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The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend

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Acclaimed biographer Peter Ackroyd vibrantly resurrects the legendary epic of Camelot in this modern adaptation.

The names of Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad, the sword of Excalibur, and the court of Camelot are as recognizable as any from the world of myth. Although many versions exist of the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory endures as the most moving and richly inventive. In this abridged retelling ...

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The Death of King Arthur: The Immortal Legend

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Overview

Acclaimed biographer Peter Ackroyd vibrantly resurrects the legendary epic of Camelot in this modern adaptation.

The names of Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Galahad, the sword of Excalibur, and the court of Camelot are as recognizable as any from the world of myth. Although many versions exist of the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Le Morte d'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory endures as the most moving and richly inventive. In this abridged retelling the inimitable Peter Ackroyd transforms Malory's fifteenth-century work into a dramatic modern story, vividly bringing to life a world of courage and chivalry, magic, and majesty. The golden age of Camelot, the perilous search for the Holy Grail, the love of Guinevere and Lancelot, and the treachery of Arthur's son Mordred are all rendered into contemporary prose with Ackroyd's characteristic charm and panache. Just as he did with his fresh new version of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, Ackroyd now brings one of the cornerstones of English literature to a whole new audience.

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Editorial Reviews

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Peter Ackroyd's The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling demonstrated that revered classics can thoroughly please even audiences who shrink from scholarly texts. His new version of a story most famously told in Sir Thomas Mallory's 15th century Le Morte d'Arthur renews that tale in unexpected ways. Under Ackroyd's care, this story of Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere regains the freshness that it had in first telling. A Camelot tale well-resurrected.

Publishers Weekly
Having successfully reworked Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for modern audiences, British editor, novelist, and critic Ackroyd (Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion) turns his talents to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, transforming the 15th-century compilation of Arthurian medieval romances into an eminently readable narrative. Rather than precisely translating Malory’s Middle English, Ackroyd renders the original’s tone and spirit in modern prose. Readers will recognize Arthur and Galahad, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristram and Isolde, Merlin, Mordred, and Morgan LeFay, the Sword in the Stone and the Lady of the Lake—portrayed with all their pride, self-doubt, flaws, and frustrations. We see knights caught in a medieval catch-22, trying to abide by a code of chivalry that was difficult even in that era. Their adventures produce enough dastardly villains, doomed loves, magic spells, and heroic deeds to equal the most imaginative contemporary fiction, while relations between the knights and the ladies they rescue, ravish, revere, revenge, or reject yield a surprising range of emotions and complications. Though scholars might prefer a more exact version of Malory’s work, most readers will welcome Ackroyd’s straightforward storytelling and this celebration of Britain’s literary and cultural traditions. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Most of us know Sir Thomas Malory's 15th-century Le Morte d'Arthur from T.H. White's The Once and Future King or the musical Camelot. This new version by Ackroyd (The Canterbury Tales: A Retelling) isn't intended to improve on White. It's a modern retelling of the central Arthurian story lines. Arthur becomes king by pulling a sword out of a stone, and he sets up a round table of 150 knights to keep order in the kingdom but is betrayed by his bastard son, Mordred. Sir Lancelot, meanwhile, acts the perfect knight, but his illicit love for Queen Guinevere prevents him from ever attaining the Holy Grail: that privilege is reserved for Galahad, who's still a virgin. Malory's basic story (with obscure language and additional details removed by Ackroyd) should seem old now, but it doesn't. Ackroyd's retelling retains the Christian and chivalric sensibilities of the original but updates the language and cuts out repetition. The result is sheer enjoyment, with notable characters and a narrative that pulls in the reader. And what tales these are—knights fighting for honor, magical potions and poisoned lances, unrequited love, and vile deceit! No one could have done it better than Ackroyd. VERDICT Not a scholarly retelling but a popular one, this story should attract an unexpectedly wide audience.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Christopher Benfey
Ackroyd has dug down through [the] cultural detritus to Malory's muscular masterpiece…Most important, Ackroyd preserves, and even accelerates, the headlong pace of these tales, where action is everything.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670023073
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 11/10/2011
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning novelist, critic, and biographer.

Sir Thomas Malory was a knight and estate owner in the mid 15th century, who spent many years in prison for political crimes as well as robbery. He wrote Le Morte d’Arthur, the first great English prose epic, while imprisoned in Nwgate. The epic was published in 1485 by William Caxton, the first English printer. Malory is believed to have died in 1471.

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