Frederic Raphael

Rich Pickings

Curiosity

By

Yale University Press 377pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

On his deathbed, after doctors confirmed that there was no hope, Lope de Vega said, ‘In that case, I can say it: Dante bores me!’ Might it be that, for all his prodigious output and national renown, the celebrated Spanish dramatist had a sense that the Florentine refugee would outlive him in literary fame? The Divine Comedy, tedious or not, has been translated many more times than any of Lope de Vega’s prolific output. The recent, chatty version by Clive James has been criticised for the author’s insertion of his own explanatory glosses into Dante’s text without apology or annotation. To my mind, James’s interstitials render invaluable service to any reader without easy access to the original. Going along similar lines, Alberto Manguel’s generously plump Curiosity makes Dante the pretext for diversions, decorations and literary fancies.

Manguel himself is an exile, although of a comfortable, now sedentary and uncomplaining order. A Jew born in Argentina,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Moore’s work has been so influential that the former ministers who provided him with much of his information now r… ,
    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,
    • RT : I regularly make purchases based on - it’s excellent.,
    • RT : I wrote about Yoko Ogawa's dreamlike, allegorical novel The Memory Police, newly published in English in a translat… ,
    • 'At this frankly apocalyptic moment for indigenous rights in Brazil, John Hemming’s "People of the Rainforest" is a… ,
    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,