THE OTHER DAY I went to my neighborhood's second-hand bookstore after dinner. I was browsing through the new titles with the other customers. Some were leafing through magazines, which I don't give a fig about. Others were looking at thick academic books—no, thank you: I have enough medical books to read for a lifetime. But there was one customer who caught my eye, a man in corduroy, with thick glasses, carrying a notebook containing a list of Books to Read. He was already carrying a hardbound James Salter novel, something I'd been looking for since I'd read Light Years and A Sport and A Pastime. I stalked him, followed him in various corners, and a part of me wished he'd drop the book and pick something else. But he went on to buy the Salter anyway. It devastated me at first, but I later wished him well. That book wasn't meant for me.
I went back the next day. I spotted The Inferno of Dante in the verse translation of Robert Pinsky. It sold for about Php 200. Cheap, considering the original price would be in the thousands. I figured I could add it to my growing library. You probably know I have a lot of unread books, books I've bought out of compulsion. I excuse this wanton disregard for my lack of shelf-space by quoting Dr. Albert Mohler's classic excuse for book-buying: there may come a time when I'll have nothing else to read.
The Inferno is truly a work of genius—no wonder it has withstood the test of time. My initial reaction to it was intimidation, but I was surprised—and what a pleasant surprise it was—to find out that it's a relatively easy read. Robert Pinsky wanted the translation to be dynamic. Dante Alighieri wrote it in Italian, the language spoken by the masses, so Pinsky worked hard to make his translation accessible to the English-speaking world. I've realized that since The Divine Comedy is essentially poetry, I should read it slowly to derive the greatest pleasure. I've munched on every line, drawing lines beneath my favorite verses, and writing notes on the margins. I'm still reading it now.
I've downloaded the rest of The Divine Comedy in the Longfellow translation. I'd be glad if you would join me in this quest to finish reading what can only be described as a literary masterpiece.