David Gibbons

One major issue in the now largely neglected discipline of stylistics is how to define individual style. The difficulties encountered in so doing derive partly from the nature of definition itself, which requires limits to be imposed artificially on phenomena whose boundaries are at best often fuzzy. More specifically in this case, however, the problems arise from the fact that there is no suitable opposing category against which to measure style. If to have style is to be "thus, and not otherwise", what exactly is "otherwise"? This nebulous non-entity was at one stage referred to as "non-style", and later, under structuralism, as "rhetoric degree zero", but such labels fail to disguise the fact that it is an idealized concept, existing only in impure form1.
Another issue which has proved just as crucial to the more recent and fashionable discipline of translation studies is that of loss, i.e. whatever it is that so mysteriously disappears when a text is translated from one language to another. Often this similarly nebulous category has been equated with some form of style, and the relationship between the two has received thorough treatment recently from Tim Parks, in his aptly-titled Translating Style (Parks: 1997). Parks' thesis, stated simply, is that the translating process has as much to tell us about the style of the original as it does about that of the new version; the kind of conservative literary language which invariably characterizes translations can, he suggests, function as a useful example of "non-style" or "rhetoric degree zero", against which to evaluate the peculiarities and/or felicities of the source text2.
It is not hard to see how such a thesis could be applied to translations of Dante's Commedia. The sacro poema contains a series of features whose absence from, and in some cases presence in, foreign-language versions could easily yield further insights into the style of the original. Some of these are quite straightforward, such as dittologie sinonimiche, periphrases or consecutive clauses. These are often included in the Commedia as a result of the rhyme scheme that Dante adopts, and their semantic import may hence be relatively less than some literal translations, which do not attempt to reproduce the same metrical pattern but maintain these features on the grounds of fidelity nonetheless, would seem to suggest. Other features are more complex, such as the extreme lexical variety within individual semantic categories that Dante employs, offset by an equal and constant tendency to repetition through a range of duplicative structures (Gibbons: 2002, 58-98; cf. Kundera: 1988, 191-193, 201-202). Both these trends could emerge more clearly if the various attempts to render them into other languages were duly studied.
Ciaran Carson's recent translation of the Inferno is largely motivated by considerations of style3. It is his dissatisfaction with existing translations' failure to capture the vitality of Dante's language, and the breadth, or perhaps depth, of his stylistic range, that seems to have inspired him to add yet another version to what is already, as reviewers often point out (Glover: 2002; B. Reynolds: 2000, 469), a saturated market ("Introduction", xix):
When I came to translate the Inferno, I found it sometimes difficult to unravel even the English prose of a "literal" translation; and I began to discover that some "literal" translations did not agree in some important aspects of interpretation. And many translations seemed to forget that Dante wrote vernacular. "Dante, small gutter-snipe, or small boy hearing the talk in his father's kitchen", says Ezra Pound.
The translations Carson complains of here are "foreignizing", according to Venuti's definition, in that in attempting to capture the otherness of Dante, they produce an English which is at times stilted to the point of incoherence (Venuti: 1999). However, in another sense they are also "domesticating" translations, for they paper over the stylistic diversity of the source text in favour of the kind of conservative literary koiné that Parks was bemoaning.
Carson's response to this impasse is a translational "third way": to seek to recover the lost elements of the Dantean text by using a native Irish poetic tradition, the oral narrative ballad, as his model. In other words, what looks like a stylistically motivated strategy soon comes to have implications reaching far beyond the narrowly formalist. In this instance the dimensions thus encompassed are both social and political: social, in that the model Carson adopts is popular, as opposed to learned; political, in that the choice of a native Irish, as opposed to English, fluency strategy marks his Inferno out from the standard domesticating approach described by Venuti, acquiring for it the kind of resistance value seen in what are sometimes referred to as "cannibalistic" approaches to translation (France: 2000a, 10; Bassnett: 2001).
