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Books Features

New Medieval Books: Translations

Here are six new books that offer translations of texts from the Middle Ages.

Fortune and Misfortune at Saint Gall

By Ekkehard IV, translated by Emily Albu and Natalia Lozovsky

Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library
ISBN: 978-0–674-25146-5

Excerpt: At the suggestion of the brothers of my community, who thought it would be worthwhile to record some of the fortunate and unfortunate events that happened at the monastery of Saint Gall and Saint Otmar, I have embarked on this difficult task. However, I do not doubt that I am exposing myself to opprobrium, for such are the ways of our time that if you touch upon a thorny subject, especially something concerning discipline, and you seem not to praise the freedoms and lack of restraint of the wicked, you will be held to be a fraud and a slanderer by those who walk in levity. Nevertheless, since other people have related with unsparing truthfulness what took place at our monastery, events of whatever kind – fortunate or unfortunate –  I will try, with the same zeal as they have shown in adhering to the truth to the fullest extent of possible for pen and ink, to set out in unsparing regard for the truth what I’ve heard from the fathers about the fortunate and unfortunate events that occurred at our monastery.

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The Chronicle of an Anonymous Roman: Rome, Italy and Latin Christendom, c.1325 -1360

Translated by James A. Palmer

Italica Press
ISBN: 978 15991041 40

Excerpt: This work, a chronicle written by an unknown fourteenth-century Roman and therefore commonly known as the Chronica of the Anonimo Romano, is a treasure. It offers a detailed glimpse of late medieval Rome during the age of the Avignon papacy, situating that city in a broadly Mediterranean and European context, to which many of its pages are dedicated, and providing our most detailed account of the late medieval Rome’s most famous son, Cola di Rienzo. The author deserves our gratitude for his vivid depiction of Cola, a charismatic and wildly eccentric man of humble birth but astonishing talent who rose to dominate Rome not once but twice.

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The Conference of the Birds

By Farid ud-Din Attar, translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis

Penguin Books (Revised edition)
ISBN: 978-0-140-44434-6

Excerpt: In his poetry, and especially perhaps in his best-known work, The Conference of the Birds, Attar shows himself to be one of the most attractive and memorable of all the many medieval Persian poets whose verse has come down to us; his poetry combines the intimate with the splendid, the worldly with the spiritual, and the specific with the universally human. His achievement is all the more remarkable because his subject matter, the nature of religious and metaphysical truth, is one that, in Attar’s time and subsequently, has often lent itself to grim-faced homily rather than to beguiling anecdote. to prescriptive regulation rather than to humour and raciness, and to an elevated monotony of tone rather than to the flips and twists of manner appropriate to a master storyteller intent on keeping his audience on the edge of their seats.

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Beowulf and Beyond: Classic Anglo-Saxon Poems, Stories, Sayings, Spells, and Riddles

Translated by Dan Veach

Lockwood Press
ISBN: 978-1-948488-61-7

Excerpt: The books allows us, like Bede’s sparrow, to fly into the fire-lit hall of Anglo-Saxon culture and enjoy the astounding feast set out before us. All the best stories are here, the most magical spells, the most ribald riddles, the most inspired flights of song. The main course, of course, is Beowulf, a great wild boar of a poem whose flavor is like nothing else on earth. As the golden cup is passed around, we sit as close as we can to the music of the ancient poet’s harp, the mead-sweet honey of his song.

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The Book of Geoffroi de Charny with the Livre Charny

Translated by Nigel Bryant with Ian Wilson

The Boydell Press
ISBN: 978 1 78327 585 4

Excerpt: In broad outline, the first half of the Livre compromises Charny’s reflections on the trials, pains and setbacks that a man-at-arms must expect in his career, intermixed with pious insistence on the efficacy of prayer, particularly to God and the Virgin Mary, and ‘action’ sequences involving tournaments, battles and a crusading venture. Its second half consists of Charny’s advice and warnings for an aspiring man-at-arms, with constant emphasis on the need to put all his trust in God who can ‘make and unmake us all”.

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A Physician on the Nile: A Description of Egypt and Journal of the Famine Years

By ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, translated by Tim Mackinstosh-Smith

New York University Press
ISBN: 9781479806249

Excerpt: This book is a report on Egypt, written there in 600/1204 by ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi for the Abbasid caliph in Iraq, was entitled in the original, The Book of Edification and Admonition: Things Eye-Witnessed and Events Personally Observed in the Land of Egypt. It begins as a descriptive geography but goes much further and becomes – as a contemporary biographer of the author put it – “a book that stupifies the intellect,” that is, “a book that blows the mind.”

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