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Tirant lo Blanc by Joanot Martorell
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Tirant lo Blanc (original 1490; edition 1987)

by Joanot Martorell

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4271224,721 (3.6)23
Member:PatrickDeruytter
Title:Tirant lo Blanc
Authors:Joanot Martorell
Info:Amsterdam Bakker 1987
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Middeleeuwen, ridderroman, Moren

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Tirant Lo Blanc by Joanot Martorell (1490)

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English (6)  Catalan (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (12)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
This is a very fun book. It's one of the few medieval romances to deal with masturbation, for instance. The translation produced a great reading experience, and justified the review by Cervantes in "Don Quixote". A knight has a great many adventures, and wins his true love. A great book to read while devouring the Penguin, two volume edition of "the Morte d' Arthur". As far as I know the triumph of Catalan medieval literature. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jan 29, 2014 |
Tirant lo Blanc is a romance of chivalry. That term evokes images of the knights of King Arthur's Round Table riding lonely forest trails, jousting with other knights, rescuing damsels, battling the occasional dragon, and questing for love, glory and the Holy Grail. But Tirant lo Blanc depicts a later period and is a pseudo-historical epic of a much, much grander scale.

As a form of prologue, the story begins with the exploits of William of Warwick, the knight who will become Tirant's mentor. Some time in the early fifteenth century, Sir William returns from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Overcome with piety, he allows his family to think he is dead as he takes up the rags of a hermit and moves into a cave not far from his castle. But his repose is disturbed when the Saracens invade England, sack London (I did say this was pseudo-history), and besiege Warwick. William doffs his rags for his old suit of armor, takes up his sword, gets King Henry to abdicate in his favor, and runs the Saracens out of England. He then resumes his rags, gives the crown back to Henry, and retires to his cave where he will soon encounter a young Breton and would-be knight named Tirant.

Tirant lo Blanc (Tirant the White) is on his way to the festivities celebrating the marriage of young King Henry to a French princess. There he participates in a full year of jousting, feasting and dancing. What is remarkable about the jousting is how bloody it is. Many of the battles are fought until death or dismemberment. Any knight who yields would be committed to a lifetime of shame and chastity in the nearest monastery. Dukes, princes and even kings are killed right and left, but nothing dampens the festive spirits of the celebrants. Tirant slays four opponents in a single day, two dukes and the kings of Friesland and Poland. This wins him top honors for the tournament, and when King Henry creates the Order of the Garter he makes Tirant its first member.

After the festivities in England, Tirant--who now seems to have amassed a vast amount of wealth and powerful allies--decides his first chivalric deed will be to raise the Turkish siege of the island of Rhodes. This he does, having forged an alliance along the way with the Kingdom of Sicily. Next he is called upon to defend Constantinople itself from the Saracen hordes. (The author uses the terms Turk, Saracen, Mohammedan and pagan almost interchangeably.) Tirant takes command of the Byzantine forces along with the substantial forces he has brought with him, and in a series of brilliant maneuvers pushes back the much larger Turkish armies.

But then Tirant catches sight of Carmesina, the Byzantine emperor's beautiful daughter and the heir to his throne. Despite countless allurements, Tirant has never before shown the slightest interest in the opposite sex. But one look at the princess changes everything. "Having forgotten about the war, he only wished to have his way with her, while someone else fretted about military matters. Thus does excessive love often turn wise knights into fools." The narrative becomes surprisingly bawdy as Tirant begs the princess for her favors. At one point he refuses to go fight the Turks unless she lets him put his hand up her skirt. Before long he demands her virginity, but she teases and demurs. Carmesina's lady-in-waiting even urges Tirant to get it over with and rape her: "Tirant, Tirant, never will you be feared in battle if you refuse to use a little force with reluctant damsels! Since your wishes are honorable and your beloved is worthy, go to her bed when she is naked or in her nightshirt and attack bravely.... Oh God, what a wonderful thing it is to hold a soft, naked, fourteen-year-old damsel in one's arms!"

The machinations of a jealous widow, as well as Tirant's gullibility and prickly pride, keep him from achieving his goal before he has to return by ship to the battlefield. But a storm blows him off course and wrecks his ship at the opposite end of the Mediterranean on the shores of Barbary. In four years Tirant then goes from being a naked, unconscious castaway on a hostile shore to being the conqueror and Christianizer of a vast territory stretching from the Atlantic to the Ganges. But, of course, all this time the territory he most wants to conquer is Carmesina's bed.

Joanot Martorell, a Valencian knight, wrote the first three-fourths of the epic. After he died in 1468, his friend Martí Joan de Galba finished the work. There are some noticeable but not egregious changes in style, tempo and attitude when the authorship changes hands, as well as a few inconsistencies in the plot. Both authors borrowed heavily from other sources such as Boccacio's Decameron and The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. The most unappealing part of the work is that none of the characters can do much of anything--fight, make love, sign a treaty, propose marriage--without first quoting at length from Aristotle, Seneca, and other ancients to justify his or her actions. But aside from that, Tirant lo Blanc is a rollicking, blood-drenched, sexy epic of a history that never was. ( )
2 vote StevenTX | Dec 15, 2013 |
A pillar on the way to the modern novel. Chronic literary freaks should lean on.
  hbergander | Feb 13, 2011 |
Very long (and winding) story about the ideals of knighthood. The story itself could be told in less pages, but then the writer always feels the need to write about the dress code of knights, kings and so on. The use of quote from ancient texts is also something that is done quite often in the book. And off course the book glorifies Catholicism... Not a book I will want to revisit in the near future. ( )
  kabouter | Aug 20, 2010 |
Not bad but rather long. Seems based very loosely on the late medieval Mediterranean. Does not involve the fantasy elements of some romances; more or less straight military adventures. ( )
  antiquary | Sep 22, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (59 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joanot Martorellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Galba, Marti Joanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Nijs, Bob deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenthal, David H.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The knightly estate excels in such degree that it would be highly revered, if knights pursued the ends for which it was created.
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Book description
Tirant Lo Blanc was originally published in the Catalan language in 1490. This is the English translation. Mostly written by Joanot Martorell, a Vatican knight, the book was completed after his death by Marti Joan de Galba, another knight.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805238522, Hardcover)

First published in the Catalan language in Valencia in 1490, Tirant lo Blanc ("The White Tyrant") is a sweeping epic of chivalry and high adventure. With great precision and verve, Martorell narrates land and sea battles, duels, hunts, banquets, political maneuverings, and romantic conquests. Reviewing the first modern Spanish translation in 1969 (Franco had ruthlessly suppressed the Catalan language and literature), Mario Vargas Llosa hailed the epic's author as "the first of that lineage of God-supplanters -- Fielding, Balzac, Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Joyce, Faulkner -- who try to create in their novels an all-encompassing reality."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:17 -0400)

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