The Inferno (Large Print Edition)

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Overview

In a market crowded with translations of Dante's poetic masterpiece, Michael Palma sets himself apart. He has rendered Inferno into contemporary American English while maintaining Dante's original triple-rhyme scheme. Unlike every known translator before him, Palma re-creates Inferno in all its dimensions, without emphasizing some aspects over others. The result is a translation that can be appreciated for its literal faithfulness and beautiful poetic form. Palma is a poet who often uses traditional forms, and he...
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The Inferno (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

In a market crowded with translations of Dante's poetic masterpiece, Michael Palma sets himself apart. He has rendered Inferno into contemporary American English while maintaining Dante's original triple-rhyme scheme. Unlike every known translator before him, Palma re-creates Inferno in all its dimensions, without emphasizing some aspects over others. The result is a translation that can be appreciated for its literal faithfulness and beautiful poetic form. Palma is a poet who often uses traditional forms, and he is a translator who works to preserve the poetic form of the original. In undertaking a triple-rhyme translation of Inferno, Palma defies the conventional wisdom of literary commentators, who have long argued that it cannot be done. The translation is accompanied by facing-page Italian and by explanatory notes.
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Editorial Reviews

Charles Martin
The best I have ever come across.
Harper's Monthly
As a crown to his literary life, Longfellow combines his exquisite scholarship and his poetic skill and experience in the translation of one of the great poems of the world.
John Ahern
As a translation into triple rhyme I believe that Palma's work will become the translation of choice for most readers.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti
I find Michael Palma's Inferno to be one that I'm having a hard time improving.
North American Review
Longfellow, in rendering the substance of Dante's poem, has succeeded in giving also -- so far as art and genius could give it -- the spirit of Dante's poetry.
Richard Wilbur
I think highly of Michael Palma's Inferno....Readers will find it admirably clear and readable.
William Dean Howells
Here at last that much suffering reader will find Dante's greatness manifest, and not his greatness only, but his grace, his simplicity, and his affection... Opening the book we stand face to face with the poet, and when his voice ceases we may well marvel if he has not sung to us in his own Tuscan.
The Nation
X. J. Kennedy
His wonderfully readable translation comes close to perfection. I'm tempted to call it a miracle.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The opening canzone of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy has appeared in almost every imaginable variety of English translation: prose, blank verse and iambic pentameter; unrhymed or in terza rima; with and without the original Italian; with commentary ranging from a few notes to a full separate volume. The translations have been produced by poets, scholars and poet-scholars. In the past six years alone, six new translations of the Inferno have appeared (including Robert Pinsky's 1994 rendition for FSG) and at least 10 others remain in print, including Allen Mandelbaum's celebrated 1980 translation (Univ. of Calif. Press and Bantam) and the extensively annotated editions of Charles Singleton (Princeton Univ. Press) and Mark Musa (Univ. of Indiana Press), the latter two unlikely to be surpassed soon in terms of extensiveness of commentary. Dante scholar Robert Hollander and the poet Jean Hollander bring to this crowded market a new translation of the Inferno that, remarkably, is by no means redundant and will for many be the definitive edition for the foreseeable future. The heart of the Hollanders' edition is the translation itself, which nicely balances the precision required for a much-interpreted allegory and the poetic qualities that draw most readers to the work. The result is a terse, lean Dante with its own kind of beauty. While Mandelbaum's translation begins "When I had journeyed half of our life's way,/ I found myself within a shadowed forest,/ for I had lost the path that does not stray," the Hollanders' rendition reads: "Midway in the journey of our life/ I came to myself in a dark wood,/ for the straight way was lost." While there will be debate about the relative poetic merit of this new translation in comparison to the accomplishments of Mandelbaum, Pinsky, Zappulla and others, the Hollanders' lines will satisfy both the poetry lover and scholar; they are at once literary, accessible and possessed of the seeming transparence that often characterizes great translations. The Italian text is included on the facing page for easy reference, along with notes drawing on some 60 Dante scholars, several indexes, a list of works cited and an introduction by Robert Hollander. General readers, students and scholars will all find their favorite circles within this layered text. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Dante's Divine Comedy remains an invitation and challenge for modern poets and translators how to provide an aid for scholars but also to suggest something of Dante's greatness as a poet. Recent verse translations include those of Allen Mandelbaum (1980), Robert Pinsky (1994), Marc Musa (1995), and Peter Dale (1997), and Robert Durling has created a good prose version (1996). Palma, a poet who has provided English renditions of the poetry of Alfredo De Palchi, Guido Gozzano, and Diego Valeri, among others, takes up the challenge with commendable results. Like Dale, and unlike the rest, he attempts to capture Dante's terza rima, which is a challenge in rhyme-poor English. However, Palma's diction and syntax capture the range and vigor of the Inferno more accurately than that of his colleagues. Palma includes a minimum of notes to identify major figures and explain his reading of selected lines. This edition includes the Italian on the facing page. A superb translation; highly recommended for all libraries. T.L. Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This new blank verse translation of the first "Canticle" of Dante's 14th-century masterpiece compares interestingly with some of the recent English versions by American poets, though it suffers particularly by comparison with Allen Mandelbaum's graceful blank verse one. Its aim to provide "a clear, readable English version that nevertheless retains some of the poetry of the original" is only imperfectly fulfilled, owing partly to moments of unimaginative informality ("In Germany, where people drink a lot"), though these are intermittently redeemed by simple sublimity ("Night now revealed to us the southern stars,/While bright Polaris dropped beneath the waves./It never rose again from ocean's floor"). Translator Zappulla, an American Dante scholar and teacher, offers helpful historical and biographical information in an Introduction and exhaustive Notes following each of the poem's 34 "Cantos." Readers new to Dante may find his plainspoken version eminently satisfying; those who know the poem well may be disappointed by it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780559047350
  • Publisher: BiblioBazaar
  • Publication date: 8/20/2008
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence, Italy in 1265. His early poetry falls into the tradition of love poetry that passed from the Provencal to such Italian poets as Guido Cavalcanti, Dante's friend and mentor. Dante's first major work is the Vita Nuova, 1293-1294. This sequence of lyrics, sonnets, and prose narrative describes his love, first earthly, then spiritual, for Beatrice, whom he had first seen as a child of nine, and who had died when Dante was 25. Dante married about 1285, served Florence in battle, and rose to a position of leadership in the bitter factional politics of the city-state. As one of the city's magistrates, he found it necessary to banish leaders of the so-called "Black" faction, and his friend Cavalcanti, who like Dante was a prominent "White." But after the Blacks seized control of Florence in 1301, Dante himself was tried in absentia and was banished from the city on pain of death. He never returned to Florence. We know little about Dante's life in exile. Legend has it that he studied at Paris, but if so, he returned to Italy, for his last years were spent in Verona and Ravenna. In exile he wrote his Convivio, kind of poetic compendium of medieval philosophy, as well as a political treatise, Monarchia. He began his Comedy (later to be called the Divine Comedy) around 1307-1308. On a diplomatic mission to Venice in 1321, Dante fell ill, and returned to Ravenna, where he died.?

