Ivan Argüelles’ Comedy , Divine , The is a tour-de-force of religious passion that never loses its head, that maintains a level of spirituality new to my poetic-eye. This is not to say it has a medium level of intensity or inspiration, rather one has the feeling Argüelles is, in this book, at a new high level of poetic-energy.
As Argüelles’ title begs comparison with Dante’s Divine Comedy, a comment on the book must take into consideration the long shadow cast by that book in relation to the newer text. As a start, this reader [and publisher of the text] finds it to be a 21st century version with similar titles to the three sections and global realm of reference. Argüelles ‘sings’ through multiple faiths with full comprehension up to Dante’s mono-theistic faith.
Now, Argüelles brings up to date the older work. Instead of Beatrice, we have a panoply of references to Antiquity as he holds a degree from the University of Chicago the Classics. One change in Argüelles’ vision of religion is its global nature, including, as well as Christianity; Hinduism, Buddhism, and other faiths from the East. This expanded reference is inclusive of tolerance, a factor in short supply in the current state of world affairs.
When I read Argüelles’ book prior to and during publication, I became conscious of its inspirational effect upon me. In the past, I have mediated for a long period and bring familiarity with meditative consciousness and its peaceful energy, and can say with conviction Argüelles experience in this realm is evident.
The text is formally creative as well. Beyond the conventional long-lined sestinas employed throughout commas as the only punctuation mark [except at the section endings], giving the text a stream-of-consciousness aspect, in all its enabling of ‘flow’ that comes along with that mode. In this respect, the book consists of three 120-page sentences.
As in Dante’s Comedy, the reader’s consciousness is elevated with close reading. Within a year ago, I read Dante’s Comedy [the Allen Mandelbaum translation] in the order of its parts—which is gather is not how many readers attack the book. There is no way to compare the experience transmitted by each text, but qualitatively both have strength. Where Dante’s version is like being in a cathedral listening to Holy Communion, Argüelles’ is more earthy and transcendent. Argüelles manages to bring as more into the text because of how many choices we have as 21st century people. It is somewhat like the difference between a bow-and-arrow and an Atomic bomb.
For these reasons, I recommend this book to readers interested in Postmodern literature, religion & spirituality, and an exciting ‘read’ that is always in ascendant mode.
-- Peter Ganick.
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