Monday, 21 April 2014

Epics on a Global scale


'Milton’s Paradise Lost and Seamus Heaney’s Translation of Beowulf have been neglected. My new challenge is to work on finishing the unfinished and immersing myself in the epics.'

This is a quote from my blog post dated 31st December 2013. Imagine my surprise when a week later I saw an offer on Facebook to join a Global Reading Salon set to read epics in 2014, the first of the selection being Beowulf. Of course I joined. 
And when I did join I found that Milton's Paradise Lost was on the calendar for March - perfect.

This closed group was created and is managed by Alice, a lady in Oaxaca, Mexico. So how does is work? Alice invites participants through her normal facebook links, you message her and she adds you to her closed reading groups. Each book has its own group so you do not have to read them all. There is four weeks allocated to read and comment on any particular epic.

About a week before reading commences, Alice posts some introductory information and invites the groups to introduce themselves to each other. She also sets out the reading itinerary, breaking the book into equal parts. Each week we are given a particular aspect of the book to focus on for example architecture, the role of women, heroism and that sort of thing. The group sizes could range from half a dozen to over thirty depending on the given book. Participants came from all over the globe although the discussions tended to be generated by the same few.

The thing I enjoy most about the Global Reading Group is the discipline of having to read a set amount each week. If I fall behind I work hard to catch up. It is invigorating to imagine people all over the world reading the same book as you, but I think the best part of the experience is the satisfaction I feel each time I finish what can sometimes be a very difficult read. Below are my reviews of the first three reads of 2014.



This is an epic poem written in Anglo Saxon sometime between seventh and tenth century. I thought the read would be heavy going but I was in the safe hand of the Seamus Heaney translation; beautiful flowing lyrical verse. The story is a rollicking good read. Poor Beowulf, not only does he have to slay a monster and monster mummy, but just when you think it's safe to take the chain mail off, a dragon appears. The reading group definitely enhanced the experience, with loads of online chat and additional information about the epic. I would recommend it.
Five Stars








This German Epic is not for the faint hearted.  It tells a very gruesome tale of love, lust, rape, murder, revenge and bitterness.  The story takes place between the lands of the Rhine and the Danube around 400AD and 600AD.  The most astonishing thing that struck me about The Nibelungenlied is the small value of life and the treatment of women, even those of noble birth. The armies' warriors were measured in thousands, many of them slaughtered. This is an interesting account of the nobility and changing fortunes of that period in time. Four Stars







This is one of the books I had sitting on my shelf for years and knew it would be good for me to read so I was happy the Global Reading Salon had it as the March read.  It wasn't what I expected which was a holy, holy poem about Adam and Eve and the creation.  God in the poem is scary, fierce and ruthless. And Satan has motives and seems quite rational at times. I read the poem aloud and enjoyed the beauty of the structure and language but I have to admit that I was often confused and lost concentration many times when the story spun off into different points of time, naming people and places I had no reference to.  I am going to give it four stars because it is a cracking poem and an immense body of work. Four Stars