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4.0 out of 5 stars The Deeds of Louis the Fat - The Thoughts of Suger the Abbot, 12 Dec 2007
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Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Deeds of Louis the Fat (Paperback)
A translation of Suger's Deeds of Louis the Fat is here presented in an accessible and readable form for both students and the general reader. There is a concise yet comprehensive twenty-page introduction, an accompanying map, and an index at the end. There are both footnotes and endnotes, which is unfortunate, since those seeking further background information must refer to both. This can be a bit of a handful when not reading at a desk. It would have been far better to have all notes set at the foot of each page.

The translation, introduction and notation have been undertaken by Richard Cusimano of the University of Southwestern Louisiana and by John Moorhead at the University of Queensland. In their introduction they point to the work's value by seeing Louis's reign as a pivotal era in the progress of French monarchical consolidation. But they also view the work as important in the context of Suger's own life and literary style. And indeed the work can often be seen to be more about Suger than about Louis. The writers explore the background to the reasons why it was written and why it was written in the way that it was, for the title was not Suger's own.

Their analysis includes comparisons with other twelfth-century (and earlier) texts and writers of a similar genre are made. They point out why the work cannot be treated as a biography per se of Louis VI, for there is a concentration on secondary details, whilst primary facts of Louis's life - his knighthood, his presence at the court of England's Henry I, his marriage, etc - are ignored. The secondary features that are mentioned, however, conform suspiciously with Suger's own views about kingship and the primacy of his abbey at St-Denis. That is not to say that Suger's account of Louis's deeds cannot be trusted, for he was clearly present at many of the events described and he writes about them with the air of someone who has no difficulty in remembering details.

The translators end their introduction with details about the difficulties they encountered with the translation in terms of style as well as content. Suger employed a sometimes convoluted literary style, re-inforcing his meaning by allusions to contemporary theological ideas, "But just when the temptation to despair is strongest, the reader comes along a witty turn of phrase or pun that alerts one to the fact that, at least sometimes, Suger knew very well what he was doing."

Whatever problems the translators had to overcome in their work, the reader of this volume need not worry about, as the English text flows smoothly from chapter to chapter. This is a fine volume that will be of use to students in a number of disciplines and will be of value also to the general reader.
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The Deeds of Louis the Fat
The Deeds of Louis the Fat by Abbot Suger of Saint-Denis (Paperback - Dec 1992)
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