I mean it. No kidding. Six of us met the other evening and came to a momentous decision: the next book we read together will be Dante’s Inferno.
Our merry band originally formed to read James Joyce’s Ulysses, which a couple members said they could never hope to get through without support, and we were emboldened by our success (due largely to Steve’s leadership) to go on to read plays by Shakespeare, Molière and Beckett, then Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina. I was the wimp on the last round, sitting out Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, pleading too many other commitments for the fall season.
But now—Dante! We launched ourselves into the mood by looking at Steve and Lauran’s photo albums of their trip to Italy and by hearing about Marilyn’s more recent Rome-to-Florence adventure. The rest of us were nonplussed when Marilyn said that Dante’s name was originally Durante. Like Jimmy? Imagine that!
More serious consideration on our first Dante evening was to decide which edition to read and whose translation. In the end we agreed that we didn’t need to worry much about everyone reading the same English words with this particular work, as we can refer to a canto by Roman numeral and, within cantos, to numbered lines. So it is that four of us are committed to Mandelbaum’s translation, while Steve will be using his trusty Binyon, which features a synopsis of each canto immediately preceding it, rather than endnotes, and the sixth member will rely on an audio version. It will be interesting to experience more than one version of the work in our discussion.
If all goes well when we meet in January, we may proceed to the other sections of The Divine Comedy in the spring. But maybe not, too. As someone scrawled in the back of my paperback copy of Paradiso:
Is it easier to describe sin, horror and death? Satan in Milton the most interesting angel--the tortures in Inferno very creative, graphic, in terms of earthly bodies that we would understand--Paradise just a bunch of lights.Well, that's one person's anonymous opinion. How do you see it? Are sinners most interesting than angels? And where would you put saints on that continuum?