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The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno Paperback – Dec 31 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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  • The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno
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  • The Divine Comedy: Volume 3: Paradise
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  • The Divine Comedy: Volume II: Purgatory
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 2 edition (Dec 31 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437220
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437223
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #133,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Library Journal

As part of a projected six-volume edition of the Divine Comedy, Musa (Indiana Univ.) has revised and reissued his translation of Dante's Inferno (LJ 3/1/95) in a bilingual edition, accompanied by a volume-length commentary. Musa's translation is in fluent, colloquial verse that aims for the speed and rhythm of the original though not the form. This serviceable version is on the same level as the recent translations by Robert Pinskey (LJ 11/1/94) and Robert Durling (LJ 3/15/96). Musa's commentary is thorough and clear but doesn't significantly supersede that of Charles S. Singleton (1970). Nevertheless, it can be recommended.?Thomas L. Cooksey, Armstrong State Coll., Savannah, Ga.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Print on Demand (Paperback) edition.


"Musa operates on the principle that a translator's first duty is to render the original text as exactly as possible without compromising the literary quality of the work.... [This is] the best English-language version of the Inferno currently available." —Library Journal

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: Mass Market Paperback
About twenty years ago I read Dorothy Sayers's translation of Dante's "Divine Comedy" with great pleasure, finding an awesome grandeur in Dante's progression from Hell through Purgatory to Heaven. When I decided to re-read the work, I found the poetry tortured and the references obscure. So I went comparison shopping, settling on Mark Musa's version. He created an excellent, free-flowing, poetic, and easily understandable translation of the three canticles of Dante's "Divine Comedy" for Penguin Classics.
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.
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Format: 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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By EA Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Nov. 9 2007
Format: 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.
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