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on November 11, 2006
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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on March 6, 2006
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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on June 21, 2009
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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on December 31, 2007
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. To be fair, Joseph Bedier's version is more concise and in some ways more readable, while Thomas Malory's BOOK OF SIR TRISTRAM puts Tristan in his more familiar setting as a pre-eminent knight of the Round Table. Regardless, Gottfried's romance is a justly immortal masterpiece of rare quality. Given the story's literary triumphs of style and substance alike, combined with a legacy of ongoing influence upon other writers worldwide, anything less than a five-star rating is impossible.
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on April 15, 2012
Forget Lancelot and Guenivere, Tristan and Isolde are the original Romeo and Juliet!

Gottfried caries on the romatic tradition and creates a love tringle between Isolde, Tristan, and King Marke. The legend of the doomed lovers unfolds in the classic tradition that ends (albeit abruptly) in tragedy. Gottfried's poem is unfinished but the book also contains the translation of Thomas' "Tristan" as well.

The book omits the connection to the Court of King Arthur but it does not detract from the legend. This book is closer to Beroul's Tristan and the 2006 movie staring Franco, Myles, and Sewell rather than the 15th century "Le Morte D'Arthur" by Malory. I recommend this version of the tale over all the others I've read!
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on November 19, 2014
A golden oldie as far as I'm concerned. Readable in its own right,
and an excellent crib.
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on September 13, 2014
Incredible book ! should be made into a movie.
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on April 7, 2014
The earliest known forms of the legend of Tristan and his ill-fated love for the Irish princess Isolde date from around 1150. Numerous variations of the story exist, but around 1210 it assumed its classic form at the hands of the poet Gottfried, of whom little is known except that he hailed from Strassburg.

The story begins with a brief history of Tristan's parents. His father, Rivalin, is the ruler of Parmenie, a region described as being between Brittany and Normandy, his mother, Blancheflor, is the sister of King Mark of Cornwall. Born of a secret union between the two and soon orphaned, Tristan is raised in ignorance of his noble origins. Chance leads him to Cornwall where he becomes a favorite of King Mark before it is revealed to one and all that Tristan is the king's nephew.

The next phase of the story is familiar to any who have enjoyed Richard Wagner's opera "Tristan und Isolde." After having fought a duel to free Cornwall from having to pay tribute to the King of Ireland, Tristan is sent to Ireland to solicit the hand in marriage of the king's daughter Isolde for his uncle Mark. Through a combination of bravery and trickery, Tristan is successful in bringing the princess back with him, but Isolde makes no secret of her hatred of Tristan for having killed her uncle in combat. This changes dramatically, however, when the two accidentally drink a love potion and fall hopelessly in love with each other.

Tristan's dilemma is that he cannot betray his uncle and king by denying Isolde to him, yet he cannot refrain from loving Isolde. The result is years of subterfuge and scandal as Tristan and Isolde carry on an affair under Mark's nose. Their first challenge, however, is to somehow hide from Mark the fact that his bride is no longer the virgin she was advertised to be.

Compared with other romances of its time, Gottfried's Tristan touches very lightly on the elements that characterize the Age of Chivalry. There is less emphasis on knightly behavior, the pageantry of jousting tournaments, the rituals of courtly love, or religious piety. Instead the focus is on the nature of Love itself and the lengths to which it will drive those afflicted with it. The author's attitudes towards society and religion are surprisingly more modern than medieval.

Gottfried based his poem on one by a man named Thomas, and several times insists that he is being as true as possible to his source. The last part of Gottfried's Tristan has not survived, but, oddly enough, ONLY the final part of Thomas's "Tristan" is still in existence. So the editors have pieced the two together to tell the complete story. The transition from one author to the other is surprisingly smooth, possibly because it is the work of the same translator, though Thomas's writing is perceptibly more succinct and less colorful than Gottfried's. A. S. Hatto's translation in both cases is highly readable prose.
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on July 6, 2000
Tristan is the perfect hero: intelligent, courageous, and incredibly handsome. But only one women, Isolde, is equally strong enough for him. The way that their lives amazingly fold to one another keeps the pace of the novel. I can't honestly say it is the greatest love story, but you will find a variety of excitement, including love. Plus, add in kings, queens, dragons, pirates, thieves, potions, jeously, passion, loyalty, revenge, and deception, you have an action-packed book. I couldn't stop reading the adventures.
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on March 4, 2013
I purchased one that was a little more banged up and that's what I got! You can definitely tell it's used but I knew that before buying it and was expecting that, so there aren't any surprises; it will do for school!
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