Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Review: The Inferno of Dante

The Inferno of Dante
The Inferno of Dante by Dante Alighieri

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first exposure to Dante's writing. I was looking for poetry by a different author when I came across this translation. When I saw the narrator, I decided it was time to read/hear some Dante :)

Dante sure thought a lot of himself! Good grief, even when he's singing the praises of some denizen of limbo, he's doing so in the context of being the vehicle of their remembrance among the living. You've probably heard the idiom, "damning with faint praise." Over and over, Dante praises himself with faint condemnation. No, Dante, it's not actually all that terrible that you trembled with fear while faced with the horrors of the pit.

I want to read an annotated translation of The Inferno. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he was mocking and calling out some of his contemporaries, as well as commenting on figures from the past.

Most of the work came from describing and talking to the denizens of the various neighborhood of perdition, but he didn't stint on describing the environs. He readily sketched the horrific backdrops to his interactions, giving just enough detail to be clear, but leaving space for the imagination to fill in the unmentioned horrors. This is not at all bedtime listening.

I seemed to sense some negative commentary on Church doctrine, but I'm not sure if that was in the text, or if that came from my 20th/21st century perspective. For instance, he lamented the number of people, even great and good people, condemned to Limbo simply because they lived before the establishment of Christianity. To my ear, that's a reason to question the church - but to Dante it may have been just another thing that was and didn't need to be questioned.

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