Dante's Inferno

( 54 )

Overview

A faithful yet totally original contemporary spin on a classic, Dante's Inferno as interpreted by acclaimed artist Sandow Birk and writer Marcus Sanders is a journey through a Hell that bears an eerie semblance to our own world. Birk, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as one of "realism's edgier, more visionary painters," offers extraordinarily nuanced and vivid illustrations inspired by Gustave Dore's famous engravings. This modern interpretation depicts an infernal landscape infested with mini-malls, fast food ...

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Dante's Inferno

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Overview

A faithful yet totally original contemporary spin on a classic, Dante's Inferno as interpreted by acclaimed artist Sandow Birk and writer Marcus Sanders is a journey through a Hell that bears an eerie semblance to our own world. Birk, hailed by the Los Angeles Times as one of "realism's edgier, more visionary painters," offers extraordinarily nuanced and vivid illustrations inspired by Gustave Dore's famous engravings. This modern interpretation depicts an infernal landscape infested with mini-malls, fast food restaurants, ATMs, and other urban fixtures, and a text that cleverly incorporates urban slang and references to modern events and people (as Dante did in his own time). Previously published in a deluxe, fine-press edition to wide praise, and accompanied by national exhibitions, this striking paperback edition of Dante's Inferno is a genuinely provocative and insightful adaptation for a new generation of readers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Creative people who don't write sometimes enjoy a honeymoon with the press — right up until they put pen to paper. It happened with Madonna. She used to give interviews saying what an old-fashioned girl she really was at heart, how all she'd really like to do was find a nice writer and settle down. Consequently, she barely ever saw a bad review — until she made the mistake of writing her first book. Critics promptly saw they'd been kidding themselves all along, and they turned on her.

So when word got around that the visionary California painter and book artist Sandow Birk was not just illustrating but co-writing a new adaptation of Dante's "Divine Comedy," some of us who cherish his work feared the worst. Sure, he could concoct historical canvases, sketches and propaganda posters about a bloody civil war between San Francisco and Los Angeles, as he did with "In Smog and Thunder: Historical Works From the Great War of the Californias." And OK, he could paint majestic landscapes of each of California's 33 state prisons in the luminist style of Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Remington, as he did with "Incarcerated: Visions of California in the 21st Century." Pastiching great painters was one thing. But Dante? In tackling not just fine but literary art for the first time, was Birk cruising for the same bruising Madonna got?

In a word, no. This version of the "Inferno" is God's face in a Groucho mask, a triumphant cathedral that will bring new readers to Dante, new appreciation for Birk's model here — the great French illustrator Gustave Dore — and new converts to the growing church of Sandow Birk.

The cover is so infernally beautiful that folks reading in public would do well to keep a tight grip on it. Imagine a panoramic hellscape in ochers and siennas, all set against a sulfurous sunset sky. On the left, half of the Golden Gate Bridge yearns forlornly, cables dangling from its broken span. To the right rises the ziggurat-crowned thrust of Los Angeles City Hall. Down below, so discreet that I never noticed it even in an art gallery last year, where the canvas measured a good 9 feet across, stands the leafless lattice of the World Trade Center's unmistakable stumps. And in the lower right corner, snaking around skyscrapers, oil refineries, palm trees and crow-clad telephone wires, writhes the telltale red and white tracery of nighttime freeways in gridlock. Behold — literally — the commute from hell.

For Birk, as for Dante, hell isn't just some posthumous grade you get on your life. It's a porous netherworld that welcomes slumming tourists like Dante and periodically overflows the infernal regions to contaminate the living world. Just look at Birk's panel for Canto III, the moment when the poet Virgil guides Dante through the gates of hell. Birk's Virgil resembles the caped figure familiar from Dore's edition, but here he's leading Dante past an overturned car into a littered, ominous underground garage. Signs beside them read "Do not back up/Severe tire damage" and "More parking lower level," and visible on the horizon is the Hollywood sign. Either hell is in Los Angeles, or Los Angeles is in hell.

Birk has drawn a full-page lithograph like this, plus a small black-and- white frontispiece, for each of Dante's 34 chapters. With the help of journalist and fellow surfer Marcus Sanders, he's also "adapted" Dante's text. They've avoided the word "translate," and it's not hard to see why. Here's Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's translation of that moment at hell's portal in Canto III:

"All hope abandon, ye who enter in!"

