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The Portable Dante [Paperback]

Dante Alighieri , Mark Musa
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2003 Penguin Classics

Dante Alighieri paved the way for modern literature, while creating verse and prose that remain unparalleled for formal elegance, intellectual depth, and emotional grandeur. The Portable Dante contains complete verse translations of Dante's two masterworks, The Divine Comedy and La Vita Nuova, as well as a bibliography, notes, and an introduction by eminent scholar and translator Mark Musa.


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About the Author

Mark Musa is a professor at the Center for Italian Studies at Indiana University. A former Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow, Musa is the author of a highly acclaimed translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Mark Musa is a professor at the Center for Italian Studies at Indiana University. A former Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow, Musa is the author of a highly acclaimed translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Mark Musa is a professor at the Center for Italian Studies at Indiana University. A former Fulbright and Guggenheim Fellow, Musa is the author of a highly acclaimed translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best you can do without Italian... Aug. 19 2003
Format:Paperback
Dante's Divine Comedy is one of the greatest works of an individual author in the history of literature. I did my undergraduate thesis on a topic in it, so I guess I could be a little biased. I'm not reviewing the Commedia, but the Musa edition.
My director, an expert in Medieval Studies (Toronto Ph.D., Notre Dame professor), preferred this edition because it attempts to capture Dante's meaning, and is best equipped of the English translations to do that. It doesn't attempt to replicate his meter or rhyme, which we wouldn't be able to do without significant damage to the text. It's also not a translation based on other translations for the most fluid reading (Pinsky). Musa is specifically a scholar of medieval Italian. While I consulted Mandelbaum, he is foremost a poet/translator. His work is impressive as such, but a lot of the philosophical or theological finesse is lost when reading his translation. Not being contrived, I find Musa still compelling to read. He lets Dante speak for himself, mostly, and that's a tremendous attribute in a translator. If you want the full impact of the beauty, you had better start learning Italian. But if you seek to grasp the plot and basic meaning of Dante, this book is what you're looking for.
The book design is very good. I got tons of used out of this paperback, but it never fell apart and didn't show much wear and tear. The pages are soft on the eyes and are of good enough quality to write on (which I did a lot!). As others have mentioned, having footnotes at the bottom is much better than having to flip to the back (Mandelbaum) or use another book (Singleton). Don't be afraid to consult these notes or read the canto introductions, you will find that these will help your reading, not serve as crutches.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime and exquisite in every way. Dec 10 2002
Format:Paperback
Take it from somebody who has three translations of the Divine Comedy. This translation is the best.
With every translation, something is lost (as Dante himself states in his Convivio, book 1), but very little seems to be lost in this one. Mark Musa has preserved the form, the vivid imagery, and the beautiful truths of the Divine Comedy in this translation to English. However, I can't say for certain, because I can't read Italian, much less medieval Tuscan-Italian.
I choose to focus on the translation instead of the work itself since the Divine Comedy is one of the unquesitoned great works of world literature.
In addition to that great work, Dante's other well-known work is his La Vita Nuova (The New Life). Want to have some chills? Finish "Paradise," then dive straight in to La Vita Nuova, and read it as fast as possible. You'll see what I mean.
Also included is a nice biography on Dante and a nice treatment and explanation of Dante's writing. This book is a must own for anybody.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest Literary Works Ever Aug. 9 2002
Format:Paperback
Dante's "Divine Comedy" has been something I wanted to read for a very long time, but never quite got around to until recently. I haven't yet compiled anything like a Top Ten list of favorite books, but if I did, the Comedy would surely find a place on the list. Dante's vision of the ethereal, and his vivid descriptions of the travels he supposedly undertook were stunning and tremendously descriptive. I've read that many of Dante's contemporaries fully believed, after reading his accounts, that he did indeed travel to Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (indeed, some of Dante's contemporaries swear that he had singe marks on his face as a result of his travels in Hell). I'm not surprised--the story is told with such a painstaking attention to detail that it is hard to believe it could have been imagined.
The overarching message of the Comedy appealed to me--in order to overcome sin and evil, man must first encounter and understand it fully. This Dante does, traveling through Hell and Purgatory to intellectually comprehend the various and manifold degrees of sin and fault. Through the patience and teaching of his guides: Virgil, Beatrice and finally St. Bernard, Dante is exposed to sin and accounts of human frailty, without actually succumbing to that frailty himself. It is, in many ways, the best of both worlds. And with each lesson--and the corresponding conquest of sinful desire associated with the lesson--Dante further prepares himself for his ascent to Paradise, and for his glimpse into the Mind of God, whom Dante, in the last canto of "Il Paradiso," unforgettably portrays as an Unmoved Mover of the sun and the stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good translation - May 16 2000
Format:Paperback
Mark Musa provides a modern day English version of timeless classics--Inferno, Purgatorio, Paraiso, and La Vita Nuova. Each canto (chapter) is preceded by a plain English explanation of what occurs in the canto, making the poem an easy read. The only problem with this is that at times Musa ruins the surprise element you would get by reading the work on its own. However the summaries along with notes throughout, assist the reader who will most likely not understand all that Dante is conveying.
As to the divine Comedy itself, Dante's genious is evident. He weaves classic philosophy with Christian ideals and makes a great attempt at understanding the unknown afterlife. The work written in the 13th century, is also significant in its ability to challenge traditional christian beliefs. Its impact in its day can not be overlooked. In the end however, I was a bit disappointed in Dante's extensive references to western philosophers and Italian figures. It is a bit overkill at times and I believe demonstrates his ego in being "WELL-READ". All in all it was an interesting read.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good translation
I have Musa's translations of Machiavelli, which encouraged me to get his Dante. It's one of several translations I own, but one of the most readable because he doesn't try to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ian Chadwick
2.0 out of 5 stars YOU WANT EDIT OR NOT?
I'll keep this short , i agree it a good book, but it been edited, so parts were cut out, for ex if you see inferno, it around 190 pages in this book, but other it ranges from 430... Read more
Published on July 17 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars YOU WANT EDIT OR NOT?
I'll keep this short , i agree it a good book, but it been edited, so parts were cut out, for ex if you see inferno, it around 190 pages in this book, but other it ranges from 430... Read more
Published on July 17 2002
2.0 out of 5 stars YOU WANT EDIT OR NOT?
I'll keep this short , i agree it a good book, but it been edited, so parts were cut out, for ex if you see inferno, it around 190 pages in this book, but other it ranges from 430... Read more
Published on July 17 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Dante doesn't like 'ignorantia'
The doctrine of papal infallibility has absolutely --not even a scintilla -- to do with personal culpability for sin. Please Mr Zimmerman, Dante knew that. Read more
Published on Feb. 19 2002 by bruno ocarth
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Most Enthralling Works Ever Written
Once in a while you run across a book that really makes a lasting impression on you. Dante's Divine Comedy is such a book. I was absolutely engrossed in Dante's prose. Read more
Published on Dec 31 2000 by Sean Zimmerman
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Dante Availible
Not only do you get all of the Divine Comedy, La Vita Nouva, and a decent translation, it contains the best feature for any student trying to read Dante: Footnotes on the bottoms... Read more
Published on Dec 16 2000 by Eric Cason
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired
This is probably the best prose I have ever read! The way heaven, hell, and purgatory were depicted were amazing! This is truly an inspired work!
Published on June 26 2000 by "zhadnosst"
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