June 4, 2004

Walker Percy & Dante

Category: Literature :: Permalink

The other day, I glanced at the opening paragraph of Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins, subtitled The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, which I’m contemplating rereading soon. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Now in these dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A. and of the Christ-forgetting Christ-haunted death-dealing Western world I came to myself in a grove of young pines and the question came to me: has it happened at last?

Hmmm…. I said to myself and went and looked at the opening lines of Dante’s Inferno. Here it is in Mark Musa’s translation:

Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
for I had wandered off the straight path.

Or, in Dorothy Sayers’ older translation:

Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
where the right road was wholly lost and gone

Is there an echo of Dante’s waking to find himself in a dark wood in Percy’s narrator’) coming to himself in a grove of young pines? Is there perhaps a hint in Percy’s intro that it’s the whole of Western society that has wandered off the straight path?

Perhaps I’m only seeing things. Still, it might be interesting to see if there are other parallels with the Inferno in Love in the Ruins. Unfortunately, I’m not well enough acquainted with Dante to carry out such a study.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:40 pm | Discuss (0)

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