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Njal's Saga (Classics)

30 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140441031
ISBN-10: 0140441034
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Editorial Reviews

Njal's Saga (Classics)


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Product Details

  • Series: Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (October 30, 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140441034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140441031
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Ian M. Slater on January 9, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a highly readable translation (although not the only one) of a work of literature that has several familiar names. In full, it is "Brennu-Njals Saga," or "The Story of Burned Njal," but just plain "Njals-Saga" is equally correct. And, like several other sagas, it has a nickname in its native Iceland, "Njala" (like "Grettla," for "Grettir's Saga"). It is generally conceded to be the outstanding monument of a burst of literary productivity at the very edge of medieval European civilization. For those who know it, with its unforgettable portraits of men and women presented through their responses to the events that entangle them, it has a place alongside the great novels of modern Europe. It demands patience of the reader; although it starts off with a couple of resounding scandals, including a Queen-Mother's affair with a handsome Icelander, before plunging into disputes over property, and who stole the hay, and wise advice that is never followed. (There are certain resemblances to Westerns; including the problem of subsistence in an unforgiving environment, and the critical importance of a reputation.)

Magnus Magnussson and Hermann Palsson made the decision to give a plain-language version, which I think has stood up well for over forty years (first published 1960). On my first reading I found the Introduction, Genealogical Tables, Glossary of Proper Names, Note on Chronology, and maps, all very useful. It has been supplanted in the Penguin Classics list by a new translation by Robert Cook, but I hope that this older version will continue to remain available. (Penguin sometimes has two, or even three, translations of a given work in circulation.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Thorvald on December 3, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My online nickname, Thorvald, may give you a hint that I'm fond of the Norse Sagas :-) . Of them all, this is my favorite.
The Sagas are adventure stories, historical novels, and family histories all in one. They were written approximately 800 years ago about the Nordic world around the turn of the last millennium. The Magnusson and Paulson translations are quite good, very readable, but don't expect to find anything resembling a modern novel.
The Norse Vikings were quiet farmers, talented poets and artists, politically enlightened people with a democratic government and strong rights for women...then they'd get drunk and head off for a fun-filled summer of rape, pillage, and slave-taking. They were cooly dispassionate about everything, including death for even their gods would die eventually. Though the saga writers were Christians (Iceland converted in the year 1000), they present the pagen Norse religion without editorial comment. They write about it as about everything, in a very unemotional manner.
The unemotional tone is one that the modern reader will find most odd yet, as you read more sagas, may begin to appreciate. The sagas have a clear, bright, unencumbered atmosphere to them. Events are presented, people live, act, and die and it is left to the reader to decide how they must have felt. Consider a modern newscast--the reporter will inevitably ask, "How do you feel about that?" Current style is to try to delve into feelings and emotions rather than facts and events. The sagas are the opposite.
Terrific Viking stories in a fascinating world lost to time.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Andrew B. Jordan on January 6, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In addition to what other reviewers have added, let me state that the main plot of this saga is the attempt of the prescient Njal to save his family from the destruction that he forsees in the future by creating political and marriage alliances with other powerful families. In doing so, Njal innevitably draws more and more of Iceland into the web of his own fate, whose strands finally peter out after the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland (c.1014 ?).
Although some detractors criticize the style,the reader must understand that Njal's Saga is written in typical saga style with stock characters and situations. This is NOT a modern-day novel; it is written in an idiomatic style. Conversation and narrative contain the dry wit, excellent understatement and brevity that characterizes saga style. Strict Norse traditions of hospitality (even to enemies)and the strong relationships of foster ties are also peculiar to these types of sagas.
After reading Njal's Saga, one can come away not only with a great story, but also keen insights into Norse culture and tradition. I highly recommend it!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. E. P. Esq. on May 16, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Of the four Icelandic Sagas I own and have read: Egil's Saga, Laxdaela Saga, Eyrbyggja Saga and this, Njal's Saga; Njal's Saga remains my favorite. It's different from the other Sagas that I've read in that it appeared to me to be surprisingly dramatized, especially moreso than the other Sagas. I found this discouraging at first, questioning the accuracy of the events told within, but nonetheless, I put these thoughts aside and decided I would simply read and appreciate the book for what it was, and in the end I was entirely pleased with it. Not only is it my own personal favorite Icelandic saga, I've found it to creep into a position of being one of my favorite texts of all time. I don't, however, recommend it to newcomers to this style of literature. This was the last of the four sagas that I read, reserving it because it seemed to me when perusing each book that it would be the best of them, and I turned out to be right in my predictions. There is a particularly large amount of events in the book held around the form of law and establishment at the time, which makes it quite heavy for someone who isn't fully understanding of these people or their society. For this reason, I would suggest Eyrbyggja Saga for starters, as it is a short and easily understandable piece of writing. Reserve Njal's Saga for when you are in a position to fully appreciate it, then you won't be sorry.
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