Allen Mendelbaum's five verse volumes are: Chelmaxions; The Savantasse of Montparnasse; Journeyman; Leaves of Absence; and A Lied of Letterpress. His volumes of verse translation include The Aeneid ofVirgil, a University of California Press volume (now available from Bantam) for which he won a National Book Award; the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso volumes of the California Dante (now available from Bantam); The Odyssey of Homer (now available from Bantam); The Metamorphoses of Ovid, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry; Ovid in Sicily; Selected Poems of Giuseppe Ungaretti; Selected Writings of Salvatore Quasimodo; and David Maria Turoldo. Mandelbaum is co-editor with Robert Richardson Jr. of Three Centuries of American Poetry (Bantam Books) and, with Yehuda Amichai, of the eight volumes of the JPS Jewish Poetry Series. After receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia, he was in the Society of Fellows at Harvard. While chairman of the Ph.D. program in English at the Graduate Center of CUNY, he was a visiting professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and at the universities of Houston, Denver, Colorado, and Purdue. His honorary degrees are from Notre Dame University, Purdue University, the University of Assino, and the University of Torino. He received the Gold Medal of Honor from the city of Florence in 2000, celebrating the 735th anniversary of Dante's birth, the only translator to be so honored; and in 2003 he received the President of Italy's award for translation. He is now Professor of the History of Literary Criticism at the University of Turin and the W.R. Kenan Professor of Humanities at Wake Forest University.

