Sunday, November 2, 2014


What’s a guy like me supposed to say about a guy like Dante Alighieri. Not much, but what I can say is that I didn’t read what Dante wrote. What I did read was small portions of the best guess on what Dante wrote, because his original manuscripts are gone, as is any agreed upon, concise copy of his original work. And of that work--the Italian version, edited by Giorgio Petrocchi in 1966-67 used by the Hollander's for their translation--I only read portions of it for two reasons: my Italian is poor, and Dante’s Italian is even more difficult for me to comprehend.

What I can tell you is, I did enjoy the translation of Inferno by Robert and Jean Hollander, which was complete with copious end notes after each canto. yeah, I read them The end notes give the whole experience a kind of scholarly endeavor feeling, and after I was about have way through, I felt that I should have probably just read through the poem first so I could maintain the story arc with less interruption, then I thought I would go back and re-read the poem by itself when I finished, but gave up on that after spending weeks on this book seemed like enough.

Inferno is the first of the three parts in Dante's Comedia, normally called The Divine Comedy, in English. I don’t have any immediate plans to read the Hollander’s translation of the next two books, Purgatorio and Paradiso, but maybe someday. Because this was a scholarly translation, the Hollander’s didn’t try to rhyme the poem as Dante did. This was one of the main reasons I read any of the Italian, which was printed conveniently on the verso, so I could get a little taste of that. The pronunciation of Dante’s Italian also complicated that little project; his version of Italian is difficult for me to read straight through so the cadence was a little choppy.
Robert and Jean Hollander are the husband and wife team who did the translation. They've worked on a number of Dante translations. Robert is a professor at Princeton and has been working on Dante since I was born, he also has a major hand in Princeton's Dante Project. Jean Hollander is a poet and a professor of writing who has also taught at Princeton as well as Brooklyn College and Columbia.

This book took me weeks to read, as I said. I took a break in the middle of this one to read another book, and since then I've read the third in that series without getting around to writing about this one. I'm glad I read it, but what a slog.

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