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The Kalevala [Paperback]

Elias Lonnrot
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 9 2008 0199538867 978-0199538867
The Kalevala is the great Finnish epic, which like the Iliad and the Odyssey, grew out of a rich oral tradition with prehistoric roots. During the first millenium of our era, speakers of Uralic languages (those outside the Indo-European group) who had settled in the Baltic region of Karelia, that straddles the border of eastern Finland and north-west Russia, developed an oral poetry that was to last into the nineteenth century. This poetry provided the basis of the Kalevala. It was assembled in the 1840s by the Finnish scholar Elias Lonnrot, who took `dictation' from the performance of a folk singer, in much the same way as our great collections from the past, from Homeric poems to medieval songs and epics, have probably been set down. Published in 1849, it played a central role in the march towards Finnish independence and inspired some of Sibelius's greatest works. This new and exciting translation by poet Keith Bosley, prize-winning translator of the anthology Finnish Folk Poetry: Epic, is the first truly to combine liveliness with accuracy in a way which reflects the richness of the original.

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Review

`an unread masterpiece...The translator, Mr Bosley, is an English poet and knows the Finnish language, accomplishments which few can rival...try this book; you will not be disappointed.' The Spectator

`Keith Bosley's Kalevala is a poet's translation, impressive for its stylistic daring, its taste and its scholarly awareness and for the sheer pleasure it gives. The zest and energy of the 22,795 line epic is communicated by the freshness and force of the translator's approach. Not only the poetry itself, but also the long introduction which Mr. Bosley provides convey his enthusiasm and personal enjoyment of the original text... The publication of Mr. Bosley's Kalevala is, I think, a major literary event... More than any previous translation, Mr. Bosley's should establish The Kalevala as part of our common cultural background.' Anthony James, Agenda

`Keith Bosley has been able to imitate the weaving repetitions, formulae, parallelisms, imagery, and content, and feels a poetic affinity for the life depicted...The text is now accessible in English: it can be read without a stumble, enjoyed and taken seriously. Not the least feature of this rewarding edition is Keith Bosley's witty and informative introduction.' Herbert Lomas

`a valuable addition to the OUP World's Classics Series ... Bosley's version benefits from his deep knowledge of Finnish language and lore and his command of ethnic English, with its colloqualisms, that more than adequately, and often quite brilliantly, conspire to render the feel of the original with amazing fidelity.' Ossia Trilling, Stage and Television Today

`The Kalevala is a fabulous narrative spiced with exotic images and much hilarity.' Jennifer Cooke, Melbourne Sunday Herald

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1 map --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Patient Epic July 21 2003
By JAD
Format:Paperback
In an effort to broaden my horizons in epic and mythological literature, I bought two books on a whim: The Kalevala, a Finnish epic poem with roots in prehistoric oral tradition, and Njal's Saga, the thirteenth century prose account of the lives and tribulations of a group of families and friends in late tenth and early eleventh century Iceland. After reading about 100 pages of Njal's Saga and nearly perishing from sheer tedium, I turned to The Kalevala and received a pleasant surprise.
The Kalevala is a non-rhyming poem consisting of fifty cantos ranging over about 670 pages. The cantos are meant to be sung and were collected in the nineteenth century by Finnish scholar Elias Lönnrot as he traveled around Finland listening to old men sing from memory. The actual number of such collected stories is mind boggling and only a small fraction comprise the loosely connected plot of The Kalevala. Lönnrot even modified some of the stories himself to make the poem a more satisfying piece of literature in its own right. The story follows an amazingly small number of major characters who can loosely be described as warrior-wizards: an old wise singer, a talented metal smith, a foolhardy and womanizing young man, a tragic orphan boy, and a trouble-making woman who plays the antagonist throughout. Together they can conjure up armies by singing, build boats and musical instruments out of virtually nothing, and even shape shift into giant winged creatures. In this land of long ago, ships can talk, pike grow to be the size of houses, and people can be brought back to life by stitching their body parts together! Yes, my friends, it doesn't hurt to be a little open minded with a book like this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shamanic Epic of the North Oct. 15 2002
Format:Paperback
The Kalevala is one of the greatest (and yet largely unknown) epic poems of all times. Although relatively young when compared to the works of Homer and so forth, this Finnish epic draws deep into Finland's Shamanic heritage and is indeed based off these old myths and legends. It concerns the adventures of Vainamoinen the wise Shaman, his companion Ilmarinen the smith and the bold, young Lemminkainen. Those who have studied Shamanism will already see a Shamanic aspect in the association between Vainamoien and Ilmarinen, for in many cultures smiths and Shamans are linked together. There are many more Shamanic archetypes and beliefs found throughout this book, such as a bear sacrifice which is startlingly similar to that observed amongst the Ainu and Lapps of recent times. This book, perhaps the only real direct source of Finnish mythology and religion, explores an oft neglected culture. After all, any school child can tell you of the myths of the Greeks, Romans or Germanic peoples, yet the mythology and heroes of Finland have remained largely unknown. A real pity as this epic is filled with deciet, trechery and heroism which easily could stand beside the works of Homer, Virgil or Valmiki. This translation, perhaps the best available, both for the price and in terms of being generally accessable, is certainly worth owning. Whether you are interested in mythology, history, anthropology, Finland or just like a good story, there is bound to be something in this book which appeals to you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Finnish Illiad Aug. 30 2002
Format:Paperback
This sister to the Norse Sagas is the masterwork of Finnish mythology.
In it we follow the three main heroes - the elderly Vainamoinen, wise in everything except love; his brother Ilmarinen, the presumably middle-aged master smith; and Lemminkainen, the reckless young lothario who causes his wife and mother endless headaches but who we like enough anyway that we worry about him when he gets into trouble.
In some ways, it's a product of it's time. This was written in a time when women had no say in who they married; they had no recourse if their husbands were abusive; and they were virtually their mother-in-law's slaves until their younger brother-in-laws or sons got married and they weren't the low women on the totem pole anymore. Althoug Aino's story offers a message about this system, it's pretty much accepted. This is what life was really like at the time these stories were sung.
In other ways, though, it's surprisingly modern. Although the results usually aren't so serious, we've almost all been taken down a peg by an elder like Joukahainen at some point in our lives when we've needed it. I would imagine that many widowers - and widows, for that matter - can relate to Ilmarinen's sense of loss when he loses his wife.
And then there's Kullervo. He wins the all-time teen angst award hands down. It's fascinating how his cycle deals with a question psychologists have grappled with for centuries - are kids taught to be good, or are they just born good or bad? He's a danger to society, yes - but he may also never have had a chance. No matter what you feel about what he does, the scene where he wanders pitifully among his family asking if anyone would cry if he died until he gets what he needs to hear from his mother, can move you to tears. Just read the headlines about the latest school shooting. There really are kids almost this messed up out there.
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