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Read an Excerpt

CANTO I



Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita

mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,

che la diritta via era smarrita.

Ahi quanto a dir qual era e cosa dura4

esta selva selvaggia e aspra e forte

che nel pensier rinova la paura!

Tant' e amara che poco e piu morte;7

ma per trattar del ben ch'i' vi trovai,

diro de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte.

Io non so ben ridir com' i' v'intrai,10

tant' era pien di sonno a quel punto

che la verace via abbandonai.

Ma poi ch'i' fui al pie d'un colle giunto,13

la dove terminava quella valle

che m'avea di paura il cor compunto,

guardai in alto e vidi le sue spalle16

vestite gia de' raggi del pianeta

che mena dritto altrui per ogne calle.

Allor fu la paura un poco queta,19

che nel lago del cor m'era durata

la notte ch'i' passai con tanta pieta.

E come quei che con lena affannata,22

uscito fuor del pelago a la riva,

si volge a l'acqua perigliosa e guata,

cosi l'animo mio, ch'ancor fuggiva,25

si volse a retro a rimirar lo passo

che non lascio gia mai persona viva.

Poi ch'ei posato un poco il corpo lasso,28

ripresi via per la piaggia diserta,

si che 'l pie fermo sempre era 'l piu basso.



The voyager-narrator astray by night in a dark forest. Morning and the sunlit hill. Three beasts that impede his ascent. The encounter with Virgil, who offers his guidance and an alternative path through two of the three realms the voyager must visit.



When I had journeyed half of our life's way,

I found myself within a shadowedforest,

for I had lost the path that does not stray.

Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,4

that savage forest, dense and difficult,

which even in recall renews my fear:

so bitter--death is hardly more severe!7

But to retell the good discovered there,

I'll also tell the other things I saw.

I cannot clearly say how I had entered10

the wood; I was so full of sleep just at

the point where I abandoned the true path.

But when I'd reached the bottom of a hill--13

it rose along the boundary of the valley

that had harassed my heart with so much fear--

I looked on high and saw its shoulders clothed16

already by the rays of that same planet

which serves to lead men straight along all roads.

At this my fear was somewhat quieted;19

for through the night of sorrow I had spent,

the lake within my heart felt terror present.

And just as he who, with exhausted breath,22

having escaped from sea to shore, turns back

to watch the dangerous waters he has quit,

so did my spirit, still a fugitive,25

turn back to look intently at the pass

that never has let any man survive.

I let my tired body rest awhile.28

Moving again, I tried the lonely slope--

my firm foot always was the one below.



Ed ecco, quasi al cominciar de l'erta,31

una lonza leggiera e presta molto,

che di pel macolato era coverta;

e non mi si partia dinanzi al volto,34

anzi 'mpediva tanto il mio cammino,

ch'i' fui per ritornar piu volte volto.

Temp' era dal principio del mattino,37

e 'l sol montava 'n su con quelle stelle

ch'eran con lui quando l'amor divino

mosse di prima quelle cose belle;40

si ch'a bene sperar m'era cagione

di quella fiera a la gaetta pelle

l'ora del tempo e la dolce stagione;43

ma non si che paura non mi desse

la vista che m'apparve d'un leone.

Questi parea che contra me venisse46

con la test' alta e con rabbiosa fame,

si che parea che l'aere ne tremesse.

Ed una lupa, che di tutte brame49

sembiava carca ne la sua magrezza,

e molte genti fe gia viver grame,

questa mi porse tanto di gravezza52

con la paura ch'uscia di sua vista,

ch'io perdei la speranza de l'altezza.

E qual e quei che volontieri acquista,55

e giugne 'l tempo che perder lo face,

che 'n tutti suoi pensier piange e s'attrista;

tal mi fece la bestia sanza pace,58

che, venendomi 'ncontro, a poco a poco

mi ripigneva la dove 'l sol tace.

Mentre ch'i' rovinava in basso loco,61

dinanzi a li occhi mi si fu offerto

chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco.

Quando vidi costui nel gran diserto,64

"Miserere di me," gridai a lui,

"qual che tu sii, od ombra od omo certo!"

Rispuosemi: "Non omo, omo gia fui,67

e li parenti miei furon lombardi,

mantoani per patria ambedui.



