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Reading Dante's Inferno - let's do it together

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Jan 29, 2009, 5:08pm Top

Getting started
We had a thread before, but I'm starting a clean one here for anyone who wants to join our Dante read for Lent!

I am planning to start my Dante Inferno read on Feb 25th. While I’m not planning to do a college level course in this, I do want to spend a little more serious reading time with this one than I have on some of the others.
Between now and then I’m going to look over some study guides I’ve found online to get some ideas of what to look for and think about as I read this.

Here are some links that might interest you;

Edited: Jan 29, 2009, 5:21pm Top


I'm planning to look at two different translations:

Inferno First Book of the Divine Comedy translated by Allen Mandelbaum. This has English and original Italian on facing pages and lucious illustration by Barry Moser. not sure the touchstone's working so here is link to the one in my library that I know is what I have.

The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri translated by Charles Eliot Norton for the Great Books of the Western World

and the audio reading of The Inferno of Dante translated by Robert Pinsky and read by George Guidall. I have already listened to the first five minutes of this and as usual Guidall's voice and reading is incredible. This is I believe the newest translation.

I'm sure several of you have other translations that you own (I inherited my two hard copies) so we'll have some fun perhaps looking at how things are translated.

Jan 29, 2009, 5:28pm Top


There are 34 Cantos - let's plan

Feb 25-28: Cantos l-iv
Mar 1-7: Cantos v-x
Mar 8-14: Cantos xi-xvi
Mar 15-21: Cantos xvii-xxii
Mar 22-28: Cantos xxiii-xxviii
Mar29-Ap 4: Cantos xxix-xxxiv

I'm also planning to spend time between now and the official kickoff reading some of the introductory material, and notes in both my volumes.


Edited: Feb 17, 2009, 2:51pm Top

Signing up

If you decide to join us, please leave a msg with the translation you;ll be reading. I'll edit this message to keep a running group list.

Members translation

cyderry ( Cheli) John Ciardi
CatyM - Dorothy Sayers
tututhefirst ( Tina) Mandelbaum, Norton, Pinsky (audio)
ArmyAngel1986- Anthony Esolen
TheresaHPIR John Ciardi
Laura 88 TBD (Finnish)
LisaCurcio John Ciardi
Xicanti (Memory) Dorothy Sayers
fantasia ( Catey) Melville Best Anderson
tracyfox Longfellow
neverwithoutabook John Francis Cary
hopeglidden Mark Musa, and Longfellow
la12hernandez H.F. Carey

Jan 29, 2009, 5:49pm Top

I'm in but I don't have my translation yet.

Jan 29, 2009, 6:26pm Top

I shall join in. My translation is by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Jan 29, 2009, 9:48pm Top

I'll be following along, not sure how much I'll be able to contribute, but my translation is by Anthony Esolen.

Jan 29, 2009, 10:14pm Top

Cheli, Caty, AA, welcome to the group.

Jan 30, 2009, 12:40am Top

Thanks to Tutu, I have decided to join in the fun.. But alas I do not own Dante's Inferno nor does my library own a copy of Dante's Inferno , I will however buy a copy before Feb. 25th. :)


Jan 30, 2009, 2:12am Top

This sounds fun! I started reading this back in college, but I don't remember ever actually finishing it, hehe. I have the John Ciardi translation.

Jan 30, 2009, 3:55am Top

I will join too. I will probably loan my book from the library and I will read it in Finnish.

Jan 30, 2009, 8:02am Top


Thanks for the invitation. I am in, but have to find the book I have somewhere in this house. Then I will decide whether to use it or go get a different translation. Will let you know.

Thanks for the study guide directions.


Jan 30, 2009, 4:49pm Top

You can count me in. I've got an older Penguin Classics edition of the text; I'll check on the translator when I get home tonight.

Jan 30, 2009, 7:24pm Top

I will try to join ... although I have about a 0% track record in reading the classics. Note that having started Balzac's Pere Goriot so I could join the LT Classics group , I am still on page 25.

Nonetheless, I do already own this (Longfellow translation) and it fits one of my categories.

Hoping a group read will get me through it!

Jan 30, 2009, 7:57pm Top

Welcome to Catey, Theresa, Laura, Lisa, Memory (what a beautiful name!),and Tracy. Whether you're lurking, or reading right along with us, or just testing the waters, we're going to have a good group.

#14 Tracy...I think many of us are here because we need the encouragement and support of others to do this. Most people who have read this have said they've really enjoyed it. I haven't seen anyone on LT say they'd never do it again, or recommend against it, so I have a positive feeling as we go forward.

