Wednesday, April 16, 2014

O is for Old English

My Papa, Yuri Toropov (1937-2007), didn't speak Old English, but he knew why it was important. It was the language in which the great epic poem Beowulf, the adventure of adventures, was written. My father read a modern English translation of that poem to me, at about the time the photograph below was taken. Let's call it 1970.

The poem stuck. I don't remember who did that translation, but I remember being thrilled by the passages about Beowulf defeating Grendel. A masterful 2001 translation by Seamus Heaney (incorporating Heaney's brilliant modern English verse, juxtaposed with a phonetically rendered Old English text) has since vanquished, with comparable finality, all its competitors.

There are two fairly obvious thematic evocations of the Beowulf tale incorporated within my novel JIHADI: A LOVE STORY, but you won't be able to find them until I get the thing published. They don't show up in the small excerpt I've posted. 

I think of my Papa whenever I read them.