For the last year I have been writing a book about Dante and the Divine Comedy. I am not an expert and that is the point of the book. I tried to read the Divine Comedy many years ago and got stuck. This time around I kept working on it until I understood how to read it. Then I wrote the book I imagined I would have liked to have had. Whew!
An early reader of my book said that she realized, in great surprise, that Dante was writing an adventure story. She had struggled through The Comedy but thought of it as her duty. Suddenly she was having fun. The Divine Comedy IS a cultural landmark but that is not the way to read it. Dante was consciously following in the footsteps of Virgil who wrote an adventure called The Aeneid. You might even say that the Lord of the Rings is Tolkien’s follow-up.
Because I wrote the book using old translations of The Divine Comedy I promised myself that when I was done I would get a modern translation and enjoy myself for a while, reading straight through the story. I’m doing that now and finding that I have some strong opinions on different translations. There are hundreds of them and so far I find some of them a bit frustrating. I loved certain passages as I was working myself through the book, and if I read a translation that doesn’t sparkle in those passages I dismiss it.
I saw quite clearly in the three old translations I used, that each translator did better at certain moments.
My book is called Let’s Get Out of Hell: Loving the Divine Comedy and it is published under my pen name, Frances DeChantal.