"Alas that I ever did sin! It is so merry in Heaven!"
The Book of Margery Kempe (c. 1436-8) is the extraordinary account of a medieval wife, mother, and mystic. Known as the earliest autobiography written in the English language, Kempe's Book describes the dramatic transformation of its heroine from failed businesswoman and lustful young wife, to devout and chaste pilgrim. She vividly describes her prayers and visions, as well as the temptations in daily life to which she succumbed before dedicating herself to her spiritual calling. She travelled to the most holy sites of the medieval world, including Rome and Jerusalem.
In her life and her boisterous devotion, Kempe antagonized many of those around her; yet she also garnered friends and supporters who helped to record her experiences. Her Book opens a window to the medieval world, and provides a fascinating portrait of one woman's life, aspirations, and prayers. This new translation preserves the forceful narrative voice of Kempe's Book and includes a wide-ranging introduction and useful notes.
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Bale's Book of Margery Kempe offers the best modern version of the text and the most comprehensive and judicious assessment of scholarly and critical environments in which to read this strange and wondrous work... Bale sensitively reviews all the textual, critical and ideological challenges of the work. His modern English is supple and responsive. * Times Literary Supplement, Seth Lerer *
This lively new edition preserves the author's forceful individuality, but makes her writing accessible to a new audience, and her book not only flings open a forgotten world but also comes garnished with useful notes and maps of her extensive travels. * Good Book Guide, Fiona Lafferty *
whatever view may be taken of Margery's visions, the book is extraordinarily lively and enjoyable, and gives an unparalleled glimpse of everyday life in that distant period of English history. This new translation by Anthony Bale is presented in idiomatic modern English, but aims to stay true to the style of the original, sometimes homely and familiar, sometimes high-flown and Latinate. It's wonderfully readable, and has an excellent introduction and notes.
Altogether a great pleasure. * Shiny New Books, Harriet Devine *
This new look at one of the most important texts of the Middle Ages will come as an eye-opener to those who believe that to live a religious life you need to be inordinately pious. * Northern Echo, Stephen Craggs *
The Book of Margery Kempe is genuinely hard to put down - due to the incredible picture of medieval England it paints, and the fascinating mind of the woman who produced it. Anthony Bale's notes add a huge amount of value too, providing much needed context, and raising interesting questions about the material. * The Book Bag, Sue *
Extraordinary * Peter Costello, The Irish Catholic *