Monday, June 27, 2022

Dorothy L. Sayers' Dante -- MAILBOX MONDAY


Well, isn’t this divine?

Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the Queens of the Golden Age of mysteries, along with Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, and Josephine Tey. Her series featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and (in some of them) Harriet Vane, is one of my very favorites.

But Sayers was also a classical scholar. In her 50s, she undertook to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy from the 14th Century Italian. She worked on the project until her death in 1957, completing the first and second volumes and most of the third before handing the project to Italian scholar Barbara Reynolds to complete.

Unlike other English translations, including the one I read in college, Sayers maintained the aba bcb cdc rhyming scheme of the original. Not an easy task! But it makes hers a more lively translation. She also included an explanation and notes after each canto. Her essays make the epic poems accessible to ordinary readers.

Sayers’ translation of Hell (Inferno) was published in 1949 as one of the first Penguin Classics. Purgatory (Purgatorio) followed in 1955. Paradise (Paradiso) was published after Reynolds completed it in 1962. Penguin Classics has continued to offer Sayers’ translation of The Divine Comedy ever since.

I was excited to find this set of blue and white Penguin Classic editions of the Sayers’ Dante at the Rose City Book & Paper Fair a couple of weeks back, at the Arches Book House booth. My goal is to do a deep dive and reread them, with all her notes and essays. But we will see when I get around to that. I may “read in” them rather than “read” them.

How about you? Have you read The Divine Comedy or plan to? What translation?


Join other book lovers on Mailbox Monday to share the books that came into your house last week. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf, and Velvet of vvb32reads graciously host Mailbox Monday.

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