PURGATORIO by Dante Alighieri


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This is the central volume, in terms of both its place and prominence, of the triptych of Dante's Divine Comedy. It seems

to be a current trend to commission contemporary poets and translators to breathe new life into classical works with facing-page

translations of the original texts—Dante's Inferno was similarly translated just two years ago—and it is an idea that makes a good

deal of sense, for who is better qualified to strip the original works of their layers of glosses and scholarly obfuscations than a

poet who can simultaneously pay obeisance to both the letter and the spirit of the work? Merwin is himself a poet of some

renown, regarded not only for his verse but also for his prose and his previous works of translation (among them, The Song of

Roland and The Poem of the Cid). He has received many distinguished awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize,

and a fellowship in the Academy of American Poets. One might wonder what relevance Dante's work of sin, repentance, and salvation has in an age that shuns responsibility for personal actions: Merwin himself suggests that any poetic work, unless consigned to an ash heap of obscurity, will be rediscovered and reinterpreted in every age until it becomes "increasingly foreign to those horizons of human history that fostered the original images and references." Yet these are signs of a poetic work's vitality, not its morbidity. Arguably Merwin's most ambitious translation project to date, and the result is fresh and vibrant, as revelatory as a newly restored fresco.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-40921-1
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000


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