Parzival (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 28 Aug 1980
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From the Inside Flap
Parzival, an Arthurian romance completed by Wolfram von Eschenbach in the first years of the thirteenth century, is one of the foremost works of German literature and a classic that can stand with the great masterpieces of the world. The most important aspects of human existence, worldly and spiritual, are presented in strikingly modern terms against the panorama of battles and tournaments and Parzival's long search for the Grail. The world of knighthood, of love and loyalty and human endeavor despite the cruelty and suffering of life, is constantly mingling with the world of the Grail, affirming the inherent unity between man's temporal condition and his quest for something beyond human existence. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
An Arthurian romance completed by Wolfran von Eschenbach in the first of the thirteenth century. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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Wolfram's Parzival is a more coherent and well-structured narrative than the Niebelungenlied, and is more courtly and refined than the Icelandic sagas of the same era. It is a lively, colourful insight into 13th century European culture. This, along with its place in the evolution of the Arthurian and Grail legends, is its main source of interest to modern readers.
Wolfram is particularly knowledgeable about military affairs and you can learn a lot from this story about what it was like (or supposed to be like) to be a knight at the time.
The Grail of this story is a stone. In Chretien's earlier story, on which Wolfram's is based, the Grail was a bowl. In other stories, it doubles as the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and the vessel used to catch the dripping blood at the crucifixion. In our own time it has served as a boon to conspiracy theorists and an excuse to cast Sean Connery in an Indiana Jones movie. Next...well, who knows what's next?
Parzival combines folk traditions - the Grail's power of providing unlimited food and drink is a favorite folk motif, most famously with the magic porridge pot - with knightly adventure, and adds a dash of mysticism. It is no more than a dash, and I think subsequent commentators have read too much into this aspect. Certainly it is a coming-of-age story and a tale of redemption, but the spiritual edifice that has since been built around it seems to me a bit of a stretch. At the time of writing this review, youth counsellors in Britain are using Parzival as an allegory to teach the true meaning of manhood. Good luck to them.
Although Parzival does not have the continuity errors of the Niebelungenlied, individual sentences are sometimes mangled beyond comprehension. Presumably they sounded more acceptable when recited as poetry. Hatto wisely avoids the temptation to tidy these passages up and translates them warts and all.
History books can only take us so far in an understanding of a previous age. To get beneath the skin, to understand the anxieties, hopes, prejudices and beliefs of the people who lived then, we must share the stories that they told. In Parzival, we see how medieval man related to his own masculinity, his fellow man, his womenfolk and his god.
Although I'm glad I have read this book, it disappointed me a little bit. Perhaps because my expectations were rather high, mainly after having seen Wagner's Opera version, which I really liked very much, and that was based on this book; but I didn't find it as deep as I expected it to be. I have to say I liked Chretien de Troyes incomplete version more; or Robert the Boron's shorter one. And as for the Quest itself I recommend "The Quest of the Holy Grail" as the most profound one in simbolism.
I believe Wagner in his efforts at self promotion spoke quite dismissively of Eschenbach's massive poem, and at the present moment (more than halfway throught the text) I am fighting the urge to skip whole chapters. One thing which is bothersome is the array of over elaborate names. For example, Condwiramurs (a woman) / Brandelidelin (male) and what about Schionatulander? Add on a patronymic in French and certain technical words for armour and drapery and so forth and one begins to wish one had taken a short course before embarking on this book.
Then there's the seeming randomness of knightly adventuring, the lengthy praise of costumes and upholstery, the routine of duelling and submission leading to apparent slavery at the court of some noble lady. I always thought the idea was the lady was unattainable but these princesses seem quite available to whichever handsome fellow stays in the saddle after a long day's jousting. After which, the knight tends to disappear in search of adventure, leaving a miserable lady behind, and this is quite normal.
One wonders about all the common folk left out of the picture, breaking their backs to prepare the feasts and shoe the horses. I wonder what they made of all this?
I haven't given up yet and I can't deny that the first page hooked me. But at the mo' it's a bit of a drag and the author's asides and little swipes at fellow poets are starting to vex me. As is Parzival, hard as nails but doesn't know one end from the other.
much more than that.The search for the grail is an inner journey first.The fruits of this inner journey may manifest to the outside world as great (esoteric) art and therefore the one who wrote it we can recognize as a traveller on the path of inner freedom.Wolfram von Eschenbach is part of a tradition that is true to certain principles wich
are esoteric and in times of persecution and oppression by the roman catholic church these principles where passed on in songs and stories.
As the grail is not a cup that is handy to drink from but and ever overflowing cup that gives and gives, one must ask the right question as Parzival
had to learn in this tale.Many great thing may be achieved when one has once had and lost.We all have something.Something that makes us human,but lost it.Find it back in this ancient tale.
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