The divine comedy: Hell

by Dante Alighieri

Other authorsEdward Moore (Editor), Harry Bennett (Illustrator), Louis Leopold Biancolli (Translator)
Hardcover, 1966






New York, Washington Square Press [1966]


Led by Virgil, the poet is taken down into the depths and shown the seven layers of Hell and those doomed to suffer eternal torment for vices exhibited and sins committed on earth. The 'Inferno' is the first part of the 'Divine Comedy' which continues the journey through Purgatory and Paradise.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Banoo
'Here any doubts must be dropped,
any cowardice has to die now.
We've arrived where I told you,
where you'd see spirits in agony,
losers of the intelligence's good.'

My second excursion into hell this year (my first was by way of Yasutaka Tsutsui). I never realized there were so many Italians and Greeks in that place. This book is kind of a Who's Who of Hell. If I ever find myself lost in a forest (which happens frequently) and Virgil appears and offers to guide me out, I think I'll pass. Virgil takes the long way out, the long and inconvenient way. Virgil is a crazy man... and he's dead. One should never follow Virgil. I hope you understand my repetition and insistence on this matter. Avoid Virgil if you get lost.

Canto 21 was probably one of my favorites. I like the idea of being on a bridge over bubbling hot tar filled with screaming souls that surface like dolphins while having monsters chase me. Yet another reason to avoid Virgil. You shouldn't need to take this path to get out of a forest. It's just not right. Screw what Beatrice has to say about all this. Better still... stay out of forests.… (more)
LibraryThing member catherinestead
I first tried reading this about ten years ago when I was studying medieval history, and didn't get very far. In fact, I can tell you that I got to the end of Canto 5, because that's where the margin notes in my copy finish.

Reading it now, I can't imagine why I didn't get further. This was a translation by Dorothy L. Sayers (first published 1949), and I found it very accessible and easy to read. In her introduction, Sayers explains that she has stuck to the terza rima in which the original was written, sacrificing (she says) a little verbal accuracy in favour of retaining the speed and rhythm. She also explains at some length her approach to the rhyme-scheme and metre, her use of a wide range of English vocabulary including some colloquial phrases, and the ways in which she has tried to preserve the humour and tone of the original. I think that Sayers achieved great success in this: the vocabulary is gloriously rich, ranging from phrases which are positively Shakespearean all the way to the contemporary vernacular, and just about everything in between. The poetry is evocative and flows well, and the various tones and changes of mood are superbly conveyed.

The book has extensive notes on the significant people encountered by the character of Dante in his journey through hell, and on the symbolism and imagery used by Dante the writer, which are not only engaging and well-written but also exceedingly useful. The introduction sets out the historical context in some detail, which is also very helpful: I could have given a detailed history of the Guelfs and Ghibellines ten years ago, but this time I was more than a little reliant on this introductory information to refresh my memory. The diagrams and maps of Dante's hell are also beneficial, as is the glossary of all the characters encountered. Together, the poetry and notes make this a very accessible translation for those who are unused to poetry, unfamiliar with the historical figures, or both.

I found the story (if I can call it that) to be more easily understood than I had expected it to be, and also more entertaining than I had anticipated. I did, however, find that the various circles of hell began to merge together in my mind as in some cases there was either little detail given about them or they were very similar to other circles.

I expected most of the symbolism in the book to pass me by - most symbolism generally does - but between Dante's own explanations and that in the notes I was able to appreciate far more than I expected to, and to overlook much less than I feared. The commentary on the political situation at the time, as well as that on the Church, is very definitely partisan - but is nonetheless insightful.

I have the remainder of the Divine Comedy in the Sayers translation awaiting me on the shelf, and am now very definitely looking forward to reading it.
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LibraryThing member junesong
Even though I'm not very big on religion, this is one of my favorite trilogies. I love the descriptions he gives of hell and heaven. They're very believable and made me picture them in a different way.
LibraryThing member TZYuhas
More a commentary on 14th century Italy than anything else, "The Divine Comedy" details three spheres of the afterlife, and the first volume of Dante's "Divine Comedy" is the decent into the Inferno. In understanding the works of Dante one must understand the man himself. A devout Catholic, he wrote the work as a commentary on the political, economic and social happenings of his city. He strongly believed that his own city was on its own decent into darkness. The Inferno gave Dante a chance to punish his enemies, etc, for eternity in one of the most graphic depictions of Hell. Composed of 34 Cantos, the Inferno takes us through the nine rings of Hell. Dante, along with his idol and guide Virgil, make the decent into Hell ring by ring. From the lustful, the wrathful, the violent, to the betrayers, the reader is given a detailed look at the idea of "punishment fitting the crime". Indeed the genius of Dante is not just in the poetry or the detail in the description, but his construction of the entire idea itself; his anti-trinity found in the devil and among others the parabola nature of his travel through hell. It is an important work in understanding the history of Hell's development, but to learn about Dante's world, his views, and his biases.

