One of my favourite events each year is Toronto’s Word on the Street – where thousands of book sellers, authors, magazine publishers and readers gather for a day of selling and talking about the written word. Each year I go looking amongst the book stalls for works new and old about the Middle Ages. Here is what I found this year ~ Peter
English texts by Jan Zwicky
The Porcupine’s Quill
This volume reproduces ten of Vittoria Colonna’s sonnets with English versions – text in Italian with English on facing pages.
All the while my widowed love
flushed me with thoughts of literary fame,
it fed a serpent in my breast
and now, afflicted, languishing,
my only remedy is God.
By Moshe Halbertal
Princeton University Press
Excerpt: Moshe ben Maimon (known in Hebrew by the acronym “Rambam” and in English as Maimonides) attempted to bring about two far-reaching and profound transformations in the Jewish world. The first pertained to the halakhah (Jewish law, broadly construed) which he sought to change, in a fundamental way, from a fragmented and complex system to one that was transparent and unambiguous. In his great code Mishneh Torah, he consolidated the array of halakhic rules and norms and set them in an orderly, unified, and accessible structure.
By Kate Heartfield
Publisher’s Overview: In 1328, Bruges is under siege by the Chatelaine of Hell and her army of chimeras―humans mixed with animals or armour, forged in the deep fires of the Hellbeast. At night, revenants crawl over the walls and bring plague and grief to this city of widows. Margriet de Vos learns she’s a widow herself when her good-for-nothing husband comes home dead from the war. He didn’t come back for her. The revenant who was her husband pulls a secret treasure of coins and weapons from under his floorboards and goes back through the mouth of the beast called Hell.
By Helen Castor
Excerpt: In the firmament of history, Joan of Arc is a massive star. Her light shines brighter than that of any other figure of her time and place. Her story is unique, and at the same time universal in its reach. She is, famously, a protean icon: a hero to nationalists, monarchists, liberals, socialists, the right, the left, Catholics, Protestants, traditionalists, feminists, Vichy and the Renaissance. She is a recurring motif, a theme replayed in art, literature, music and film. And the process of recounting her story and making her myth began from the moment she stepped into public view; she was as much an object of fascination and a subject of impassioned argument during her short life as she has been ever since.
Edited and translated by Andrew Colin Gow, Robert B. Desjardins, and Francois V. Pageau
Pennsylvania State University Press
Excerpt: On a spring day in 1460, in the bustling city of Arras, in northern France, a crowd of merchants, artisans, and farmworkers gathered to witness a grim spectacle. A scaffold had been erected in the local bishop’s courtyard; on it stood a Dominican inquisitor and five defendants accused of spectacular crimes against the church. The prisoners – four prostitutes and an eccentric poet – were dressed in the robes of public penitents. Each wore a miter on which an image of accused worshipping the devil had been painted. Nearby on the stage lay the corpse of another prisoner, a sergeant named Jean Lefebvre, who had died in jail under suspicious circumstances.