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The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno Hardcover – Sep 28 2010
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“The English Dante of choice.” –Hugh Kenner
“Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths.” –Robert Fagles, Princeton University
“A marvel of fidelity to the original, of sobriety, and truly, of inspired poetry.” –Henri Peyre, Yale University
About the Author
Dante Alighieri was born in 1265. Considered Italy's greatest poet, this scion of a Florentine family mastered in the art of lyric poetry at an early age. His first major work is La Vita Nuova (1292) which is a tribute to Beatrice Portinari, the great love of his life. Married to Gemma Donatic, Dante's political activism resulted in his being exiled from Florence to eventually settle in Ravenna. It is believed that The Divine Comedy-comprised of three canticles, The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso-was written between 1308 and 1320. Dante Alighieri died in 1321.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
In addition to the direct translation, Musa provides an introductory summary to each canto, detailed notes following each canto, a glossary of names in the back of each volume, and an introductory essay for each volume. The introduction to "Volume 1: Inferno" gives a thorough introduction to Dante and to his other works as well as to the Inferno. Following the introduction is a translator's note. The introductions to "Purgatory" and "Paradise" do not go over the extra information presented in "Inferno". It is useful to read all three of Dante's canticles in the Musa translation to get a complete, consistent presentation of the work. Musa does make reference in his notes to one volume to ideas or people presented in the others.
The notes are vital for almost everyone. The references to Biblical, classical, and medieval personalities, myths, time systems, theology, and events come frequently. Few people are up on the ins and outs of Guelf vs. Ghibelline in medieval Italian politics. Musa makes it all as clear as it needs to be.
Musa's version of "Inferno" italicizes the introductory summary before each canticle and retains the detailed, interesting mappings of Hell used in the Sayers edition.
Dante's poem is central to Western civilization.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Took me 4 months to read but worth it. The best translation of the Divine Comedy available.Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a detailed read and only the lonely should try this as it is deep and requires skill at interpertation.Published on Jan. 1 2013 by H. Osborn
"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 "Inferno," the most famous part of... Read morePublished on Oct. 12 2007 by EA Solinas
In my search for a copy of Dante's epic poem, the Divine Comedy, I encountered over 10 different copies of the opening part, Inferno. Read morePublished on June 4 2007 by Sebastian Skora
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