This retelling is a decent translation and badly needed abridgement of Mallory s Morte d Arthur.Which is both its strength and its weakness The Arthurian material is wonderful Mallory is perhaps the most inept storyteller in English literature He sure ain t Chaucer If you really love the Arthurian stories, read Gottfried von Strassburg, Chretien de Troyes, or any of dozens of others who have told these tales Even T H White, whose extraordinarily inventive 20th century version puts an anti war twist on the stories I checked a number of passages against Caxton Caxton s Malory A New Edition of Sir Thomas Malory s Le Mort d Arthur Based on the Pierpont Morgan Copy of William Caxton s Edition of 1485 I admit that I ve never had the patience to read through Malory in the very unabridged original They seemed reasonably accurate they have the same rather flat feeling as the Caxton text I found one strange and beautiful excess at Lancelot s death Ackroyd describes his face as surprised by joy, which is a wonderful anachronistic allusion to C S Lewis and, in turn, to William Wordsworth that s entirely unsupported by the original I suspect that if you were to go about it throughly, you could find excesses like this So be it the book would be better if it were less Malory and Lewis Or White Or Gaiman Or almost anything.So, if you want to read the or less complete Arthurian corpus in English, go for it This is readable It s not wonderful But that s Malory coming through, not Ackroyd. Peter Ackroyd s retelling of Malory s tales purports to be a modernisation, a revivification, even I don t think it really achieves its goals Flawed as Malory s work is, to the modern reader at least, I think there s a passion there and a meaning that slips through Ackroyd s fingers He cuts liberally from the text, so that it certainly doesn t hold the richness of Malory if you re looking for something simplified, abridged, I might even venture to say dumbed down, then Peter Ackroyd s retelling might save you the long but rewarding, in my opinion job of reading Malory s original text On the other hand, I don t think it adequately captures the original text, so perhaps you d be better reading one of the countless modern retellings, or one of the dynamic texts in translation Simon Armitage s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is fun Malory s work was itself a retelling, after all.I didn t find it enthralling, as you can tell I didn t find it here, let s find some quotations from the blurb and such a magical and moving evocation of humanity s endless search for perfection, nor did I find it a dramatic modern story , or that it brought new life to the story for our times.One thing I did appreciate was that the introduction and even the dust jacket acknowledge that Malory was no paragon of virtue how ironic that he wrote about chivalry and the finest knights in the world.While this review seems fairly scathing, I didn t hate the book, either I simply found it completely unremarkable.I think I might start rereading Malory, nowWait The GR blurb says, This title presents readable accounts of the knights of the Round Table Readable, yes That s about the most positive I can be about it, too. An Immortal Story Of Love, Adventure, Chivalry, Treachery And Death Brought To New Life For Our Times The Legend Of King Arthur Has Retained Its Appeal And Popularity Through The Ages Mordred S Treason, The Knightly Exploits Of Tristan, Lancelot S Fatally Divided Loyalties And His Love For Guenever, The Quest For The Holy Grail Mucho mejor que la versi n de Lang Me faltar a leer el original de Malory Not so much a retelling of the Arthurian legends, a new translation and abridgement Ackroyd has taken Malory s text and retold it in the modern idiom, along the way removing much of the contradictions and superfluous descriptions of battles that clog up the original text However by doing so he has lost some of the poetry of the language To be honest the first part of the book is a bit of a slog and it is only when the Quest for the Grail begins that things take off we are carried along to the inevitable doomed conclusion to the story Much of it reads like notes for a fuller retelling of the legends, or a simplified version for young adults This is not to detract from Ackroyd s achievement he is to be applauded for keeping the legends alive and if people go on to tackle Malory s original text that can only be a good thing Personally I prefer my Arthurian reading to be a bit fuller and I d recommend Marion Zimmer Bradley s Mists of Avalaon but not the sequel prequels and T.H White s The Once and Future King to those who seek a reinterpretation of these classic doomed romances. I ve been a huge fan of the Arthurian legends since childhood, I read Malory s Morte d Arthur till it literately fell apart I m also a fan of Peter Ackroyd his books on London, Dickens and Blake are memorable in bringing their subjects so vividly to life so The Death of King Arthur was doubly disappointing to me Malory s stories are already so well known, I was expecting an imaginative, inventive re telling, something like Seamus Heaney s Beowulf, but this was a stodgy, stolid translation rather than an interpretation, a Malory with all the magic beaten out. Does the world need a new retelling of the Arthurian saga Particularly one that, and forgive me for this, feels so dumbed down I have read many of Ackroyd s non fiction books and I have always been very impressed with him as a writer, but I couldn t help but be disappointed with this It smacks of those modern revisions of the Bible, where it may be accessible and how I hate that word in connection with literature but much of the beauty and majesty of the language is lost This book left me cold, alas.This is marketed as a new translation of Malory, but if Ackroyd has changed so much of the language to make it accessible and eliminated much that he feels is extraneous, is it really Malory at all Isn t it just Ackroyd s own take on the legend I might give this to a child to read, but it s not for adults, in my mind, and if I m honest, if I was recommending an Arthurian tale to a child I d usher them in the direction of T.H White. I can t count myself in the ranks of fans for King Arthur stories They should be exciting or adventurous even though I have never read the originals , but instead they seemed rendered dull by this version This thing is over 300 pages the plot line pretty much repeats every three pages or so I guess that makes it about 100 times I read a similar scenario over over over It becomes rather mind numbing after a point.A slog, but as a good knight or lady , I stayed the course, fought the battle, have emerged on the other side Not sure if I made it through the reading battle scathed or unscathed.Good luck, dear reader This was my first sally forth into the Arthurian legend and it was absorbing, surprising, and absolutely lovable This is a very different picture of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table than I got from Disney s The Sword and the Stone For one thing, it is much, much darker Arthur is a very Oedipal character, going to extreme lengths e.g drowning a shipful of infants to avoid Merlin s prophecy that he would be murdered Fun fact did you know that Excalibur was not the sword that Arthur pulled from the stone Nope, the sword from the stone broke after a bit and he just threw it away Excalibur was a sword that was offered up to him from an arm that came out of a mysterious lake.It s a fount of delightfully messed up characters There s the aforementioned Arthur, the star although he is in the background of most of the book, playing second fiddle to some of the active noble knights His most beloved knight Lancelot, who in a very unchivalric manner spends years cuckolding the king Arthur s sister, the powerful sorceress Morgan le Fay, who serves as this universe s mischievous Loki She buried Merlin alive with spells as far as I can tell, he s still somewhere in the belly of the earth, subsisting on earthworms Sir Brewnour, a colorful antagonist who established teh custom of dueling to the death every man who visits his castle and killing every woman who is less beautiful than his own wife Of course, it all ends tragically and nearly every character meets an unhappy end And that s all just part of the fun I can t wait to delve deeper into the Arthurian world.A note on this edition This is a retelling of Malory s Le Morte d Arthur King Arthur and the Legends of the Round Table by Peter Ackroyd and by the look of the other reviews of this book, it s not even a great one The naysayers posit that Ackroyd made the legend seem bland I found it anything but bland If I were to do it over again, I d probably start with a different book, probably Malory or White sThe Once and Future King or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight But as it is, I am very pleased with this book. Really old stories tug on your suspension of disbelief in a way that probably bugs modern readers than it bugged readers of the time, but this reselling of Malory manages to capture what appeals to people even now about Arthurian legend It s cool to get swept up in a story that s so old.
Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London Peter Ackroyd s mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
- 316 pages
- The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend
- Peter Ackroyd
- 13 January 2017 Peter Ackroyd