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From the Publisher
An attractive new alternative as both a translation and a pedagogical tool. The volume includes an excellent introduction by Dante scholar Steven Botterill (Univ. of California, Berkeley), clear and informative notes by lifelong Dantist Anthony Oldcorn, a concise bibliographical note that indicates some important sources on Dante in print and online, and a diagram of Hell; Index of the Damned lists characters who appear in the canticle. The translator's preface explains Lombardo's choices as he faced the always-challenging task of rendering Dante's poetry into English. Among the most interesting choices are the occasional use of rhyme--especially in key passages and at the end of each canto, where interlocking rhymes that mimic Dante's terza rima are consistently employed--and an emphasis on creating a version that works well as an oral presentation, following the long tradition of private, public, and theatrical readings of the poem. The volume includes the original Italian text, thus facilitating classroom references and comparisons. --Rebecca West (Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, University of Chicago) in Choice
I deeply admired Lombardo's translations of Iliad and Odyssey, as did my students--they were universally complimentary, loving the way the poetry flowed, and many of them learned the habit of reading the text aloud, much to the astonishment of their classmates from other sections of the courses. But their encounter with his Inferno was of a different order, as was mine. Lombardo's Inferno is so knowledgeable of the translation tradition (which it uses to marvelous effect), so poetically well-crafted, so compelling to read, so well-documented without overwhelming the reader, that I simply did not want to put it down. My students had much the same reaction. Although in the first session they were responsible for only the first third of the book, I quickly noticed that most of them had already read it through. They found it compelling to read and were captivated by a journey to which many of them had the week before said they did not look forward. --Ted Humphrey, Barrett Professor in the Barrett Honors College, Arizona State University
This newest verse translation offered by Stanley Lombardo artfully carries into English the radical vernacularity, both linguistic and cultural, of Dante’s Inferno. Readers and teachers who want a text that will resonate with contemporary and colloquial American English would do well to choose this translation. Lombardo’s translation revels in the street music of Dante’s vernacular poetry and occasional vulgar style in the Inferno. At times the interaction between Dante's stock devils, the Malebranche, sounds like the dialogue in a Scorsese film.
Lombardo performs other poetic feats so that Dante’s poetry might stand out in English with the same vitality with which Dante infused his vernacular poem. Lombardo finishes every canto with a brief interlocked rhymed passage to give the reader a taste of Dante’s terza rima. He also shifts into rhyme for Dante’s diatribes. As Lombardo aptly points out in his preface, style and meaning must cohere if the art of the poet is to resurface in a translation, and the forcefulness of his translation allows Dante’s harsh poetry to carry through.
The volume contains various helpful tools for the reader to understand the Inferno, both as an expression of the medieval intellect and as a cornerstone of the European literary tradition, and provides ample headnotes, prepared by veteran Dante scholar Anthony Oldcorn, to each canto. Neither a simple summary nor a detailed gloss, the notes do provide narrative signposts while giving a feel for the myriad ethical, philosophical, and poetical themes that Dante confronts.
The eminent Dante scholar Steven Botterill provides a masterly introduction to the Inferno that grounds the poem in Dante’s Italy while refraining from dwelling on unnecessary detail. Botterill organizes the introduction into themes rather than offering a vita auctoris. The novice reader of Dante will learn the important facts of Dante’s life without having ever read the word Guelph or Ghibelline. Instead, Botterill, following his translator, emphasizes Dante as a vernacular poet and the radical invention of his poem.
Similarly, the endnotes, by Oldcorn, opt for brevity and elegance over the exhaustive apparatus that accompanies many editions of the Commedia. Reading Oldcorn’s endnotes is like discussing the text over coffee with a remarkably sophisticated friend. He diligently fills in expected gaps in the reader’s literary knowledge while also engaging in an urbane literary conversation. Oldcorn covers Dante’s fundamental literary genealogies while paying attention to his place in the Western tradition. This translation aims to bring Dante to a new audience of readers who are unfamiliar with Dante and the Italian tradition in general. --Jason M. Houston, Speculum