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Gloria Allaire, ed. and trans. Il Tristano Panciatichiano.

Gloria Allaire, ed. and trans. Il Tristano Panciatichiano. Arthurian Archives VIII. Italian Literature 1. Cambridge, UK: DS Brewer, 2002.

Gloria Allaire has produced in this edition and translation a masterpiece of careful work that provides not only the first complete edition of an important Italian witness to the Arthurian tradition and that also opens new directions in Arthurian study to the English-speaking world. The volume consists of abstract; introduction; list of Arthurian manuscripts copied, decorated, or owned by Italians; an annotated transcription of the text of Panciatichiano 33 with facing translation into English; a selected bibliography; and an index of proper names.

The introduction covers the general background of Arthurian material in Italy, together with the description of the manuscript, a brief outline of manuscript contents, a note on the language of the text (incorporating preceding critical commentary), information about previously published excerpts and an explanation of norms used in transcription and translation. The manuscript description is a model of its type, including not only the manuscript construction and handwriting details, but also the condition of individual folios.

The third segment of the book, "List of Arthurian Manuscripts Copied, Decorated or Owned by Italians" is in itself an excellent resource that will be consulted by future researchers (13-25). Each manuscript is listed together with bibliographical references, which extend from fifteenth-century inventories to through modern analyses, though inventory listings are not integrated with modern manuscript attributions. The listing is by city, then library within the city, and includes Austria, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. This is indeed a formidable reference tool for studies of the Italian Arthurian tradition.

The text itself, as Allaire states, is an anthology of Arthurian material that she divides into six parts as they appear in the manuscript (6). The six parts are of extremely unequal length: Part I, The Quest for the Holy Grail (26-121); Part II, Two Love Letters (122-25); Part III, The Story of Tristan: From His Birth to the False News of His Death (126-319; incomplete in the manuscript); Part IV, The Death of King Arthur (320-87, incomplete in the manuscript); Part V, The Story of Tristan: The Tournament at Loverzep (388-697, incomplete in manuscript); and Part VI, The Story of Tristan: Last Exploits and Death of the Lovers (698-735). The divisions derive from manuscript format, since parts 1, 3, and 5 in the manuscript begin with gold-trimmed initials. Within the six separate parts, undecorated red initials set off most chapters, which Allaire numbers consecutively throughout the text. She also further helpfully divides these into paragraphs by content and sense for the modern reader.

Throughout the edition (on even-numbered pages) emendations are clearly noted by a footnote at the bottom of the page. Added letters (e.g., missing ns) are within square brackets, and scribal redundancies are enclosed in angle brackets. Furthermore, Allaire assists the reader with difficult readings by citing other (French) versions of the text in the notes. Additional footnotes provide source information (e.g., to Biblical references as on page 116). In short, the difficult prose text is carefully and conscientiously presented.

The translation (on facing odd-numbered pages) is carefully cut to follow page-by-page with the Italian. Allaire's translation is readable and current in its phraseology, not falsely archaicizing. She uses French terms occasionally to give the flavor of the original, which contains many gallicisms. For example, she translates the Old French "O_1" [yes] as "oui," "Monsignore" and related terms as "monsieur," and "Non" [no] as "non." Asides are rendered in parentheses and integrations from other texts or additions to the original sense in square brackets. The folio beginnings and paragraph divisions are also marked in the translation, facilitating consultation of the original text (and, if desired, the manuscript). For example, on page 343, where King Arthur is setting a trap for Guenevere and Lancelot, Arthur allows Guenevere to stay home from a tournament. ("And he was leaving her behind only to test what Agravain had said and to uncover his lie.") Where terms are unclear, Allaire has given their meaning in context, or left the Italian (e.g., lo sotrecco, which she renders as "the sotrezzo," 470-71). The scribal additions, in angle brackets in the transcription, are also translated, also in angle brackets in the translation, so that readers can judge for themselves the extraneous or duplicate nature of the segment (e.g., end of paragraph 264 on page 469).The translation is close yet comprehensible. The one disconcerting aspect for the modern reader is continual switching between present and past, following the original in its use of historical present. The alternation is particularly frequent in event-laden segments. For example, "And when Palamedes found out that he was Breus without Pity he rides after him to catch him, but Breus had a better horse than he did. And when Palamedes saw that he couldn't catch up, he turns and looks around and saw ..." (321; my emphasis). Frequently translators alter tense to keep consistency for modern readers; for example, Dorothy Gilbert in her translation of Chretien de Troyes's Erec and Enide, says, "Chretien, like many medieval writers, changes verb tenses from preterite to present and back again in short passages, sometimes in mid sentence. This practice, confusing and distracting to a contemporary reader, I have avoided ..." (Dorothy Gilbert, trans., Erec and Enide, Chretien de Troyes, Berkeley: U of California P, 1992, 30). However, other editors follow Allaire's choice either for textual accuracy or to allow a reader to appreciate the feel of the original. Allaire's careful separation of direct from indirect discourse, the division of long sentences full of conjunction-introduced clauses, both make the text comprehensible and easy to follow for modern readers. Standardization of personal and place names, together with the index of proper names, also render the text easier to comprehend.

These alternative versions of tales in the Panciatichiano manuscript will interest all readers of Arthurian materials. Yseut is given to "the sick men" (not specifically lepers, 252-53); Guenevere is condemned to death for giving a poisoned apple to Sir Gaheris, not for being caught in adultery (279-87); the forest dwelling of Tristan and Yseut is a frescoed palace surrounded by gardens (256-59); Governal, Yseut, Tristan and Brangain's actions on the wedding night to fool King Mark are described in detail (208-09). Furthermore, careful explanations by participants help modern readers understand conclusions drawn at the time by the public; for example, the hermit's explication of Gauvain's dream (92-93 ff) and the explanation of Lancelot's three marvelous sayings (106-07 ff). Similarly, author's asides, clearly marked by Allaire by placement in parentheses in the translation as in the edition, clarify otherwise obscure details such as unnamed characters or the feelings of a specific character. (My comparisons here are based on Alan S. Fedrick's translations, The Romance of Tristan by Beroul and The Tale of Tristan's Madness [London: Penguin, 1970]; and A. T. Hatto's translation of the fragments of Thomas in Gottfried von Strassburg. Tristan [Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1960] 301-53; augmented by the French volume with translation into modern French, edited and commentated by Daniel Lacroix and Philippe Walter, Tristan et Iseut, Les poemes francais. La saga norroise, Lettres gothiques [Paris: Livre de poche, 1989].) Those familiar with further versions will appreciate Allaire's references to similarities or divergences from other versions and bibliographical information on following the differences in her notes.

The care taken in producing this volume at every step is evident not only in the annotations but also in the fact that, in 758 pages, I noted only six errors: a missing end quote on page 269; "between you and he" (for "between you and him"), page 413; a slight inconsistency in the translation of "Non" to "no" or "non" in English on pages 148-49, "Non," pages 490-91 and "no," pages 648-49; "[sees]" for "vide" (496-97); "seignory" (641) for "seigniory" (507, etc.); and "Brius" (401) for "Breus" (everywhere else). In a text this lengthy, the list is indeed tiny and both editor and publishing staff are to be congratulated for their care.

Gloria Allaire's imposing and precise work is truly a model for edition with translation publications. The translation, edition, reference work and notes together form a great contribution to the knowledge of Italian Arthurian literature that will be consulted for years to come by students, scholars, and critics.


Loyola College in Maryland
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Date:Sep 22, 2003
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