And almost where the hillside starts to rise--31

look there!--a leopard, very quick and lithe,

a leopard covered with a spotted hide.

He did not disappear from sight, but stayed;34

indeed, he so impeded my ascent

that I had often to turn back again.

The time was the beginning of the morning;37

the sun was rising now in fellowship

with the same stars that had escorted it

when Divine Love first moved those things of beauty;40

so that the hour and the gentle season

gave me good cause for hopefulness on seeing

that beast before me with his speckled skin;43

but hope was hardly able to prevent

the fear I felt when I beheld a lion.

His head held high and ravenous with hunger--46

even the air around him seemed to shudder--

this lion seemed to make his way against me.

And then a she-wolf showed herself; she seemed49

to carry every craving in her leanness;

she had already brought despair to many.

The very sight of her so weighted me52

with fearfulness that I abandoned hope

of ever climbing up that mountain slope.

Even as he who glories while he gains55

will, when the time has come to tally loss,

lament with every thought and turn despondent,

so was I when I faced that restless beast,58

which, even as she stalked me, step by step

had thrust me back to where the sun is speechless.

While I retreated down to lower ground,61

before my eyes there suddenly appeared

one who seemed faint because of the long silence.

When I saw him in that vast wilderness,64

"Have pity on me," were the words I cried,

"whatever you may be--a shade, a man."

He answered me: "Not man; I once was man.67

Both of my parents came from Lombardy,

and both claimed Mantua as native city.



Nacqui sub Iulio, ancor che fosse tardi,70

e vissi a Roma sotto 'l buono Augusto

nel tempo de li dei falsi e bugiardi.

Poeta fui, e cantai di quel giusto73

figliuol d'Anchise che venne di Troia,

poi che 'l superbo Ilion fu combusto.

Ma tu perche ritorni a tanta noia?76

perche non sali il dilettoso monte

ch'e principio e cagion di tutta gioia?"

"Or se' tu quel Virgilio e quella fonte79

che spandi di parlar si largo fiume?"

rispuos' io lui con vergognosa fronte.

"O de li altri poeti onore e lume,82

vagliami 'l lungo studio e 'l grande amore

che m'ha fatto cercar lo tuo volume.

Tu se' lo mio maestro e 'l mio autore,85

tu se' solo colui da cu' io tolsi

lo bello stilo che m'ha fatto onore.

Vedi la bestia per cu' io mi volsi;88

aiutami da lei, famoso saggio,

ch'ella mi fa tremar le vene e i polsi."

"A te convien tenere altro viaggio,"91

rispuose, poi che lagrimar mi vide,

"se vuo' campar d'esto loco selvaggio;

che questa bestia, per la qual tu gride,94

non lascia altrui passar per la sua via,

ma tanto lo 'mpedisce che l'uccide;

e ha natura si malvagia e ria,97

che mai non empie la bramosa voglia,

e dopo 'l pasto ha piu fame che pria.

Molti son li animali a cui s'ammoglia,100

e piu saranno ancora, infin che 'l veltro

verra, che la fara morir con doglia.

Questi non cibera terra ne peltro,103

ma sapienza, amore e virtute,

e sua nazion sara tra feltro e feltro.

Di quella umile Italia fia salute106

per cui mori la vergine Cammilla,

Eurialo e Turno e Niso di ferute.

And I was born, though late, sub Julio,70

and lived in Rome under the good Augustus--

the season of the false and lying gods.

I was a poet, and I sang the righteous73

son of Anchises who had come from Troy

when flames destroyed the pride of Ilium.

But why do you return to wretchedness?76

Why not climb up the mountain of delight,

the origin and cause of every joy?"

"And are you then that Virgil, you the fountain79

that freely pours so rich a stream of speech?"

I answered him with shame upon my brow.

"O light and honor of all other poets,82

may my long study and the intense love

that made me search your volume serve me now.

You are my master and my author, you--85

the only one from whom my writing drew

the noble style for which I have been honored.

You see the beast that made me turn aside;88

help me, o famous sage, to stand against her,

for she has made my blood and pulses shudder."

