Even though we didn’t actually have Labor Day off (long story—don’t ask) this week has felt “off” somehow with missed connections and best-laid plans ganging agley (thank you, Robert Burns).
To improve the time, let’s consider the new Hollander translation of Dante’s Paradiso, which the New Yorker likes very, very much:
It is more idiomatic than any other English version I know. At the same time, it is lofty, the more so for being plain.
Acocella’s review does make it sound good, and she makes a strong case for reading Paradiso, in some form—of course it goes without saying that it’s worth reading Inferno and Purgatorio, or you’d think so, but I was unhappy to discover that my new World Lit. anthology (which shall remain nameless, because I liked it pretty well otherwise) includes only Inferno! What the who with the what now?!
Call me old-fashioned, but I remain fixated on Dorothy L. Sayers‘s lyrical Dante translations (Penguin paperbacks), which even manage to imitate terza rima. I suppose they’re not trendy, but her introductions and notes are also extremely helpful in explaining Dante’s spiritual symbolism and allegories.
A fellow I knew in grad. school, Tony Esolen, has also translated the Divine Comedy. I keep meaning to try his translation. According to this review:
Thanks to Esolen’s superb rendition, one can finally delve into the Divine Comedy in English and catch the rigor of Dante’s style and the polyphonic range of his voice….
Esolen has produced an incomparably good work, which is likely to become the standard poetic translation of the Divine Comedy for years to come. He correctly views the poem as the paradigmatically Christian vision and the very voice of Western spirituality.
Note to self: put this version on your wish list.