Jan 30, 2009, 8:07pm Top

Okay, I think I'm going to give it a try as well. I've been pretty bad about keeping up with group reads and even ER lately (basically, once something is "required", it seems a lot less appealing), but I'm hoping that with the fairly long time frame this one will be more successful.

I have an unread Bantam(?) edition lying around somewhere at my parents' house. I don't remember the translator off-hand, but I think it may have English on one side of each page and Italian on the other. I don't actually know any Italian, but I've heard it's not too hard.... hehe.

Jan 31, 2009, 12:33am Top

I'm not sure what my translation is...I might have to go find a newer copy. The copy I currently own has all three books in one, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradisio, is called 'The Divine Comedy' and was inherited from my Grandmother. It only lists Dante Aligheri as the author, and is illustrated by Umberto Romano. It has 'Literary Guild' on the spine and was published by Doubleday & Co. in 1947.

Jan 31, 2009, 1:04pm Top

Hi NWOAB, when I look at the book in your library, on the book details tab, it appears your translation is by Henry Francis Cary. Isn't it great that we all have something a little bit different, and many of us received these as an inheritance. Are we being told something from beyond the grave! Giggles quietly so as not to disturb dead ancestors

Welcome to the group!

Jan 31, 2009, 2:56pm Top

I've just checked, and my translation is by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Jan 31, 2009, 9:15pm Top

I am borrowing mine from the library for awhile until I get my copy and so mine is translated by Melville Best Anderson for now. :)

Feb 1, 2009, 3:13am Top

I'd like to join, I'll have to get a copy at the library. I will post the edition as soon as I get the book.

Feb 1, 2009, 3:56am Top

# 18 - Thanks tututhefirst! I didn't think to check there. You may be right about the messages from beyond the grave! I'm looking forward to the discussion.

Feb 1, 2009, 1:14pm Top

Found the book, and the translator is John Ciardi. So it looks like two of us have this one.

Mine is one of those leatherbound books that has the entire Divine Comedy in it. There are actually some decent notes in it including a description of the world as it was understood at the time, and the various levels of hell. This looks like fun!


Feb 9, 2009, 7:12pm Top

Add me to the list! I have the Mark Musa translation and the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translation. I read part of Musa's and found it a bit bland, but I haven't looked at Longfellow's yet.

Feb 9, 2009, 7:29pm Top

Welcome Hope...I think we're all 'cleaning up' current reading so we can settle down to enjoy this masterpiece. I've set myself a goal of starting to read intoductory notes, and some study questions,on Feb 22 (sunday) so when I start reading on Wednesday, i'm not going in blind. I'll probably throw out a 'let's think about xyz" sometime that week, just to start things rolling.

Feb 12, 2009, 12:14pm Top

Okay, I have two copies from the library (still can't find mine among all my books)
One version is the Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed translation, and the other is the John Ciardi translation.
I think I'm going to go with the Ciardi one since there are others who have it as well.

Feb 12, 2009, 7:05pm Top

so noted on the list.

Feb 12, 2009, 7:07pm Top

so noted on the list.

Feb 17, 2009, 2:27pm Top

My translation is by H.F. Carey. I'm in.

Feb 17, 2009, 2:53pm Top

Glad to have you join us...

Edited: Feb 18, 2009, 9:14am Top

I took a closer look at my Longfellow translation and began wondering about other choices. I noticed a Pinsky translation (of just the Inferno) and found these interesting video comments by the author. I also found this site that shows the Longfellow, Cary and Norton translations side-by-side, canto-by-canto. Since my library doesn't have it I am going to buy the Pinsky and read both for at least a few cantos.

Feb 18, 2009, 9:18am Top

I am curious what others are reading for background. The length of my 1895 Houghton Mifflin copy has two pages of commentary for every page of Inferno. It also includes

Book 11 of the Odyssey
Book 6 of the Aeneid
Cicero's Vision of Scipio
Vision of Frate Alberico
Vision of Walkelin
Excerpts from the Life of St. Brandan (known today as Brendan?)
Exceprts from the Poetic Edda

Anyone have any suggestions of which of these would be most valuable?

Feb 18, 2009, 7:11pm Top

If anyone is interested in seeing what different translations look like,
check this out. It has the Longfellow, Cary, and Norton translations side by side. These 3 are said to be the best. I am also going to pick up the Pinsky translation so I made be switching, depending on which I like best.