"It is another path that you must take,"91

he answered when he saw my tearfulness,

"if you would leave this savage wilderness;

the beast that is the cause of your outcry94

allows no man to pass along her track,

but blocks him even to the point of death;

her nature is so squalid, so malicious97

that she can never sate her greedy will;

when she has fed, she's hungrier than ever.

She mates with many living souls and shall100

yet mate with many more, until the Greyhound

arrives, inflicting painful death on her.

That Hound will never feed on land or pewter,103

but find his fare in wisdom, love, and virtue;

his place of birth shall be between two felts.

He will restore low-lying Italy106

for which the maid Camilla died of wounds,

and Nisus, Turnus, and Euryalus.



Questi la caccera per ogne villa,109

fin che l'avra rimessa ne lo 'nferno,

la onde 'nvidia prima dipartilla.

Ond' io per lo tuo me' penso e discerno112

che tu mi segui, e io saro tua guida,

e trarrotti di qui per loco etterno,

ove udirai le disperate strida,115

vedrai li antichi spiriti dolenti,

ch'a la seconda morte ciascun grida;

e vederai color che son contenti118

nel foco, perche speran di venire

quando che sia a le beate genti.

A le quai poi se tu vorrai salire,121

anima fia a cio piu di me degna:

con lei ti lascero nel mio partire;

che quello imperador che la su regna,124

perch' i' fu' ribellante a la sua legge,

non vuol che 'n sua citta per me si vegna.

In tutte parti impera e quivi regge;127

quivi e la sua citta e l'alto seggio:

oh felice colui cu' ivi elegge!"

E io a lui: "Poeta, io ti richeggio130

per quello Dio che tu non conoscesti,

a cio ch'io fugga questo male e peggio,

che tu mi meni la dov' or dicesti,133

si ch'io veggia la porta di san Pietro

e color cui tu fai cotanto mesti."

Allor si mosse, e io li tenni dietro.136



And he will hunt that beast through every city109

until he thrusts her back again to Hell,

from which she was first sent above by envy.

Therefore, I think and judge it best for you112

to follow me, and I shall guide you, taking

you from this place through an eternal place,

where you shall hear the howls of desperation115

and see the ancient spirits in their pain,

as each of them laments his second death;

and you shall see those souls who are content118

within the fire, for they hope to reach--

whenever that may be--the blessed people.

If you would then ascend as high as these,121

a soul more worthy than I am will guide you;

I'll leave you in her care when I depart,

because that Emperor who reigns above,124

since I have been rebellious to His law,

will not allow me entry to His city.

He governs everywhere, but rules from there;127

there is His city, His high capital:

o happy those He chooses to be there!"

And I replied: "O poet--by that God130

whom you had never come to know--I beg you,

that I may flee this evil and worse evils,

to lead me to the place of which you spoke,133

that I may see the gateway of Saint Peter

and those whom you describe as sorrowful."

Then he set out, and I moved on behind him.136



CANTO II



Lo giorno se n'andava, e l'aere bruno

toglieva li animai che sono in terra

da le fatiche loro; e io sol uno

m'apparecchiava a sostener la guerra4

si del cammino e si de la pietate,

che ritrarra la mente che non erra.

O Muse, o alto ingegno, or m'aiutate;7

o mente che scrivesti cio ch'io vidi,

qui si parra la tua nobilitate.

Io cominciai: "Poeta che mi guidi,10

guarda la mia virtu s'ell' e possente,

prima ch'a l'alto passo tu mi fidi.

Tu dici che di Silvio il parente,13

corruttibile ancora, ad immortale

secolo ando, e fu sensibilmente.

Pero, se l'avversario d'ogne male16

cortese i fu, pensando l'alto effetto

ch'uscir dovea di lui, e 'l chi e 'l quale,

non pare indegno ad omo d'intelletto;19

ch'e' fu de l'alma Roma e di suo impero

ne l'empireo ciel per padre eletto:

la quale e 'l quale, a voler dir lo vero,22

fu stabilita per lo loco santo

u' siede il successor del maggior Piero.

Per quest' andata onde li dai tu vanto,25

intese cose che furon cagione

di sua vittoria e del papale ammanto.

Andovvi poi lo Vas d'elezione,28

per recarne conforto a quella fede

ch'e principio a la via di salvazione.