This particular edition allows the reader to view not only the English translation but the original Italian. Robert Durling also provides extensive notes on each Canto which can illuminate the reader on the deeper meaning and hidden contexts in the work.

All in all it is one of the classics of literature and will continue to be a captivating work about man's greatest question. What happens to us when we die?
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LibraryThing member Mromano
The four and 1/2 stars is for the translation, not the work itself which is a five star world masterpiece. Although Dante can drag here and there in his philosophical asides, no other artist has attempted to do what Dante has done in this work: take an almost universally held belief-in this case the afterlife, and more specifically here, hell, and completely realize it. In fact, his hell was so convincing that for many people it STILL is what they believe hell to be. Ciardi's translation is a good one and one that is used in schools; however, it does not keep the terza rima rhyme scheme, and its explanations and notes are not the best. I personally think Dorothy Sayer's translation is better.… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
I find The Divine Comedy among the most amazing works I've ever read--despite that the work is essentially Christian Allegory and I'm an atheist. First and foremost for its structure. Recently I read Moby Dick and though it had powerful passages I found it self-indulgent and bloated and devoutly wished an editor had taken a hatchet to the numerous digressions. There is no such thing as digressions in Dante. I don't think I've ever read a more carefully crafted work. We visit three realms in three Canticas (Hell, Purgatory and Heaven) each of 33 cantos and in a terza rima verse in a triple rhyme scheme. Nothing is incidental or left to chance . That's not where the structure ends either. Hell has nine levels, it is an imaginary landscape worthy of Tolkien or Pratchett, both in large ways and small details. I found it fitting how Dante tied both sins and virtues to love--a sin was love misdirected or applied, and the lower you go in hell, the less love there is involved, until at the lowest reaches you find Satan and traitors encased in a lake of ice. Then there are all the striking phrases, plays of ideas and gorgeous imagery that comes through despite translations. This might be Christian Allegory, but unlike say John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress it's far from dry or tedious and is full of real life contemporaries of Dante and historical figures. There are also Dante's guides here. His Virgil is wonderful--and the perfect choice. The great Latin poet of the Aeneid leading the great Italian poet who made his Tuscan dialect the standard with his poetry.

I've read the entire Divine Comedy but certainly Hell is what stays most vividly in my mind. I remember the people of Hell best. There's Virgil of course, who must remain in limbo for eternity because he wasn't a Christian. There's Francesca di Rimini and her lover, for their adultery forever condemned to be flung about in an eternal wind so that even Dante pities them. And that, of course, is the flip side of this. Dante's poem embodies the orthodox Roman Catholic Christianity of the 1300s and might give even Christians today pause. Even though I don't count myself a Christian, I get the appeal of hell. In fact, I can remember exactly when I understood it. When once upon a time I felt betrayed, and knew there was no recourse. The person involved would never get their comeuppance upon this Earth. How nice I thought, if there really was a God and a Hell to redress the balance. The virtue of any Hell therefore is justice. These are the words Dante tells us are at hell's entrance.




It's hard to see Dante's vision matching the orthodox doctrine as just however, even when I might agree a particular transgression deserves punishment. Never mind the virtuous and good in limbo because they weren't Christians or unbaptized or in hell because they committed suicide or were homosexual. And poor Cassio and Brutus, condemned to the lowest circle because they conspired to kill a tyrant who was destroying their republic. My biggest problem with hell is that it is eternal. Take all the worst tyrants who murdered millions, make them suffer not only the length of the lifetimes of their victims but all the years they might have had, I doubt if you add it up it comes to the age of the Earth--never mind eternity. Justice taken to extremes is not justice--it's vindictiveness and sadism. Something impossible for me to equate with "the primal love."

