I stumbled across the website, “The Greatest Books,” to which there can only be one response. I will read them all, in order, rotating between fiction and nonfiction.
The first copies of Sigurd’s Lament: An Alliterative Epic:
In literature, the advice often given is to show and not tell. In academia, it is the opposite: tell and do not show. Sigurd’s Lament is a text that asks the question, can scholarship show rather than tell? On the surface, it is the collected work of a mid-twentieth-century scholar, Hawthorne Basil Peters, who has curated the life’s work of his father—the translation of a Welsh epic into the alliterative meter of the English Revival. The poem is produced in full, but so too is the historic introduction, commentary, and academic apparatus. Peters, for the first time, shares with the world his father’s wonderful translation and his previously unpublished academic ideas. In a text rife with distention, however, Peters draws the reader’s attention to the unexpected flexibility of language and asks only one thing in return: drink deeply. For Sigurd’s Lament is a text of the most serious play. It is ambiguous and obfuscating and riddled with footnotes that have lurking within them—like goblins in the weeds—future tales of past narratives.
Endorsements & Reviews:
“This is a very serious book that has to be read three or four times: the prefatory material, the poem, the footnotes – all fictional worlds that interweave with high humor, serious criticism, and profound religious insights. From anticipatory plagiarism to distention in reading, this book cuts across boundaries and is one of the best essays in literature and theology for a long time. As one of the footnotes disarmingly remarks, “What a wonderful idea . . . .”
—David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology, University of Glasgow
“Who is Benjamin Peters? And how has he become the poet-translator-collaborator-editor-bibliographer-scholar of Sigurd’s Lament? ‘We simply do not know.’ This epic epic will envelop readers in the penetralium of an enigma inside a mystery wrapped in the riddle of a Medieval Welsh scroll. Mr. Peters has given us something marvelous and strange, indeed. Clyw fy cân o foliant i Lament Sigurd yn!”
—W. Scott Howard, University of Denver
“‘Writing criticism is to writing fiction and poetry as hugging the shore is to sailing the open sea,’ John Updike remarks, yet Sigurd’s Lament charts a distinctive course. This adroit, inventive piece of alliterative verse is inextricably connected to learned literary theory. Benjamin Peters’s singular ability to ‘show’ as well as ‘tell’ means artists and academics will enjoy navigating his tale.”
—Darren J. N. Middleton, Texas Christian University