The Paradiso (The Divine Comedy #3), by Dante Alighieri, trans. by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

My Copy: 9781593083175 (image from

I heard before that The Paradiso is the great one, just overshadowed by the more famous The Inferno. It’s the one that is uplifting and fantastic in its vision and whatnot. There’s much more action in this one than in The Purgatorio, in the sense of description and all. And that I’m sure helps.

Sad to say, I admit I could only get about 1/3 of the way through it before I gave up. So feel free to take this with a grain of salt, but maybe you’ll get some ideas before you tackle it yourself and learn from my failure to finish.

The Paradiso is the beacon of hope after The Inferno and The Purgatorio, where the spirits aren’t just wandering or lying in peace, but it’s a bustling place of joy and activity in Heaven.

I wanted to get to the end, I really did. I think I just don’t have the learning and religious background necessary to really get the gist of this trilogy, and so I won’t disparage it, I’ll just say it’s not quite my cup of tea yet.

I just couldn’t get into it–again, I don’t care for this translation–the poetry just doesn’t grab me. And also the whole hierarchical structure that Dante’s realms seem to rely on to function–I suppose my personal cynicism makes me disregard hierarchies because it means (to me) that there will be envy or jealousy somewhere.

Also thanks to my tendency to over-analyze things, I found it a bit odd that we were planet-hopping in this one. Who says what planets are better as far as what they mean to Heaven? Then again, the introduction is helpful in letting you know the purpose of the cycles, spheres and whatnot. I guess the circles became spirals, and spirals became orbits.

Either way, Ptolemaic thinking abounds, as the introductions say.

I won’t totally discount this trilogy. I think it’s got something going for it, it’s just not for me right now. And if it weren’t for the introductions and endnotes, I wouldn’t have gotten this far anyway.

Honestly, I think The Divine Comedy is probably best as something to read with others and discuss. It’s meant to be studied and read slowly. I think this collection was tailor-made for theological or philosophical discussion. Reading it alone with no one to discuss it with just isn’t fun.

I think that’s where that “missing link” went. It’s just too complex, unless you’re going to dedicate many months of your own time reading and analyzing it for its deeper meanings and to get the characters right (heaven knows there are so many), and why they are where they’re at in the hierarchy.

And definitely don’t be in a hurry to read ’em all. If you’re a casual reader who likes to take their time reading just a few books a year, I might recommend this one. If you never have much time to read or have to read too many things a year (like me), then you probably can’t give it the time necessary to really get it.

For myself, being a non-Catholic and not raised with the ideas of heaven and purgatory expounded on in this collection, it would take a discussion group and many months of fun.

There’s just so much to it.

Happy reading, studying, and/or discussing if you feel like tackling it, and a pleasant Christmas Eve.

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