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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly beautiful work, and a lyrical translation
I did an essay on this in first-year university, and when I picked up a random translation at the library, I dreaded having to read something so thick. I was afraid of having to read some clunky translation with prose that would be difficult to understand, but I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading, I just couldn't put it down.
Ciardi did an amazing job with...
Published on April 26 2004 by Grace M.

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars so so
This is a detailed read and only the lonely should try this as it is deep and requires skill at interpertation.
Published 15 months ago by H. Osborn


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astonishingly beautiful work, and a lyrical translation, April 26 2004
By 
Grace M. (Toronto, Canada) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
I did an essay on this in first-year university, and when I picked up a random translation at the library, I dreaded having to read something so thick. I was afraid of having to read some clunky translation with prose that would be difficult to understand, but I was pleasantly surprised when I began reading, I just couldn't put it down.
Ciardi did an amazing job with this translation: Dante's work flows so smoothly and beautifully on the page. I doubt you can find a translation that is so easy to read while maintaining a style and language that is true to what the original author wanted to convey.
While it is true that 'Inferno' is the most interesting book of the three, it is not complete if you only read one; reading the whole work leads to a better understanding of his message regarding spirituality. It evokes such images and allegories that are vivid, imaginative and moves the reader. As biased as "The Divine Comedy" is (and it is; you'll understand this better when you read the work, or Ciardi's helpful footnotes), this is nothing short of true literary art.
I highly recommend this work, and this specific translation especially. Even if you don't follow the faith, the beauty of the poetry is not to be missed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple, lovely verse, good for first-timers, Jan. 1 2008
By 
Keith Buhler "KEDB" (Lexington, KY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
Of the five best translations of the Divine Comedy into English and the best one for first-timers is Mark Musa or this translation from John Ciardi.

A succinct versified translation that opens up the plot, themes, and characters of this epic while charming the reader with simple beauty. It translates the (sometimes overwhelming) aesthetic experience of Purgatory and Paradise into muted, manageable modern bites.

The scale of "more complex/more beautiful/more difficult" to "less complex/less beautiful/easier" is as follows:

1. Mandelbaum. Practically a "King James" translation from an excellent poet. Charming, textured, a delicious read, but confusing for the first timer.

2. Longfellow. Similar to Mandelbaum. Emphasis on beauty of English verse. A good edition to include for comparison in serious studies, but difficult for first-timers.

3. Dorothy Sayers (& Barbara Reynolds). Precise, elegant, though sometimes technical. A translation from an excellent scholar. Retains a golden mean between eloquence and clarity. Perhaps the best overall translation for the serious student until he reads the Comedy in the original Italian.

4. John Ciardi. A simplified translation (sometimes misleadingly so), yet retaining a rhyme scheme, clear, even lovely at points. Much more readable than Sayers and second only to Musa for first-timers.

5. Mark Musa. Literal, clear, charming, but loses the rhyme scheme and the overall feel of the original verse. An excellent introduction to the story, characters, and themes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divine, Nov. 9 2007
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
"Midway life's journey I was made aware/that I had strayed into a dark forest..."

Those eerie words open the first cantica of Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy," the legendary poem that takes its author through the eerie depths of hell, heaven and purgatory. It's a haunting, almost hallucinatory experience, full of the the metaphorical and supernatural horrors of the inferno, and joys of paradise.

The date is Good Friday of the year 1300, and Dante is lost in a creepy dark forest, being assaulted by a trio of beasts who symbolize his own sins. But suddenly he is rescued ("Not man; man I once was") by the legendary poet Virgil, who takes the despondent Dante under his wing -- and down into Hell.

But this isn't a straightforward hell of flames and dancing devils. Instead, it's a multi-tiered carnival of horrors, where different sins are punished with different means. Opportunists are forever stung by insects, the lustful are trapped in a storm, the greedy are forced to battle against each other, and the violent lie in a river of boiling blood, are transformed into thorn bushes, and are trapped on a volcanic desert.

Well, that was fun. But after passing through hell, Dante gets the guided tour of Purgatory, where the souls of the not-that-bad-but-not-pure-either get cleansed. He and Virgil emerge at the base of a vast mountain, and an angel orders him to "wash you those wounds within," then lets them in.

As Virgil and Dante climb the mountain, they observe the seven terraces that sinners stay on, representing the seven deadly sins -- the angry, the proud, the envious, the lazy, the greedy, the lustful and the gluttons. It's a one-way trip, and you don't even get to look back.

The road up the mountain leads to the gates of Heaven, and soon Dante has been purified to the point where he's allowed to go inside. Virgil doesn't get to enter Heaven, so he passes Dante on to the beautiful Beatrice, the woman he loved in his younger years.

She whisks him up to the spheres of those who are now pure of soul -- the wise, the loving, the people who fought for their religion, the just, the contemplative, the saints, and finally even the angels. And after passing through heaven's nine spheres, he passes out of the physical realm and human understanding -- and sees God, the incomprehensible, represented by three circles inside each other, but all the same size.

