The Cartomancer. by Anne Spillard. Pan Books 1989 (1987).
It’s odd how, re-reading this twenty-five years later, I find that I recall neither characters nor plot from that first reading other than that the narrator tells people’s fortunes from an ordinary deck of cards.
That and the fact that there are a few obscure Arthurian references thrown in.
This second rather more careful reading reveals there is a little more subtlety than at first appears from a cursory perusal, making it more satisfactory yet, curiously, curiouser.
The Lais of Marie de France, introduction by Keith Busby, translated by Glyn S. Burgess.
Penguin Classics 1999 (1986)
The editor and translator of Marie’s lais, leading scholars in the field of medieval French literature, have in the best tradition of Penguin Classics aimed to make their subject accessible to the general public. Translating a foreign text, especially a poetic text, is always full of difficulties, but luckily Marie’s poems, simple in expression and apparently without artifice, speak as well in translation as in the original.
A comparison with the pseudo-medieval version served up by Eugene Mason in the early 20th century is revealing for not only how tastes have changed but how many liberties were taken then with the text. For example, where Mason has Marie addressing critics with “Now let the japer, and the smiler with his knife, do me what harm they may. Verily they are in their right to speak ill of me,” Burgess offers us “But just because spiteful tittle-tattlers attempt to find fault with me I do not intend to give up. They have a right to make slanderous remarks.”
The original text mentions jongleur, or entertainer, and losengier, a flatterer or liar, and I think Burgess gets closer to what the poet intended with her simpler phraseology, which might now be rendered as “it’s their right to badmouth me!”
Nel vueil mie pur ceo laissier, | se jangleür u losengier | le me vuelent a mal turner; | ceo est lur dreiz de mesparler.
For convenience the 1999 edition prints three of Marie’s shorter lais in their original French, and anybody with even just a smattering of the language can follow the gist of the tales and see how accessible the translator has made them.
For award-winning, internationally-acclaimed author Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-92). By Anthony Lawton: godson, cousin & literary executor. Rosemary Sutcliff wrote historical fiction, children's literature and books, films, TV & radio, including The Eagle of the Ninth, Sword at Sunset, Song for a Dark Queen, The Mark of the Horse Lord, The Silver Branch, The Lantern Bearers, Dawn Wind, Blue Remembered Hills.