To begin with the social implications, there is certainly justification for the model Carson selects to guide him in his translation. It was to the epic tradition that Dante turned when he began composing the Commedia, doubtless inspired by his readings of Virgil, Ovid, Lucan and Statius, and the origins of this tradition were quite possibly popular, irrespective of how literary it was by the time Dante began to work within it. Other popular traditions also informed the writing of the poem (Morgan: 1990), and such concerns continued to vie with more learned pursuits in Dante's imagination, as the metaphorical references to both throughout the poem indicate (Gibbons: 2002, 40, 55). The Commedia has also inspired its own tradition of popular responses, ranging from public recitals by cantastorie to dialectal translations by poets of the calibre of Carlo Porta (Jones: 2000). Indeed, despite Carson's apparent distrust of scholarly approaches to Dante4, recent scholarship seems, curiously enough, to confirm the legitimacy of the model he has chosen. The current critical bias in Dante studies seems to be towards revising our understanding of the poet's intellectual history away from the ivory tower, in favour of something more consonant with his actual material living conditions. One of the results of this trend has been a new emphasis on scatological and obscene elements in the Inferno (Baranski: forthcoming), elements which, as one reviewer at least has pointed out (Thomson: 2002), Carson's translation also endeavours to restore in good measure.
There are grounds to suggest, then, that if Carson's choice of model is not absolutely precise, as indeed it never could be, it is nonetheless felicitous, at least in terms of the social implications it raises. The political dimension of Carson's strategy is perhaps even more significant, for this is not simply a case of transposing a text tel quel into a different cultural setting, if indeed such a process ever were simple. On this occasion the very notion of a target language is complicated by the Anglo-Irish dialectic at work within it, and the political implications of such antagonism are not hard to surmise5. Within the terms of Michael Cronin's distinctions, Carson's Inferno would be an example of the third type of recent Irish translational practice whereby the Ango-Irish conflict is addressed indirectly (Cronin 1996: 181), in this case via the vehicle of language. As Carson himself says ("Introduction", p. xx):
Translating ostensibly from the Italian, Tuscan or Florentine, I found myself translating as much from English, or various Englishes. Translation became a form of reading, a way of making the poetry of Dante intelligible to myself. An exercise in comprehension: "Now tell the story in your own words". What are my own words? I found myself pondering the curious and delightful grammar of English, and was reminded that I spoke Irish (with its different, curious and delightful grammar) before I spoke English.
This situation is similar to the sense of loss felt by many English-speaking natives of Northern Ireland which Seamus Heaney describes in the introduction to his translation of Beowulf6. But just as the linguistic histories of the two poet-translators are different, Heaney having been brought up in and through English, Carson in and through Irish, so too are their responses to the situation. Whereas Heaney yearns for and strives after a kind of linguistic unity7, limiting the Irish element in his translation of the Anglo-Saxon epic to the insertion of individual lexical items such as "thole", "graith", "hoked", and "bawn", Carson brings about a dispersion or dissemination of language, which nuances rather than attempts to solve the linguistic, and presumably also political, conflict he witnesses. Carson's poetry, in the Inferno and elsewhere, contains, in addition to the Irish influence, elements of Latin (especially ecclesiastical), French, occasional items of Scots or Yorkshire dialect, and even Italian, although as Matthew Reynolds points out, the Italian words Carson employs in the Inferno are generally not present in the original, and can work to create a sense of distance where source and target might in theory be closest (M. Reynolds: 2003). Here again, Carson's approach is justified in the sense that Dante too was highly eclectic in his choice of vocabulary, having in particular a predilection for Latinisms and Gallicisms (Gibbons: 2002, 68-9). Carson is one of the few English-speaking poets who could attempt to emulate what Contini described as the expressive violence of Dante, and his translation effectively reminds the reader that, in language as in politics, there is no easy unity, just a more or less peaceful co-existence between competing aims and claims (Contini: 1970, 172).
One area in which this is especially apparent is that of rhyme. While Carson does not match Dante's terza rima with absolute precision, inter alia in the sense that he often employs rhymes that are imperfect, his Irish ballad model does make ample provision for the kind of rhyming effect that he finds in the poetry of Dante ("Introduction", xx):
When I began looking into the Inferno, it occurred to me that the measures and assonances of the Hiberno-English ballad might provide a model for translation. It would allow for sometimes extravagant alliteration, for periphrasis and inversion to accommodate the rhyme, and for occasional assonance instead of rhyme; it could accommodate rapid shifts of register. So I tried to write a terza rima crossed with ballad.
A strategy such as this gives much greater emphasis to the Irish question than does Heaney's approach in Beowulf. Indeed, the issue of rhyme and what to do with it involves Carson, perhaps unwittingly, in a debate in Dante studes that has occasionally assumed nationalistic overtones. Take, for example, the following comments by a native of Carson's Belfast, C. S. Lewis (Lewis: 1966, 80):
It is true that Italian is a language rich in rhymes and Italian poets are less likely than English to be driven to an otherwise unsuitable word for the sake of its sound. It is true that facility in rhyming, far from requiring the genius of Dante, is something which mere practice must infallibly bestow on anyone whatever who has made as many rhyming verses as Dante had before he wrote the Paradiso.
