Saturday, March 21, 2015

Mongolian Chaucer

If you follow this blog, or have ever chatted with me in person, you probably know that I harbor a not-so-minor fascination with the way in which the Mongols are represented in Medieval (specifically, Middle English) literature. The fourth chapter of my dissertation focuses squarely on the subject, and I'm just days away from sending off an article version of that chapter for review. Middle English Mongols -- at least as it stands right now -- will occupy not one but two chapters in the book.

You can imagine, then, my delight and fascination when I learned from a friend (who visited Mongolia while her sister lived there for a time) that contemporary Mongolians apparently hold Geoffrey Chaucer in high esteem due to his largely favorable portrayal of Genghis Khan in The Squire' Tale. This anecdote piqued my curiosity, and I finally made some headway today and discovered, thanks to Jack Weatherford (anthropologist and author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World), that the Squire's Tale has, in fact, been translated into Mongolian. I don't know much more than that for the time being, save that it's available in bookstores in Mongolia.

Needless to say, my detective work has only just begun! Among other things, I want to figure out whether this is a strict translation or more of an adaptation, the date of the first and any subsequent translations (and/or editions of the translation), the identity of the translator and his/her background and interests in medieval literature (and, if possible, their goals in extracting The Squire's Tale and translating into Mongolian). I also want to learn more about contemporary perceptions of Chaucer in Mongolia and how much of an impact this translation may have had on said perceptions.

I'm going to keep putting feelers in hopes that a) I can get my hands on a copy of this translation and b) I can find someone fluent in Mongolian who can help me answer these and other questions. In the meantime though, I just couldn't resist sharing the news that a translation exists!

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