Letter: The opening line of Dante's 'Hell'

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The Independent Online
Sir: While welcoming Ian Thomson's positive review of my translation of Dante's Hell ('A grand tour in the circles of hell'; Books, 26 February), I was disappointed that he didn't like 'trek' in the opening line ('Halfway through our trek in life').

With an opening as well-worn as Dante's, it seemed important to make a bid straight away for the kind of translation I wanted, one condensed and colloquial. 'Trek' also suggests something dour and fatiguing; it's a word York City supporters might use to describe a trip to Crewe, or my ageing mother for her journey to the local shops, and it's surely sufficiently naturalised into English to evoke no longer Afrikaans ox wagons.

I've floated 'trek' up and down the country in talking about the translation in the last year, and a majority of my audience seem to have favoured it; at any rate, it provoked a response.

Can anyone feel aroused, for or against, by the line Mr Thomson would put in its place, Longfellow's 'Midway upon the journey of our life'?

Yours faithfully,


Harborne, West Midlands

3 March