Thursday, March 5, 2009

"I always have a quotation for everything. It saves original thinking."

Dorothy Sayers (in her introduction to the Purgatorio) has this to say:
"Persons who pontificate about Dante without making mention of his Purgatory may reasonably be suspected of knowing him only at second hand, or of having at most skimmed through the circles of his Hell in the hope of finding something to be shocked at."

Basically she operates on the theory that the true Dantean scholar will love the Purgatorio most, because it is the glue that binds the Dantean universe together and because only the true Dante scholar can love it. It is not so flashy as its brethren.*

Sorry, Dorothy Sayers. Maybe I am not cut out for this after all. I promise that I did not love the Inferno out of prurience or a wish to appear erudite. It just sang, and the Purgatorio doesn't. I appreciate the structure of it, I do. And I'm still near the beginning. Perhaps it will grow on me.

Maybe it's (surely not) that Hollander is no longer my translator. Much as I loved her introduction, Sayers' translation is certainly harder to parse. Man, she is a badass though. That tattooed man on the Metro yesterday who looked like he ate broken glass for breakfast would cower, COWER in the face of terza rima.

So in conclusion, Dorothy Sayers, I will try harder. Don't be disappointed in me.

*Also, is there some sort of Dante secret society? Maybe the password to the clubhouse is written on the hundredth page of every edition of the Purgatorio, along with instructions for initiation rites. Also, what would such a society be called? All I can think of now is the Dantettes, and that's definitely a girl group.**
**"Stop! At the gates of Dis!
So your sin can be assessed."
Or Francesca da Rimini (lustful denizen of the second circle whose husband murdered her and her lover) could sing "My Husband's Back (and We're Headed Straight for Hell)."

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