - and 50 years after the translation that continues to torment high-school students around the world - there is a radical new verse translation of the epic poem by Maria Dahvana Headley, which brings to light elements that have never before been translated into English, recontextualizing the binary narrative of monsters and heroes in a tale in which the two categories often entwine, justice is rarely served, and dragons live among us.

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. The familiar elements of the epic poem are seen with a novelist’s eye toward gender, genre, and history - Beowulf has always been a tale of entitlement and encroachment, 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 of Beowulf, Headley unearthed significant shifts lost over centuries of translation. 

A Macmillan Audio production from MCD x FSG Originals

"Brash and belligerent, lunatic and invigorating, with passages of sublime poetry punctuated by obscenities and social-media shorthand." (Ruth Franklin, The New Yorker)

"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 recontextualizes the tale." (Barbara VanDenburgh, USA Today)

©2020 Maria Dahvana Headley (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

Critic Reviews

An NPR Best Book of the Year, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year, 2020  

Locus Awards Nominee, 2021

What listeners say about Beowulf: A New Translation

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Ridiculous

Literally started with “Bro”.
Nope.

I got this for my kids. This translation is laughable. We stopped 15 minutes in and got a real translation.

11 people found this helpful

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Best audiobook narrator I've ever heard

I wish this narrator did more of the Audible catalogue. This guy could stand up in a crowded pub (or mead hall) and recite this story and people would listen.

9 people found this helpful

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In the intro the author spoils the book

I would skip the intro in which the author starts spoiling plot points if you’ve never read this book before. I’ll give a longer review when I’m finished but that really irked me.

6 people found this helpful

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Great narrator, frustrating translation

The narrator does a great job reading legendary story. His voice and tone brings the gravitas such a story deserves.
The word choice and the author’s thoughts however are frustrating. Her introduction is at least 30 minutes and rubbed me the wrong way. The modern slang used, especially her use of the word “bro” is jarring and distracting to the story.

4 people found this helpful

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From Tolkien to Marvel, it all started here

How refreshing to read a translation of something as old as Beowulf and hear modern turns of phrase like "bro" and "I'm dropping knowledge now." As anyone who has ever tried translation knows, it's not so hard to translate word-for-word. What is insanely difficult is to translate the feel of a book, to give voice to the deep down voice of the author while using a completely new language. Headley has achieved this with an audaciousness most translators are loathe to attempt.

Other reviewers who are more knowledgeable about the original text have done a better job of explaining what Headley has achieved than I ever could. Here I will simply say that this rendering of an ancient tale felt entirely new, while at the same time showing that the new stories we often try to tell are simply retellings of "ur" stories like this one. From Tolkien to Marvel, all are beholden to the bards of old. Huzzah!

[I listened to this as an audio book read by JD Jackson, which seems like the perfect way to experience this epic tale.]

3 people found this helpful

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New words for timeless themes.

Jarring, sometimes vulgar, the language is engrossing and the story is made more entertaining by the mix of old and new.

3 people found this helpful

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Very cool, a breath of fresh air!

I loved this. Very cool interpretation and updated twist on one of the original classics.

2 people found this helpful

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Worth every second

Translators of verse begin at a very high level of difficulty and a similar level of expectation. Beginning with such source material and adding exceptional narration yielded a rewarding experience from top to bottom.

2 people found this helpful

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A bracing, involving experience!

This was really absorbing. What a way to make an old story current and available and powerful.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic!

Love it, both translation and narration! Few translators who have tried to use alliteration have made it sing as effortlessly as Headley does. And Jackson made me feel like I was sitting around a fire with a hundred other people, my arms around my knees, listening in wrapt silence.

2 people found this helpful