Orlando Furioso: A New Verse Translation

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Overview

Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1532) is the culmination of the chivalric legends of Charlemagne and the Saracen invasion of France, a brilliantly witty parody of the medieval romances, and a fitting monument to the court society of the Italian Renaissance which gave it birth. In a kaleidoscope of scenes and emotions, three principal stories are developed: the love of Orlando for Angelica; the war between the Franks and Saracens; and the love of Ruggiero, a Saracen, for Bradamant, a Christian. Enlivening and unifying the whole work is the vital personality of the author, endlessly teasing his readers and dropping casual asides about his contemporaries. Though highly serious in purpose and sophisticated in design, Orlando Furioso displays to the full Ariosto's remarkable sense of the absurd. This unabridged prose translation faithfully captures the narrative entire and renders meaning in its lightest shadings.
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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post

In David R. Slavitt's exuberant new version, Orlando Furioso (1532) makes for quite wonderful seasonal entertainment. Slavitt's easygoing, colloquial approach possesses a lightness and brio, a sweet playfulness (touched with irony) that carries the reader effortlessly, happily along… Ariosto's irresistible masterpiece effortlessly blends chivalry, love and magic. Think of it as a knightly soap opera, complete with cliff-hangers, erotic intrigue and one melodramatic improbability after another, all of it conveyed with just the right colloquial bounce… The whole book is clever and fun.
— Michael Dirda

Times Literary Supplement

Orlando Furioso is regarded as the literary masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance… So why did the English-speaking world give up on this poem? Its main themes are sex and war—usually a winning formula. Could previous translations be partly to blame? It seems so… David R. Slavitt's major achievement is his re-creation of Ariosto's stylistic range… Ariosto's text ranges across the entire linguistic spectrum, from the everyday to the sublime, and so too does Slavitt's… Slavitt's octaves are skillfully constructed, each one with its own self-contained mood and pace, and ending on a rhyming couplet that often takes the form of a pithy concluding comment… Perhaps a purist would object to the slang, and contemporary allusions in this new translation, but they are in keeping with the spirit of the poem. Slavitt injects Ariostan irreverence back into the Furioso and opens it up to a wider anglophone readership. His translation is witty, energetic, playful, outrageous, yet serious and sombre too. Crucially, it is effortlessly readable.
— Doireann Lalor

New York Review of Books

Despite its monumental length, its heroic subjects, and its atmosphere of changing times, Orlando Furioso is anything but elegiac in its tone; it is the sixteenth-century version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a send-up with biting social commentary, outrageous adventures, over-the-top violence, a sexual merry-go-round, and humor at every level from the most refined to the most sophomoric. Most Renaissance jokes are as lame after five centuries as their modern equivalents will prove to be, but Ariosto can still make anyone laugh… Slavitt has made a translation of manner as well as substance; but his seemingly casual asides are anything but casual—the translation itself is a masterpiece of sprezzatura. Slavitt has been impeccably careful, but he has also had an extravagantly good time… This new Orlando Furioso, however provocative it may be on its surface, is thoroughly under control.
— Ingrid Rowland

The World (Public Radio International)

An at times intentionally zany new version of one of the literary high points of the Italian Renaissance, an epic crowded with jousting men and monsters that influenced Spencer's 'Faerie Queen,' that Shakespeare lifted a plot from, and that Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges admired. Slavitt's spiffy translation entertainingly reinvigorates the melodramatic, satiric, battle-heavy antics of Ariosto's prolix fantasy.
— Bill Marx

