In the latest release from the Toronto Salutes Dante project, Prof. Greti Dinkova-Bruun reads Inferno 27 in Bulgarian. Dinkova-Bruun is a CMS Professor and PIMS fellow, though many know her preeminently as the PIMS librarian.
The translation chosen by Dinkova-Bruun is the earliest in Bulgarian, made in 1906 by Konstantin Velichkov, a celebrated author, translator, painter, and politician. During Bulgaria’s struggle for independence from the Ottoman Empire, Velichkov was a member of the revolutionary committee that organized the unsuccessful April Uprising of 1876. After the failure of the uprising he was arrested and sentenced to death, but was later released after the intervention of a European commission. In 1887-89 he went to Florence to become a painter, and when he returned he not only founded the first painting school in Bulgaria but translated Dante’s Divine Comedy into Bulgarian. A gifted linguist, he also translated works by Victor Hugo, Shakespeare, and Pushkin.
In reflecting on Inferno 27, Dinkova-Bruun notes the mystifying aspects of the canto. The main protagonist Guido is fairly deep in hell (the eighth circle), but his only crime seems to be giving bad advice to the pope. One interpretation is that Guido lapsed from a Franciscan vow not to meddle in politics. He himself had been a very active politician until taking the Franciscan habit for the salvation of his soul. He was later asked for advice by Pope Boniface, who ironically promised him salvation in return for advice, and so Guido acquiesced. But at Guido’s death, the Devil argued that Boniface’s offer was void. Saint Francis agreed, and Guido ended up in the eighth circle of hell.