Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

  • by Simon Armitage
  • Narrated by Simon Armitage
  • 2 hrs and 28 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A complete and unabridged recording of Simon Armitage's hugely successful translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, read by the author. When the mysterious Green Knight arrives unbidden at the Round Table one Christmas, only Gawain is brave enough to take up his challenge.... This story, first told in the 1400s, is one of the most enthralling, dramatic and beloved poems in the English tradition.
Now, in Simon Armitage, the poem has found its perfect modern translator. Armitage's retelling of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight captures all of the magic and wonderful storytelling of the original while also revitalising it with his own popular, funny and contemporary voice.
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire in 1963. In 1992 he was winner of one of the first Forward Prizes and a year later was the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. He works as a freelance writer, broadcaster and playwright and has written extensively for radio and television. Previous titles include Kid, Book of Matches, The Dead Sea Poems, CloudCuckooLand, Killing Time, The Universal Home Doctor, Homer's Odyssey and Tyrannosaurus Rex versus The Corduroy Kid.


What the Critics Say

"Armitage makes it utterly, even compulsively readable, and as fresh as it must have been in 1400." (Sunday Herald)
"Terrific." (Independent on Sunday)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Armitage's Triumph

It was with some misgiving that I chose this recording, for two reasons. Firstly, this is perhaps the greatest poem in the English Language, but it was written in the Fourteenth Century in alliterative verse, a form which had then been traditional for over 700 years, but was soon to be displaced by foreign ones. For this the Gawain Poet's contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer, can be held partly responsible.

The result is that any translation which tries to capture the mediaeval English risks sounding silly or artificial, but to Armitage's great credit he has adapted the alliterative technique so well that the story flows naturally and convincingly, something that its other translators don't always achieve. Moreover, the set pieces of the source - such as the opening ones of the epic sweep of the founding of Britain, Christmas at Camelot, the Green Knight's challenge, the passing of the year and the ironic arming of Gawain - almost hold the impact of the original. This is a tremendous tale, whose narrator has a knowing grasp of relationships, morality and the trials of adolescence, and whose plot contains twists and turns almost worthy of a modern psychological novel. Armitage, it must be admitted, does it proud in this version.

Secondly, one of Armitage's trademarks, a quite mournful delivery with falling cadences, could have undermined his material. In fact, perhaps because he has confidence in his interpretation of the lines, perhaps because his West Yorkshire timbre captures something of the Cheshire-Derbyshire dialect of the source, it somehow works. No matter how familiar you might be with the story you will find yourself close at Gawain's side as he overcomes perils both external and internal, and the narration serves rather than hinders this relationship.

It is not entirely perfect - Armitage's mangling of the odd French phrase does the author some mischief, and there is the occasional infelicitous choice of words - but the achievement is such a labour of love - an overwhelming triumph, even - that these minor faults (like Gawain's) are easily forgiven. I don't believe Armitage has yet to record his translation of Pearl, which is from the same manuscript, but if he does he has won over this customer at least.
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Book Details

  • Release Date: 29-10-2015
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber