The Mere Wife vs Beowulf
July 23, 2018 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Review of a new retelling of "Beowulf" for the modern age. With interesting redefinitions of important words, that men have always defined. And here's an NPR interview with the author: Beowulf in the suburbs
posted by MovableBookLady (12 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

I am reading this book right now and it is excellent. I can not recommend it highly enough.
posted by enn at 5:00 PM on July 23, 2018

"Give an Arab a sword, he makes a knife!

When you die, can I give that to me daughter?"
posted by humboldt32 at 5:05 PM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

This sound really interesting. I particularly like this idea
"it's a text about home as much as anything. ... A story about: How do we live amongst other people? How do we live as neighbors? ... "
I've only read a few versions of Beowulf (and a few movies) and its always been hard for me to envision Beowulf as much of a hero. Especially in light of how much seeming tension there is between him and the people he's ostensibly there to protect or save. That Beowulf, Grendel, Grendel's Mother and the dragon are all described as aglæca/æglæca is also intriguing and echoes my feeling that the Danes needed as much help with Beowulf as they did with the monsters.

Will be adding the book to the queue. Thanks for bringing it to Metafilter.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:10 PM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maria is an amazing writer and The Mere Wife is a very fine book.
posted by jscalzi at 5:19 PM on July 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

This looks great and I will be sure to pick up a copy. I would also love to see a new translation of Beowulf through this lens.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 7:21 PM on July 23, 2018

And why did he find a second monster sleeping beside Hrothgar?

This line, and others, referring to John Gardner's excellent novel Grendel, written from the the monster's point of view (Grendel's) is troubling, as is her whole treatment of Wealtheow's portrayal in the novel. Because the Queen is mostly portrayed as a symbol of beauty, and sacrifice, puzzling to the monstrous side of Grendel but magnetic to his human side. (Grendel is part human, after all, a conundrum which the animated movie attempts to explain.)

Most high school students do not get to read this wonderful novel (an attack on Sartre's existentialism, and hilarious and obscene as well) due to "language" and the scene in which the monster almost consumes the menstruating Queen, but doesn't, in an act of extreme nihilism.

After teaching the two books for decades to AP lit kids, I am looking forward to reading this book!!! (When English teachers retire, they finally get to read books instead of student essays.)
posted by kozad at 7:28 PM on July 23, 2018 [7 favorites]

I would also love to see a new translation of Beowulf through this lens.

The author’s translation comes out next year.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:05 PM on July 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

MrsMogur wrote this, back before she lost her words. She would have loved that book.

Kara at war

she wanted to kill these people
she wanted to kill everybody

but she didn’t
she killed only one man
the king’s favourite
the wise one

she carried him out of the hall
and put his head on display
like they had displayed her son’s arm

and then she went home

posted by Mogur at 5:34 AM on July 24, 2018 [16 favorites]

I wanted to love this -- I could tell it was brilliant, and well-written -- but I just did not. I can't figure out why. Just read it at the wrong time, perhaps.

I liked it, but I wanted to love it. That said I think it will stick with me.
posted by jeather at 6:00 AM on July 24, 2018

Ooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhh. I'm often a bit wary of modern retellings, but I can't wait to scoop this one up. The banality of sexist translation is a thing that makes me ragey.
posted by desuetude at 8:30 AM on July 24, 2018

This reminds me of Jane Holland’s translation of The Wanderer, another Anglo-Saxon poem. It’s a more straightforward translation except that the narrator is now a woman.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:07 PM on July 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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