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The White Knight: Tirant Lo Blanc   By: (-1490)

Book cover

First Page:

THE WHITE KNIGHT: TIRANT LO BLANC

by

Johanot Martorell

and

Marti Johan d'Galba

Edited and Translated

by

Robert S. Rudder

For

Jose Rubia Barcia

Friend and colleague at UCLA

A true "caballero andante"

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I. COUNT WILLIAM OF WARWICK CHAPTER II. THE TOURNAMENT CHAPTER III. SICILY CHAPTER IV. CONSTANTINOPLE CHAPTER V. THE BATTLEFIELD CHAPTER VI. A TRUCE CHAPTER VII. IN THE PRINCESS'S BED CHAPTER VIII. THE BETROTHAL CHAPTER IX. WIDOW REPOSE CHAPTER X. THE BARBARY COAST CHAPTER XI. PLAERDEMAVIDA CHAPTER XII. CONQUEST CHAPTER XIII. THE WEDDING CHAPTER XIV. DEATH CHAPTER XV. AFTERMATH DEO GRATIAS

INTRODUCTION

"Tirant lo Blanc is the best European novel of the fifteenth century," says Damaso Alonso in his excellent study.(1) Miguel de Cervantes, writing from the 17th century, affirms: "as far as style is concerned, this is the best book in the world."(2) If this is so, why has the novel all but disappeared from view?

Some place the blame on the language of the original: Catalan, whose literature is not widely read in the original tongue. Others say it is the fault of the erotic scenes ~~ too shameful for the polite society of earlier times. To my mind, a heavily contributing factor is its rhetoric. As Joseph Vaeth says: "Within this work may be found religious and philosophical discourses, speeches and disputations...; formal debates...; documents and papers...; formal challenges and replies...; dramatic lamentations; long and fervent prayers; and allusions to classical Latin authors, to biblical characters and to figures prominent in medieval literature." He goes on to say that if the novelist had omitted many of these elements, "his book would in that case have been reduced to approximately one fourth of its present size, but quite probably it would now be considered a masterpiece of narration and dialogue."(3)

Such has been the aim of this translation: The story line has been slightly abridged, but the most dramatic change is that most of the rhetoric has been eliminated. If the reader's literary palate is tickled by this version, and if he would like to read the entire manuscript in English, he is referred to the version by David Rosenthal or to the even more complete translation by Ray La Fontaine.(4)

Who was the author of this spicy, brutally realistic novel of kings and knights of the fifteenth century? We know that Joanot Martorell, son of the king's chamberlain, Francesc Martorell, was born in Valencia in about 1413. He lived in England during the years 1438 and 1439, and also traveled to Naples. Death came to him in 1468. During his life he wrote several letters of combat, and he began to write his novel Tirant lo Blanc in about 1460. Whether or not he actually finished the book is still a matter of debate, for it was not published during his lifetime. Another writer, Marti Joan de Galba, adds his name as a second author, and says that he wrote the last one fourth of the book. But he died six months before it was published, and his contribution, if any, is questionable.

And what was the success of this novel? Only 715 copies were printed on its initial run in 1490, and apparently all were sold. A second edition did not appear until 1497. An abridged translation into Spanish was finally produced in 1511, and no further Spanish editions appeared until the 20th century.(5) It was translated into Italian in the 16th century, into French in the 17th century, and finally into English late in the 20th century.

Of interest is the fact that soon after the appearance of Tirant lo Blanc, and throughout the 16th century, Spain was flooded with novels of chivalry. But these were of quite a different nature. Although the major characters are also knights highly instilled with the code of chivalry, they become involved in fantastic adventures filled with dragons, enchanters, and the like, following the lead of the French romances that were translated into Spanish beginning in the 13th century... Continue reading book >>




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