These words in sombre colour I beheld

Written upon the summit of a gate;

Whence I: 'Their sense is, Master, hard to me!' "

OK, now try Birk and Sanders:

"Abandon all hope upon entering here!

When I saw these bleak words etched in the stone above the gate,

I turned to Virgil and said, 'Hang on, I'm not too sure about this.' "

Obviously, Dante purists are going to tak

Publishers Weekly
With 68 7 1/2" x 11" b&w engravings that include helicopters, parking lots, shwarma stands, strip malls, chain-link fences, concrete stairs and skyscrapers, Dante's Inferno is brought into the present by illustrator Sandow Brik, and into English by Brik and Marcus Sanders, a contributing editor to Surfline.com. Their sophisticated Valley-speak ("the ghosts approached us, all totally deadpan, with zero emotion") may not be for everyone, but it is in synch with Dante's vernacular masterpiece. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Artist Sandow Birk and writer Marcus Sanders offer a modern twist on Dante's poem by updating the illustrations and settings to the current slices of hell we experience everyday, e.g., fast food restaurants and minimalls, among others. Perhaps a bit way out for some but pretty cool nonetheless. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780811842136
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
  • Publication date: 12/28/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 297,101
  • Product dimensions: 7.75 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sandow Birk is a recipient of both Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships. His work has been exhibited widely and published in several books. He lives in Long Beach, California.

Marcus Sanders is a contributing editor for Surfing and Surfline, and has written for numerous travel and surfing magazines. Born and raised in Canada, he lives in San Francisco.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004

    woot!

    ive alllwas wonderd what hell was like and now i know! the authors did a great job translateing the text but the orginal dante is soo much better but for the ppl who dont understand what dante is saying read this book if ur not reading this book u dont know what yer miissing out on !

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2014

    Dante's Inferno is an amazing book there are so many different i

    Dante's Inferno is an amazing book there are so many different interpretations of the novel. From a video game to an animated movie this novel is undoubtly astonishing. The novel's main focus was about a man named Dante a holy solider during the crusades and how the war slowly changed him and that no matter how someone may appear on the outside on the inside they may not be what you seemed, But when put to the test ones true nature is shown. Dante had to be put to the test to save his one true love and traveled through all nine circles of hell to try an save her from lucifer, and while being guided by the roman philosopher Virgil i guess the trip couldn't have been all that bad. So if you think you'd like to understand what human temptation really is and how war can change a man this book is the book for you.
      

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    Poor formatting

    This version has numerous scanning errors on each page as well as poor formatting of footnotes that causes the flow if reading to be regularly interrupted. The story is wonderful, but I'm sure there is a better version to be had.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautiful...

    I've been on a Hell kick these last two months and found this and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has some problems with the scanner it seems BUT the story stayed truthful to the actual poems.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Badly formatted for eInk Nook

    Good translation and notes. Looks ok on my iPad but poor on my Nook touch.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2009

    Absolutely Amazing Book and Translation!!!

    I had heard of Dante's Inferno but never read it and then someone I knew told me about it and I just had to read it. Problem was I'm not much of a reader. I didn't like the other translations because they were in Olde English. I would have never made it through those books. But this book was absolutely amazing. I loved it!!! I loved the translations. I was laughing throughout the book with some of the things that were shall we say updated in the book that were somewhat funny. This had me reading the book furriously which is a big change for me. This book is a must read for everyone. It is absolutely wonderful. I really enjoyed it and the tongue-in-cheek humor throughout. Good job!!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2006

    Finally

    I've been trying to find a good translation of this book for a while and I've finally found one that is absolutely amazing. I tried to read the original translation but I was lost to the language. But this one really puts the story in words that I can actually understand. A great story.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2006

    Absolutely Amazing.

    This bool was simply amazing. The power of the words combined with the stunning illustrations made for a very emotional read. A great book for those who are deep thinkers and long ponderers.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2005

    Nitro

    Had to read this book for honors english in a month or two, so i picked it up early, it blew me out of the water, with all its detail.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews

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