The following evening, Invocation to the Muses. The narrator's questioning of his worthiness to visit the deathless world. Virgil's comforting explanation that he has been sent to help Dante by three Ladies of Heaven. The voyager heartened. Their setting out.



The day was now departing; the dark air

released the living beings of the earth

from work and weariness; and I myself

alone prepared to undergo the battle4

both of the journeying and of the pity,

which memory, mistaking not, shall show.

O Muses, o high genius, help me now;7

o memory that set down what I saw,

here shall your excellence reveal itself!

I started: "Poet, you who are my guide,10

see if the force in me is strong enough

before you let me face that rugged pass.

You say that he who fathered Sylvius,13

while he was still corruptible, had journeyed

into the deathless world with his live body.

For, if the Enemy of every evil16

was courteous to him, considering

all he would cause and who and what he was,

that does not seem incomprehensible,19

since in the empyrean heaven he was chosen

to father honored Rome and her empire;

and if the truth be told, Rome and her realm22

were destined to become the sacred place,

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Table of Contents

Introduction IX
Acknowledgments XIX
The Plan of Dante's Hell XXI
Inferno I
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Interviews & Essays

Conversation with ANTHONY ESOLEN, translator of Dante’s INFERNO

1. What attracted you to Dante’s work?

Dante is arguably the greatest poet who ever lived; I think only Homer and Shakespeare deserve mention in the same breath. It is hard to find a poet whose art is as severe, as precisely chiseled, and as intellectually well-defined as is Dante's, yet at the same time his art possesses a kaleidoscopic complexity that staggers the imagination. Each of these qualities is rare enough. To find them at once in the same author, writing an epic about the ultimate questions, is–well, all I can say is that we will not see his like again.
2. What made you interested in doing translations?

Once, when I was a graduate student attending a party given by a professor of German, I met a young man who said he was studying Georgian, the language spoken by the natives of the Caucasus mountains. "Why on earth would you do that?" I asked, thinking I'd come upon another harmless academic snob. His answer shamed me. "One of the greatest living poets in the world lives in Georgia. He writes epics in Georgian, and I want to translate them into English so that other people can read them." Of all the things that academics do–some good, some bad, many simply vain and useless–I could hardly think of anything of greater value than to devote your talent to so humbling a task. Then, years later, my wife Debra suggested the same thing to me, and that is when I started work on Lucretius.
3. Is Dante difficult to render well in English? What were some of the challenges you faced as a translator, and what are youtrying to achieve with this translation?

Dante is difficult, period. I think, though, that once you get over the issue of rhymes, English is actually a pretty good language into which to translate the Commedia. (I love German, but I do shudder to think of Hell in the Teutonic tongue!) English is a peculiar language, after all: it contains its good stock of short, brusque, German or Middle French words, enriched by an enormous stock of words derived directly from Latin or from the Romance languages. So the vocabulary, with all its subtle semantic and tonal shades, helps a lot, as does that most supple tool, English iambic pentameter.
What was I trying to achieve? I want to make people fall in love with Dante–really fall in love with him, and not just pretend to in order to score points at a literary soiree. For that, you need swift and vigorous but also musical verse. And I'm hoping that that's what I've provided.
4. Why iambic pentameter?
Nothing else will do. Free verse won't do; non-metrical (that is to say, free but not too free) verse won't do, either. Music must somehow be translated into what retains traces of the music. Iambic pentameter is the natural meter of English narrative poetry, imitating most faithfully the rhythms of our speech, and it is capable of extraordinary variation (consider the uses to which Shakespeare put it in his plays). We are fortunate to have it.
5. What kind of research did you do for this translation, and how did you go about doing it?

For the translation, I consulted many Italian editions of Dante, especially those whose notes brought out most clearly the meanings of his coinages or of strange dialectal words. As for the rest of the book, let's just say that for a year I had twenty volumes of Aquinas cluttering up the office.
6. Why has the INFERNO been so influential and admired over the ages and in our own time?

Well, for a while Dante did go out of fashion: too medieval, you know. With the important exceptions of Milton and Blake, he really did not have many admirers among English writers from the Tudors to the end of the eighteenth century. The English Romantics and their Victorian followers rediscovered his greatness–or at least they found the story of Dante and Beatrice to harmonize with their own beautiful, dreamy, half-sickly love of the chivalric past. That was in England; in Italy, Dante has been the poet who defined both language and nationhood. But I think that modern readers are attracted to Dante because they find in him what the modern world cannot offer: a cogent and coherent vision of the universe.
7. Why, in this new translation, did you include the “sourcebook” that presents Dante’s most important religious sources?