Of the same opinion was Barbara Reynolds, at least until her involvement with Dorothy L. Sayers in the translation of the Commedia for Penguin Classics, which seems to have occasioned in her some sort of conversion and led her to correct the supposed pre-eminence of Italian over English in the area of rhyme (B. Reynolds: 1987, 131):
It is often said that English is a language poor in rhyme compared to Italian. Consequently it is held that any attempt to translate terza rima into triple rhyme or ottava rima into rhymed octaves must end in failure. But what English lacks is not rhyming words but pure vowel sounds. It is remarkably rich in diphthongs, which produce perfectly legitimate impure rhymes, of a far greater range and variety than Italian can command. Dorothy L. Sayers pointed this out in the introduction to her translation of Inferno, but so powerful is the voice of received wisdom which echoes down the centuries that the myth is perpetrated. I am guilty myself of having added to it, unthinkingly, in a foreword to my translation of La vita nuova, where I said, "English is less rich in rhyme than Italian". I was hiding behind a time-honoured excuse for not having done better. When I came to translate Ariosto, I was obliged to eat my words and I ate them with relish.
For the native of Albion the idea that Italian could be superior to her own language even in this one limited respect is clearly unbearable, and in the article as a whole Reynolds seems bent on vindicating the apparently threatened status of her own tongue8. Carson's decision to adopt the Hiberno-English model for his translation puts an end to such bilateral Anglo-Italian thinking by adding another element into the equation, and his polyglot approach complicates yet further the Anglo-Irish opposition which his translation appears to address. But what effect does all this have in practical terms?
At a very simple level, Carson's strategy can lead to a preference for certain structures in the emphatic rhyme position, sometimes engineered by marked enjambments, use of genitive constructions, or inversions in normal patterns of word order. One such structure involves the use of latinate terms and phrases, as the following examples make clear: "He rules as supreme Potentate" (I. 126); "he took me by a road of aliquot" (IV. 149); "had been seized by death's protectorate" (III. 57); "when comes the Potentate" (VI. 95); "despicable expatriates | of Heaven!" (VIII. 91-2); "of the deepest dye inveterate" (XII. 106). Such uses of language disturb normal rhythms and patterns, as the following comments by Matthew Reynolds with regard to a comparable instance, Virgil's exclamation "This egomaniac | is Nimrod, who built Babel: he's the cause | of all our tribulations linguistic" (XXXI. 76-8), suggest (M. Reynolds: 2003, online):
Apart from the two last words, this speech is straightforwardly idiomatic, an instance of the kind of translation that pretends to repair the effects of Babel by conjuring out of the foreign text a recognizable English voice. But what of "tribulations linguistic"? Who would ever say that? The illusion of easy communication disintegrates, the curse of Babel reasserts itself. English collapses into translationese. As often in the translation, the failing here is orchestrated so as to exemplify the difficulties to which Virgil refers. Carson does not attempt to overcome our tribulations linguistic, but works imaginatively within them.
Reynolds' comments here can again be extended to encompass a more political dimension, given the fact that prescriptive accounts of how to write English since at least Fowler have openly decried the use of latinate terms (France: 2000a, 9). Romance phraseology clearly has greater dignity for Carson, as the following lines from his earlier poem "Second Language" illustrate:
The dim bronze noise of midnight-noon and Angelus then
boomed and clinked in Latin
Conjugations; statues wore their shrouds of amaranth; the
thurible clined out its smoky patina.
I inhaled amo, amas, amat in quids of pros and versus and
Ad altare Dei; incomprehensibly to others, spoke in Irish. I
slept through the Introit.
This same dignity is attributed to the French terms Carson uses, such as pavé (XII. 7), flambés (XIX. 26), seigneurs (XXIII. 55), voyageurs (VIII. 18), entrée (XXXII. 134), frisson (XXVII. 121), enfilade (XXIII. 13), touché (XXII. 56) and passe-partout (XXI. 90). The fact that Carson places such terms in and around the rhyme position, and alters normal patterns of syntax and usage to accommodate them, highlights their centrality for him as for Dante. However, in Carson's case it also serves to push back the English imperial drive for linguistic purity, and makes no bones about so doing; in this regard, it is worth remembering that Carson translated Ovid, Baudelaire and Rimbaud before he translated Dante.