Michael Dirda
Slavitt's easygoing, colloquial approach possesses a lightness and brio, a sweet playfulness (touched with irony) that carries the reader effortlessly, happily along…Though arguably the second greatest work of Italian literature, after Dante, it's not at all holy and uplifting. Half epic, half romance, its tone a mix of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," Ludovico Ariosto's irresistible masterpiece effortlessly blends chivalry, love and magic. Think of it as a knightly soap opera, complete with cliff-hangers, erotic intrigue and one melodramatic improbability after another, all of it conveyed with just the right colloquial bounce…Indeed, the whole book is clever and fun
—The Washington Post
PRI "The World"
An at times intentionally zany new version of one of the literary high points of the Italian Renaissance, an epic crowded with jousting men and monsters that influenced Spencer's "Faerie Queen," that Shakespeare lifted a plot from, and that Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges admired. Slavitt's spiffy translation entertainingly reinvigorates the melodramatic, satiric, battle-heavy antics of Ariosto's prolix fantasy.
— Bill Marx
Henry Taylor
This is an immensely skillful, useful, and entertaining translation, provocative of out loud laughter sometimes, as well as the thrill of melodrama. It makes available to English readers a work previously languishing in the category of the unclimbable mountain. The result is immediate and enriching.
The World (Public Radio International) - Bill Marx
An at times intentionally zany new version of one of the literary high points of the Italian Renaissance, an epic crowded with jousting men and monsters that influenced Spencer's 'Faerie Queen,' that Shakespeare lifted a plot from, and that Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges admired. Slavitt's spiffy translation entertainingly reinvigorates the melodramatic, satiric, battle-heavy antics of Ariosto's prolix fantasy.
Washington Post - Michael Dirda
In David R. Slavitt's exuberant new version, Orlando Furioso (1532) makes for quite wonderful seasonal entertainment. Slavitt's easygoing, colloquial approach possesses a lightness and brio, a sweet playfulness (touched with irony) that carries the reader effortlessly, happily along… Ariosto's irresistible masterpiece effortlessly blends chivalry, love and magic. Think of it as a knightly soap opera, complete with cliff-hangers, erotic intrigue and one melodramatic improbability after another, all of it conveyed with just the right colloquial bounce… The whole book is clever and fun.
Times Literary Supplement - Doireann Lalor
Orlando Furioso is regarded as the literary masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance… So why did the English-speaking world give up on this poem? Its main themes are sex and war—usually a winning formula. Could previous translations be partly to blame? It seems so… David R. Slavitt's major achievement is his re-creation of Ariosto's stylistic range… Ariosto's text ranges across the entire linguistic spectrum, from the everyday to the sublime, and so too does Slavitt's… Slavitt's octaves are skillfully constructed, each one with its own self-contained mood and pace, and ending on a rhyming couplet that often takes the form of a pithy concluding comment… Perhaps a purist would object to the slang, and contemporary allusions in this new translation, but they are in keeping with the spirit of the poem. Slavitt injects Ariostan irreverence back into the Furioso and opens it up to a wider anglophone readership. His translation is witty, energetic, playful, outrageous, yet serious and sombre too. Crucially, it is effortlessly readable.
New York Review of Books - Ingrid Rowland
Despite its monumental length, its heroic subjects, and its atmosphere of changing times, Orlando Furioso is anything but elegiac in its tone; it is the sixteenth-century version of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a send-up with biting social commentary, outrageous adventures, over-the-top violence, a sexual merry-go-round, and humor at every level from the most refined to the most sophomoric. Most Renaissance jokes are as lame after five centuries as their modern equivalents will prove to be, but Ariosto can still make anyone laugh… Slavitt has made a translation of manner as well as substance; but his seemingly casual asides are anything but casual—the translation itself is a masterpiece of sprezzatura. Slavitt has been impeccably careful, but he has also had an extravagantly good time… This new Orlando Furioso, however provocative it may be on its surface, is thoroughly under control.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674060128
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2011
  • Pages: 688
  • Sales rank: 984,331
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

David R. Slavitt is a poet and the translator of more than ninety works of fiction, poetry, and drama.

Charles S. Ross is Professor of English and Chair of the Comparative Literature Program at Purdue University.

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Table of Contents

  • Translator‘s Preface
  • Introduction by Charles S. Ross
  • Orlando Furioso
  • Glossary of Names

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