Robert Hollander, Who Led Readers Into ‘The Inferno,’ Dies at 87

Robert Hollander was the form of literature professor to suggest “years of rereading” to know an ideal ebook. To research his personal favourite masterpiece, Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy,” Professor Hollander held himself to a but increased normal. He mastered seven centuries of line-by-line commentary concerning the poem.

Such a physique of writing extra intently resembles Talmudic exegesis than literary criticism. Devotion to it’s devotion to an excessive type of traditionalism. Yet the commentaries turned, for Professor Hollander, the engine of his most progressive work.

In the early 1980s, when few students had ever utilized pc expertise to the research of literature, Professor Hollander got down to digitize the “Divine Comedy” commentaries. He secured funding from Apple and AT&T for what got here to be referred to as the Dartmouth Dante Project. Undergrads used scanners the dimensions of fridges.

Today, 33 years after the venture launched its prototype, “it is a go-to tool,” stated Jeffrey Schnapp, a scholar of medieval Italian literature who helped oversee the Dante Project and who’s the founder and director of metaLAB, a digital arts and humanities laboratory at Harvard.

The venture’s affect in the end prolonged past Professor Hollander’s area, serving to to stimulate advances within the digital humanities writ giant, Professor Schnapp stated.

Professor Hollander, one of many world’s main Dante students and the writer, together with his spouse, the poet Jean Hollander, of what’s thought-about by many to be the smoothest English translation of “The Divine Comedy,” died on April 20 at his son’s residence alongside the slope of the Mauna Kea volcano within the city of Pau’uilo, Hawaii. He was 87.

His daughter, Zaz Hollander, confirmed the loss of life.

Professor Hollander joined the college of Princeton University in 1962 and taught beloved lessons on Dante for 42 years. For medievalist scholarship, the three-volume translation he produced with Ms. Hollander discovered a large diploma of public curiosity, together with two admiring critiques in The New Yorker.

In one, in 2007, the New Yorker critic Joan Acocella known as all three volumes of their translation “the best on the market.” (The Hollanders produced “Inferno” in 2000, “Purgatorio” in 2003 and the final quantity of the epic allegorical work, “Paradiso,” in 2007.)

In the opposite New Yorker piece, in 2001, the novelist Tim Parks, an professional on Italian literature, wrote that the Hollanders’ “Inferno” was “the most accessible” English translation to be discovered. In an e-mail, Mr. Parks added that he had just lately taken one other look at translations of the poem and located that the Hollanders’ stays “the finest of them all.”

The couple introduced complementary strengths to the venture. Ms. Hollander, the writer of 5 books of poetry, attended to the music of the language. Professor Hollander ensured the interpretation’s accuracy and wrote introductions to every quantity, together with notes to the textual content.

Ms. Acocella estimated that the notes amounted to 30 instances the size of “The Divine Comedy” itself. That was Professor Hollander’s type. He interpreted moralistically and theologically passages normally appreciated for his or her magnificence. His erudition wore down fellow students. He reported that A.B. Giamatti, the Renaissance professional and former president of Yale University, as soon as requested him, “Are you going to try to ruin this scene for me too, Hollander?”

Yet Professor Hollander impressed generations of scholars by treating them with the identical seriousness that he delivered to the literary canon. Starting in 1977, alums made it an annual custom to return to the positioning of Professor Hollander’s lectures and skim Dante collectively. Former college students as soon as accompanied the professor on journeys to an 11th-century Italian fort to review Dante in an genuine setting.

Robert B. Hollander Jr. was born on July 31, 1933, in Manhattan. His father, Robert Sr., was a financier with a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. His mom, Laurene (McGookey) Hollander, was a nurse after which a homemaker.

Robert Jr. acquired a bachelor’s diploma from Princeton in French and English literature in 1955, and he earned a Ph.D. from the English and comparative literature division of Columbia University in 1962. While there, his head was turned sooner or later by a younger lady he noticed on campus. It turned out to be a fellow graduate pupil desirous about literature, Jean Haberman. They married in 1964.

It was Ms. Hollander who supplied the spark for the interpretation venture. One day in February 1997 she seemed over her husband’s shoulder as he studied a translation of “The Divine Comedy” from 1939.

It was “awful,” she recalled a number of years later in an interview with The New York Times.

Professor Hollander challenged her: “Can you do better?”

Two days later, Ms. Hollander was again with a free-verse rendering of the textual content in present English idiom.

“Hey,” Professor Hollander stated. “That’s not bad.”

On journeys to the seaside throughout a household trip on the Caribbean island of Tortola, Professor Hollander would don his clip-on sun shades, Ms. Hollander would placed on a solar hat and convey a picnic — after which the 2 would spend all afternoon debating cantos. They adjudicated microscopically effective distinctions, like whether or not sinners had been hurled “down” or “below.”

Ms. Hollander died in 2019. In addition to his daughter, Professor Hollander is survived by a son, Robert B. Hollander III; a brother, Fenton; and 4 granddaughters. Professor Hollander lived most of his life in a renovated farmhouse in Hopewell, N.J., however spent his ultimate years together with his son in Hawaii.

He suffered a stroke in 2004, and his restoration seemed unsure. After a number of days, a nurse examined whether or not he may title a phrase for each letter within the alphabet — apple for A, ball for B.

Professor Hollander adopted alongside. When the nurse received to L, he immediately had a gleam in his eye. “Leopardo!” he declared, switching to Italian. The nurse ended the examination.

He in the end regained his full psychological powers, Zaz Hollander, his daughter, stated. “He gauged his recovery by how far he could get in ‘The Inferno’ by memory.”