News | 4 December 2012

Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work Awarded to Robert M. Durling


The Modern Language Association of America today announced that it will award its tenth Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for an Outstanding Translation of a Literary Work to Robert M. Durling, translator of The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, volume 3: Paradiso, published by Oxford University Press. Honorable mentions will be given to Shushan Avagyan, translator of Bowstring: On the Dissimilarity of the Similar, by Viktor Shklovsky, published by Dalkey Archive; C. Dickson, translator of At the Café and The Talisman, by Mohammed Dib, published by the University of Virginia Press; Imre Goldstein, translator of Parallel Stories, by Péter Nádas, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux; and Iain Macleod Higgins, translator of The Book of John Mandeville with Related Texts, published by Hackett.

The Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work is one of fifteen prizes that will be presented on 5 January 2013, during the association’s annual convention, to be held in Boston. The prize is awarded each even-numbered year for a translation into English of a book-length literary work. In odd-numbered years the Lois Roth Award honors translations of works of literature published in the previous year. The members of this year’s selection committee were Norma Bouchard (Univ. of Connecticut, Storrs); Michael Harney (Univ. of Texas, Austin), chair; Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy (Barnard Coll.); and Janet L. Smarr (Univ. of California, San Diego).

The committee’s citation for Durling’s book reads: 

This eloquent and supremely erudite rendering of the final and most difficult cantica of Dante’s masterpiece culminates Robert M. Durling’s monumental project of translating and annotating the entire Divine Comedy. Wisely eschewing verse, the translator presents each terzina as a prose unit, thus adhering as closely as possible to the original Italian. The translator’s linguistic sagacity and stylistic finesse are exemplified by his frequent conclusion of a terzina with the word that ends it in Italian and by his ingenious handling of Dante’s many neologisms. Durling’s artful prose, combining accuracy and readability, captures the meaning and style of Dante’s language better than previous translations; short of reading the original Italian, this is as close as one can get to Dante’s original.

Robert M. Durling is professor emeritus of Italian and English literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received his BA, MA, and PhD from Harvard University. Durling has held visiting positions at Cornell University, Princeton University, Stanford University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Figure of the Poet in Renaissance Epic; author, with Ronald Martinez, of Time and the Crystal: Studies in Dante’s Rime Petrose; and translator and editor ofPetrarch’s Lyric Poems: The Rime Sparse and Other Lyrics. He is the translator of the first two volumes of The Divine Comedy of Dante AlighieriInferno and Purgatorio.

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