There is an author page for Dorothy L. Sayers in the Guardian Newspaper, so naturally enough I consulted it during the recent controversial call for the 'filtering of Dante Alighieri' in schools and universities by Gherush 92 (an affiliate organisation of the United Nations).
Aside from the issue of conflict between paid affiliates within the UN that a call for censorship of The Divine Comedy should provoke, not much more has been said by either Gherush 92 or UNESCO on the issue of banning one of the cornerstones of Western literature from Universities and academies. I will get back to that point in due course.
Dorothy L. Sayers considered her incomplete translation of the Commedia to be her finest work. She had translated Hell and Purgatorio before her death, but she had not brought the Paradiso section of The Commedia to completion. The third section of The Commedia was completed by Barbara Reynolds from Sayers' notes and was a work of longtime collaboration by both Reynolds and Sayers. I decided to blog a little bit about the life-work and passionate intellect Of Dorothy L. Sayers in order to show my readers how very important a work The Commedia is, and to my horror found that very few media outlets even mentioned Dorothy L. Sayers' translations. I went to obtain the Penguin editions (there are three) but they are not obtainable in Ireland and had to be ordered via my bookshop. The Library service in Dublin, Ireland, managed to locate one copy from the three texts, and I eventually cancelled my request because the ordered editions arrived faster.
Isn't it awful to think that a lifetime's dedication to the passionate dissemination of literature is reduced to ,
'She also taught herself old Italian and her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy is still in print today.' (Guardian Newspaper, Dorothy L Sayers' bio page).
Did I mention that both the Library Service and indeed the Guardian have long-listed her genre-fiction, and that generally this is more readily available in our bookshops than her translations ?
I am unsurprised that attacks were made on Dante, nor am I surprised that the response was so lukewarm in Western media. It appears that mass-consumption of pulp-fiction is easier to deal with than issues of censorship. I am very surprised, however, that few journalists or commentators looked at the possibility of conflict between the offices of Gherush 92 who made the call for censoring The Commedia and of UNESCO who are involved in the preservation of literature, thus our literary heritage.
I am very surprised that so few (women) writers cite the work of Dorothy L. Sayers. There should be imprints of Sayers' Commedia available, indeed her seminal text should be cited in reportage on issues pertaining to the contribution of women writers to western literature. Instead, a woman-activist, Valentina Sereni, called for the evisceration of Dante, displaying absolutely no awareness of the importance of the work, and imo little respect for those translations by Dorothy L. Sayers which have contributed so much to our understanding of The Commedia.
I find it utterly tragic that her great work is become a footnote in literature, and also that my search for it led me through shelves of genre-fiction. If one is not seeking genre-fiction, the rootling through shelves of pastelled covers and those glittery knives that represent the selling points of popular genre-fiction and its main cover-orthodoxy is truly a morass for the visual senses.
This piece is related to an incomplete blogpost which looked at Sayers' relation to The Commedia.