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Njal's Saga (Classics) [Mass Market Paperback]

Magnus Magnusson , Hermann Palsson
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)


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Book Description

January 1, 1995 0140441034 978-0140441031
Njal's Saga Magnus Magnusson Hermann Palsson


Product Details

  • Series: Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140441034
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140441031
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ian Myles Slater on: A Reliable, Readable, Option 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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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite of the Sagas 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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
376 pages. This saga spans that period that many of the saga's do, skirting around the year 1000 when Christianity was adopted in Iceland by decree. Starting before this transition, the saga tells the story of a beautiful yet spiteful woman, Hallgerd, whose nature begins a feud that burns for several decades between the Sigfussons and Njalssons. Njal himself being a man of law who has a close friendship with Gunnar (Hallgerd's husband) and finds himself caught up in events as they develop. I have read that this is the most highly regarded of Icelandic saga literature. At least a hundred pages more than other sagas, it verges on straining the limits of saga readability. The first quarter is paced as well as any saga, but it seemed to get sluggish in the second quarter, regaining its former pace in the third quarter, and showing the best in saga writing only into the last quarter of the book. It may not be right reading for you unless you are entranced by saga reading, or possibly would make good reading for lawyers due to its portrayal of early law. Snorri the Priest, who appears in this saga, factors highly in Eyrbyggja Saga. As usual with Penguin, they include geneologies of the characters involved, a glossary of names (very helpful) and two maps of Iceland.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Archetypal Saga - Two Thumbs Up! 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny Vikings
The Vikings had a sense of humor. For instance, one guy is on a horse that runs completely out of control. And he's in serious danger of being thrown off. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this translation and beg Penguin to bring it back
By far the best translation of this masterpiece of world literature. It is a shame that Penguin does not continue to make this one available but has replaced it with a much less... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Wm. I. Miller
5.0 out of 5 stars Initially difficult but ultimately very very satisfying
I had a couple of false starts trying to read Njal's saga - as another reviewer said - everything about Njal's Saga is alien - the world the people inhabit, the way they live and... Read more
Published on October 11, 2011 by Simon T. Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Took a long time shipping
It was almost three weeks from the order before I received the book, but it arrived in good condition.
Published on March 20, 2010 by B. Doughty
5.0 out of 5 stars Great translation of a great work of art
I've read all the Norse sagas that have been translated into English, and Njal's Saga is by far the greatest. Read more
Published on November 16, 2009 by Fíal
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome!
You've got to be interested in this sort of stuff to begin with, but you can't beat a good viking saga and this is one of the best. Read more
Published on February 4, 2009 by sewer rat
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the five great books
Most folks read books like they eat donuts or fast food hamburgers: gobble, gobble, gloomph, swallow, is that all? what's next? Read more
Published on June 11, 2008 by timw
5.0 out of 5 stars A Primer on Anarchy
I would recommend Njal's Saga as a primer on anarchy. Not the theoretical, Emma Goldman philosophical anarchy, but anarchy as it manifests itself "on the ground" as anthropologists... Read more
Published on February 8, 2008 by marc ladewig
5.0 out of 5 stars the only translation to read of Njals saga
Njals saga is one of the great works of world literature, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the Iliad, King Lear, the Divine Comedy, and Don Quixote. Read more
Published on September 27, 2005 by K. Koehler
5.0 out of 5 stars Njal's Saga
This translation of the famous Icelandic saga was extremely readable and was helped by having geneologies in the back as well as a glossary of the main characters, listing each of... Read more
Published on July 7, 2005 by Kathryn Byrd
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