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Den guddommelige Komedie, vol. II: Skærsilden

af Dante Alighieri

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Serier: The Divine Comedy (2)

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An invaluable source of pleasure to those English readers who wish to read this great medieval classic with true understanding, Sinclair's three-volume prose translation of Dante's Divine Comedy provides both the original Italian text and the Sinclair translation, arranged on facing pages, and commentaries, appearing after each canto, which serve as brilliant examples of genuine literary criticism. This volume contains the complete translation of Dante's Purgatorio.… (mere)

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Engelsk (34)  Italiensk (3)  Catalansk (2)  Svensk (1)  Fransk (1)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (42)
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35. Purgatorio]by Dante Alighieri
translation and notes: Jean Hollander & Robert Hollander
published: 1320, translation 2003
format: 827-page Paperback, with original Italian, translation and notes
acquired: September
read: May 3 – Jun 28
time reading: 38 hr 6 min, 2.8 min/page
rating: 5
locations: Purgatory (antipodal to Jerusalem)
about the author Florentine poet, c. 1265 – 1321

I read this in such a pleasant way, every morning reading the Hollander summary, then the Canto itself, then going through the Hollander notes while reading the Canto a second time. There was ritual aspect to it. Then I finished and had nothing I felt I needed to say. This is and was so strange it's stumped my ability to write anything at all about this. So below is more a report than a review.

Purgatorio is nothing like Inferno in its impact. Here nothing is permanent, and the tragic aspects are not only a whole lot milder, but also are subsumed by Dante's own purging and entering into Garden of Eden. Dante can and does create and build on the sense of adventure, fascination, or narrative space and dimensions he created in Inferno, but he couldn't possibly duplicate the wonderful awfulness of his first book, and yet Inferno leaves its lingering presence here. Its enough.

Like he did with Hell, Dante here definitively defined the idea of Purgatory for the rest of history. Even more so here, as he had no artwork or narrative to work with. Purgatory was only defined by the Catholic church in 1274, at the Second Council of Lyon, a place in the afterlife for purging of sinful but uncondemned lives, especially for those who came back to Christ at the last moments before death, and after an otherwise sinful life. It's a loose idea to work with. Unlike Heaven and Hell, Purgatory has a time element. Souls pass pass through. And they have a goal, a purpose to weather whatever challenges this world throws at them.

Dante creates an ante-purgatory, and entry place for the souls on the right side of the razors edge, but who still haven't managed entry into Purgatory proper. They are welcomed with a surprise, the Roman Cato, a hero of the lost Republic. His cohorts, Brutus and Cassius, were especially selected, along with Judas Iscariot, for the most prominent position in the lowest level of hell, in the mouth of Lucifer, eternally gnawed on. So it's a mystery as to why Cato has so much better an outcome. I think its, in a way, a kind of statement by Dante that he's in charge of this world and it follows his rules. The second surprise of a sort is that Virgil has to figure out where to go. Dante's fearless guide in Inferno, who had travelled and knew the whole length of that world, even though he resided in the relatively pleasant Limbo space, has never made it this far. He's out of his element, and has to find his way, and he is worse off then everyone around him. Purgatory is a place of hope, of sustained pain accepted, even embraced, as the price of entry into Heaven. Virgil, condemned to Limbo, has no such hope.

Once in Purgatory, our pair wander through the seven sins (Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony and Lust), each a layer with its own entry, and messages that are either visual or made of voices that just come out of the air, its own purging punishments appropriate for that sin, and each with an exit. They will meet famous characters with mixed records, and deceased and flawed one-time associates from Dante's life, and they will deal with their own challenges, exhaustions, uncertainties and visions. They will even meet one who has completed the process and is now saved, the Roman Poet Statius, author of the Thebiad and the unfinished epic, the Achilleida. Statius was devoted to Virgil's work, and saw him as the great poet. Unlike Virgil, Statius lived long enough to learn of Christ. Dante allows him a secret late saving conversion.

