Sue Burke (mount_oregano) wrote,
Sue Burke

Europe's first best-selling novel: Read it now online

I've begun translating Amadis of Gaul, a novel of chivalry first printed 500 years ago. It inspired a century-long series of sequels and spin-offs in seven languages, and changed Renaissance society.

I'm posting the translation at I'll post a new chapter each week, and a weekly commentary to help readers understand the context of this extraordinary work. Note that the story begins with Chapter 0. You can follow it on LiveJournal through the syndicated feed,

Amadis began in the Middle Ages as an Iberian tale based the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Though we still have a few fragments of hand-written medieval parchment manuscripts of Amadis, I am translating the earliest surviving version, the 1508 edition by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, which was written in Spanish and based on the earlier manuscripts. It was among the first novels mass-produced on printing presses, and it tells the story of Amadis, the greatest knight in the world, and his adventures and true love.

There are damsels in distress, fearsome hand-to-hand combat scenes, sorcerers, and the occasional miracle.

As the decades passed, chivalric novels became less respectable — they were fantasy, after all. Finally,
Miguel de Cervantes satirized them in his 1605 novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, about an old man driven insane by tales of knighthood.

Amadis of Gaul, one of the pillars of European literature, passed into obscurity. But it is not merely a fast-paced story of love and adventure. It is an authentic window onto medieval society: its highest hopes and surprising assumptions.

Amadis of Gaul
drove Don Quixote mad. What will it do to you? Read a new chapter each week:

Tags: amadis of gaul, spanish, writing

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