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The Kalevala Paperback – Nov 9 2008
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`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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
Especially powerful are the cantos about that scary young punk Kullervo. Where else in traditional literature is there such a portrait of a kid born to make everyone miserable before he takes his own life?
It's not all dour stuff, to be sure. There are a number of passages in which the words practically writhe off the page as the lines describe tingling, squirming magical growing. There's some humor.
The work is suffused with an earthy quality. It's not ambrosia and nectar we have here, but fish to eat, home-brewed beer to drink, and plain bread -- sometimes bulked up with bark -- to chew. People wear wool, navigate fogs, get up early to light fires and milk the cows.
It was one of a select few works that C. S. Lewis cited, in his essay "On Science Fiction," as works that provide additions to life. Other things that made the list were Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, parts of the Odyssey and of Malory's Morte d'Arthur, Peake's Titus Groan, etc.
This translation seemed to me quite readable.
Most recent customer reviews
I enjoyed the lyrical prose style of writing, and didn't find it too hard to follow the story - one sometimes worries that the language in stories of more ancient provenance will... Read morePublished 9 days ago by Steven Kazun
I spent six months living and working in Finland in 1997 and found many modern references to The Kalevala in Finnish literature, music, and art. Read morePublished on April 24 2002 by D. Renkey
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