Harriet Rubin, on The Divine Comedy:
We read Shakespeare. Or Proust. Or Homer. We exult in their stories. Dante reads us. He sees not just into his characters’ souls, but into ours. “There are works of art which are beautiful objects and works of art which are keys or passwords admitting one to deeper knowledge, to a finer perception of beauty; Dante’s work is of the second sort,” Pound insisted. He believed Dante’s word had magic.
So do I. It’s like no book I have ever read. I’m getting hung up writing this book because when I re-read some cantos, new insights appear — not insights into the text, strictly speaking, but insights into the problems the text helped me think through. It’s common for readers to discover things in great books that they missed on the first reading, and maybe even things that they missed on the third reading. But the Commedia is different, somehow. There is mystery here, and, well, there is magic.
Why this is true I do not know. Maybe I will know one day. That it is true, I have no doubt, because I’ve experienced it, and do experience it every day. This book I will be reading for the rest of my life.
Has you ever had this experience with a book or an author? That the work, uncannily, seemed to be reading you? Tell me about it.