I'm a professor by trade and know what sorts of ancillary material I would want, and have wanted, in books I assign the students to read. Also, I think that you miss much of the joy of a work of art when you cannot walk a little way into the world that gave it birth.
8. What do you want readers to take away from this new translation?
A love for Dante, and maybe a clearer view of that great peak of intellectual and artistic achievement: the Middle Ages.
9. What are you working on now?

Don't tell my editor, but I'm taking a break! Actually, I'm going to be writing the introduction and the notes to my translation of Paradiso, while revising the completed translation. Purgatorio is finished and ready to be printed.
10. What other languages do you speak fluently and/or translate?

How fluently I speak it, I'd best let the natives judge, but I do speak German too, and read French, Anglo-Saxon, Latin, and some (New Testament, which is the easy stuff) Greek. I've translated Lucretius (De Rerum Natura; Latin) and Torquato Tasso (Gerusalemme Liberata; Italian), and one of these days I'm going to make good on a threat to translate into English verse a passel of Anglo-Saxon poems not named "Beowulf".
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 406 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2005

    You can see why it is a classic

    Yes, once again, Aaron actually reads a classic. The last time this happened was, ummm..., a few years ago. Anyway, this time I tackled the famous recounting of one man's journey to Hell. The version I read used the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation from the nineteenth century, which might have made things harder then they needed to be, as there were definitely some archaic words used. Not that the subject wasn't hard enough, considering that the book was written around 750 years ago. What I wasn't prepared for was how personal everything would be (for the author, not for me). See, Dante used this book (and most likely all of the Divine Comedy, of which The Inferno is just the first part) to take some rather serious pot shots at various people he didn't like, as well as showing favor to people that he did like. For example, many of Dante's political enemies find themselves in some rather interesting situations in hell, undergoing some rather perverse tortures for their sins in life. A number of classical philosphers and poets show up in Hell, too, which only makes sense considering that they died without acknowledging the Lordship of Jesus Christ. However, because Dante likes these guys, they are only in the first circle of Hell, where things relatively aren't all that unpleasant (like Judas Iscariot, who gets eaten by Lucifer for all eternity. Lovely.). Lastly, I would like to note that the preface, the footnotes, and the endnotes were very helpful in getting a proper understanding for what was going on and putting it in the proper context. Props to whoever put that all together.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    JUST READ IT

    If your looking at this as a possible book to reread, get it. If you've never read The Inferno, BUY THIS COPY. Its the greatest poem in history, arguably the greatest work of art in history. It is epic, beautiful, amazing, and stimulating, intellectualy and emotionally. In ways, it is beyond flawless. Everything about this work: the writing, the story, the characters, the presentation, eben the preface is masterful. Buy it, and never sell it unless you can get another copy cheaper.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2007

    Excellent

    The writing in Dante¿s Inferno is beautiful, powerful, and effective. It was a little hard to comprehend, but I understood much of it. I thought the book was very excellent and fun to read. I would recommend it to anyone who finds fantasy interesting. The way God/Dante punishes the people in Hell is weird/interesting, but I loved it.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 27, 2010

    Very intellectual

    Dante takes a journey through the 9 levels of hell with incredible dipictions of the tortures of each level... yeah if you can understand it. This was written in 1300 so obviously the writting is much different. I found it incredibly hard to read and if it hadnt been for the endnotes i would have finished and had no idea what i just read. The idea behind the book is briliant, i loved it, i just couldnt follow along very well. I learned a lot and it was interesting enough, but it is just a tough book to follow along with. If you have lots of time, READ IT, and good luck.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2008

    Great book......