Yet I loved this work so much upon my first read (I read the Dorothy Sayers translation) I went out and bought two other versions. One by Allen Mandelbaum (primarily because it was a dual language book with the Italian on one page facing the English translation) and a hardcover version translated by Charles Eliot Norton. Finally, before writing up my review and inspired by Matthew Pearl's The Dante Club, I got reacquainted by finding Longfellow's translation online. Of all of them, I greatly prefer Mandelbaum's translation. The others try to keep the rhyming and rhythm of the original and this means a sometimes tortured syntax and use of archaic words and the result is forced and often obscure, making the work much harder to read than it should be.
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LibraryThing member Mithalogica
(Review is of the Penguin Classics translation by Mark Musa, and applies to all three volumes, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradisio)

I would not think to quibble with reviewing Dante himself - Dante is a master, and doesn't need my endorsement. I will say, however, that Musa's translation is an exceptionally sensitive one, and his comprehensive notes are an invaluable aid to the reader less familiar with Dante's broad spheres of reference. Musa is clearly a devoted scholar of Dante, and his concern for Dante's original meaning and tone is evident. This is one of the best translations of The Comedia available.… (more)
LibraryThing member stillatim
I'm just going to say that Dante is the greatest writer ever, and move on to review this edition.

This edition is great--not as great as Dante, but great. Kirkpatrick's translation is enjoyable, and more or less metrical; he's not afraid to leave in the difficulties and obscurities that you find in the Italian, and he's willing to occasionally just say screw it and throw in something unexpected and perhaps a little reckless. He also has a glorious vocabulary. He is to other Dante translators as Cormac McCarthy is to other American novelists, but Kirkpatrick's odd vocabulary is not limited to obscure concrete nouns.

Two things I took away from reading 'Inferno' via Kirkpatrick: first, Virgil is a genuine tragic figure, and can surely be read as a kind of apologetic fiction. Look at Virgil, Dante says, and consider what you--a far inferior human being on so many levels--are throwing away by not being a good Christian! Here is the greatest of poets, the most reasonable of writers, locked out of heaven simply because of his birthdate. Don't waste the unearned good fortune of being born after Christ's coming!

Second: I'm now pretty sure that Dante's dark wood was a suicide attempt. Read canto I, then read the canto of the suicides in Kirkpatrick's translation, and I suspect you'll decide the same. As well as aesthetic sense, it makes biographical sense. Don't bring your scholarship to bear on this, it's my interpretation and I'm sticking to it.

Kirkpatrick's also taken an interesting approach to notes and commentary. Rather than exhaustively annotating every line, he's written mini-essays on each canto, which allow you to get a good feel for what's coming/what you've just read, and then annotated episodes. Kirkpatrick's prose is, as you'd expect from the vocabulary of his translation, rather baroque. So if, like me, you enjoy that kind of thing, voila.

All that said, I suspect most readers will find Hollingdale or Carson (or Pinsky, if you like that kind of thing) a better introduction to Dante. This, however, is an ideal second read. My friends mock me for saying things like this, but: when you come to read Dante again, Kirkpatrick is the way to go.
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LibraryThing member gbill
If you like reading about people boiled in a river of blood, forever immersed in shit, having their heads on backwards, split down the middle, beheaded, suffering eternal disease and itching, being frozen in ice, or lastly for those in the innermost circle of hell, you know, bad old Judas and Brutus, chewed by Satan himself (as well as in the other circles a myriad of other tortures, er, “just” punishments for sins on Earth per the Christian view of morality), well, this is the book for you!

To me this book represents the worst of Christianity: eternal torment, eternal torture, and no mercy. It’s all cruel retribution, without pity. I fail to see how these sentiments are Christ-like even within the dogma of the religion, and I fail to see why anyone would ever view this as representative of an enlightened faith that should be aspired to.

If you are inclined to read it this is a great edition – lots of annotation, illustrations, and a fresh translation … but I don’t recommend it.
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LibraryThing member stillatim
Dante is the standard against which other authors should be judged. He is smarter than other authors, his work is more beautiful than theirs, and while he can create characters out of two words, he doesn't think that's all there is to literature. If the Western intellectual tradition has a center that holds everything together, it is Dante: he brings together everything that went before him, and you can find seeds in the Comedy for almost everything that comes after him. In every book I read, I find something missing, because we are finite creatures and not everyone can do everything. Except Dante, who is somehow as adept at brutal satire as he is at describing the Virgin Mary's tear-ducts. I believe he really went to heaven, because if he didn't, where the hell did he get the ability to write a long poem that will satisfy anyone who is willing to use their brain, even a little?