Needless to say, it's a pretty wild trip.And admittedly "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso" aren't quite on the writing level of "Inferno," which has the most visceral, skin-crawling imagery and lines ("Fixed in the slime, groan they, 'We were sullen and wroth...'"), and a wicked sense of irony. It makes the angels and saints seem a bit tame.

But there's plenty of power in the second two books, particularly when Dante tries to comprehend God, and almost blows out his brain in the process -- "my desire and my will were turned like a wheel, all at one speed by the Love that turns the sun and all the other stars." It's haunting, and sticks with you long after the story has ended.

More impressive still is his ability to weave the poetry out of symbolism and allegory, without it ever seeming preachy or annoying. Even at the start, Dante sees lion, a leopard and a wolf, which symbolize different sins, and a dark forest that indicates suicidal thoughts. Not to mention Purgatory as a mountain that must be climbed, or Hell as a Hadesian underworld.

Dante's vivid writing and wildly imaginative journey makes the "Divine Comedy" a timeless, spellbinding read, and hauntingly powerful from inferno to paradiso.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best There Ever Was, Nov. 29 2003
By 
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
This is, simply, the best translation of the greatest piece of literature ever written. Not even the works of Shakespeare can surpass Dante's towering epic and its multi-layered, symphonic grandeur. Ciardi's translation, as one other reviewer here has already stated, almost sounds Italian. It is fluid, accessible, and beautiful and doesn't attempt to painstakingly preserve Dante's terza rima, a rhyme scheme that is beyond the scope of the English language (in Italian, everything seems to rhyme with everything else). This work moved me unlike any other--Dante's journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven is told with shocking genius and flawless detail. Every word is golden, every line contains a whole universe beneath its simple facade. The love, the effort, the genius, and the authenticity that went into this gloriously panoramic poem are without rival--nothing can compete with The Divine Comedy.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Musical Translation, Aug. 25 2003
By 
Terry Bohannon (Houston, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Hardcover)
I was introduced to Ciardi's translation of "The Divine Comedy" in an anthology of continental literature I read in college. At that time, after experiencing fragments of Fagles' horrible "verse" translation of Homer's works, I had low expectations for the translations in that anthology.
However, the instant I started reading John Ciardi's verse translation of "The Inferno", my hardened heart once again began to beat with the vibrancy it had when I read poems of Wordsworth or Browning.
John Ciardi, with a poetic talent that seems to be unmatched -- except for what I've read of W.S. Merwin's "Paradiso XXXIII," -- creates a poetic flow that feels, tastes, and even smells Italian. A poetic flow that delightfully contrasts Fagles', whose poetic flow is limited by popular styles and even phrases of the 20th century.
Instead of trying to lift Dante to the 20th century, Ciardi gracefully carries us to the early 14th century.
Instead of assuming that Dante is arcane, old fashioned, and in need of John's own poetic help, he believes that the original Italian is fresh, exciting, and poetically graceful.
The translation of Dante would have been diluted if Ciardi were to try and bring the 14th century to us through the modernization of the language, symbolism, and even the geography of Dante's world. (Fagles even geographically modified his "Odyssey" at one point to rename a Greek river the Nile because readers may get 'confused'.)
I'm glad that Ciardi tries to bring us back in time when the universe was cosmically full of life, where even the stars were more than the mere byproducts of abstract forces, chance, that can only be systematically analyzed and dissected.
The medieval worldview is far richer than the purely logical and scientific mindset that's now common. By bringing Dante to us unfiltered by that mindset, Ciardi helps move us towards the bright and vibrant medieval world.
I strongly recommend John Ciardi's poetic translation of "The Divine Comedy."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fresh Translation, July 9 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Hardcover)
Ciardi's translation is one of my favorites: few others so capture the essence of Dante. Others have noted Ciardi's abandonment of the strict tezra form that so constrains English translation (A language lacking the feminimity of Italian, and unable to easily conform to such a complicated rhyming pattern). This, in itself, liberates the work -- so long as we keep in mind the importance of the form, we can well do without it in order to catch a closer and more literal idea of Dante's work. Another thing Ciardi does well is revealing Dante, "King of the Disgusting." The tendency in a language closely associated with Protestant culture is to purify the "naughtiness" of Catholic works. Ciardi makes a point to use four-letter words and to use the most vulgar and obscene language and imagery where the work calls for it (Ciardi shrewdly observes the differences between cursing for Protestants and for Catholics -- the former finding bodily and worldly things obscene, the latter finding only blasphemy to be obscene). Another reviewer noted the overuse of "thees and thous" -- they must have read a different translation. These are reserved only for the most important figures in the book, when Dante clearly wanted to show respect.
A solid translation. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars 10 stars would not be enough!!, Dec 15 2003
By 
Roberto P. De Ferraz "ferraz9" (Sao Paulo, Brazil) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
The Divine Comedy" was written in Toscan by the Florentinian Dante Aligheri 700 years ago and is one of the most important texts ever written. Dante Aligheri is, along with Miguel de Cervantes, Willian Shakespeare and the Portuguese Luis de Camões, one of the most important writers of History, but we have to remember that Dante Alligheri was born some 250 years before each one of the latter.