Feb 18, 2009, 9:17pm Top

Cheli, the link did not work for me. Anyone else have problems, or is it just me?

Feb 18, 2009, 9:31pm Top

Mine didn't work the first time, but is working now. I think it will be interesting to compare one or two to whatever we are reading. My Mandelbaum translation has the Italian side by side. I wish my Italian was not so rusty....but it will still be fun. I'm trying to clean up the rest of the books I'm reading right now so I can dive in next week. See you all then.

Feb 18, 2009, 9:32pm Top

The link worked for me. It takes you to an explanation page and then you click on one of the cantos and it takes you to the side by side translations. Interesting. I've added it to my favorites, Thanks cyderry!

Feb 18, 2009, 9:40pm Top

When I saw this, I was thinking that if there was a Canto that I was having trouble with on my translation I could look at a couple of other translations to see if it help me get through it.

Then there was another site that said that some of the translations came out differently and that reading more than 1 could clarify Dante's meaning.

My sister, you read Italian?

Feb 18, 2009, 11:35pm Top

with a good dictionary, and translations in front of me, I can look to see how things are translated,. 4 years of Latin, 4 years of french, and travels through Europe give me enough to be able to look at it next to the English. I would never say I READ or certainly not do a translation.....

Feb 19, 2009, 9:50am Top

The link worked when I tried it again--thanks Cheli. It is amazing the difference in the translations. I think that web site will be very useful.

I just skimmed the opening comments, and noted that, of course, Dante did not write in modern Italian. So, Tina, is your Italian "modern Italian"? That would mean that someone translated Dante's work into modern Italian. Then I wonder if the translation you have is a translation of the modern Italian!

In any event I was thinking it would be good to have the Italian because my Italian is a lot like yours. Even with not being fluent, sometimes it is easier to understand in the original language. But, since it is not in the original language anyway, maybe it does not matter.

Sorry--I'm rambling. Must have too much time on my hands, or just don't want to go read the brief I should be reading.

Feb 19, 2009, 11:01am Top

good observation Lisa...the Mandelbaum translation has the original Italian of Dante opposite his English translation. The Pinsky is reputed to be the newest and in the 'most' modern English. I'm planning to take a look each week at a selected canto on Cheli's link and compare those three translations (one of which I have) with the Mandelbaum.

BTW I find it interesting that the Great Books of the Western World Series chose the Norton translation. , I'll look at the Italian and see. I do so wish my uncle Bill, who had a PHd in romance languages (he was an opera maestro for the BOC in real life) was still alive. He did all the translations for the Baltimore Opera for their 'sub-titles' they ran across the top of the stage. He would have loved doing this with us.

Finally I will listen to the Pinsky reading on audio. The narrator George Guidall is a fantastic reader, and I think hearing the poetry after having read it will tie it all together for me. I'm a very audio person.

Anyhow, I really want to read the Inferno, and don't want to get too hung up on a scholarly study of the structure of the work.

Tracy #32 - I'm planning to read the intro material in the Mandelbaum version- 25 pages, and the biographical notes on Dante in the Great Books volume. I'm also going to spend about an hour looking thru at least one of the online study guides referenced in msg #1. At any rate, I'm raring to go.

Feb 19, 2009, 11:11am Top

Oh! That I could truly read the Italian...just reading the words with the lyrical ryhyme scheme is luscious. even if it's about hell, it's as delicious as a plate of bucatini served up at Gabriella's (my favorite trattoria in Rome). Here's a link to the original. It's the same as what I have in the Mandelbaum volume.

Feb 19, 2009, 11:48am Top

Okay, I just got back from the library and I picked up the Pinsky translation book and Benedict FLynn translation on audio.
So this weekend, I'm hoping to settle on which version I'm going to use.

I now have Pinsky, Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed, John Ciardi, Flynn.
I'm also going to give one more diligent hunt for my own copy this weekend.

Tina, you're right, Uncle Bill would have enjoyed this. Too bad we'll have to wait to get his feedback, but I'm sure he and Daddy are watching.

Feb 19, 2009, 4:09pm Top

#42 Cheli...if I had to choose one of yours to read, I'd probably pick the Pinsky..it is supposed to be done in the most modern English, so it should be more understandable and easy reading. This is the first I ever heard of the Benedict Flynn translation..who is reading it?

Feb 19, 2009, 5:09pm Top

Heathcote Williams does the reading. copyrighted in 1996
I've all to my library for now.

