In The Canterbury Tales, American illustrator Seymour Chwast reimagines Chaucer’s poetic survey of medieval England. And, true to Chaucer's vision, each character featured in the original gets a chance to tell their highly visual story, from the Cook to the Wife of Bath.
As anyone who’s had to struggle through reading the original in Middle English (how many ways do you really need to spell eye, anyways?) can attest to, slogging your way through Chaucer’s ode to the life medieval can be a chore. Thankfully, all dialogue and description here are rendered in modern-day English, although in a somewhat pared-down version.
Similarly, given Chwast’s extensive background as a graphic designer and illustrator, the illustrations seem a tad simplistic. I appreciate the need to make the tales easily understandable and scannable, especially in a book where each story only lasts a few pages, but the drawings here are simple to the point of being crude.
But really, when you get to see a cartoon Chaucer riding in a motorcycle sidecar, you’re not going to complain too much.
The Canterbury Tales retails for $23.
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