©2008 Burton Raffel. All rights reserved.; (P)2008 BBC Audiobooks America
Burton Raffel is the crown prince of Old and Middle English translators in my book, and his Chaucer is another masterpiece. The rhyming is more subtle than in other translations of Chaucer, but it's there; and the tales unfold with seemingly effortless clarity. This is a high-quality, multiple-reader production, and it includes all the tales (including the Tale of Melibee and the Parson's Tale). The only thing marring the production are the chapter breaks: they are geared to the CDs rather than the individual tales. If you're planning to listen straight through, that's not a problem, but I would have preferred the ability to be more selective.
It's amazing that in only a few months, Audible has gone from a skimpy selection of Chaucer to three outstanding recordings of the complete set of Tales: one from Charlton Griffin, one from Blackstone, and this one from the BBC. Any one of them provides a wonderful listening experience. This one is my favorite because of Raffel; others may suit your taste better. But for heaven's sake get ONE of them.
This is a wonderful reading of Chaucer's tales. The different narrators really bring each of the stories to life. I have read this book (or sections) numerous times and I have to say that this translation was by far the most easy to understand and the most engaging. I really recommend this version of Chaucer's tales. The only problem I had with it has been mentioned by others (Audible, take note) the chapters are not designated by book, but by presumably Audible's convenience, that means, you cannot skip around to different tales, you have to listen to it front to back. This was irritating, and is the only reason I give it less than 5 stars.
Listening to the Canterbury Tales as an audio book is probably the best way to fully appreciate them, as they were certainly conceived to be listened to and not read silently for oneself. The narrators are varied and talented; they certainly succeed in bringing out the most from each tale. Also, the excellent translation makes the work perfectly accessible and easy to understand.
This unabridged version makes one realize however that this work was never finished or has been incompletely transmitted to us. For instance, the first tales such as the miller's and the reeve's are cleverly linked to one another. Sadly, soon enough afterwards, no structure is perceptible and tales simply follow one another with no apparent logic.
In addition, the unabridged version includes lesser known tales, some of which are dismally boring, such as the Tale of Melibee or the Parson's Tale, both in prose. They are closer to a long series of quotations than an actual narrative. Was Chaucer being ironic in including them? Or else, are they later additions that Chaucer did not write himself?
Overall, listening to the Canterbury Tales is a unique experience that is highly recommended to all, for sheer delight but also to realize how much, and how little, our culture has evolved since medieval times.
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
I have attempted to read the Canterbury Tales many times in the last half century. After all, it's been a classic almost from the time of its writing but I do not believe this great work has ever been made so accessible as it has been here. The beauty of the translation is brought even more to life by the wonderful narrations. This is the best Chaucer that I have ever come across.
Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see why this collection of moral stories has stood up over the centuries. I understand that this is a new interpretation of the original texts and I understand that the narration of the stories plays a big part in the story; however, to me this tales were antiquated tales of morality. I did enjoy some of the comedic stories near the beginning, but some of the more pious stories bored me. To each their own!
Point to consider: This rendition of The Canterbury Tales also contains UNFINISHED stories. You don't know they are unfinished until the story ends. Abruptly.
I suppose The Canterbury Tales must have been quite controversial at the time of its writing, with many sexual allusions, but it's full of tedious little tales which are exceedingly boring, monotonous, and tend to run one into the other. The poetic flair only carries the monotony to new heights. I tried to listen to it while engaged in a boring repetitive task, and it only seemed to make the job longer; I had to turn it off. I cannot recommend this book on any level.
We both wanted to listen and understand this version as we have read the book before, but unfortunately the reader speaks in a manner that makes understanding impossible. Who knows how the book would read with another reader.
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