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Thread: Why is Dante considered a great?

  1. #1

    Why is Dante considered a great?

    I don't want to seem like an ignorant teenager but I don't understand why Dante is considered as one of the 'greats'. Maybe I just read a bad translation but reading The Divine Comedy felt more like a chore than an enjoyable or enlightening read.


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    Literary Superstar Pryderi Agni's Avatar
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    ...Because he imagined a world where none had dared. Dante can be called an "original, original thinker" because his conception of Hell and Heaven concealed great allegorical and interpretative layers that have provided rich rewards to historians studying 'the life of the mind' in pre-Renaissance Europe.

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    The Comedy is one of the "Most likely best artwork ever", so it may just that you read it in a bad day or a bad translation. (Or maybe, it was not written for you)
    Read Il Convivio, it is not a poetic work and you will see Dante genius in a "Minor" work, how he is thinking ahead about the language or even the notion of Italy. A single man who invented a country without using weapons, it is almost what we can say about him...

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    ignoramus et ignorabimus Mr Endon's Avatar
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    I've asked in this forum already, and had a very informative reply from stlukesguild, but would you mind recommending one and one only translation of Dante? I'd really like to read his Comedia, but I don't want to waste time on a bad translation/edition. Thanks in advance!

    [p.s. also, if you know of a good bilingual edition that would be grand!]
    I am still alive then. That may come in useful.
    Molloy

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    I can not be very helpful here, since my experience with Dante is with portuguese translations and I never read him in english. I am curious to read Longfellow translation but as curiosity, since I like to read translations of great poets, since it shows much of their own aesthetical vision, but I have no such oportunity yet.

  6. #6
    ignoramus et ignorabimus Mr Endon's Avatar
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    [warning: thread hijacking]

    Thanks for the help nonetheless. That reminds me, have you read Fernando Pessoa's translation of Poe's 'The Raven'? A very bold one, with all the rhymes and rhyme schemes, if I remember correctly! In case you've read it I was wondering what you make of it.
    I am still alive then. That may come in useful.
    Molloy

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    Yes, I have. There is two great portuguese translations of The Raven, Pessoa and Machado de Assis. It is interesting to compare both, Pessoa obeys more the metric, Machado the sound atmosphere. Machado even split in stanzas, unlikely Poe.
    I prefer Pessoa, not only because he obeys more Poe own theory of composition, as Pessoa is more complete Poet, able to hide himself and allow other voices to be present in his poem. Pessoa is also a superior poet, so his translation is better also.
    Poe is lucky... having Pessoa, Baudelaire, Mallarme, Machado de Assis, Borges, Cortazar as translator to spanish, french and portuguese is certaintly great for the living of his own texts.

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    Yeah I'd have to say that you must have a bad translation of the comedia :S

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    ignoramus et ignorabimus Mr Endon's Avatar
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    That's quite an impressive array of translators! For a writer who's nowadays deemed just above average by some this is certainly an argument for his genius. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I can see they're something to go by.

    And I had no idea Machado de Assis had translated it as well, I must read his version, then.


    hampusforev, would you care to recommend a good one?
    I am still alive then. That may come in useful.
    Molloy

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    ah, do you read portuguese? So, my Comedy version is by ítalo Eugenio Mauro, Published by Editora 34, bilingual.

  11. #11
    ignoramus et ignorabimus Mr Endon's Avatar
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    Yessir I do (I'm Portuguese). Thanks for the recommendation, then, and an extra golden star for you for being a bilingual edition!
    I am still alive then. That may come in useful.
    Molloy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Endon View Post
    That's quite an impressive array of translators! For a writer who's nowadays deemed just above average by some this is certainly an argument for his genius. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I can see they're something to go by.

    And I had no idea Machado de Assis had translated it as well, I must read his version, then.


    hampusforev, would you care to recommend a good one?
    Well it's a complicated issue obviously, basically, do you want one which preserves the terza rima, an acessible one, one which fits the english language? I know I like the Robert Pinsky one, because it's just a nice blend of atmosphere, terza rima which fits english and vernacular, and also it's a poetic translation, instead of a prosaic one. On the flipside, he only translated Inferno. John Ciardi does a very good job, and I really liked that one.

    Of course, I can't read Italian so what the hell do I know?

    Oh, and the Pinsky-edition is often bilingual which is great.

  13. #13
    ignoramus et ignorabimus Mr Endon's Avatar
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    I've heard of this Pinsky fellow. Too bad he only did Inferno, though. I'll check this Ciardi as well then, thanks!
    I am still alive then. That may come in useful.
    Molloy

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    If you are getting into the "terza rima or not" debate then you might like to read "Divine comedies for the new millennium: recent Dante translations in America" ... By Ronald de Rooy. Much of it is available in Google books, and it's in Questia...

    The feelings amongst the scholars mentioned in Rooy seems to be tending towards the idea that terza rima is just too difficult to get right in English. If you try to get anywhere near terza rima you lose meaning. So I it's a trade off between meaning and poetic form. I prefer meaning & plain readability, so Musa is at the top of my list (Hollander might be, but I want a complete comedy in one book at a reasonable price without an excess of notes...)

    There are many complete comedies that get high praise from some, and each have their detractors! There is no consensus on "the one translation". On reading the first few pages of every translation I could find, I prefer Musa. So that's the one I'll get, unless someone here can convince me against it!

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Endon View Post
    I've asked in this forum already, and had a very informative reply from stlukesguild, but would you mind recommending one and one only translation of Dante? I'd really like to read his Comedia, but I don't want to waste time on a bad translation/edition. Thanks in advance!

    [p.s. also, if you know of a good bilingual edition that would be grand!]
    Having asked the same question before, Stlukes in the past has recommended the Allen Mandelbaum translation, which is the copy I personally have, as well as the John Ciardi, amongst others. I believe that Mandelbaum's is generally considered an all round, well regarded copy, whereas Ciardi's is a little more "poetic" in nature, either way I don't think you could go wrong with either of these versions. I don't think though that there is an ultimate "one and only translation" Stlukes has recommended reading the text from more than one translation, I suppose the same could be said for any Major work that you can only read via translation, Homer etc.

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