Another consequence of Carson's decision to attempt a translation with rhyme is a striking use of metaphor based on and around the rhyme position. Here again the Belfast poet picks up on a stylistic feature which is significantly present in the source text (Gibbons: 2002, 99-116), and which invariably gets waylaid in the translation. Dante's desire for a word to rhyme with another already selected is one of the main reasons for him choosing certain terms in preference to others, and the result is that the semantics of the sentence must adapt to accommodate this metrical and phonetic constraint. However, Carson's translation features metaphors that are even more marked than Dante's, and on occasions some that are completely new, as the following example from the first canto shows (lines 13-18):
It seems I'd reached the foot of a steep
hill; here, the valley formed a cul-de-sac;
and there, I fell into depression deep.
Then I looked up. Clouds were riding pickaback
on the high-shouldered peaks, as bursting through,
the sun pursued its single-minded track.
Ma poi ch'i' fui al piè d'un colle giunto,
là dove terminava quella valle
che m'avea di paura il cor compunto,
guardai in alto e vidi le sue spalle
vestite già de' raggi del pianeta
che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle.
"Cul-de-sac" is an interesting choice for "là dove terminava quella valle", representing as it does a set phrase to match the "straight and narrow" used two lines previously, the one with its associations of bourgeoisie and closure, the other with its moral connotations of post-imprisonment reform. However, its presence in rhyme position means that two further words are needed to rhyme with it, the first of which shows both the challenges posed and creative potential offered by the choice Carson has made. The lovely image of clouds riding "pickaback" is in fact completely extraneous to the original, which admits only of the sun, and its presence here transposes the landscape of this first canto of the Commedia, which its most recent commentator has described as being clearly Tuscan (Chiavacci Leonardi: 1991-7, I. 5), into a rural Irish setting to match the suburban Belfast connotations of its earlier rhyming pair.
Descriptions of town and country indeed represent some of the most interesting instances of how Carson transposes the medieval Italian poem into an Irish context. For example, there is a perhaps disproportionate number of references to "bogs" in Carson's Inferno compared with that of Dante (see VI. 12, VII. 107, 128, IX. 31, XI. 70, and especially XXXI. 32, "as if in some Irish bog"), in translation of the term "palude" certainly, but equally of "terra" and "pozza". Meanwhile, the "cittadini de la città partita" whom Dante-protagonist mentions in his dialogue with Ciacco are referred to by Carson as "sectarians", which makes more concrete an association between Dante's Florence and his own Belfast he had noted in his introduction (xi-xii):
I see a map of North Belfast, its no-go zones and tattered flags, the blackened side-streets, cul-de-sacs and bits of wasteland stitched together by dividing walls and fences. For all the blank abandoned spaces it feels claustrophobic, cramped and medieval. Not as beautiful as Florence, perhaps, but then Florence is "the most damned of Italian cities, wherein there is place neither to sit, stand, or walk", according to Ezra Pound.
Here too, however, the Italy-Ireland equation is nuanced: the rural landscape of the Inferno also passes via Scotland (XII. 55, "the bottom of the glen") and Yorkshire (XII. 96, "escort him through this dale"), and the divided city of Florence takes in Baudelaire's Paris (X. 30, 39, "arrondissements") as well as Washington D.C. (X. 12, 49, XI. 22, "precinct") before it reaches the Falls Road.
So the addition of an Irish element at the expense of an Italian focus is one consequence of the word in rhyme being used as a metaphor. But Carson's translation of Dante's sun image in canto I also sacrifices another important aspect of the original. As is so often the case with Dante, mention of the sun is by way of periphrasis, it being referred to as the "planet whose rays lead men everywhere back onto the straight road". This version, clearly more literal than Carson's and with no pretensions whatsoever to poetic merit, highlights the fact that the sun is not just a feature of landscape description as far as Dante is concerned, but a symbol which has ethical and spiritual significance. It is, in other words, a metaphor for God himself, which doubtless explains Dante's reluctance to refer to it directly. Carson's additional cloud metaphor thus literally obscures the allegorical dimension to the first canto, and further leads him into mistranslation in line 18, where the object of "menare" is "altrui", the generic pronoun reinforcing the notion of Dante as Everyman which is especially important at this stage in his progress.
