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- Published on Amazon.com
This Everyman edition of Allen Mandelbaum's superb translation of Dante's DIVINE COMEDY is my favorite one-volume edition currently in print in English. There are many very, very good things to say about this translation and edition. First and perhaps foremost, it contains Mandelbaum's remarkable translation of Dante, a translation often noted for being the best compromise between poetic rhythm, beauty, and accuracy. Of recent translations, the only one that I like as much as Mandelbaum's is Pinsky's great translation of the INFERNO, but unfortunately he has not, as has Mandelbaum, gone on to translate the entirety of Dante's masterpiece. Though Pinsky's translation is renowned for following the terza rima rhyme pattern, it actually reads more like a prose translation, primarily because he observes no meter for each line (Dante's original has eleven syllables per line, precisely like Shakespeare's famous line, "To be or not to be, that is the question"). Mandelbaum observes neither meter nor rhyme, but I personally find more of a poetic concentration of language than one finds in Pinsky. Most of all, Mandelbaum's translation is, like Pinsky's, highly readable and extremely dynamic. Until and if Pinsky completes his translation, Mandelbaum is likely to remain my favorite translation of Dante in English (though happily there are a host of very good translations, including those by Huse, Sinclair, and Singleton).
The volume is remarkably attractive, with a lovely dust jacket (not shown in the Amazon book photo), covers wrapped in cloth, non-acidic, nonreflective paper, and a ribbon bookmark. Also, the volume features a large number of Botticelli's illustrations of Dante, which obviously adds immensely to its value and its attractiveness. Also enhancing the volume's value is the marvelous introductory essay by Eugenio Montale and the comprehensive notes by Peter Armour. The only conceivable criticism of this volume is the absence of the Italian original, but that is not to be too regretted since its presence would have required so many additional pages that it would have been an unwieldy and unusable volume. One can get the Mandelbaum translation in either mass market paperback or hardback editions featuring each part with facing Italian.
The final thing to note is that one gets all these features in what is a very reasonably priced volume. I think for most readers of Dante, this is going to be the single volume of choice. Indeed, unless one especially wants the Italian text facing the English, this might be the edition of choice under any circumstances. The one edition that is clearly the supreme edition of Dante in English, that of Charles Singleton published by Princeton, is simply too expensive for all but the most serious readers of Dante. I will merely add that this is probably one of my favorite editions of any classic in my personal library. Obviously, I strongly recommend this version to anyone contemplating either reading or rereading Dante.