The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One doesn't associate John Steinbeck with fantasy literature and yet here it is, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck. Go figure!
It's all* here, the rags-to-riches story of how Arthur ascended to the throne, the many deeds of his knights, the magic of Merlin and Morgan Le Fay.
His translation of Thomas Malory's version of the Arthurian legend is almost strangely faithful, seldom veering from that 15th century work in order to modernize the language enough for today's reader. And it is immensely readable! I breezed through from start to finish. Certainly not every story is a winner. Movies, tv series and books often skip a good number of the stories and stick with the most well-known. This gives you the lesser known stuff in full color and it is often beautiful.
However, this faithful translation dismayed and disappointed the publisher, who expected a Steinbeckized version of the Arthurian tales, something more like a Grapes of Wrath-gritty tale of down-and-out knights. Don't you too make that mistake when reading this! Steinbeck was a childhood fan of these stories and with childlike devotion, he captures their essence with a picture-perfect imitation intending to flatter via flattery's sincerest form. Well done and highly worth a read!
* Well, I say "all" but the book is not actually complete. Steinbeck put many years of hard work into this and yet inexplicably didn't finish it.
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