To return to Parks' statement with which we began, then, it would seem that it is not style on this occasion which gets lost in the translation. The opportunity cost of presenting a Dante who is relevant to the Irish situational context at the dawn of the twenty-first century, or rather of representing such a Dante to the broader English-speaking public at such a time, seems to be felt most keenly at what we might call the allegorical or theological level. Translation is among other things a form of reception; every reader perceives and receives Dante differently, and one of the ways in which he has been so understood is as "poet of the secular world", to use Auerbach's celebrated phrase. This would appear to be how Carson too responded to Dante, and if so, he is clearly in good company9.
If Carson's translational strategy involves some kind of loss at the metrical and/or syntactic level, and if it further requires sacrifice in terms of some of the source text's more obviously Italian elements, as well as, paradoxically enough, certain allegorical aspects which ought to be more generally applicable, another issue requiring discussion in this regard is anachronism, for Carson's act of cultural transposition is as time-specific as it is place-specific. Carson's solutions to the problems raised by translating Dante refer once again to the stylistic conservatism that has typified English-language translations to date, most of which feature the kind of literary archaicism that George Steiner describes as follows (Steiner: 1992, 359-60):
The translation of a foreign classic, of the "classics" properly speaking, of scriptural and liturgical writings, of historians in other languages, of philosophic works, avoids the current idiom (or certainly did so until the modernist school). Explicitly or by unexamined habit, with stated intent or almost subconsciously, he [the translator] will write in a vocabulary and grammar which predate those of his own day. The parameters of linguistic "distancing", of historical stylization are endlessly variable. Translators may opt for forms of expression centuries older than current speech. They may choose an idiom present only a generation back. Most infrequently, the bias to the archaic produces a hybrid: the translator combines, more or less knowingly, turns taken from the past history of the language, from the repertoire of its own masters, from preceding translators or from antique conventions which modern parlance inherits and uses still for ceremony. The translation is given a patina.
Here again Carson's approach is different, and one inevitable result of his policy of avoiding archaicism is anachronism. Anachronisms can range from the broadly cultural, such as Virgil's reference to Fortune being translated in terms reminiscent of recent Anglican theological debate (VII. 78, "He did a female minister provide"), speaking of Aristotelian natural science in such a way as to conjure up the lower end of British journalistic output (XI. 101-3, "and if you read | your Physics book, you'll find this paradigm, | about Page Three"), or one particular injunction issued in respect of a new mode of transport (XVII. 97, "Now, Geryon, let's aviate!"), to the more politically charged, such as the "sectarian" reference discussed earlier, or Farinata's description of the Black Guelfs pronouncing "their diktat | to raze Florence to the ground" (X. 91-2), or the poet's description of his arrival in the circle of the gluttonous as awakening to find "a different population, | and a new regime of torture". While in the majority of instances a case for such anachronism can be made, and while here again Carson is imitating his model in the sense that Dante too was blithely unconcerned with the problem of anachronism, this last example shows that where Carson is prepared to sacrifice most in his pursuit of a Dante for here and now is once more at the level of theology. To speak of a circle of Hell in terms of a latterday totalitarian regime, reminiscent indeed of recent rhetorical pronouncements in the "war on terror", is to betray a mentality that is far removed from how Dante himself considered divine judgement of sin.
One last effect Carson's strategy has in practical terms on his translation is an emphasis, indeed over-emphasis when compared with the original, on the role and scope of poetry in general, a feature which presumably is linked to the popularist, anti-scholarly stance he adopts as described above. This is made clear in the very first line: "Halfway through the story of my life". It is not hard, certainly, to envisage a similarity between the narrative aspect pertaining to an autobiographical account and the iterative process involved in undertaking a journey. Nonetheless, to remove the Commedia's fundamental metaphor from its opening line can at the very least be described as a daring statement of intent.
Similarly, Carson translates the famous narratorial prologue to the Ulysses episode as follows (Inferno 26. 19-24):

I sorrowed then; that sorrow I repeat,
when I remember what I saw, and rein
my artistry, lest I be indiscreet
and lose the course that Virtue has ordained;
so should some kindly star, or higher guide
have given me this gift, 'twere not in vain.
Allora mi dolsi, e ora mi ridoglio
quando drizzo la mente a ciò ch'io vidi,
e più lo 'ngegno affreno ch'i' non soglio,
perché non corra che virtù nol guidi;
sì che, se stella bona o miglior cosa
m'ha dato 'l ben, ch'io stesso nol m'invidi.