So, obviously, I'm just rating the edition. I read this one largely because I was curious about Ciaran Carson, and I can see myself picking up some of his own work on the basis of his translation. Not many--possibly none, other than Carson--poets try to put Dante into any form at all, let alone stick to terza rima as closely as English sense and sound will allow. If that's not challenging enough, Carson then tries to make the thing readable with a minimum of notes, and, inexplicably, succeeds in doing so. And he also futzes with tone in sometimes thrilling, sometimes questionable ways, but at least he tries to show that Virgil is often irritated and Dante often a putz.

Sadly, there are some really bad choices (please, let's have a moratorium on rhymes including the word 'zone'), and some things just don't work. But the ambition is breathtaking, and this might be the best place to start if you've never read Dante, but don't want to slog through, e.g., the Hollanders (Pinsky is probably Carson's competition, but I haven't read his Inferno). The downside is that Carson's tone and method probably wouldn't work for Purgatorio or Paradiso, both of which are far superior works, while being less immediately interesting. Let's be honest, not much is more entertaining than watching evil popes have their heads rammed up each others' arses, not even visions of heavenly souls. So I imagine this will be a one volume affair. But, as I said, a great place to start.
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LibraryThing member SuperWhoLock
This past spring I took a class on Dante in which we read the entirety of The Commedia. After taking some time to think through and digest this massive poem, I think I am finally ready to write my review.

At the opening of the poem, Dante awakes to find himself lost in a dark wood. Unable to leave the valley, he is greeted by the shade of Virgil, who tells him that he has been sent by Mary and Dante's dearly departed Beatrice to guide Dante through Hell, Purgatory, and eventually to the highest parts of Heaven. Although Dante is initially reluctant to go, he eventually follows Virgil down into the mouth of Hell.

While the idea of reading such a long old poem seems daunting, the language and imagery that Dante uses makes it as compelling and fresh as if it were written yesterday. It is, first and foremost, a journey, and the sights the pilgrim sees on his journey to the bottom of Hell are described in vivid and sometimes gross detail. Hell is a very physical place, full of bodies and bodily functions, and Dante doe snot skimp on the imagery. But as often as his language is crude, it is at times stunningly beautiful. There were similes that absolutely stopped me in my tracks with their perfection and beauty. If you want to read the Inferno for the first time, read it like a novel. Jump in, enjoy the story, gawk at the imagery, and stop to relish the beautiful passages.

Just as Dante the pilgrim takes Virgil as his guide through Hell, Dante the poet uses Virgil as a poetic guide in his attempt to write an epic that encompasses religion, politics, history, and the human experience. In each circle, Dante meets a new group of sinners who are in Hell for different reasons. The first thing to note about the damned is that they seem to be mostly from Florence. Seriously, sometimes I think Dante wrote this just so he could shove everyone he didn't like into the fiery pit. But in all seriousness, Dante's goal wasn't just to describe the afterlife, he was also trying to describe life on earth. By putting people from Florence in Hell or Heaven, Dante was commenting on what was happening in Italy at the time. Most important for Dante was the corruption he saw in the church, so there are entire cantos of the Inferno devoted to religious leaders, especially Popes, and especially Boniface, who was Pope at the time Dante was writing.

The other thing to note about the damned is how relatable they are, at least in the beginning. When you meet Paolo and Francesca in Canto V and listen to Francesca's story, you can't help but be drawn in and pity her. Dante the pilgrim pitied her too, and swoons (again, seriously, he spends like the first 10 cantos swooning left and right) due to his empathy for them. Again and again the pilgrim pities the damned, but as the canticle goes on this happens less and less. By the end of the canticle he has stopped pitying the shades at all, and instead feels that their damnation is deserved. Why did Dante the poet make the pilgrim transforming such a way? Just as the description of Hell also serves as a description of Earth and of the nature of the human soul, the pilgrim's journey through the afterlife mirrors the soul's journey from the dark wood of sin and error to enlightenment and salvation. Dante is at first taken in by the sinners because he is not wise enough to see through their excuses. He is too much like them to do anything other than pity them. As he goes through Hell, he learns more and shakes off the darkness of the wood, so that by the time he gets to the bottom he no longer pities the damned. Still, even in the lowest circles, the shades are all deeply human, and their stories of how they ended up in Hell are incredibly compelling.

