Thursday, July 1, 2010


by Dante Alighieri

Third volume of the Divine Comedy, focusing on the narrator’s ascent into the height of religious truth, mystery, beauty and goodness. This volume suffers from an interest issue compared to the previous ones in that there’s a direct absence of drama or real striking, and lends itself to a staleness that usually occurs in an attempt to intimately describe the ultimate good, whether it’s God, utopia or heaven. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen in this work, and the result proved itself actually quite engaging. It wasn’t flawless, and in the early sections particularly was rather slow in pace, seeming to drift somewhat and struggle to find the proper balance between description and speeches. Another persistent point of irritation was the stopping of the heavenly focus to have some character deliver a pointed Take That against a corrupt politician or pontiff of Dante’s time. Of course a large purpose of the Divine Comedy had been to threaten and torment people that Dante didn’t like. At least it was the main point in Inferno, here the drawn out condemnations feel redundant and jarring. Similarly, the views on politics don’t emerge as hugely productive, seeming at once over conventional and too dated by the context of the time.

Ultimately the volume works on the strength of its poetry and the way it’s able to energetically imagine what it insists is beyond imaginable. This structure builds up a surprisingly effective source of dramatic tension, between the format offered by aesthetics and the effort to explore religious summit. Ultimately while I’m thoroughly not a believer and found the whole Christian labeling rather irksome there are a lot of scenes of great emotional energy and literary talent. It scopes about explicitly eternity, and offers an attempt at working in ultimates that is quite powerful.

Better than: Purgatorio by Dante Alighieri
Worse than: Revolt of the Angels by Anatole France

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