Summer reading program

I had been slogging through Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War, and made it to the last half of War and Remembrance. It’s good (The Caine Mutiny is better), but it’s too long. I’ve put it aside for now in favor of Anthony Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Paradise. The introduction is excellent; the original is on the facing pages; the footnotes are helpfully arranged with some on the page and some in the back; there are five appendices, and Dore’s illustrations. The translation I’m familiar with is Allen Mandelbaum’s. I’m no critic, but maybe Esolen’s verse is more accessible, and Mandelbaum’s more poetic.

Mandelbaum:

The glory of the One who moves all things
permeates the universe and glows
in one part more and in another less.
  I was within the heaven that receives
more of His light; and I saw things that he
who from that height descends, forgets or can
  not speak; for nearing its desired end,
our intellect sinks into an abyss
so deep that memory fails to follow it.
  Nevertheless, as much as I, within
my mind, could treasure of the holy kingdom
shall now become the matter of my song.

Esolen:

The glory of the One who moves all things
  penetrates the universe with light,
  more radiant in one part and elsewhere less:
I have been in that heaven He makes most bright,
  and seen things neither mind can hold nor tongue
  utter, when one descends from such great height,
For as we near the One for whom we long,
  our intellects so plunge into the deep,
  memory cannot follow where we go. 
Nevertheless what small part I can keep
  of that holy kingdom treasured in my heart
  will now become the matter of my song.

Otherwise, while I’m in the car there’s The Adventures of Gerard, by Arthur Conan Doyle. The audiobook is from Librivox. It’s light stuff, but beats both NPR and contemporary music. On the nightstand is Mean Dads for a Better America, by Tom Shillue. These are funny stories about growing up in Boston in the 70s, and they are pretty funny.

UPDATE 10 July 2017: Jerusalem Delivered

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2 Replies to “Summer reading program”

  1. Do not apologize for having an opinion (“I’m not critic”). You may not be a celebrated critic, but by daring to have an opinion, you are one. However, it might be that in the esoteric region of antique literature you need to step carefully to avoid offending someone’s overly sensitive feelings.

    I am not big on celebrated literature. I only read what I enjoy reading. Over the years, there have been several books I picked up because thought I should read them, but it never happens. I still have hopes of maybe finding one that I should read that will capture my attention enough that I do end up reading it, but I’m not counting my chickens.

    From the examples you give of the work of Dante’s translators, I would say you are spot on with ‘accessible’ and ‘poetic’.

    I don’t like gray text. It’s hard to read. These days I want big BLACK text rendered in a legible font.

    If this comment seems excessive, you can blame it on the toothache (day nine) and the narcotics (day 4). Dentist pulled the offending tooth yesterday, so I should be on the mend.

    1. Too bad about the toothache – hope your recovery is going well.

      I agree about the gray text. I should go through the Wrodpress themes and see if there’s a new one that’s better.

      Inferno, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is a good read.

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