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Paradise Reviews

Paradise by Alasdair Gray, Dante Alighieri

PARADISE: Dante's Divine Trilogy Part Three. Englished in Prosaic Verse by Alasdair Gray

Alasdair Gray, Dante Alighieri

4.00 out of 5

3 reviews

Category: Poetry, Non-fiction
Imprint: Canongate Books Ltd
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Publication date: 28 Oct 2020
ISBN: 9781786894748

The final book from the late Alasdair Gray - the conclusion to his remarkable interpretation of Dante's Divine Comedy

4 stars out of 5
Ian Sansom
24 Dec 2020

"Published posthumously, the last of three Dante translations reveals Gray’s powers of insight and invention"

Gray was presumably drawn to Dante because, unlike many other translators, he was rather like Dante: astonishingly inventive; an insider-outsider in his own land, who profoundly understood the relationship between language, dialect and power; a fearless iconoclast unafraid to combine historical and contemporary subjects in his work; a true geographer of the imagination. It seems entirely fitting that the hero of Gray’s 1981 first novel Lanark, Duncan Thaw, an artist rather resembling the author, aspired to “write a modern Divine Comedy with illustrations in the style of William Blake” – and in Lanark, Gray did. This late Divine Trilogy is a lesser thing, but a wonder nonetheless.


5 stars out of 5
Ian Thomson
28 Nov 2020

"a work of cadence and vigour which perfectly captures the rhythms and beauty of Dante’s original"

The Glasgow-born novelist and illustrator Alasdair Gray, who died last year, also dedicated the end of his life to translating Dante’s entire trilogy. Published posthumously, Gray’s Paradise is a work of taut cadence and vigour that captures the drum-beat rhythms and lyric beauty of the original. Daringly, it draws on words and speech patterns of Gray’s native Scotland (‘bairns’, ‘midden’, ‘gloaming’, ‘blethering’), which accord well with Dante’s everyday volgare and make for an adventurous rehabilitation. 

3 stars out of 5
Stuart Kelly
3 Nov 2020

"a welcome reminder of the brilliant strangeness of the original"

Gray did not call this a translation and it is not. The folksy chumminess of his prosaic verses are all well and good as a crib, but the problem with the Paradiso is that it is profoundly serious. This is a poem that wrestles with free will and predestination, with the different moral qualities of action and contemplation, and above all with the inability of the human to utter the divine. I read the book almost stereoscopically, with three other versions by my side and an excellent online resource from Columbia for the Italian. The Paradiso has images both homely and intellectual, but in this part the tension of the form becomes paramount.