The second book in the three-part Divine Comedy finds Dante and his guide, Virgil, halfway between Heaven and Hell. Having portrayed the tortures of the damned in Inferno, Dante resumes his allegory of the soul's journey to God with Purgatorio. A place of pain but also hope, Purgatory allows its suffering souls to reflect upon their sins and to work toward their moral improvement, paving the way for their eventual entry to Paradiso.
Dante transformed the traditional notion of Purgatory by depicting how aspiring souls could undergo moral change, exchanging their human frailty for divine perfection. His exploration of theological issues, especially the role of free will, offers an eloquent and inspiring parable of human possibility and redemption. This edition features the renowned translation by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and serves as a companion volume to the Dover editions of Inferno and Paradiso.
In addition to the Pessoa title reviewed above, a tremendous amount of terrific poetry in translation is due this fall and winter. The books listed below, in varying ways, re-examine classics and introduce modern masters to English speakers.PURGATORIODante Alighieri, trans. from the Italian by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander. Doubleday, $35 (656p) With its elegant, carefully negotiated translations and canto-by-canto notes, outlines and annotations, this second volume from the Hollanders takes its place beside last year's Inferno and paves the way for Paradise. These translations, honed over Robert Hollander's 35 years teaching Dante at Princeton, are touted as the U.S. English standard for rendering Dante's layered meanings.