As the millennium drew to its dismal close, George Steiner was asked to choose the best book of the past thousand years. He named the Commedia, saying: “Dante’s totality of poetic form and philosophic thought, of ‘local universality’ and language, remains unrivaled. At a time when the notion of culture and of European culture, in particular, is in doubt, Dante is the sovereign underwriter.”
Steiner is perhaps the last of them: the grand masters of erudition who brought illumination to, and brought to the service of illumination, the histories of words, languages, and literatures, the confluences of their streams and rivers, living and dead, which led to the sea of our vast babble, the low and high of it, the poetry and cadences of it, the hidden bloodlines of it, the all of it.
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