Dante the poet shows again and again how similar the pilgrim and the damned really are. He constantly explores sins that he could have committed or paths that he could have taken, exposing his own weaknesses and confronting what would have been his fate if Beatrice and Mary had not sent Virgil to save him. I think it speaks to his bravery as a poet that he insisted on exposing not just the weaknesses in society, but also the weaknesses in his own character.

Dante the poet is also brave, I think, for tackling some very serious theological, political, and psychological issues. When Dante the pilgrim walks through the gate of Hell, the inscription on the gate says that the gate and Hell itself were made by "the primal love" of God. Here, Dante tackles one of the greatest theological questions; how can a just and loving God permit something as awful as Hell? While the real answer doesn't come until the Paradiso, Dante was brave to put that question in such stark and paradoxical terms.

Dante's constant indictments of the political and religious leaders of his day show bravery, intelligence, and a good degree of anger on his part. Before writing the Inferno, Dante had been exiled from his home city of Florence for being on the wrong side of a political scuffle. He was never able to return home, and his anger at the partisanship that caused his exile mixed with his longing for his home make the political themes of the poem emotionally charged and interesting to the reader, even now.

Lastly, Dante shows both bravery and a great deal of literary skill in his treatment of Virgil. Virgil is Dante's guide through Hell and, later, Purgatory. He leads Dante every step of the way, teaching him like a father would, protecting him from daemons and even carrying him on his back at one point. It is clear that Dante admires Virgil, and in some ways the poem is like a love song to him. Virgil, living before Christ, was obviously not Christian, so Dante's choice of Virgil as a guide through the Christian afterlife is really quite extraordinary. It shows that wisdom can be attained from the ancient world, and that the light of human reason, which Virgil represents, is necessary for the attainment of enlightenment and salvation. Dante believed strongly that reason and faith were not opposites, but partners, and his choice of Virgil as a guide is a perfect illustration of that principle.

But, despite Dante's love of Virgil, Virgil is, to me, one of the most tragic characters in literature. Virgil, as a pagan, cannot go to Heaven. He resides in Limbo, the first circle of Hell, home of the virtuous pagans. There, he and the other shades (including Homer, Plato, and others) receive no punishment except for their constant yearning for Heaven and the knowledge that they will never see the light of God. Virgil, at the request of Mary and Beatrice, leads Dante toward a salvation that he can never have. Human reason can only lead a soul so far; to understand the mysteries of Heaven one has to rely on faith and theology. Virgil's fate is the great tragedy of this otherwise comic poem, and the knowledge of that fate haunts the first two canticles. And while it makes sense thematically and in terms of the plot, Dante makes you love Virgil so much that his departure in the Purgatorio never really feels fair. I still miss him.

The Inferno is a long and complex poem, filled with vivid imagery, vast psychological depth, scathing social commentary, and deep theological questions. It is also a journey, a real adventure in a way, and a pleasure to read. Though the real fulfillment of Dante's themes does not come until the Paradiso, the Inferno is well worth reading on its own. Even if you don't go on to read the other two canticles, reading The Inferno is time well spent.
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LibraryThing member Karlstar
Despite its deserved reputation as being a bit hard to follow, if you stick with it, this is really worth reading.
LibraryThing member Word2World
It should not be surprising to hear me refer to Dante's Commedia as the greatest piece of literature ever written. This is a work that can never be read too many times and should never be read only once. Inferno is the first and most iconic piece of Dante's trilogy since it is set in Hell (which is surprisingly appealing to many people...). However, its depth far succeeds Hell's reaches and calls for a very conscientious approach to be grasped in any significant way. The Hollanders' translation I highly recommend when reading the book for a second or third time, otherwise one might easily become lost in Robert Hollander's lengthy (but interesting!) commentary.… (more)
LibraryThing member jwhenderson
"In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, having lost the straight path."

