Faber to publish a new work by Seamus Heaney
Faber is very pleased to announce the publication of a new work by Seamus Heaney, a verse translation of Aeneid: Book VI.
The book is scheduled for March 2016 in the UK, and will be published in the United States by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. There will also be a limited edition, with accompanying works by the artist Jan Hendrix, published by the Bonnefant Press of Banholt.
Seamus Heaney’s works of translation throughout his life – from Sweeney Astray and Beowulf to The Testament of Cresseid & Seven Fables – are celebrated around the world.
In Stepping Stones, his 2008 book of interviews with Dennis O’Driscoll, Heaney acknowledged the importance of Book VI of the Aeneid to his writing, noting that,
‘There’s one Virgilian journey that has indeed been a constant presence, and that is Aeneas’s venture into the underworld. The motifs in Book VI have been in my head for years – the golden bough, Charon’s barge, the quest to meet the shade of the father.’
Book VI captivated Heaney as a schoolboy, but it took on a special significance for the poet after the death of his own father in 1986, when he began translating and publishing passages from it. He returned to the work frequently over the decades that followed, and in 2007, having become a grandfather, he found himself focusing with systematic concentration upon the task of completing a translation. ‘I like that book of the Aeneid so much I’m inclined to translate it as a separate unit,’ he said to O’Driscoll at the time.
Matthew Hollis, Poetry Editor at Faber & Faber said:
‘It is with deep respect and care that we proceed with publication of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book VI of the Aeneid: respect, because a posthumous publication requires it; care, because, at his death, the author was still in a period of reflection. But the typescript that he left behind had, in the view of his editor and his family, reached a level of completion that suggested it would not be inappropriate to share with a wider readership.
‘It seems almost miraculous that it is possible to publish a substantial new work by Seamus Heaney now, as if, even after his passing, he were capable of offering his readers a gift. That the gift should be Book VI of the Aeneid only adds to the potence of his remarkable translation.’
Speaking on behalf of the Heaney family, Catherine Heaney said:
‘Book VI of Virgil’s Aeneid was a touchstone for my father, and one to which he would return time and time again throughout his life. This translation is the result of work and revisions carried out by him over many years – from the 1980s to the month before his death – and the decision to publish it was one our family took after long and careful consideration. However, given its theme of Aeneas’s search for his father in the afterlife, it would be hard to think of a more poignant way for us to mark the end of our father’s own poetic journey.’
Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 in Co Derry, Northern Ireland. Death of a Naturalist, his first collection of poems, appeared in 1966, and was followed by poetry, criticism and translations which established him as the leading poet of his generation. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and twice won the Whitbread Book of the Year, for The Spirit Level (1996) and Beowulf (1999). Human Chain, his last volume of poems, was awarded the 2010 Forward Prize for Best Collection. He died in 2013.