A quintet celebrating The Divine Comedy author’s wickedly rich poetics.
The Divine Comedy: A New Verse Translation
By Clive James
The phrase “compulsively readable” is not usually associated with Dante’s ecclesiastical epic, but this ambitious, barefaced translation of the poet’s three-part journey through the Catholic hereafter has captivated the publishing world, The New York Times, and literary circles alike. Dante’s melodic, sometimes arrhythmic verse has been translated numerous times, yet its English rendering can feel opaque. But Clive James is an established lyric poet himself, and it shows: he avoids the pedantic, simplifying the text with a quatrain structure while retaining the musical vivacity of the original Italian. This accessible edition introduces a whole new way to read one of the most formative stories in history.
Dante in Love
By A. N. Wilson
This enchanting biography emerges as a culmination of A. N. Wilson’s lifelong fascination with Dante. While retelling the poet’s personal history — his shadowy family life, his eventual exile, and his well-known love for Vita Nuova inspiration Beatrice Portinari — Wilson also explores the political upheavals of medieval Europe, the restructuring of the Florentine banking system, and the societal turmoil that formed Dante’s poetic vision. The book also serves as an introduction to The Divine Comedy, for those wishing to re-tackle it with fresh acumen or those who have not yet dared attempt it. For a full review of Dante in Love by our contributor Alexandra Mullen, click here.
Dante: Poet of the Secular World
By Erich Auerbach
Erich Auerbach’s provocative essay argues that although Dante has reigned in religious circles for centuries, The Divine Comedy actually formed the basis for the resolutely secular modern novel. Auerbach cites the epic’s redefined notions of literary characters, the balanced play between small details and sweeping allegories, and the constant tussle between the conceptual world and the sensory that make up the laic touchstones of modern literature. This pivotal work shares a common lineage with The Poets’ Dante, an anthology of essays from twentieth-century poets around the world who cite Dante’s pioneering works as some of their biggest influences and inspirations.
The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso
Translated by Allen Mandelbaum
Called the “English Dante of choice” by literary scholar Hugh Kenner, Mandelbaum’s eminent translation prevails because it achieves the remarkable: emulating Dante’s singularly Romantic voice while seamlessly employing the comparatively clunky instrument of modern English. Other noteworthy translations of the celebrated epic, specifically Inferno, include Robert Pinsky’s award-winning bilingual edition and Mary Jo Bang’s innovative, anachronistic version, where pop culture sinners like South Park’s Eric Cartman make cameos in Hell.
By Dan Brown
Robert Langdon is back, cavorting with death and The Divine Comedy in the newest addition to Dan Brown’s gargantuan thriller series. Waking up amnesic in an unknown hospital, the professor is put up against the faceless “Consortium,” intent on — surprise! — destroying the planet. Inferno delivers themes of classic lit contrasted with plague warfare, alluding to codes and riddles seemingly hidden within the Comedy‘s most infamous section. In another reference to Dante’s masterwork, Larry Niven’s science fiction novel of the same name finds writer Allen Carpentier transported to the gates of Hell, where he is led through the Nine Layers by none other than Benito Mussolini. Part pastiche, part parody, Niven’s Inferno is a modernized, outlandish retelling of Dante and Virgil’s famed odyssey.