lunes, 6 de septiembre de 2010

The Divine Comedy III: Paradiso


Paradiso (Anchor Books, 2007)
by Dante Alighieri [translated from the Italian by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander]
Ravenna, 1321

Paradiso.  While I still have Her Fearful Symmetry, a Neil Gaiman book, and, what the hell, another Margo Lanagan YA opus to get around to someday, I finally finished reading the similarly-hyped The Divine Comedy last night.  And all kidding aside, I'm sort of sorry to have to let the poem go.  Although the Paradiso was easily the least intrinsically interesting of all three cantiche in terms of the reading entertainment to be found therein, I thought its flaws as a narrative were more than compensated for by its success as an abstruse, often mystical disquisition on the nature of divinity and eternity.  A vision with scholastic teeth at that.  Description of heaven as a succession of glittering spheres?  Meh.  Interrogation of why all those otherwise virtuous people--whose only failing in life is that they don't know Christ--must suffer in the hereafter?  Priceless.  Even though various aspects of Dante's doctrinal-heavy theology will forever trouble me, I have to say that I thought it was kind of cool to run across folks like Roland, Adam, and Mary in Dante's heaven (no wonder one of my favorite professors once referred to the Commedia as a summa of medieval culture).  And The Song of Roland stuff aside, I have to admit that I was so dazzled by Dante's intellect and the scope of his cosmological vision that I felt both pumped up and humbled at the same time.  Not at all the reaction I was expecting from this third and concluding canticle but just one of many reasons I look forward to wrestling with the poem again.  Hopefully in Italian next time.

Odds and ends.  Thanks to the intrepid few souls (two, three?) who participated in the full readalong with me, all those who joined along for Inferno, and those who commented and/or proffered bibliographical assistance (Amateur Reader, take a bow) along the way.  I had a fun time even though I'm now convinced that it could take a lifetime to get to know this poem properly (not a bad thing if you have the time, I guess).  For just one exceedingly small sliver of the complexity of the full poem's internal structure, see the Hollanders' notes to Paradiso VI where they explain that "the sixth canto in each cantica, as has often been appreciated, is devoted to an increasingly wide political focus: first to Florentine politics, then to Italian politics, and now to Dante's theologically-charged imperial politics" (156).  Other "whoa" moments not involving numerology: each canticle ends with a Barry Seaman-like reference to stelle or stars as the very last word of that section in the poem.  Etc., etc.  I enjoyed all three of the different translators I read and wouldn't hesitate to recommend Pinsky, Merwin or the Hollanders to someone scoping out bilingual editions of the text, readability in English, and so on.  However, even though all the editions I used had helpful footnotes, the Hollanders had the best critical apparatus by far in terms of the volume and the complexity of the notes (a series of pages attached to the end of each canto) and the recommended reading provided.  Will likely be searching out their copies of Inferno and Purgatorio at some point to add to the collection.  (http://www.anchorbooks.com/)

Ritratto di Dante by Luca Signorelli
(Capella di San Bruno, Il Duomo, Orvieto)

Other posts of mine on The Divine Comedy
Inferno
Purgatorio #1, #2 and #3

Other readalong links on Dante
Amanda (Simpler Pastimes)
Inferno
Purgatorio
Paradiso

Avid Reader (The Avid Reader's Musings)
Inferno

Bellezza (Dolce Bellezza)
Inferno

Claire (kiss a cloud)
Inferno

E.L. Fay (This Book and I Could Be Friends)
Inferno, Cantos 1-8
Inferno, Cantos 9-17
Inferno, Cantos 18-26
Inferno, Cantos 27-34
Purgatorio, Part One
Purgatorio, Part Two
Paradiso

Iris (Iris on Books)
Inferno

Rebecca (Rebecca Reads)
Inferno

6 comentarios:

  1. I haven't yet managed to finish Paradiso (due to a combination of poor timing and a fair bit of fearful avoidance), but even 11 cantos in, I'm already thinking that I need to read these again. I feel like I'm just getting the barest of the structure with this first read, and that I'm not able to fully appreciate the wonder of Dante's words and vision in my attempts to understand it.

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  2. Amanda, join the club--I felt much the same way! The payoff was definitely there by the end, but this was the most difficult section for me by far (I finally decided to treat it like a Rubik's Cube and not get too frustrated if I couldn't figure things out the first time around). Anyway, good luck finishing up--you're almost there!

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  3. Hey, thanks. Anything to help! I've read Inferno several times, in different translations, and hope to read it several more before I find out how much of it is true.

    I've only read Purgatorio and Paradiso once. Your enthusiasm is like mine, I think - they require more labor, more study, but are very much worth it.

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  4. Amateur Reader, love what you say about Inferno here. Very funny and a good reading plan to boot! And, based on your comment, our enthusiasm for the other two cantiche is undeniably similar, true. Great poem. Cheers!

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  5. Thanks to you, I finally got around to finishing Purgatorio and Paradiso. Indeed, it does have considerably less entertainment value. It's so abstract as to be incomprehensible at times. But heck yes, Dante's intellect is absolutely dazzling.

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  6. E.L. Fay, I just suggested the readalong--you did all the hard work (thanks for sharing your class notes and your own thoughts)! By the way, the Hollanders call Paradiso "an impossible poem" and "an experiment in pushing back the boundaries of human expression" while lauding it for being possibly the most rewarding part of the poem "for those who give themselves to it and let it do its work on them." I loved that it was so intellectually challenging myself, but it's tough sledding in spots all right.

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