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

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,