Feb 19, 2009, 9:11pm Top


"Anyhow, I really want to read the Inferno, and don't want to get too hung up on a scholarly study of the structure of the work."

Of course you are right! Sometimes I just get bogged down in the details. Occupational hazard, I guess.

I am looking forward to starting, and it is nice to have these web resources to supplement the reading.

I, too, am really sorry your Uncle Bill can't join us. He must have been a fascinating man.

Edited: Feb 20, 2009, 9:00am Top

I went to the bookstore and picked up my copy of Pinsky to read in tandem with Longfellow. There, I stopped to take a look at the other translations. The most interesting thing I found was this heavily illustrated completely modern version ... still, though, in the spirit at least of a serious translation. Definitely worth a look at the first canto on Amazon (look inside the book ... first pages).

I hated putting in the Amazon link, but I couldn't figure out how to locate just this Sanders-Harvey translation with Birk illustrations (really the most interesting part to me). I tried searching LT with ISBN, but everything was combined on a general Dante page. Is there a way to link to a specific edition?

Feb 22, 2009, 4:03pm Top

Okay, I have decided (since I can't find my personal copy) that I am going to use the Pinsky translation along with the online versions and the Flynn Audio.

So I eliminated Ciardi and Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed.

After starting it, I may eliminate others.

I'm ready!

Feb 23, 2009, 9:16am Top

For those of us that may need pictures to go along with our readings,
try here....

Feb 24, 2009, 12:37am Top

As we get started this week, I hope we will all take some time to sit with this beautiful piece of poetry and let the words, the rhythm, and the experience of the Inferno speak to us the way I think Dante intended it to.

I 'm glad I took the time to read the introductory material on the Dante study link (see msg #1). I think it will help me knowing who the characters are, what the plot is generally about, and reviewing the canto by canto outline as I go along.

I'm not going to get too hung up on translations unless there is something I can't understand in the one I'm reading. Then I'll go look at another translation. I may even peek at the pictures on the link Cheli posted in #48.

Tracy back in #32 you listed several very interesting intro materials in your version. Sorry I didn't get back to you sooner. I'm thinking that may be a good reference list if we get to a point where there is an historical or poetic reference I'm not familiar with, then we have something to go look up and see what he's talking about. I think with all of us chiming in, we'll be able to help each other really get a lot out of this.

I'm not sure if I'm going to post after every Canto. I think I'll just do a mini post every Sunday. Sort of "gee --this is what I got out of this week's read, ,maybe what I struggled to understand (or still don't understand), what I had to look up, etc."

I think we all will be able to contribute something, but please don't feel like you have to write any big term papers. This is a drop in and discuss what you're feeling thread.

Feb 24, 2009, 7:47am Top

My edition seems to have Gustave Dorés pictures.

Feb 25, 2009, 7:23am Top

I don't have a lot of time or money at the moment so I'm going to read it via DailyLit. It comes in 38 parts which makes it ideal for reading through Lent. The version they have is translated by the Rev. H. F. Cary. I'll try to look at other versions as I go along.

For anyone not familiar with DailyLit, it's a site that emails you bite-sized chunks of books every day.

Feb 25, 2009, 10:14am Top

funkyd...thanks for that great tip on DailyLit...I'm signing up. I am also doing one Canto per day..just finished #I. It's perfect Lenten reading, and if you take Sundays off to read something lighter, then you have exactly what you need for lenten inspiration. I look forward to your observations.

Feb 25, 2009, 9:27pm Top

i just started the Inferno, so i will join :

Feb 25, 2009, 9:34pm Top

Welcome sweetraveparties! Which translation are you reading?

Feb 27, 2009, 12:04am Top

Well, so far so good, I'm really trying to do a Canto a day. I have found the work not as difficult as I expected. There was a section in Canto II where i had to go back several times and really pay attention to see who was speaking--Dante or Virgil? once I got that straight it went very smoothly. I read each Canto in the morning; now I just finished a late evening listen to the first two cantos in audio...it is fantastic! The Pinsky translation read by George Guidall is wonderfully clear, very dramatic, and easy to follow. I highly recommend it to anyone who is having difficulty with the reading.

I also am hereby confessing that I never read this before. Not in high school or in college. I think I'm glad I waited.

Feb 27, 2009, 7:51am Top


I was having some trouble with Canto II last night, and stopped. I think reading it in the morning would be better, and will do that going forward. I guess my brain just cannot handle any real thinking after I get home!

Thanks for the idea.

