First published in 1490, Tirant lo Blanc has been called “the best book in the world” by no less than Miguel de Cervantes, author of the immortal Don Quixote de la Mancha. And in our own time, Mario Vargas Llosa has said the following: “Tirant loMoreFirst published in 1490, Tirant lo Blanc has been called “the best book in the world” by no less than Miguel de Cervantes, author of the immortal Don Quixote de la Mancha.
And in our own time, Mario Vargas Llosa has said the following: “Tirant lo Blanc is a novel that nourishes that all-encompassing yearning of the great novels of all times which, like the Quixote, War and Peace, La Comédie Humaine, Moby Dick, the saga of Faulkner, seem to want to emulate the Supreme Being in the creation of a world as diverse, complex and self-sufficient as the real world, of a fiction that competes with life in its ever-increasing diversification.”A spicy, brutally realistic novel of knights and ladies of medieval times, this book was written in Catalan, translated into Spanish in 1511 in an abridged form, into Italian in the 16th century, into French in the 17th century, and did not make an appearance in English until late in the 20th century.
It has since then been made into a movie directed by Vicente Aranda, alternately entitled “The Maiden’s Conspiracy.”Among the reasons that the world outside of Spain has been somewhat late in responding to the value of this novel may be that it was originally written in Catalan, whose literature is not widely read in the original tongue.
But another reason may be its overemphasis on rhetorical elements. As one scholar says, if the novelist had cut many of these elements, his book would in that case have been reduced to approximately one-fourth of its present size, but quite probably it would now be considered a masterpiece of narration and dialogue.Such has been the aim of this translation: The story line has been slightly abridged, but the most dramatic change is that most of the rhetoric has been eliminated, leaving in the major plot line, with its brutal tournament jousts, bloody battles between the Christian forces and their enemies, its treachery, slapstick humor, ribald bedroom scenes and tender moments of love.As Cervantes puts it in the Quixote, “Heaven help me!’ shouted the curate.
‘Here is Tirant lo Blanc! Hand it to me, my friend. I tell you that in it I have found a treasure of contentment and a mine of entertainment. Here is Kyrieleison of Montalbán, a valiant knight, and his brother, Tomás of Montalbán, and the knight Fonseca, and the battle that the valiant Tirant waged with the greyhound, and the witticisms of the maiden Plaerdemavida, along with the amours and deceit of the Widow Repose, and the Empress in love with the squire Hippolytus.”Having read this novel, who could forget the characters that Martorell has brought to life?
Who would not feel grief at the death of Tirant and the princess, no less united in soul than Calisto and Melibea in Spain (making their appearance a few short years later in Fernando de Rojas masterpiece, La Celestina), than Romeo and Juliet in England, and no less tragic? And in remembering Tirant, who would not smile at the thought of him serving as a go-between for Prince Philippe and the infanta, Ricomana? Could anyone be more delightful than the forthright Plaerdemavida (whose name translates literally as Pleasure-of-My-Life) — surely one of the best delineated characters in any literature?
Or anyone more villainous than the odious Widow Repose — a figure stamped indelibly on our minds, wearing her ridiculous red stockings and hat in the bath?If Don Quixotes Dulcinea did not exist until she took form in his (or in Cervantes) mind, or the windmill that was a giant, or the Cave of Montesinos, they have now come into existence in the mind of every reader of that novel.