    I really enjoyed this book. It was great I L.O.V.E a book with symbolizism in it. This book is always misrepresented as one thing when its talking about something else. Dante biography is amazing. N his L.O.V.E for Beatrice was incredible. I had decided to do farther research on his life. From start to finish the book his life....both very wonderful. I enjoyed it...it is a MUST READ!!!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2012

    Difficult to get through,but rewarding none the less

    It probably took me a month to trudge through Dante's Inferno. That being said, it was probably one of the best books i have ever read, and I really wish there was a modern text version of it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2008

    Inferno is a Must

    The Inferno is an epic poem, rather than a novel. Written in the first person, Dante takes the reader through his version of Hell. As he descends, the sins become increasingly catastrophic. Comical at times, serious at times, but all around a great read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Only canticle 1

    Don't get this version. There is only a tiny fraction of the poem here. What a rip off!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2012

    It was bad

    Not good

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2011

    Good

    Good soo mch fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    great book

    i have the Dantes Inferno video game which is based on this and i really wanted to read this and i thought it was really good

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    an excellent book

    i don't particularly like poetry, but this book is incredible. though the first canto is a little boring, it grabs you from the second canto all the way through to the 34th. the book can be a little hard to understand due to the translation by Longfellow into the older English of the time, but if you switch the words around a little bit, it tends to make better sense. this is a very gruesome, gorey, and depictive book of how Hell is. i recommend this for everyone who would like to see into the "9 levels" of Hell as portrayed by Dante.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    There is a reason this book has stood the test of time.

    The Inferno is one of the best books I have read. Once I began reading it, I could not stop. Normally books written in this time period do not hold my interest, but Dante did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2014

    Don't like the translation

    It doesn't read well. There are too many Anglo-French choices when more contemporary words could have worked better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2014

    test

    test

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2014

    AHHH!!!!!!!!!! SCREAM!!!!!!!!!!!! AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Made You Look.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2014

    From the fiery pits of the Wrathful, to the bitter, glacial tomb

    From the fiery pits of the Wrathful, to the bitter, glacial tombs of the Traitors, Hell has a torturous domicile to accommodate sinners of all kinds for eternity. Dante Alighieri is considered by many to be one of the most brilliant writers of all time, and is credited with the transformation from Middle Age literature to the masterpieces of the Renaissance. The pinnacle of his writing career was “Dante’s Inferno”, which was published as part of his “Divine Comedy” in 1314. Dante’s brilliant epic poem explored the faults of humankind through the journey across Hell and the shortcomings of the main character. 
    The protagonist of the story is Dante, who is a poet that must pass through the nine circles of Hell in order to achieve salvation. He must cross over the circles of Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Avarice, Wrath, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery/Betrayal, each more detestable than the last. Fortunately, Dante is guided by his perspicacious guide, Virgil, who comes to him as he is being attacked by animals and has lost his way – both literally and figuratively. As he traverses through the underworld, the faults of human civilization are exposed by each of the nine circles.
    To give example of each of these faults, Alighieri includes notable figures from history, literary works, and mythology, such as Alexander the Great and Helen, by placing them in the circle that they supposedly belong. In the novel, Dante frequently converses with these support characters in order to elucidate how to alleviate his sins. Additionally, these conversations provide insight as to the sins that each of these people represent and which human fault they symbolize. Furthermore, it can be argued that the character Dante does not wholly represent the author, but rather mankind itself, while Virgil represents God, as he guides Dante to salvation, which is similar to how God guides people to that same result. 
    These colloquies are pretty common and somewhat predictable (although the content and messages are not), as the poem follows a generally linear plot in which Dante enters the next circle, talks with the damned souls, deals with the challenges of the current situation, and moves on to the next circle. Consequently, the linear plot doesn’t build much suspense and the poem is met with a very anticlimactic end when Dante meets Lucifer. 
    The barren ending was a shortcoming of the book; however, it was still a brilliant work of literature. The clever symbolism in the book, such as when the punishment for avarice is pushing a boulder against another boulder, which is pointless like wealth, is particularly impressive. Additionally, the dark and hopeless atmosphere of the book is held throughout the book, as it never fails to remind the reader that he/she is in Hell. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2013

    Better Reading On Nook Than The Book

    It's much faster reading the Inferno on the Nook than the paper book because of the footnote links. But all around a great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2013

    This bok is amazing

    Omg good bok who ever wrote this book is a gen gen

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2013

    I wrote the comment "excellent read my review"

    Oh too continue on my last review saying its great, mark up the text, add notes etc. I'm 14 so if i can read and decipher it you can...just rememer everything has symbolism usually not many things are literal. Everything idripped alot of details if yiu can decipher taht you can read this

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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