With the famous words above Dante begins The Inferno, the first section of his Divine Comedy. Rereading this poem reminded me of the greatness of Dante's creation. As T. S. Eliot observed, "Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them, there is no third."("Dante" in Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot) While I would add Proust as a third, whether you agree with Eliot or not, Dante is magnificent in his ability to imagine the breadth and depth of humanity. In the Inferno the details are impressed on the reader through Dante's exceptional visual poetry. Whether the translation maintains the terza rima or not this comes through. Thus the poetry is relatively easy to read even though many of the allusions may escape the average reader. One gains from rereading the opportunity to deepen the understanding of the allusions and the images, the symbols and the subtle nuances of meaning that make this poem great. Further discussion with a group of serious readers adds to one's understanding, especially for a non-Catholic like myself.
I look forward to further reading of Dante, for just as with other great books this one continues to yield new treasures.
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LibraryThing member iayork
Sayers Meets Dante: Interpreting the Poet's Voice...: This review relates to the volume 1 of Dante Alighieri's
-The Divine Comedy-, Hell; Translated by Dorothy L. Sayers,
Penguin Classics, 1949. 346 pp.
Other reviewers have spoken to the perceived weaknesses
and problems with this particular translation and
volume, with Ms. Sayers' "Introduction" and "Notes."
Perhaps one should be warned before entering its portals,
as constructed by Ms. Sayers, that this is not an "easy"
Hell to assimilate.
Yet, at the beginning of her "Introduction," she presents
the offering in an inviting fashion: "The ideal way of
reading -The Divine Comedy- would be to start at the first
line and go straight through to the end, surrendering to
the vigour of the story-telling and the swift movement
of the verse, and not bothering about any historical
allusions or theological explanatios which do not occur
in the text itself. That is how Dante himself tackles
his subject."
Some readers may not find Ms. Sayers' translation to be
one that lends itself to "swift movement of the verse."
The value here, however, is the wealth of information
provided in both the "Introduction", the Notes, and
in the map drawings which clearly help the mind's eye
understand the "lay-out" of Hell as depicted by Dante.
The value of Ms. Sayer's "Introduction" is its clear
presentation of HER view of Dante, his work, his value,
his meaning, and his emphases.
She concentrates on the Images of Hell and on the Christian
doctrine implicit in the work. This translation is in
keeping with that emphasis, for it is structured,
somewhat restricted, and presents "Dante's" voice
as more attuned to the didactic and lecturing. Even the
voices of the denizens of Hell have the tones of
stern lesson-learning rather than evoking pity for
their failed virtue and blind human proclivities.
The problem with some readers, and some viewers of
Christianity, is trying to reconcile the idea of
stern, unrelenting, eternal Judgment and damnation
for sins with the idea of God's eternal Love, or as
Ms. Sayers translates the second tercet of Dante's
*terza rima* on the lintel of the entrance to Hell:
Justice Moved My Great Maker; God Eternal
Wrought Me: The Power, And The Unsearchably
High Wisdom, And The Primal Love Supernal.
Ms. Sayers will have no human shilly-shallying with
Dante's intent or the purpose of Hell. And that,
though it may appall some readers, is to the good;
for it forces the reader to confront whether or not
he or she accepts or does not the Christian doctrinal
views -- and helps the reader to understand the
serious nature of choosing one's faith and one's
religion, or not.
After each Canto, Ms. Sayers uses the same very
helpful devices for explaining the preceding Canto:
first, she discusses the main Images to be found in
that particular Canto in a very clear, full, doctrinal
way -- and then, she has the numbered notes which
explain allusions and phrases which Dante uses in
the work.
For instance, after Canto I, we find: "The Images.
-The Dark Wood- is the image of Sin or Error -- not so
much of any specific act of sin or intellectual perversion
as of that spiritual condition called "hardness of heart",
in which sinfulness has so taken possession of the soul as
to render it incapable of turning to God, or even knowing
which way to turn." Similarly, after Canto III, we find
this note concerning the phrase "the good of intellect":
"In the -Convivio- Dante quotes Aristotle as saying:
'truth is the good of the intellect'. What the lost souls
have lost is not the intellect itself, which still functions
mechanically, but the -good- of the intellect: i.e., the
knowledge of God, who is Truth."
This is an excellent edition for the scope of Ms. Sayers'
medieval scholarship and doctrinal insights. Though it
may be hard sledding for the tender-hearted. There
have always been several ways of seeing the road to
Hell -- in this version, once one strays from the
straight and narrow, there is only the crooked and
pit-full, not pitiful.
-- Robert Kilgore.
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LibraryThing member Northlaw
I have finally read the Inferno and if I am going to be honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Not being a student of Italian literature and having read Clive James' English translation there was probably a lot I was missing, in the original, but I found that it was really just a horror story with the added s pice of the author being able to denigrate persons he didn't like. All this would have been extremely entertaining at the time when the names were topical, but I do not understand why it is considered such a classic. It was just a litany of various types of physical torture with no overarching point that I could see, except to list all that horror.… (more)
LibraryThing member mykalg
To fully understand and fall in love with this trilogy, you really need to get a copy that explains who the people are and why Dante hates or admires them. This book changed the way I read books, and made me want to read more classic literature. The depictions of Hell are amazingly vivid, with your imagination filling in any gaps. Horror fans will love this book. Inferno is the easiest of the three poems to read, getting to near impossible with the final, Paradise. This trilogy makes me want to learn Italian, purely so I can read it in its full glory.

