Tuesday, February 16, 2016

In praise of Dante

Dante Alighieri statue in Verona
...from Berkeley
For the past week I've been working on a project involving Dante's Inferno.

Botticelli: Dante and Virgil
  I'd dipped into it a bit in grad school (I wrote my dissertation on Renaissance music) and had always meant to read the Inferno in its entirety....actually I'd wanted to read the whole Divine Comedy. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, no? In this case, literally. (Facilis decensus Averno, to quote Virgil, as he is crucial to the Inferno  and thus today's blog post.

Dorothy Sayers


Such a monumental work as the Inferno has received any number of very fine translations, including Hell by Dorothy Sayers, known best today for her excellent Lord Peter Wimsey whodunits. (Who'd a thunk?). Which just goes to show that all good translators must also be good writers--no surprise there...

In any case, while my current project neither involves nor necessitates my reading all of the Inferno--when, oh, when, will that early aspiration ever come to fruition?--I've been dipping into it as a reference.
 
Dore, Inferno

I've been stunned by the acuity and strength of Dante's vision, and his understanding of human folly. Human nature hasn't seemed to improve over time...(NB: While I wouldn't say that I share in all the sins he chronicles in all the cantos--although I certainly partake of more than I should!--the descriptions of the sinners whose faults I share cut close enough to the bone to have made me vow to do better with my own personal demons going forward.) And while one might think that with the explicit, graphic violence readily viewable today, not to mention 20th and 21st century horrors, Dante would feel tame, he does not.

Dante's verses address the world he lived in--the Guelphs and Gibellines and others of his time--as well as Greek mythology and Biblical symbolism.   Yet Dante's artistic vision transcends time, easily applying to us today.

Isn't that precisely what good art does?

Have you read any of the Inferno,  in any language?  If so, what do you think? Don't you agree??

What I'm reading: Dante!

What I'm listening to: scads and scads of new music--much of it fabulous!--from E4TT's Call for Scores, which just closed.

What I'm working on: Samuel Barber's "Do not utter a word, Anatol," a gorgeous aria from his ever-lyrical pen.
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