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Sunday Read: In Praise of Dan Brown’s Inferno, by Dante Translator Clive James

InfernoThe Divine ComedyThe ageing, dying, estranged Clive James, literary titan, translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy, pens a takedown of Dan Brown’s Inferno that, for all its sarcasm toward Brown’s bad art, bears a grudging fondness for the writer.

“The less he can write,” says James, “the more admirable his achievement”:

As a believer in the enjoyably awful, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly if I could. But it is mainly just awful. Nevertheless it is still almost worth reading. In the publishing world they have a term, “pull line,” which means the few words of apparent praise that you can sometimes pull out of a review however hostile. Let me supply that pull line straight away, ready furnished with quotation marks: “The author of The Da Vinci Code has done it again.”

Once again, that is, he makes you want to turn the pages even though every page you turn demonstrates abundantly his complete lack of talent as a writer. The narrative might be a bit less compulsive this time but you still want to follow it, if only to find out whether the hero and the heroine will ever get together. But to do that, they will first have to stop running to escape the heavies.

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