Book of the Month: The Celestina
Penguin Classics Ed.
Since we are starting a new year, isn’t it apropos to begin with the renewal of a book? To take something old and transform it into something new? After all, aren’t we uber familiar with these months, but yet, strive to find something new and wonderful, now that they have come back?
For this month we are recommending The Celestina, a 15th century novel written in dialogue, translated from Spanish. Because it was written as dialogue, the novel reads like a drama, but it was never put on stage. The novel is considered one the best novels to be written in Spanish, along with the likes of Don Quixote. For us, the English audience (i.e. English majors and intellectuals), this book has eluded our shelves for years; although extensively published in Spanish, it wasn’t until 1631 that it was introduced to English speakers thanks to James Mabbe’s somewhat poor translation. According to Lesley Bird Simpson, the antiquated syntax Mabbe used would have made it undesirable for a modern reader. To add more that mystery of its history, the book was published anonymously, and still to this day, we don’t know exactly who authored The Celestina, even though “Fernando de Rojas” appears after 1501.
SHORT SUMMARY: A nobleman fraught with love turns to an old bawd to help him secure the love of the woman he desires.This, of course, ends in tragedy. Still, Celestina, the old woman, is determined not to lose out on this opportunity for riches and pleasure.
Don’t forget to join in our discussion next month on the importance of this book and its influence on Spanish literature, consider its historical context, and reflect on the relevance of its themes.
We will be posting a couple of discussion questions, but always welcome and encourage your ideas as well!