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The Quest of the Holy Grail (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Pauline Matarasso , P.M. Matarasso
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Price: 9.13 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

29 May 1975 Classics
Composed by an unknown author in early thirteenth-century France, "The Quest of the Holy Grail" is a fusion of Arthurian legend and Christian symbolism, reinterpreting ancient Celtic myth as a profound spiritual fable. It recounts the quest of the knights of Camelot - the simple Perceval, the thoughtful Bors, the rash Gawain, the weak Lancelot and the saintly Galahad - as they journey through danger and temptation to reach the elusive Holy Grail. But only one of them is judged worthy to see the mysteries within the sacred vessel, and look upon the ineffable. Enfused with tragic grandeur and an aura of mysticism, "The Quest" is an absorbing and radiant allegory of man's perilous search for divine grace, and had a profound influence on later Arthurian romances and versions of the Grail legend.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (29 May 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442200
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442205
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 12.8 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 72,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ON the eve of Pentecost when the companions of the Round Table were all assembled at Camelot, at the hour of none when the office was sung and the tables were being setup, a maiden of great beauty came riding into the hall. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magical, mysterious & mystical 18 Oct 2009
This is a translation of a text written way back, 900 years back in time. Such a book needs a different way of reading, one that invites you to enter the writer's world rather than the opposite. This world is quite different from our own, bring based in countries and with peoples who no longer exist: Logres, Caledonia, etc. To read it you need to slough off quite a bit of modernism. The typical British reader will find the Christian symbolism obscure, unless he has an active High Anglican or a Roman Catholic faith that predates Vatican II. For there is so much of the richness of mediaeval Cristian catholicism in this text.

Helpfully, the translators provide a rich set of background footnotes to explain the context and meaning hidden in the imagery, as well as a thin set of scriptural references. Have a Bible nearby if you are unaware of the meaning of the Biblical references.

The story - or stories - are fundamentally about the person's journey through life to true righteousness before God. This all tied up in rich tales of knights, damsels, castles, kings, jousts, swords (but, sorry, no sandals!) The tales are double-edged. Unrighteousness brings eternal consequences, even with forgiveness. Lancelot sleeps with Arthur's wife and others, and so forfeits the right to see God's glory. Only the purest can do this.

No modern liberalism about this tale. No easy way for the knights. Death is all around, and even to be embraced if righteousness is secured. Read it as an allegory, or as a spiritual tale, but read it and take yourself to another place and another time.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical and profound narrative 4 Mar 2008
This is a readable and stylish translation, with most helpful annotation, of one of the supreme texts of the thirteenth century. It is the key section of the so-called `Vulgate Cycle' of Arthurian stories in French prose, revealing what is elsewhere more confused by other motifs - a radical criticism of the knightly code of the time, deploring bloodshed, sexual indulgence and class pride. Against this the text sets an ideal of self-denial to the point of asceticism, to keep the spirit keen to the opportunities providence constantly puts in our paths to step outside conventional roles in order to bear witness to the dignity of the individual, poised throughout his life between heaven and hell. The text is full of meaningful incident and evocative details. Most memorable of all are the accounts of the appearances of the Holy Grail, the supreme gift of God of which the eucharist (of which in this text it is so reminiscent) is itself but a symbol. The stress on the sheer deliciousness of the food the Grail provides shows that the author deplores sensual indulgence not out of puritanism but because it blunts mind and body to truer and more lasting delights. The text may be read today as a call either to Catholic spirituality or to the life of the imagination.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic 6 Nov 2012
An amazing story, if read through the eyes of the 13th and not the 21st Century. Wonderfully rich prose and symbolism. If you want to understand the 13th Century view of the Grail legends this is for you. If you want to be entertained by good guys and bad guys then try Hollywood! A splendid translation, I am just buying a replacement as the 30 year-old original (cost 75p!) is falling apart.
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