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Tristan: With the Surviving Fragments of the 'Tristran of Thomas' (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 30, 1960


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Tristan: With the Surviving Fragments of the 'Tristran of Thomas' (Penguin Classics) + Arthurian Romances (Penguin Classics) + The Lais of Marie de France
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (July 30, 1960)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140440984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440980
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Gottfried von Strassburg was probably a member of the urban patriciate in Strassburg. Judging from his writing he appears to have been a cultured man, well read in Latin, French and German; a lover of music and hunting, and a skilled linguistic stylist. He chose Thomas as his source for Tristan, and completed five-sixths of the work. A.T. Hatto has translated The Niebelungenlied and Eschenbach's Parzival for Penguin Classics.

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Customer Reviews

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This was a very descriptive story and the prose is very romantic.
Kristi Ahlers
The story itself has been told and retold in opera and whats present in this version is an embelishement of the english "Tristram" romance - much of which is lost.
Robert E. Murena Jr.
One can sense the effort of will Hatto needed, to stop himself writing volumes more.
Peter Reeve

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on November 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Around the middle of the 12th century, an author we know only as Thomas wrote a French version of the popular legend of the star-crossed lovers Tristan and Ysolt (usually known in English as Tristram and Yseult). Thomas may have been French or English. Most of his poem has been lost. A generation or two later (the dates for both authors are uncertain) a Strassburger named Gottfried wrote a German version of the story, using Thomas as his source. Gottfried died before completing the work. By extraordinary coincidence, the bulk of what remains of Thomas's work is the very part that Gottfried did not live to write. Thomas carries on exactly where Gottfried leaves off. The obvious thing therefore, is to translate Gottfried and Thomas in one volume, to give a complete narrative. That's what Hatto does, in his usual accurate, precise and elegant English, in this excellent Penguin Classics edition.

Hatto's editorial contributions, consisting of an Introduction and 7 Appendices, give as much information as most readers will require. One can sense the effort of will Hatto needed, to stop himself writing volumes more.

So how good a story is it? Well, it's a classic romance, from a time when sexual relations were being redefined, and which has provided inspiration for countless other romances since, most notably Romeo and Juliet. It does not read like a modern novel, for the very good reason that it isn't one. It is a medieval German poem translated into modern English prose, so much of the underlying social logic, and many of the aesthetics, will inevitably be lost to us. But it does contain some very memorable moments and it stands as an important milestone on the progress of western literature, and as an invaluable insight into European medieval culture.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Murena Jr. on March 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
While not many preople read Strassburgs "tristan" it has been around for 800 years for some reason. It must be because it is a good. The story itself has been told and retold in opera and whats present in this version is an embelishement of the english "Tristram" romance - much of which is lost. This version is translated by the great A T Hatto who was among the greatest scholars of Middle Ages Romances. Though originally translated in 1961 or a story first appearing in 1215 this book is suprisingly readable and far more engrossing than Parsival or some of the other Aurthurian romances.

But if you are reading this book I assume you are not reading this simply for enjoyment while waiting for Dan Brown's next Work. You are probably reading this in some sort of acedemic setting whether it be in univesity or your own pursuit. Here is where the book should be really useful. The introductrion which includes much of the orginal text and explains how the story developed into what makes up the body of the text. There are footnotes on nearly every other page and while I prefer more I wont say that they are necessary.

This is a great work for study of Middle Ages German literature. This work was written in the 13th Century which is the start of a great awakening of the spirit and the time that can be called the high middle ages. Beyond this this is also a great romance and a readable story. No matter on what level you choose to read this work it should be satisfying and be a work what you will want to reread.

- Ted Murena
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cymry on June 21, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wish I could get every romantic idealist I know to read this book. It's the core stuff of romantic obsession... and if you haven't studied the subject in depth, it's probably not what you thought it would be! Much like many relationships in modern days that are unknowingly based on this myth -- replayed, as it is, in countless novels, tv stories, movies and even tv news reports -- this story holds surprises that should no longer be surprising. But that is the stuff, as Joseph Campbell would have said, of living Myth -- it is not living unless it is believed, not as myth, but as fact.

This book should be taught in every high school. Not likely, though. It is so fundamental to modern mythical thinking, it is virtually taboo.

Highly recommended.
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If all the medieval scholars in the world were asked to name the definitive version of the Tristan story, it's a sure bet a majority would point to the work of Gottfried Von Strassburg. Though Gottfried certainly did not create the Tristan saga itself, working as he was from an earlier poem by Thomas of Britain (and Thomas wasn't the first storyteller to take up Tristan's tale either), Gottfried's personal touches and a surgeon's eye for the pscyhological underpinnings of the cursed love affair between the knight Tristan and his Queen Isolde allowed him to make the existing story his own. Grand in conception and rich in detail, Gottfried's TRISTAN has for eight centuries delighted general readers and scholars alike and has been wildly influential, inspiring countless other writers and artists to produce their own take on an immortal legend. Ironically, Gottfried's opus isn't even complete--it breaks off shortly after Tristan meets Isolde of the White Hands. Providentially, Thomas's TRISTRAN picks up where Gottfried, for whatever reason, leaves off, so that an essentially complete story is in fact available, albeit by two writers of rather different styles. Also, it should be noted that neither Gottfried nor Thomas put Tristan at King Arthur's Round Table, as many other authors frequently do.

Penguin Classics are of uniformly high quality, and this book is no exception. The translation is by renowned medieval scholar A.T. Hatto, with an excellent introduction, helpful notes, and a number of supplemental pieces including glossaries of geographical and character names from the text for enhanced readability.

Is Gottfried's TRISTAN truly the best? Of course that is always going to be debatable.
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