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Peter Ackroyd

The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling

Geoffrey Chaucer. A Retelling by Peter Ackroyd. Nick Bantock, illus.
Publisher Viking  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.25 x 1.5 inches
ISBN 9780670021222
Pages/Publication Date 436/2009
Daedalus Item Code 23372
This item is not available.
In this fresh prose retelling for modern readers, the author who gave us biographies of London and the Thames captures the vigorous and bawdy spirit of Geoffrey Chaucer's medieval stories. The Canterbury Tales follows a motley group of pilgrims who meet in a London inn on their way to Canterbury and agree to take part in a storytelling competition. Ranging from comedy to tragedy, pious sermon to ribald farce, heroic adventure to passionate romance, the tales illuminate the sensibilities of the Middle Ages as well as the drama of the human condition six centuries ago. Peter Ackroyd's contemporary English explicitly renders the naughty good humor of the writer whose comedy influenced Fielding and Dickens, yet still evokes the euphonies and harmonies of Chaucer's original verse form.

"Remember struggling over The Canterbury Tales in high school? It was a labor of laughs borne only for the puerile joy of reading about farts and arse-kissing. And there was this weird recognition: Could people really have been so much like us 600 years ago? For the pleasure of it all, you had to put up with English that was nothing like the English you knew. As Chaucer wrote of the Wife of Bath: 'Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve, Withouten other companye in youthe.... In felawschip wel coude she laughe and carpe. Of remedyes of love she knew perchaunce, For she coude of that art the olde daunce.' Now here comes Peter Ackroyd, novelist, biographer and historian, with The Canterbury Tales for a new generation—it's Chaucer in vivid, expressive English exactly as you speak it. Here in Ackroyd-ese, the same passage quoted above: 'She had been married in church five times but, in her youth, she had enjoyed any number of liaisons.... She had performed in that game before. She knew, as they say, the ways of the dance.' Of course, The Canterbury Tales is far more than its ribaldry. It gives a rich and complex portrait of the sensibility of the Middle Ages and, in its original, is beautiful poetry. As Ackroyd remarks, 'It is one of the greatest poems in all of English literature, one that will last as long as the language itself endures'."—Washington Post

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