Continuing our round-up of this year’s new books: these will probably be old, old news to many of you, but surely two of the most significant publications of 2011 are both long-awaited new Poetic Eddas.
1. The Orchard Edda
First, there is the new Penguin Classics translation by Professor Lord Andy Orchard, who now is mainly famous for running Canada. Andy’s translation of the ‘Elder’ Edda was forthcoming and allegedly pretty much finished when I first met him in 1996, so it’s fair to say that the gestation period on this one has been long. And naturally, it’s well worth the wait. I’ve always been happy recommending Carolyne Larrington’s OUP translation, whose merits more than outweigh the faults that some people have perceived in it; but Orchard’s may pip it for useability, simply because its notes and explanatory material are much more copious than in the Larrington.
As anybody who’s heard a conference paper by Andy over the years will not be terribly surprised to hear, the most notable feature of the translation is a predilection for alliteration, although this never becomes overweening. Some will dislike the translation of proper-names, which is always a fraught process, but overall I find Orchard’s version fluent, accurate and idiomatic without resorting to archaism. The only real problem, I have with it, in fact, is its subtitle–‘A Book of Viking Lore’, with every word of which one could take issue, but I can’t really be bothered here and now. Unfortunately, this terminology is used inside the book as well.
So, I certainly am happier with this translation than some people have been. (I don’t really approve of anonymous/pseudonymous reviews, but the commenter raises some valid points.) There’s another early notice of the book on Carl Olsen’s blog, which I’m ashamed to say I’ve only just discovered.
I shall be adding it to the reading lists, happy in the knowledge that the translation is as good as is available, and the notes are extremely useful. I guess no translation will ever satisfy every reader; that’s why we should all translate the Edda for ourselves!
2. Dronke Part III
The second of this year’s new Eddas is the third part of Ursula Dronke’s monumental edition for Oxford University Press. Paratextually, volume three conforms to the standards set by its two predecessors (lest we forget, volume one came out in 1969 and two in 1997: I hope she’s not rushed over this one!), in that it has the distinctive salmon-pink cover and it is exceptionally expensive.
Volume III of Dronke’s Edda is the second of the mythological selections: it comprises Hávamál, Hymiskviða, Grímnismál, and Gróttasöngr. I must confess that I’ve yet to see this book in the flesh, but I’m sure it will contain all of Dr Dronke’s remarkable erudition and her often peerless flashes of insight. Sometimes her readings can be a little adventurous for my timid taste, which makes me chary of using her translation. But alongside the exceptionally valuable commentary that she provides, the singular advantage of the Dronke edition is that has a parallel-text format, so the reader can compare original with the translation with ease.
Has anybody out there seen the Dronke already? Or do you have any thoughts about the Orchard?