Humanities Magazine’s “What’s the Best Way to Read the Divine Comedy If You Don’t Know Italian?”

humanities-magazine-tour-of-translation-2020-wikimedia“In comparing these two translations, the Sayers version seems to win out in two ways—it matches Dante in form and, to a degree, in content. By starting with ‘Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,’ she remains faithful to the starting point, ‘nel mezzo,’ while Mandelbaum pushes this to the middle of the first line. Sayers adds ‘bound upon’ (not, strictly speaking, in the original), which allows her to make the rhyme in the third line with ‘gone.’ But Mandelbaum is more faithful to the directness of the original, not stretching the meaning or introducing words to make the rhyme. His metered language often seems more natural than Sayers’ and more in keeping with the diction of Dante, which favored solid vocabulary and straight-forward syntax. Mandelbaum, will, in fact, interject rhyme if it’s not forced (as he does with way and stray). In spite of first impressions favoring Sayers, most readers who choose to make the entire journey from inferno to purgatory and finally paradise ultimately find the Mandelbaum translation more satisfying.” [. . .]    –Steve Moyer, Humanities: The Magazine Of The National Endowment For The Humanities, 2017

 

CIX, Hello Chapter 3: Hello, Strange Time (2020)

See the video teaser trailer here 

Contributed by Justin Meckes

Epigraph to the Novel Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild , and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thought renews the fear!”    –David Guterson, Epigraph to Snow Falling on Cedars, September 1994

Check out Snow Falling on Cedars on Amazon here.

Contributed by Daniel Christian.

Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı, “Otuz Beş Yaş” (1946)

“Cahit Sıtkı Tarancı’s poem entitled ’35 years old,’ when translated from Turkish to English, references coming to the middle of your life, 35 years old, like Dante did when he took his journey to hell (referenced in Canto 1). The line reads, ‘35 years old, that is half way through life, we are in the middle of our lives like Dante.'” –Su Ertekin-Taner

The collection Otuz Beş Yaş was published in 1946. Here is the opening of the poem, in the original Turkish:

“Yaş otuz beş! yolun yarısı eder.
Dante gibi ortasındayız ömrün.
Delikanlı çağımızdaki cevher,
Yalvarmak, yakarmak nafile bugün,
Gözünün yaşına bakmadan gider.”

Read the full poem here.

Contributed by Su Ertekin-Taner, The Bolles School ’22

Kinder spot, Epifania 2018

During the 2018 holiday season, Kinder Italia ran this advertisement, featuring the Befana dressed as Dante, lamenting the “selva di calze infinita” at the supermarkets. Click the image below to view the full ad, available on YouTube.


Contributed by Ludovica Valentini (Florida State University, MA ’18)

“Empty Nester In ‘The Woods’: A Modern Dantean Journey”

“Allowing for translation, those are the immortal opening lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Here, some seven centuries later, are some of Lynn Darling’s opening lines from her new memoir, Out of the Woods: ‘The summer my only child left home for college, I moved from an apartment in New York City, to live alone in a small house at the end of a dirt road in the woods of central Vermont.'”    —

Learn more about Lynn Darling’s 2014 book Out of the Woods here.

Out of the Woods can be found on Amazon.

Vinson Cunningham, “How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think”

“The  great poetic example of the blurriness between the everyday and the ever after is Dante’s Inferno, which begins with the narrator ‘midway upon the journey of our life,’ having wandered away from the life of God and into a ‘forest dark.’ That wood, full of untamed animals and fears set loose, leads the unwitting pilgrim to Virgil, who acts as his guide through the ensuing ordeal, and whose Aeneid, itself a recapitulation of the Odyssey, acts as a pagan forerunner to the Inferno. This first canto of the poem, regrettably absent from the Book of Hell, reads as a kind of psychological-metaphysical map, marking the strange route along which one person’s private trouble leads both outward and downward, toward the trouble of the rest of the world.

[. . .]

“Insecurity is a tomb; these are the kinds of midlife crises from which few people recover. ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ is as applicable to certain poisonous habits of mind as to the gates of Hell. One leads, inexorably, to the other.” — Vinson Cunningham, “How the Idea of Hell Has Shaped the Way We Think,” Review of The Penguin Book of Hell in The New Yorker (January 21, 2019)

Go, Went, Gone (2015 novel by Jenny Erpenbeck)

“Would you like to read something while I’m getting lunch ready? Rufu says: Si, volontieri. The only book in Italian that Richard owns is Dante’s Divine Comedy. For years he’d been planning to read it in the original, but at some point the plan slipped his mind. For years, the Italian dictionary has stood beside it on his shelf. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura/ché la diritta via era smarrita. He can still recite the opening lines in Italian from memory. Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, the right road lost. Maybe not such a bad choice after all, he thinks, and hands the refugee — who’s gone a half a world astray — the burgundy-linen bound first volume.” — Jenny Erpenbeck, Go, Went, Gone (2015). Trans. from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions, 2017).

See Adam Kirsch’s review of the novel, a fiction about the impact of the refugee crisis on European and global politics, here.

Contributed by Pete Maiers

“I Found Myself in a Dark Wood”

i-found-myself-in-a-dark-wood“ ‘In the middle of our life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood.’ So begins one of the most celebrated and difficult poems ever written, Dante’s Divine Comedy, a more than 14,000-line epic on the soul’s journey through the afterlife. The tension between the pronouns says it all: Although the ‘I’ belongs to Dante, who died in 1321, his journey is also part of ‘our life.’ We will all find ourselves in a dark wood one day, the lines suggest. That day came six years ago for me, when my pregnant wife, Katherine, died suddenly in a car accident. Forty-five minutes before her death, she delivered our daughter, Isabel, a miracle of health rescued by emergency cesarean. I had left the house that morning at 8:30 to teach a class; by noon, I was a father and a widower.”    –Joseph Luzzi, The New York Times, December 18, 2013

Contributed by Janet E. Gomez

See also the New York Times review of Luzzi’s 2014 memoir, In a Dark Wood.

Contributed by Stephanie HotzUniversity of Texas at Austin

“Nel Mezzo del Cammin…”

malloy-photo-nel-mezzo-del-cammin

Contributed by Patrick Molloy