I'm afraid it's over between us, El. And Patrick. I read this whole thing all over again just because you said I'm an asshole and it's really very good, and guess who's the asshole? Dante. Dante is the asshole.
Here are the three problems with this book:
1) It is confusing. There are famously nine circles, right? Fine. But after the sixth, we start subdividing, so there are three rings in the seventh circle, and three parts of the third ring, and ten bolgias in the eighth circle, and you just kinda lose track.
It's not a good story, because you get lost. In hell. Which is a bummer.
2) He is petty. He spends half the book taking potshots at various of his personal enemies, many of whom we still don't know who they are, and that's shitty of him and boring for me.
3) Dante is an asshole. You know about how Dante the pilgrim learns to scorn sinners as he goes, right? So when he runs into Paolo and Francesca in the second circle he's like "Aw, that's a bummer that you went to hell for fucking your sister," but then by the third bolgia of the eighth circle he's like ha ha, Pope, get back to getting your feet burnt. Dante the author's point is, no pity! Fuck 'em!
Also, one of the parts of the third ring of the seventh circle is sodomites - the other two are blasphemers and usurers - and even for back then that seems like he's super homophobic.But,
you're whining, everyone was an asshole back then!
No, everyone wasn't. Boccaccio wrote The Decameron
at basically the same time, and the vision of society he presents is much more forgiving of all kinds of sin. Boccaccio describes the same world Dante does, but with more humor, more humanity, more understanding. (True, Boccaccio himself later disliked the Decameron for basically that reason - he was like "This is totally immoral!" - but still.
At least he wrote it.)
I'm sure the language is lovely in the original, and it's a wicked bummer that I can't read it. But I've now tried three different translations of this thing - Pinsky, Musa and Ciardi - and while each of them has moments of beauty, they're still translations of a story that, at the core, I find disagreeable.
I think I'm all set with this one, fellas.