Constantinople in the mid-twelfth century saw the composition of the first sustained fictional narratives in the European world – novels – since late antiquity. Four members of the Byzantine intelligentsia produced for the entertainment of their colleagues, their aristocratic patrons, and not least themselves, pastiches in verse and prose of the romantic tales of Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus. These novels are perhaps the most attractive, as well as the most unexpected, literary products of the Byzantine millennium. More than one of the four novels translated here was well known in Renaissance Europe, but all have been largely neglected by later generations of readers and scholars as insipid and derivative eroticism. This is regrettable since they antedate by several decades the works of Chrétien de Troyes, the French father of the European novel. This Byzantine phase in the history of the genre, though not part of its central development, deserves exploration. Building on recent work which has begun to rehabilitate these texts, this book marks the first English translation of all four texts in one volume, placing them and their writers in their literary and historical contexts and opening up their world to all those interested in the novel and in European medieval literature. LUP gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dr Costas Kaplanis, alumnus of King’s College London, who suggested the idea of the series to Professor Herrin and has underwritten the initial expenses.
A landmark work. Original and authoritative scholarship.
This beautifully edited volume does important work in filling in some of the missing links in understanding between late Antique and Early Renaissance prose fiction writing, between the work of Heliodorus or Achilles Tatius and that of Cervantes or Rabelais. Jeffreys’s excellent translation and helpful footnoting bring the old texts back to life not only for the Byzantine Studies specialist. ... This essential volume is both a small joyous triumph and a great step forward in the right direction.
Carles Gutiérrez-Sanfeliu, Parergon, Volume 30.1
Elizabeth Jeffreys has succeeded admirably in presenting accurate and readable translations. The translations will certainly be of great service to the study of fiction in Byzantium, while also acquainting a wider audience of scholars and students with these novels.
Years Work in English Studies, vol 92, no 1
Jeffreys’s Four Byzantine Romances is an excellent beginning for this new series. Jeffreys has given us an enjoyable introduction to Byzantine romances that will be of importance not just to beginning students of Byzantine literature, but to all students of the romance and medieval and modern folk narrative.
Fabula 54 Heft 3/4
Elizabeth Jeffreys has done a commendable job in her attempt to convey the linguistic, literary, and cultural particularities of those works to contemporary English-speaking readers. Her translations are accurate, loyal to the complicated style of the original, and informed by the translator’s long and highly fruitful research in the subject.
Panagiotis Roilos, Speculum