It's no secret to any regular reader of this blog that I like old books, along with old music. Nearly five years ago (about the time I started to listen seriously to Bach church cantatas) I posted about reading the Italian Renaissance classic Orlando Furioso (the Waldman prose translation). In the years since I've also worked my way through two and a half books of The Faerie Queene. (Those are affiliate links, by the way, and there's another to come.)
One of these years I really have been meaning to write a paper to present at Life, the Universe and Everything about how these poems (especially OF and its predecessor) are essentially works of Renaissance fanfic based on the Song of Roland. My problem is that my perfectionism holds me back: "nothing I say will be original," I tell myself, forgetting that 75% of what is said in any panel discussion isn't original either (drawing not only on my LTUE experience but also on the professional archivists' conferences I used to attend).
Well, I'm getting closer to that, because Suzannah over at Vintage Novels has put out a challenge for a read-along of the Song of Roland. It amazes me that I have come this far without reading it (along with the The Poem of the Cid, which I have in paperback, for heaven's sake), but better late than never! And having failed so miserably at NaNoWriMo this year, I figure maybe this is a way for me to redeem myself.
Currently I'm going between the Frederick Goldin translation in my Norton Anthology and the C.K. Moncrieff at Project Gutenberg. Since I prefer prose translations I'm spending most of my time with the Goldin. Right off the bat I noticed the familiar medieval caricature of Islam: pagans who worship not only "Mahumet" but the Greek god Apollo too. Not sure how that was supposed to work, but it's serving to me as a reminder of the unreliable narrator principle, along with the truth that artistic merit (and documentary value) is separate from factuality or social virtue.