The Sagas of Icelanders: By Jane Smiley
The Icelandic Sagas are among the masterpieces of world literature whose composition stretches from about the year 1000 to 1500. Presenting the adventures of Norse and Viking heroes, the sagas are told with ritual simplicity and a realism that anticipate the modern novel. This volume offers nine full sagas and six tales, all new translations by various hands and all part of The Complete Sagas of the Icelanders, also edited by Thorsson. Published to mark the 1000th anniversary of Leif Ericksson's voyage to North America, as told in the Vinland Sagas, this selection includes (along with the Vinland Sagas) the famous Egil's Saga and that of Gisli Sursson. The volume also offers a preface by novelist Jane Smiley and a scholarly introduction by Robert Kellogg of the University of Virginia. Wonderful for anyone interested in world literature, this selection is recommended for public and academic libraries.
-Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, GA
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Review
...the sagas are some of the first great literary works...some of the most beautiful prose in the Western tradition... -- Book Forum

Generally excellent, accurate and readable, these translations are sure to become the standard versions. -- The Times Literary Supplement(London

One of the great marvels of World Literature.... This is a dream come true. -- Ted Hughes

The glory of the Sagas is indisputable. -- Milan Kundera

Product Description
A unique body of medieval literature, the Sagas rank with the world's greatest literary treasures-as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. Set around the turn of the last millennium, these stories depict with an astonishingly modern realism the lives and deeds of the Norse men and women who first settled Iceland and of their descendants, who ventured further west-to Greenland and, ultimately, the coast of North America itself.

The 10 Sagas and seven shorter tales in this volume include the celebrated Vinland Sagas, which recount Leif Eiriksson's pioneering voyage to the New World and contain the oldest descriptions of the North American continent.
Language Notes
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Icelandic --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Jane Smiley, whose preface opens this new selection of the Sagas, is the author of many novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres and The Greenlanders.

The Icelandic sagas bear repeated readings - these texts are a heritage of ancient European culture that belong on the "canon lists" with Homer and Shakespeare. Their influences and histories are that important, anyone who speaks English should certainly read these stories, they are distantly related to us and are at once familiar and very strange. This massive volume is the best single-source for the sagas, and the translations are all new and take into account the most recent scholarship on the sagas. Five stars for the work and the translations, and a sixth star for the best reason to own this book, the reference section, a book in its own right: illlustrations and diagrams, historical charts, glossary (Icelandic-English), up-to-the-minute and large bibliography, maps, family ties and trees, ages of icelandic history, and essays on the social and political structure that is so important to really understading the sagas and the culture that produced them.

However, I have to subtract a few of my stars, with the proviso that I do recommend this book as a must-own for anyone interested. This may raise a few hackles, but I really think that the "Tales" could have been omitted, and either Njal's saga or Erbyggya Saga added. These are fundamental sagas (esp. the former), but perhaps this is just my own love of Njal that sways me. Naturally, the inclusion of these sagas would mean something had to go, and I think that the sagas can stand without the Tales to augment them.

All that said, the book is still a treasure, and I am very glad to see Penguin coming out with such fine volumes. After all, Njal and Erbyggja are also published in very nice translation by Penguin. If you love Nordic poetry and literature, even if you own editions of these sagas, you should still have this one.

It might be useful to end with what IS here, saga-wise:

Egil's Saga
Vatnsdaela Saga
Laxdaela Saga (w/Bolli Bollison's Tale)
Hrafnkel's Saga
Bandamanna Saga (Saga of the Confederates)
Gisli Sursson's Saga
Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue's Saga
Ref's Saga
The Vinland Sagas

# Roughcut: 848 pages
# Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (February 27, 2001)
# Language: English

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