"The Divine Comedy" was first published in the beginning of the 14th century and narrates a vision Dante Alligheri had of his visit to Hell (Dante's Inferno), the Purgatory and to the Heavens (Paradiso), where he is guided by the Latin poet Virgil and later on by his muse, Beatrice, deceased some years before. His narrative is full of devout catholic sentiments and he spares no expenses in narrating the torments perpetrated in Hell, described in details, where each ring or level is reserved for each different earthly infraction that the penitent has commited when alive. The company of Virgil, a permanent resident of the first hell ring, the Limbo, is a magistral coup by Dante Aligheri and adds lustre to the text.
Virgil leads Dante too through the Purgatory, where, contrary with what happens in the Inferno where there is no salvation, the souls are suffering with a view to a future life in Heaven. Dante is the first and only human being that put his feet into this after life regions, and things get increasingly intense and sometimes dangerous to him. Also to be noted is the disposition of Dante to here and there sting his earthly political opponents, which were not few, banning them to hellish confines.
The final visit to the supreme heavenly region, where he meets Beatrice, is suffused with catholic symbology, fully explained by Dante, who embroiders the descriptions with all the richness of his language. You end the book asking for more, and sensing intensively the powerful richness of Dante's vocabulary. I hope you enjoy the Divine COmedy as much as I did. Good reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's not a Real Story But I Think There's Somethin' We Might, Sept. 24 2003
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
...found important. Dante describes three places in this book. In hell are awful things: fire, ice, awful smell, pain. In purgatory there's less awful things. The paradise is described a place where is happy people. Well, some are very happy, some one are not so but aren't that sad either. The upper you are, the happier you are. The hell is desribed also like this. The lower you are the more pain you feel. There's different kinds of crimes that these people have done.
This is a great book! I love it! It's quite long but you don't have to read it word by word. The pictures are also quite good!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Longest love poem, Sept. 18 2003
By 
Luc REYNAERT (Beernem, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
It is difficult to add something new to the thousands of pages that have already been written on Dante's Divine Comedy, the peak of Medieval/ Renaissance literature.
Dante's work is the longest love poem ever put on paper, and that for a pubescent girl, whom the author probably saw only on a few ephemeral occasions. They were his 'Divine Appearances' of Beatrice.
On the other hand, some 'political' aspects of the Comedy are still very modern, like the clashes between the religious and worldly powers.
Here, Dante criticizes the interventions of the Catholic Church in worldly matters to defend her profane but huge interests.
Dante's work is also an eminent catholic poem. As Jesus Christ, who said 'who's not for me, is against me', Dante fulminates (and puts in Hell) against those who didn't accept his vision of society (strict separation between religous and worldly powers), or those who didn't belong to his political party and sent him in exile.
My personal preference goes to the 'Hell' part, where certain images evoke the impressive pictures of Jheronimus Bosch.
Everybody - even the heathen - should read this monument of human art, even if Dante's message is sometimes biased or flawed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Musical Translation!, Aug. 25 2003
By 
Terry Bohannon (Houston, TX USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Divine Comedy (Paperback)
I was introduced to Ciardi's translation of "The Divine Comedy" in an anthology of continental literature I read in college. At that time, after experiencing fragments of Fagles' horrible "verse" translation of Homer's works, I had low expectations for the translations in that anthology.
However, the instant I started reading John Ciardi's verse translation of "The Inferno", my hardened heart once again began to beat with the vibrancy it had when I read poems of Wordsworth or Browning.
John Ciardi, with a poetic talent that seems to be unmatched -- except for what I?ve read of W.S. Merwin's "Paradiso XXXIII," -- creates a poetic flow that feels, tastes, and even smells Italian. A poetic flow that delightfully contrasts Fagles', whose poetic flow is limited by popular styles and even phrases of the 20th century.
Instead of trying to lift Dante to the 20th century, Ciardi gracefully carries us to the early 14th century.
Instead of assuming that Dante is arcane, old fashioned, and in need of John's own poetic help, he believes that the original Italian is fresh, exciting, and poetically graceful.
The translation of Dante would have been diluted if Ciardi were to try and bring the 14th century to us through the modernization of the language, symbolism, and even the geography of Dante's world. (Fagles even geographically modified his "Odyssey" at one point to rename a Greek river the Nile because readers may get 'confused'.)
I?m glad that Ciardi tries to bring us back in time when the universe was cosmically full of life, where even the stars were more than the mere byproducts of abstract forces, chance, that can only be systematically analyzed and dissected.
The medieval worldview is far richer than the purely logical and scientific mindset that?s now common. By bringing Dante to us unfiltered by that mindset, Ciardi helps move us towards the bright and vibrant medieval world.
I strongly recommend John Ciardi's poetic translation of "The Divine Comedy," a lot is missed when reading only "The Inferno." The whole work is amazingly balanced.
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The Divine Comedy
The Divine Comedy by John Ciardi (Paperback - May 6 2003)
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