Statius hangs around and the three poets enter the Garden of Eden together, the earthly heaven. They are met first by a mysterious beauty, Matelda, then Beatrice herself, Dante's guiding light, and finally a heavenly procession with symbolic virtues, a Christ-like griffin and so on. What takes place is play of Dante with love and sex (and knowledge) contrasted with the ideal and purified sexless divine experience. Dante will characterize these non-sexual ladies with sexually charged poetic references, and go through a series of marriage-references with his Beatrice. He tells us, "desire upon desire so seized me.” It's a playful fight with Dante learning to gain control over his own will. Virgil will bless him as master of his will, a success, and then Virgil will fade away. Beatrice shrugs off the loss of our guide, merely commenting, famously, "Dante, because Virgil has departed”, and carries on. That line is considered the climax of the whole Comedy and of this book.

Dante, of course, is not done. He will be led by Matelda through the river Lethe, forgetting his sins, and be rewarded, especially, with the famous smile of Beatrice. "And then I shared the temporary blindness of those whose eyes have just been smitten by the sun, leaving me sightless for a time." Beatrice is not a bride, but more of a Christ-like figure, or maybe a Christ-bride. She gives Dante a prophecy and an order to record his experience. Finally Matelda leads him though the second river in the garden, the River Eunoe. This is Dante's own creation, and the river strengthens his memories of his good deeds. And so it ends.

2020
https://www.librarything.com/topic/318836#7219031 ( )
  dchaikin | Jul 18, 2020 |
The main thing I learned is that the best time to read (or reread) this classic is during Lent. Who knew?

Like the rest of the Commedia, the poem is meticulously structured. The three parts are the arrival at Mount Purgatory (the only landmass opposite the inhabited continents of the known Earth), then the climb up the mountain around the seven cornices of purification, then the allegorical pageant of the blessed in the Earthly Paradise. Unlike the descent into Hell, Dante and Virgil complete their ascent over the course of a few days after Easter AD 1300, and because they may not make upward progress while the Sun is down, there are enforced rest (and dream) periods. This time when Dante interviews the souls they have an orientation toward Heaven; they are already saved, and submit to their trials voluntarily, as a sort of ultimate self-improvement. The stories are sometimes quite similar to what we saw in Inferno, with the addition of a sincere repentance and absolution at the end. At the same time, Dante the pilgrim is changing, having his sins erased from his brow as he grows lighter and lighter on his trip up the mountain. The way Dante understands what he sees when he arrives in Eden is Scholastic, not psychological, and it takes a fair amount of exertion to get into the proper frame of mind to appreciate the symbols and allusions packed into these scenes. This kind of work is not for everyone, probably, but there are moments of great beauty for the reader who can make the journey.
( )
1 stem rmagahiz | Jul 9, 2020 |
His rendering of the Purgatory is distinguished by the same flexible iambic verse, the same dignified understatement, and the same elegant clarity that characterizes Dante's own lofty and complex style.
  StFrancisofAssisi | Oct 25, 2019 |
Loved it. ( )
  gmcz | May 28, 2019 |
The Sinclair translation, as ever, is superb, and the notes and introductions continue to be very useful. Dante emerges after the trials of Inferno and climbs the mount of Purgatory with Virgil, participating in the penance necessary to cleanse him of his sins. As in Inferno, the souls are put through various trials which testify to Dante's ever-erudite imagination. The cantica concludes with Dante being reunited with his beloved Beatrice; but there is a bittersweet note as Virgil, a pagan despite his fine qualities, is denied entrance to Paradise. ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Dec 8, 2017 |
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An invaluable source of pleasure to those English readers who wish to read this great medieval classic with true understanding, Sinclair's three-volume prose translation of Dante's Divine Comedy provides both the original Italian text and the Sinclair translation, arranged on facing pages, and commentaries, appearing after each canto, which serve as brilliant examples of genuine literary criticism. This volume contains the complete translation of Dante's Purgatorio.

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