Throughout the 1990s, Seamus Heaney worked on what was to become his most celebrated work of translation, the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. One of the great Northern epics and a classic of European literature, it tells the tale of its eponymous hero’s triumphs as a young warrior and his fated death as a defender of his people. In his translation, published in 1999, Heaney produced both a work that remained true to the original poem, and an expression in its language and music of his own creative gift. On its publication, Beowulf won the Whitbread Book of the Year, just two years after The Spirit Level had received the same accolade.

‘Heaney has made a masterpiece out of a masterpiece’ - Andrew Motion, Financial Times