There is no reason why the gift given to Dante should not be interpreted in poetic terms (after all, there are enough references in the Commedia to the divine origin of Dante's talent in this regard), but to translate ingegno as "artistry" in this, perhaps Dante's most celebrated statement of all concerning the attractions and perils of the life of the mind, is surely provocative. Ingenium was one of the characteristics which Ovid, for example, attributed to Ulysses, and it means here quite simply "mental faculties" (Boyde: 2000, 240). The same is true of another instance of ingegno which again Carson translates in more poetic terms (X. 58-60):

"If by sheer poetry
you infiltrate this murky zone,
where is my son? Why is he not with thee?"
"Se per questo cieco
arcere vai per altezza d'ingegno,
mio figlio ov'è? e perché non è teco?"
These words are uttered by Cavalcante de' Cavalcanti, and they institute a comparison between Dante and Cavalcante's aristocratically intellectual son Guido, a troubled relationship which is amply if hermetically documented in the pages of the Vita nuova. Their friendship was born out of poetry, certainly, but as the libello makes clear, the ingegno which in many ways drove a wedge between them was hermeneutic more than it was poetic, and Cavalcanti's appeal to it here as a possible basis for salvation, a hypothesis which the newly-converted Dante-pilgrim duly corrects, refers more to the intellectual acumen for which Guido was so notorious than it does to his undisputed talent in the perfecting of lyric verse.
Carson's tendency to reinterpret intellectual matters in poetic terms is matched by the extra prominence he attributes to the role of the poet. In canto IV, for example, Virgil, who elsewhere Dante refers to as the "famed hexametrist" (X. 123) and is enjoined by Beatrice to "weave the magic verbal spells you wove | of yore" (II. 68-9: "Or movi, e con la tua parola ornata"), describes Homer as "the one with sword in hand | who fronts the three behind him like a magus" (IV. 86-7: "sire"). These examples suggest that Carson's conception of the poet is akin to that exemplified by the mythical figure of Orpheus, one which was not wholly alien to the Dantean way of thinking certainly, but is perhaps closer to Renaissance Neoplatonic concerns than to a medieval Aristotelian understanding, and which at any rate is not in the source text, at least not at this point. The same can be said of the numerous metaphors of grammar and punctuation in this Inferno, which are much more Carson than they are Dante, as a glance at, say, "Belfast Confetti" would show: for instance, the noble castle in canto IV is "encircled by a periphrastic creek" (IV. 108, "difesa intorno d'un bel fiumicello"); and the heads of state in relation to Fortune are said to be "following the syntax of her sentence" (VII. 83, "seguendo lo giudicio di costei"). The translation also features repeated recourse to certain favourite words and phrases not necessarily present in the original, such as "outlandish" (II. 142, IX. 63), or "portal" (VIII. 124, X. 108, XVIII. 13, XXXII. 123).
In short, much of what drives Carson's Inferno is a desire to advance his credentials to be taken seriously as a poet in his own right, to be, like Dante himself, "numbered as a poet knight" among a "very honourable choir" (IV. 101, 93) of poets that would include at least Ted Hughes for his Tales from Ovid and, perhaps more significantly, Seamus Heaney for his Beowulf, not to mention his various renditions of parts of the Commedia. In refusing the traditional role of the translator's invisibility, Carson also makes a case for the dignity of poetry vis-à-vis scholarship, as well as an important statement about resisting English hegemony in linguistic and also political terms. In so doing, he has probably achieved as much as anyone in recent years to extend Dante's appeal to a broader, non-Italian-speaking public. However, as I trust this article has made clear, this act of cultural transfer has not been achieved without cost. The terms with which the source-target relationship has been figured are borrowed of course from the world of finance, suggesting, as has George Steiner, that translation can be seen as a kind of attempt to balance the books (Steiner: 1992, 319). Many are the metaphors by which the act of translation may be figured, and a translation which involves such a prominent role for the translator, whether or not at the expense of the author, is bound to raise for some the question of the extent to which this can legitimately be described as translation sensu stricto (Steiner: 1992; Robinson: 2000; Eco: 2003). But perhaps the best way of characterizing Carson's enterprise is to borrow a phrase from the language of translation studies itself: his Inferno may be described as an extended "dynamic equivalence", rather than a "formal correspondence". What remains to be seen is whether his version of Dante will have a longer shelf-life than any of its predecessors.

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