Tag Archives: Odyssey

Dante’s Inferno

February’s book for my online book club was Dante‘s Inferno. I much preferred this Medieval epic to The Odyssey. It just flowed better. Perhaps it’s the translation. I read the Norton Critical Edition translated by Michael Palma.

In a way, the Inferno is sort of a guide book in which Virgil leads Dante’s personal down, down into the depths of hell. Thus there isn’t a plot as we find in most stories. As the reader follows the pair through each level of hell, you get an understanding of the theology of the day.I also enjoyed learning about all the historical figures, the battles and scandals that led the people to their particular end.

It’s a very visual book and I can see why it makes a good computer game.

It was hard at times not to feel sorry for the damned. I suppose that’s a modern flaw. We tend to rationalize and prefer a softer God. Yet Dante read the New Testament too and probably more often and with a keener mind than I have. I did remind myself that the theology of the time clearly believed in grace and everyone in hell chose it, they could have avoided their punishment.

I was surprised how short the epic was and recommend reading the essays in the back of the critical edition. Also the BBC’s In Our Times has a good program on The Inferno.


Posted by on March 5, 2012 in classic, poetry, World Lit


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This month’s book club selection was Homer’s Odyssey. I read selections or maybe the whole thing in the later years in grade school and all of it in college when I took Greek Lit in translation. The best experience was Greek Lit. My professor was engaging and enthused, which was infectious.

This time my interest waxed and waned. The beginning seemed slow and I had a hard time getting into this classic as I just wanted to follow Odysseus and move beyond the scene back in Ithaca with the boorish suitors chowing down and drinking up at the hero’s expense and eyeing the hero’s elegant wife Penelope. As I read I was impatient to get to the familiar scenes with the Cyclops and the land of the Lotos Eaters. Then I found those parts came earlier than expected and ended too soon.

I loved some of the poetry, the lines about the red fingers of the dawn, but I had trouble enjoying the epic. I was out of sync as I read it. Some of the best adventures like the episode with the Cyclops flew by and others like the beginning with the suitors and Penelope dragged.

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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in classic


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