Manny's Reviews > Från helvetet till paradiset: En bok om Dante och hans komedi

Från helvetet till paradiset by Olof Lagercrantz
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really liked it
bookshelves: spanish-and-italian, swedish-norwegian-and-danish, history-and-biography

I had not even heard of Olof Lagercrantz's book about Dante until I inherited a copy a few months ago from Gio's late aunt - but it is very good, and I have been carrying it around all week and reading it while shopping and making social calls. Appropriately, I finished it early on Christmas morning.

It is impressive to see how much work Lagercrantz has done. He has not only read all of Dante's works many times in the original, but also most of the important translations and a great deal of critical literature, in Italian, English, French, German and (of course) Swedish. He must have been tempted to write a monstrous, unreadable tome which showed off his vast learning, but he has exercised restraint and kept it down to 200 elegant pages. As an amateur - I have only read the Divine Comedy once, in the Dorothy Sayers version - I was able to read the book in a few days, enjoy it, and learn many things I should have known but didn't. Lagercrantz is inspiring rather than overpowering; he quotes the Italian often enough that he made me very curious to attempt it myself, but not so often that I started skipping it. I wish more people would write this way.

Two things stood out for me. First, I had always had the feeling that Dante, in the Inferno, is referring just as much to his own sins as to those of the damned spirits he meets, but I'd never been very sure I could say why. Lagercranz develops this as one of his major themes. The clearest example is perhaps the meeting with Ulysses in the circle of the False Counselors. It had completely escaped my attention that Ulysses drowns when in his pride he undertakes the impious voyage to the Island of Purgatory; of course, Dante is doing the very same thing in his poem, and will arrive there a few Canti later. And second, I had not properly understood that Beatrice is simultaneously Christ, who descends from Heaven to save Dante's soul. This is a very beautiful and powerful image, but it is also shockingly close to blasphemy. Dante, needless to say, knows this: he is well aware of the tightrope he is walking, and I had not grasped how extraordinary it is that he manages to reach the other side without falling into the bottomless pit beneath.

I suspect that Från helvetet till paradiset has had a considerable influence on recent Scandinavian literature, where there have been a remarkable number of books structurally based on the Divine Comedy. The most obvious example is Burman's Den tionde sånggudinnan , where there is no reasonable doubt. At least to me, there is also strong evidence that the fifth volume of Knausgård's Min kamp is patterned on Dante. But the most interesting example is Jan Kjærstad's Jonas Wergeland trilogy, where the key ideas, in particular the identification of Beatrice with Christ, are developed in a wonderfully unexpected and creative way. I think I will have to reread Kjærstad next year. Maybe I'll finally be able to understand just how it all fits together.
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Reading Progress

December 17, 2016 – Started Reading
December 17, 2016 – Shelved
December 17, 2016 –
page 15
6.94% "I överensstämmelse med den medeltida konventionen som säger att man ej bör nämna, ännu mindre pråla med sitt eget namn, en konvention som Dante för egen del noga följer, säger den hese främlingen ej sitt namn men använder en minst lika effektiv metod att presentera sig för den vilsekomna pilgrimen."
December 18, 2016 –
page 35
16.2% "Per me si va nella città dolente;\nper me si va nell' eterno dolore;\nper me si va tra la perduta gente.\n\nGiustizia mosse il mio alto Fattore\nfecemi la divina Potestate,\nla somma Sapienza e il primo Amore.\n\nDinanzi a me non fur cose create,\nse non eterne, ed io eterna duro:\nlasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate"
December 19, 2016 –
page 55
25.46% "Den fromma katoliken och Danteöversättarinnan Dorothy Sayers, vilken under ett mindre fromt skede av sitt liv skrev detektivromaner och sedan några år - så hoppas jag gärna - vistas i den himmel som hon ej tvivlade på, hävdar att Francesca gav efter alltför lätt, att hon saknade förmåga att säga nej och att hon odlade ett överdrivet självmedlidande."
December 20, 2016 –
page 95
43.98% "En inrättning för korrektion av själarna efter döden ter sig för de flesta av oss förnuftsvidrig och löjlig. Men som tillstånd är det däremot ingenting som är oss välbekantare än skärselden, ty den är helt enkelt identisk med vårt liv sådant vi lever det här på jorden."
December 21, 2016 –
page 120
55.56% "I didn't know that the Purgatorio contained a passage in medieval Provençal!Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;
consiros vei la passada folor,
e vei jausen lo joi qu'esper, denan.

Ara vos prec, per aquella valor
que vos guida al som de l'escalina,
sovenha vos a temps de ma dolor"
December 21, 2016 –
page 120
55.56% ""I didn't know that the Purgatorio contained a passage in medieval Provençal!
Ieu sui Arnaut, que plor e vau cantan;\nconsiros vei la passada folor,\ne vei jausen lo joi qu'esper, denan.\n\nAra vos prec, per aquella valor\nque vos guida al som de l'escalina,\nsovenha vos a temps de ma dolor
"
December 22, 2016 –
page 145
67.13% "Diktaren och tänkaren har intet fädernesland. Han är hemma där han i frihet kan tänka och skriva och i landsflykt överallt där denna frihet är vägrad honom."
December 24, 2016 –
page 145
67.13% "De sista tre graderna är Furstendömerna, Ärkeänglarna och de vanliga Änglarna. Först nu kommer vi till en andlighetsgrad som kan tänkas intressera sig för vanliga människor. Furstendömerna ger kungarna råd. Ärkeänglar hjälper nationer. Änglarna ingriper i vanliga människors liv."
December 24, 2016 –
page 190
87.96% "De sista tre graderna är Furstendömerna, Ärkeänglarna och de vanliga Änglarna. Först nu kommer vi till en andlighetsgrad som kan tänkas intressera sig för vanliga människor. Furstendömerna ger kungarna råd. Ärkeänglar hjälper nationer. Änglarna ingriper i vanliga människors liv."
December 24, 2016 – Shelved as: spanish-and-italian
December 24, 2016 – Shelved as: swedish-norwegian-and-danish
December 24, 2016 – Shelved as: history-and-biography
December 25, 2016 – Finished Reading

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