Matthew's Reviews > Orlando Furioso

Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto
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's review
Sep 17, 2007

it was amazing
Read in January, 2008

I am in love with this book, and I have no idea why everybody isn't reading it all the time. It is a massively fun tale dealing with the exploits of the knights of Charlemagne. It moves incredibly quickly, seamlessly weaves together dozens of terrific stories, and gives the reader all the fulfillment one could wish for in an adventure novel. Lots of battles and intrigue and sorcerers and giants and mistaken identities and flying steeds and magic and all of that good fantasy stuff, and it was written in the 16th century, so you get to enjoy the fact that you're learning a little about the people and ideas of former times and exposing yourself to a classic. Also, the women in this book aren't a bunch of helpless or overly virtuous props for the men. Two of the baddest-ass knights in the story are women who go around saving all of the male characters, and the Saracen princess Angelica, who everybody loves, does a lot of outmanoevering the several knights who are constantly in pursuit of her. Then Orlando goes completely insane from unrequited love and starts all sorts of gruesome wholesale killing while the paladin Astolpho travels to the moon with the Apostle John to fetch back Orlando's lost wits. Then all sorts of other wonderful crazy crap happens, and you should definitely read the book to find out about it. Sir Walter Scott, Voltiare and Byron all compared Ariosto to Homer, favoring the former, and I'd much rather read him than any modern fantasy writer.

(Note on the translation: I'm very pleased that the translator of the Oxford World Classics edition, Guido Waldman, decided to render this book in prose rather than trying to emulate the octava rima scheme of the original epic poem. Perhaps the fact that a prose version has only been available for a couple of decades is what has been responsible for this book's neglect in the English speaking world. Meanwhile, it's a testament to Ariosto's skill that not a single stanza seems to contain an extra line or extraneous detail. I can barely imagine how anybody could write something so tight under the imposition of a poetic schema. I don't think Pushkin or Dante or Chaucer or Virgil was so successful.)
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message 1: by Manny (new)

Manny Nice review! You're right, I really should read this.

BTW, if you didn't know, Astolpho's visit to the Moon plays an important part in the final volume of Powell's Dance to the Music of Time.

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