Yesterday morning, we had this kind of strange Internet outage at work: some web sites never loaded, some were slow to load, and some loaded right away. Some of our Intranet sites worked--some did not. In short, it was hard to do work of any kind.
I could get the Broward County public library website to load, so I was able to find out that the Main library had the version of Dante's Inferno that I wanted to read--it's the next book after Hard Times in my self-improvement via reading plan. My partner-in-reading friend has already started.
I didn't have any lunch plans, so I took my lunch hour by going to the public library downtown. What a treat!
I was surprised to find out how many poets have translated this work. I got 2, one by Robert Pinsky and one by Mary Jo Bang. And then, later in the afternoon, my partner-in-reading friend happened to be on campus. So we made ourselves cups of tea and compared the two versions.
I thought I would like the one by Pinsky better than the one by Bang. I had heard how much Pinsky tried to stay true to the terza rima, but it didn't impress me as much as I wanted to be impressed. The rhymes seem to be slant rhymes more than true rhymes.
My friend suggested that maybe we need to hear it rather than reading it on the page. She's been reading Inferno by listening to the Pinsky version read by someone who is not Pinsky. She will loan me each CD as she finishes them. It will be interesting to compare these reading experiences.
We talked about the works inspired by this text, most notably "The Waste Land." We talked about how religious ideas have made it into our wider culture. My friend said that most of what she knows about Christianity comes from Dante and from Milton. I posited that most of what Christians think they know about their religion comes from Dante and from Milton.
My friend talked about taking a class where they read Inferno, fallowed by "Paradise Lost," followed by "The Waste Land." Once I might have turned up my nose at such a traditional approach to epic poetry. Now I like the linking of these poems, the opportunity to trace imagery, a different language to fill my head.
My friend and I have agreed that we will not be rereading "Paradise Lost." Will we change our minds?
We also talked about later literary circles. We've both been reading The Fellowship, the book about Tolkien and Lewis and the Inklings. She's decided that the Bloomsbury group was better; the anti-female nature of the Inklings has repulsed her, and I understand. The lack of mental health of the Bloomsbury group concerns me and makes it hard for me to embrace them fully.
It's wonderful to have a friend with whom I can have these conversations. It's sobering to realize that although I am in academia, there are precious few people who could follow our thoughts--and it's not because we're making such abstract connections.
We looked at Canto One; she read the Pinsky translation out loud, and then I read the Bang. I could have done that all afternoon, but we both had early dinner appointments with different friends, so we stopped after several stanzas.
I returned home feeling nourished in all sorts of ways. It's enough to make me wish that the Internet would fail a bit more often.
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