Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Fernán Pérez De Guzmán: Pen Portraits of Illustrious Castilians

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Fernán Pérez De Guzmán: Pen Portraits of Illustrious Castilians

Article excerpt

Fernán Pérez de Guzmán: Pen Portraits of Illustrious Castillans, trails, with introd. and notes by Marie Gillette and Loretta Zehngut, Medieval Texts in Translation Series (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2003). xxxii + 84 pp. ISBN 0-8132-1326-6. $37.95 (hard covers); $17.95 (p/b).

Pen Portraits of Illustrious Castillans is a translation into modern English of Fernan Pérez de Guzmán's Generaciones y semblanzas, composed in Castillan in the mid-fifteenth century. The volume is introduced by a prefatory essay that locates the work within an appropriate literary and historical context, commenting in particular on the effects of dynastic instability in the period from the death of Alfonso XI in 1350 to the time of the work's composition a century later. These dates are considered in relation to the turbulent events of the everyday world, where disasters such as the Black Death, the Great Schism, and pogroms against the Jews came to taint the lives of the many with a sense of the fickle insubstantiality of human endeavour - an important factor that will no doubt be of tremendous use to the non-specialist wishing to understand the social framework within which the Pen Portraits were composed.

It is at this early stage, however, that one is drawn inexorably to the question of the extent to which a translation should attempt to cater for the non-specialist. To retain the Spanish orthography of place names such as Castilla, Navarra, Aragón, Andalucía, and Sevilla when good English equivalents exist seems a little heavy-handed; but it is noticeable, at the same time, that España is translated as Spain (because it might, perhaps, have been misunderstood? …

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