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Popol Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya [Kindle Edition]

Allen J. Christenson
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Popol Vuh is the most important example of Maya literature to have survived the Spanish conquest. It is also one of the world’s great creation accounts, comparable to the beauty and power of Genesis.

Most previous translations have relied on Spanish versions rather than the original K’iche’-Maya text. Based on ten years of research by a leading scholar of Maya literature, this translation with extensive notes is uniquely faithful to the original language. Retaining the poetic style of the original text, the translation is also remarkably accessible to English readers.

Illustrated with more than eighty drawings, photographs, and maps, Allen J. Christenson’s authoritative version brings out the richness and elegance of this sublime work of literature, comparable to such epic masterpieces as the Ramayana and Mahabharata of India or the Iliad and Odyssey of Greece.

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Allen Christenson is Asst. Professor of Humanities, Classics and Comparative Literature at Brigham Young University. He has worked as a translator, ethnographer and art historian of the Maya world since 1976. He learned the K'iche' language while living in Mexico.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From An Attentive Reader August 17, 2004
It would be a shame to let the slipshod and factually inaccurate review (below) pass without correction and comment as this is an exciting new scholarly edition of the most important extant Maya text.

Even a cursory reading of the first page of the introduction (and throughout) would have supplied the information that the translator Christenson's primary Maya linguistic expertise is in Quiché (or K'iche'). And of course it would be extraordinarily foolhardy for anyone to attempt a translation of the Popol Vuh without a knowledge of the language in which the text is written.

This is not the place to rehearse the arguments regarding the purpose, practise and philosophy of translation - this has been done at great length by such well known commentators on the subject as Eco and Steiner not to mention the myriad even more technical writers. But the writer of the previous review passes judgement on the `accuracy' of the translation compared to that of Tedlock's readable and famously demotic version. One has to wonder how this judgement has been arrived at, and logically, what third, control element was used against which to compare the accuracy of the translations. Surely this would have had to have been the 16th century Quiché text which would, of course, require a knowledge of that language and it's historical orthography. It seems more likely that the reviewer simply compared the two translations; not much of a methodology. It would be a travesty if such an inadequate critique was allowed to stand unchallenged.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best October 10, 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I agree with the last review. This is the best version of the Popol Vuh to date. Tedlock's is good but this translation, format, and over all presentation is excellent. The first review seems to have a case of the sour grapes!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
This book is a must have for anyone interested in the ancient Mayan culture. The author lived among the Mayans while he translated the Popol Vuh (Mayan mythology) and shares much of what he learned from them, as well as what they learned from him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Straight from the Original Language January 10, 2014
By Mark
This translation of the Mayan Sacred work was extremely helpful to me in researching and learning about the civilization. Christensen has extensive knowledge on the Maya and their language. Whereas many translations of Popol Vuh come from Spanish translations (a translation of a translation), this one comes straight from the text's native language. Awesome!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I highly recommend this book December 9, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If Maya creation text interests you, I highly recommend this book! Especially this translation, because it was done by my teacher and he is a truly incredible person. Extremely knowledgeable of the Mayan language, the sites and rulers--everything you expect from an expert. This is also an interesting read for anyone who is interested in comparing this creation text to others for religious studies.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly Work that Also Serves Layman January 23, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Since I'm not a scholar, I cannot judge whether this is the best of the many translations and explications of Popol Vuh. Although the footnotes make it perhaps more detailed than an ordinary reader can digest, I learned a great deal about the Maya by reading this. Fascinating stories with fascinating parallels to legends of other religions, including Jewish and Christian.
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In Popol Vuh, anonymous Mayan authors excellently combine both the history and the lore of the Quiché Maya to tell the story of their origin and explain their existence as well as explain why things in the world happened the way that they did. As an AP World History student, I found this book incredibly intriguing. The way that Christenson translated this from the original language was not only fluid but captured the voice of the Maya. Their unique tone and style is clear and contributes a rustic feel that helps the reader clearly visualize the events being described. Both the adventures of the various Mayan gods and the tales of wars between the Quichés and the so-called nations offer an interesting read and an insight to early Central American culture.
Popol Vuh has a clear purpose. As stated in the preamble, it is to "...tell the ancient stories of the beginning, the origin of all that was done in the citadel of Quiché, among the people of the Quiché nation." The authors do this well, of course. They clearly illustrate how the earth, the animals, and the different versions of people (mud, wood, etc) were created and what purpose they served in the order of things. Animals, for example, were created to be eaten and humans were created to praise the gods. Then, slightly out of order, the stories of various human-like gods, including Hunahpu and Xbalanque, are told. These stories describe why things happen the way they do. They give explanations to things such as the size of the macaw's eyes and the wideness of the whippoorwill's mouth. Finally, Popol Vuh gives an account of the early history of the Quiché Maya. All of these combined complete a tale of the ancient stories of the beginning, as the authors reference them in the preamble, as well as the origin of the Quiché Maya and their people.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars POPOL HUH? I guess it's beyond me and I ...
POPOL HUH? I guess it's beyond me and I have a long way to go.
Published 3 months ago by Ric
5.0 out of 5 stars AP World History
This book was very fun to read! There were many parts of the book where I got confused about what was going on, but a quick reread of the section cleared things up. Read more
Published 3 months ago by AP World History Student
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
everything great
Published 6 months ago by Billie Horne
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful for mayan studies
A must have for everyone who study mayan culture and history.
Published 7 months ago by Alessandro Tozzi
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read format with many footnotes.
I was looking forward to what ancient texts would reveal about the events beyond our understanding. It's translated well but the format is somewhat lacking. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Peter S. Lee
4.0 out of 5 stars Class
I purchased this for a class, but had no idea that the Mayan mythology system was as robustly recorded as it is. Definitely a keeper.
Published 14 months ago by The Disquieted Pen
5.0 out of 5 stars Best I've come across
Great translation and the footnotes are super-helpful. Great background information. This is the book I used to create my Popol Vuh lecture.
Published 14 months ago by Marcus
4.0 out of 5 stars The Original
translated for us, for a more complete read, on what the ancient Maya, actually said. Made for deeper research into this New Period we just entered. Read more
Published on January 20, 2013 by A. Lau
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