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LibraryThing member Smiley
Excellent prose translation. The essays at the end of each canto are worth the price of the book,
LibraryThing member pomo58
Peter Thornton's verse translation of the first book of the Divine Commedy, The Inferno, is certainly readable. To the extent that that was an (the?) intention it succeeds.

I think for a general reader who just wants to know why The Inferno has remained influential this will serve them well. There are plenty of contextualizing notes, a must for just about any translation, which will make understanding why certain people are where they are comprehensible to a contemporary reader.

For study purposes I have my doubts but I have my own favorite translations so am doing more of a comparison than simply an isolated assessment. First, my preferred verse translation is still Ciardi's version (plus, if for study purposes, he translated all of the Comedy not just one book so you don't have to change translations when you leave the Inferno). Part of my favoritism here is likely because it was the third version I had read and the first with a professor who made it come alive for me, so I do want to acknowledge that. Part of it for me is how the translators try to solve the issue of form. Some compromise is necessary to make an English translation and I am not sure there is a right vs a wrong way, they will all fall well short of Dante in Italian. I just think that wrestling with a form closer to Dante's helps students to slow down and do a better close reading while making it too easy to read turns Dante's work into simply a story that can be read quickly and easily. Again, this is personal opinion and preference. The necessary notes will keep the work from being read like a contemporary novel and could, with the right effort from an instructor, keep the reading close. I just have a hard time imagining The Inferno as an easy read and hope not to see this type of translation of Purgatorio or Paradiso since those should be more difficult to grasp in keeping with Dante's apparent intentions.

I would certainly recommend this to general readers who just want to read it and maybe for high school classes that want to get through it with just a few areas of closer reading. I would also recommend instructors look at it and decide if this translation would serve their purposes for what they hope to achieve in their courses. It is a good translation even though I would personally choose not to use it.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via Edelweiss.
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LibraryThing member tole_lege
I know others don't agree, but I prefer this translation - and the notes. Ciardi manages to render his translation in terza rima and does it well.
LibraryThing member AlexTheHunn
The Divine Comedy epitomized medieval attitudes. From historical perspectives, this work serves as a window into the mentality of late middle ages in Italy, on the brink of the Renaissance. Scholastic thinking informs Dante's approach.
LibraryThing member pcharmed86
One needs to read this just so that can fully realize the abundance of references there are to this book in modern media - really, it's ridiculous how many nods Dante gets but it is understandable. I refer to frequently, usually in the form of "you're going to the sixth circle of Hell for that!" Great way of feeling smart. Oh, and it's a good read too.… (more)
LibraryThing member noramunro
Splendid yes, important, yes, a useful bi-lingual format (in the Sinclair translation), absolutely. Now, please go read Purgatorio and Paradiso. Reading Inferno alone gives you a distorted picture of Dante's world, much as though you visited Florence and only toured the sewer system.
LibraryThing member AngelaB86
Dante's journey through Hell ranks in my top 5 favorite books. I especially like this translation, as it keeps the language modern enough to be readable, but is still beautiful. Also, there are plenty of foot and end notes to explain middle age-phrases and historical references many people may not be familiar with.
LibraryThing member dgrayson
It took me forever to get through this book. However it contains great imagery, and the notes were indispensable.




Other editions

Inferno by Dante Alighieri, (Paperback)
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