COMMENDABLESnThe Thousandnand One Knightsnby Caroline MorgannJoanot Martorell and Marti Joan denGalba: Tirant Lo Blanc; SchockennBooks; New York.nOriginally published in Catalan in 1490nand now newly translated by David H,nRosenthal, Tirant Lo Blanc is a prosenmasterpiece written by the Valenciannnobleman Joanot Martorell and completednby Marti Joan de Galba afternMartorell’s death. Written when thenCatalan influence in Sicily, Rhodes,nand other parts of the Mediterraneannwas still significant, Tirant takes thenreader into the world of medievalnknighthood, festivity, heroic death, andncourtly love. Praised by Cervantes asnthe “best book of its kind in all thenworld,” Tirant enthralls the reader innthe same kind of ambigupus and sophisticatednstory telling that we find in DonnQuixote.nAt times, the author gives the readerndirect and vivid narrative, while at othersnthe reader’s imagination must carrynthe burden. When several knights dishonornthemselves roughly one-third ofnthe way into the book, Martorell simplynstates that all were punished in thenmanner earlier prescribed as appropriatenin such cases. It is left to the readernto recall the rules of knighthood earlierntaught to Tirant, the story’s protagonist,nand then to imagine the erring knightsnwith their costumes ripped away andnhot water repeatedly thrown on theirnheads.nFeats of arms abound, but prowessnwith the sword and lance cannot helpnTirant resolve the internal conflict betweennthe ideals of the ascetic knightnand the passion of a lusty Renaissancencourtier pleading for the favors of thenPrincess Carmesina. Once the actionnmoves from the English court to thenexotic bedrooms of Constantinople, theninvincible knight proves only toonhuman in the seductive combat of love.nIn his treatment of sexual passion andnits conflict with the needs of society.nBOOKSHELVESnMartorell’s “modernity” surprises andndelights the reader.nRosenthal’s translation is superb,ndefdy conveying both the profundity ofnMartorell’s themes and the verbal playfulnessnof the style. The translation is sonwell done that it reads like an originalntext. My only complaint is that thenoriginal names ought not have beenntranslated so literally: “EasygoingnWidow,” “Dryfount,” “Look-whatyou-do.”nI think that most readersnwould have preferred the Catalan:n”Viuda Reposada,” “Fontseca,” andn”Cataquefaras.” ccnCaroline Morgan is a drama and artncritic in New York City.nNaturalnPhilosophynErnst Mayr: The Growth of BiologicalnThought: Diversity, Evolution,nand Inheritance; Belknap Press ofnHarvard University; Cambridge.nAt last there is a scientific work thatnjustifies the term natural philosophy. Innevery discipline there should eventuallyncome a time when it is possible tonrepeat the words of a great historicnoccasion in America: the man and thenhour are met. Such events are increasinglynrare in the sciences, where specializationnand barbarity of style almostnpreclude the broad and humane synthesisnthat indicates a discipline has comenof age. Impossible as it may seem, ErnstnMayr has written such a book on thenhistory of biology in which the mainnissues are confronted and discussed withnsuch lucidity that no interested readerncan fail to follow the argument.nAs one of the founders of the neo-nDarwinist synthesis, Mayr is among thenfew living men who can speak withnsome authority on the development ofnbiological thought. Despite his strongnconvictions on the usual topics of evolutionarynthought, Mayr is generous tonthe various losing parties and draws ournattention time after time to contributionsnmade by vitalists, antievolutionists,nand advocates of orthogenesis (thenidea that evolution proceeds in somenspecial direction). It is not that Mayrnlacks a point of view—far from it. Henhas made up his mind on every conceivablenissue in the biological sciences,nbut it is just that strength and clarity ofnhis convictions that makes this book thenbest thing on the subject and, what isnmore, an excellent introduction to biology.nIt is a work that should be read bynanyone who has even the slightest interestnin the most important intellectualnrevolution in more than a century, ccnIN FOCUSnnnThe Poet asnRevolutionarynby Budimir D. TosicnJuliette R. Stapanian: Mayakovsky’snCubo-Futurist Vision; Rice UniversitynPress; Houston.n”Every artist,” wrote V.I. Lenin,n”everyone who considers himself asnsuch, has the right to create freelynaccording to his ideals, independentlynof everything.” Who would havenguessed that the author of this noblenthought is none other than the originatornof one of the world’s most repressivensocial systems! Even the most remotensimilarity between the ideal and thenpresent Soviet reality is a sheer coincidence.nYet behind this cruel irony liesnthe secret of the Russian Revolution.nIntimately linked with the RussiannRevolution is the life and work of thenartist, painter, and poet VladimirnMayakovsky (1893-1930). The paradoxnof the Revolution is reflected in thenpersonal tragedy of the artist. It is impossiblento talk about Mayakovsky’s artnwithout considering the times that producednthe artist. Both East and Westnwere exploding in the 1900’s with newnideas. The men and women who championednthese new ideas sought to abolishnestablished norms and genres in thenarts and to overthrow established socialnorders. Certainly this was true aboutnMayakovsky. There is no way one cannabstract or “subtract” the artist from hisnwork.nMARCH 1986 / 33n