Robert Hollander makes ‘Purgatorio’ and ‘Paradiso’ hysterical (no, really)

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If you’re going to read the 1000+ pages of Hollander’s translation and commentary on the Divine Comedy, you need something to keep your spirits up.  Fortunately, Hollander understands this.  Rather than getting up for yet another tea break, Hollander peppers his commentary with more surprising remarks than Dante makes sideways threats to Pope Boniface VIII.

Don’t believe me?  Here are the gems he slips into his commentary (I swear I haven’t made any of these up).

  • “Siena jokes being for Florentines what Harvard jokes are for Yalies.” (Holl. comm to Purg. XIII.151-154)
  • “Three days later they [Mary and Joseph] find him [twelve-year-old Jesus] in the temple, explaining a thing or two to the rabbis.” (Holl. comm to Purg. XV.87-93)
  • “The daring of these lines, far beyond approaching that which in Yiddish is referred to as chutzpah, is perhaps not imaginable in any other poet.” (Holl. comm to Par. II.13-15)
  • (in paraphrasing what Dante says) “… but those bastards will never allow me to come back home …” (Holl. comm to Par. XXV.1-9).
  • “Surely a highly competitive candidate in any annual ‘Worst Tercet in the Divine Comedy’ contest …” (Holl. comm to Par. XXVIII.28-30)

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