Albrecht Classen

title.none: von Zatzikhoven, Lanzelet (Albrecht Classen)

identifier.other: baj9928.0603.014 06.03.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: von Zatzikhoven, Ulrich. Thomas Kerth, trans. Lanzelet. Series: Records of Western Civilization. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Pp. x, 241. $27.50 (pb). ISBN: 0-231-12869-X.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.03.14

von Zatzikhoven, Ulrich. Thomas Kerth, trans. Lanzelet. Series: Records of Western Civilization. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. Pp. x, 241. $27.50 (pb). ISBN: 0-231-12869-X.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Anyone working on the King-Arthur myth has to deal with the adulterous love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere, which was first treated by Chrtien de Troyes in his Lancelot , or Le Chevalier de la charrette . A fully-fleshed biography of Lancelot, however, can be found first in the Middle High German romance, Lanzelet , composed by the Swiss poet Ulrich von Zatzikhoven, sometime around 1194. Karl August Hahn edited a critical edition in 1845, closely following the Lachmannian principles, and Lachmann himself examined the manuscript before it went into print, adding numerous comments, changes, and emendations. The need for a new critical edition, conforming to today's philological standards, far removed from Lachmann's approach, is a burning issue, but no one seems to be interested in accepting this challenge after Rosemary Combridge's announcements of such plans many years ago. However, Georg Deutscher published an edition of the Vienna manuscript in 2002, and Rene Perennec reedited the text, accompanied with a French translation, in 2004. Wolfgang Spiewok presented a modern German translation, relying on Hahn's edition that he reprinted as well, adding a few corrections (1997), but these have been mostly rejected by recent scholarship.

On the basis of Hahn's edition, Kenneth G. T. Webster created an English translation, which was published posthumously by Roger Sherman Loomis, who added a very strong Celtic perspective in the interpretations, which modern scholarship now views with considerable skepticism. Thomas Kerth here presents a new English translation, on the basis of Hahn's edition as well, using to a large extent the apparatus by Webster and Loomis, considerably expanding, however, the notes in light of recent research. Whether this is advisable remains to be seen, depending on the actual reliability of Hahn's edition once we will eventually have a historical-critical edition or a base-manuscript edition, such as Deutscher's publication of MS W.

Kerth offers an impressive introduction in which he outlines in great detail the historical position of Ulrich's Lanzelet in the context of Middle High German literature, and also discusses the role of Lanzelet as a literary figure deeply influenced by Celtic and other sources. He offers a concise summary of the text and discusses the narrative structure, offering a broad range of reflections upon previous scholarship, which is documented at the end of the book in a selective bibliography. It remains a mystery, however, why it is only "selective," which makes it very difficult for the reader to use the apparatus properly where many times individual studies are referred to only by a name and date. Sometimes there are several options in the bibliography because an author is listed with more than one publication, but the notes do not make it clear what study might be meant. Or a reference mentions only the author's name and the title of the book/journal in which it appeared, with little further help to identify it. Then again there are anonymous references to "writers" or journals where certain studies seem to have appeared, but no names or any other information are given, for instance: "a writer in the ZDA 71 (1934): 211f. brings a certain amount of evidence..." (203). I suspect that many of these problems go back to Webster's apparatus which Kerth adopted changing hardly anything, only adding his own information, hence perpetuating mistakes and much confusion in this apparatus. The title of Markku Kantola's article "Zur Herkunft von mhd. perze ..." is consistently misspelled as "Herfkunft." At times the full pagination of articles is missing (e.g. W. Haug). Because this is only a selective bibliography, one does not know whether Kerth has really consulted all of the relevant research literature. But a short survey quickly reveals that there seem to be more titles missing than are listed here.

Unfortunately, the references to Andreas Capellanus and the court of the Countess Marie de Champagne (4) are entirely out of date and ought to have been struck. Also, the references to the narrative motif of the Audacious Kiss in medieval literature would need considerable expansion on the basis of more recent research (21).

A new English translation in prose, based on a long line of scholarship, available in an affordable paperback edition, is of course very welcome. But is it trustworthy? In Hahn's edition, we read, for instance, vv. 5-6: "in duhte der niht wol gemuot/der al der liute willen tuot," which Kerth renders as: "He deemed that man lacking in courage, who tries to please everyone in the world" (27). The participle "gemuot," based on the noun "muot," offers many meanings, but not necessarily "courage," and the term would perhaps be better translated as "low spirit," or "lacking in noble attitude." V. 111 reads: "und in die mage het erslagen," which Kerth renders as: "for having caused their kinsmen to be slain" (28), which could have been translated, closer to the original, as: "and had slain their kinsmen." V. 118 contains the noun: "heimuot," which Kerth translates as "ancestral residence" (29), which could be correct, but Lexer does not offer such an interpretation, and only gives "'heimat' (homestead, home)." The verb "erslugen" (v. 127) I would simply translate as "slew," whereas Kerth offers: "destroyed," which makes this too abstract. For obviously stylistic reasons Kerth places the subordinate clause "daz schuof des kueneges schande" (v. 148; this was brought about because of the king's dishonor) in front of the entire sentence structure: "because of the king's evil reputation, they..." (29), which represents a rather elegant solution.

Actually, Kerth succeeds quite well in creating a good prose translation in English of the Middle High German verse text despite some objections one could raise. Numerous spot checks confirm this impression, even though one might want to quibble with this or that solution. As a translator Kerth stays close to the original, yet also makes a good and acceptable effort to clarify the meaning and to streamline the syntax according to the demands of the English grammar.

Altogether, this new English translation is a most welcome addition to international research on Ulrich von Zatzikhoven's Lanzelet , making it available again, and now in a philologically much better form than in Webster's translation, to students of Arthurian literature. Unfortunately, even the paperback edition is sold at a fairly high price of $27.50.