My Dante, Part II

Profile portrait of Dante, by Sandro Botticelli

Yesterday I gave my advice for how to enjoy Dante and proposed a new translation. Today I put myself to the test, to see whether my approach to translating Dante is superior to the recent (highly accomplished) verse of Clive James and Mary Jo Bang.

Before we get to that, let me emphasize again the importance of reading the Italian first, even if you don’t understand what you’re reading. My approach assumes you get your fill of versification by reading the Italian for sound. Then you get caught up on the story by quickly breezing through the English.

Look, if you’re not interested in the Italian at all – if all you want to do is experience a long, Dante-like poem in English – you should probably choose the Bang translation or one of the others that attempt to give you both the meaning and the flavor of Dante’s poetry. But if you’re reading in Italian first (as I think you must! come on, it’s Dante!) then go for the easiest English you can.

I took a shot at the opening yesterday. Today I put myself to the test with the famous Paolo and Francesca scene. First, the Dante: Continue reading

Dante in Translation

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In my shout-out to Graywolf press yesterday I neglected to mention their well-received edition of Dante, translated by the accomplished poet Mary Jo Bang. Writing in The New York Review of Books, Robert Pogue Harrison makes a strong case for Bang’s translation over the recent Clive James version. It does sound better. But frankly I’m not sure either is the way I would really wish to read Dante. So what do I want? Continue reading