Friday, October 9, 2009

El 9 d'Octubre

Another diversion from NT for a cel-

Today is October 9, El Nou d'Octubre in Valencian, the festival of the Valencians and a holiday in their capital city and its region. It celebrates the entry of James I of Aragon, who had received the surrender of the city from the Muslims a few days earlier. A medieval cross at the end of the main street of the village where I live commemorates his army’s encampment in the area, which is on the coast 5 km south from the city centre.

That was in 1238. By the 15th century, Valencia was a rich centre of Mediterranean commerce – it has a magnificent Gothic silk exchange – with a flourishing literature in its own language, Valencià (note the accent), one of the several major varieties of Catalan. There was still a numerous Moorish population; their expulsion was as yet far off. Valencia sent a whole family of popes, the Borgias, to Italy and in return soon received Renaissance art. By 1474 the printing press had reached Valencia. One of the first books printed here, in 1478, was – you guessed it – a translation, in fact one of the earliest of all printed Bibles and the first in the Iberian Peninsula. The translation is attributed to a Valencian cleric, the Carthusian brother Bonifaci Ferrer, who worked on it at the charterhouse of Porta Coeli not far from the city (see photo). Unfortunately, only one leaf from it has survived. The source text was in Latin and perhaps partly in French; the translation was into Valencian, hence it is known as the Bíblia Valenciana .

Soon afterwards, the Spanish Inquisition clamped down on vernacular translations of the scriptures. When the interdiction was lifted in the Spain of the Enlightenment nearly three centuries later, the first authorized Catholic translation of the Vulgate into Spanish was also published in Valencia (1790-1793).

The Wikipedia Español articles on Bonifacio Ferrer and on Felipe Scío de San Miguel, principal translator of the 1790-1793 Spanish Bible.

The most famous work of 15th-century Valencian literature is Tirant lo Blanch (Tirant the White Knight) by Joanot Martorell and Martí Joan de Galba, published in 1490. Cervantes admired it so much that he said, "As far as style is concerned, this is the best book in the world." As part of today’s celebrations, there will be public readings from it in Valencia. It’s very long, and too often long-winded, but there’s an abridged English translation by Robert S. Rudder (1995) available free online from the Project Gutenberg website and there are translations into Spanish and numerous other European languages as well as Chinese and Japanese (see Rudder describes it as “this spicy, brutally realistic novel of kings and knights of the fifteenth century.”

One curious but by no means unique thing about the Tirant is that it’s a pseudo-translation, that is to say an original work that pretends to be a translation, in this case from English.


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