Philip Terry is a writer who works in the oulipian tradition. He is the author of a novel, The Book of Bachelors (1995) (which was published in its entirety in an issue of The Review of Contemporary Fiction), which consists of nine chapters, each a lipogram on a different letter of the alphabet. He wrote a book of versions of Shakespeare's Sonnets, each modified by a different oulipian constraint (the results are predictably mixed). And he did a... you can't really call it a translation... adaptation of Dante's Inferno.
For comparison, here are the opening five stanzas of Alan Mandlebaum's translation of the Inferno, Canto III:
THROUGH ME THE WAY INTO THE SUFFERING CITY,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL PAIN,
THROUGH ME THE WAY THAT RUNS AMONG THE LOST.
JUSTICE URGED ON MY HIGH ARTIFICER;
MY MAKER WAS DIVINE AUTHORITY,
THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND THE PRIMAL LOVE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT ETERNAL THINGS
WERE MADE, AND I ENDURE ETERNALLY.
ABANDON EVERY HOPE, WHO ENTER HERE.
These words—their aspect was obscure—I read
inscribed above a gateway, and I said:
“Master, their meaning is difficult for me.”
And he to me, as one who comprehends:
“Here one must leave behind all hesitation;
here every cowardice must meet its death.
And now, here are the opening lines of Philip Terry's Canto III:
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE DOLEFUL CAMPUS,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO ETERNAL DEBT,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE FORSAKEN GENERATION.
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT INSPIRED MY FOUNDERS;
POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY RUINED ME,
COUPLED BY BETRAYAL OF PRINCIPLE AND PLEDGE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT ETERNAL THINGS WERE MADE,
NOW I SHALL MARK YOU ETERNALLY.
ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE.
I saw these words spelled out on a digital display
Above the entrance to the Knowledge Gateway.
‘Master,’ I said, ‘this is scary.’
He answered me, speaking with a drawl:
‘Now you need to grit your teeth,
This isn’t the moment to shit yourself.
It's quite funny— the first nine lines are, I think, a very good joke.
But I am rather uncertain, having read (thanks to Amazon's "see inside" feature) the opening two and a half cantos, whether it's a joke that can be sustained over an entire book. So I am hesitant to plunk down $16 to get a copy.
Anyone know if the whole thing works at all?
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