Feb 27, 2009, 10:35am Top

Well, I was going to follow Tina's lead and read only a canto a day, but I got so wrapped up in the story this morning that I finished through Canto 7. I'm beginning to think that I may not be able to stop once I finish Hell and may push myself to read the remaining 2 portions of the entire Divine Comedy. We shall see. It really is fascinating how he has it broken down.

Mar 1, 2009, 4:47pm Top

Well...week 1 is done. I like the fact that we had a mini-week to get started. I actually found the reading easier than I expected, and as I said above, the Pinsky version is really resonating with me. Now I pose a question to the members: How has your previous reading/education helped or impeded your ability to understand what's been going on. I confess I never read the Aeneid, but there are other places where I think had I not had 18 years of Catholic education ( I never went to a public school...even my master's is from Catholic U) I'm not sure I'd get some of the references or understand the concepts? Is that a valid perception on my part?

Mar 1, 2009, 7:52pm Top

As you know, I'm with you in that I had the catholic educaton. Growing up I did have a great interest in mythology, so I read a lot of stories that seem to make this easier. I however, did not have Latin, so that might make it tougher. I haven't gotten in so deep that i can answer it fully. i did get the subtle digs to the Papacy.

Mar 1, 2009, 9:02pm Top

From another Catholic school girl, I agree. I am pretty sure that only Catholics believed in Limbo, for instance. Although I read the Odyssey in high school, I never read Ovid or the Aenaied, either. Reading things like this certainly opens doors do other works.

I am reading the Ciardi translation, but am amazed at the subtle differences in the Longfellow/Cary/Norton translations. Ciardi is easy to read, but I am glad to have the links to the others because it gives a slightly different perspective. Also, I have looked at the Italian, and plan to look more closely when I retrieve my dictionary from the office. If you have any basic understanding of Italian, I think it also gives an added dimension.

One of the things I find fascinating is the perception of what are the more heinous sins. I note the reference to the husband of Francesca who will suffer for crimes against kin rather than for murder. I do not believe, all other things being equal, that we have the same ideas today.

Mar 2, 2009, 1:59pm Top

I agree the religious background helps (parochial school ... though Lutheran), but I really can't imagine reading this without a dictionary of mythology or copy of the Aeneid close by. For me the mythological contexts of the guard-demons and the physical geography are as interesting as the examples of famous characters consigned to the various levels of hell.

I have both the Pinsky and Longfellow versions and am reading them simultaneously, canto-by-canto. I find the Pinsky much easier to read, but the Longfellow feels more "medieval" to me. I also find it interesting that the Pinsky version annotates so many of Dante's references to contemporary Italian events beginning with "scholars disagree ..." while the Longfellow version authoritatively uses Dante's fellow 13th century authors, especially Boccaccio and Chaucer, to explicate the text. Longfellow (and I assume he authored the notes as no one else is mentioned in my text) included lengthy excerpts from one or the other in almost every canto. I have especially enjoyed reading Boccaccio's accounts of the lovers Francesca and Paolo (Canto V) and of the greedy tricks played by Ciacco (Canto VI). The excerpts from the Canterbury tales are interesting because they illustrate a more medieval viewpoint of various sins.

One thing my background reading has not revealed is whether this poem was primarily recited or read and who the audience was. Does anyone know? Are there any recordings of a few stanzas in Italian anywhere? I can read a tiny bit of Italian, but mangle pronunciation ... I'd like to hear it to see if I can better appreciate the terza rima. Longfellow doesn't attempt to replicate it at all and Pinsky's translation has a sense of rhythm, but I lose his rhymes a lot of the time when I read it aloud to myself.

I have made it to the edge of the seventh circle. I'm glad to be retracing journey, so fitting during Lent. I have dusted off books in my library that haven't been opened in more than 20 years. Thanks for organizing this tututhefirst.

Mar 2, 2009, 2:05pm Top

I also wanted to share Longfellow's sonnets reprinted at the start of the Inferno in my edition:

Oft have I seen at some cathedral-door
A laborer, pausing in the dust and heat,
Lay down his burden, and with reverent feet
Enter, and cross himself, and on the floor
Kneel to repeat his pater-noster o'er;
Far off the noises of the world retreat;
The loud vociferations of the street
Become an undistinguishable roar.
So, as I enter here from day to day,
And leave my burden at this minster-gate,
Kneeling in prayer, and not ashamed to pray,
The tumult of the time disconsolate
To inarticulate murmurs dies away,
While the eternal ages watch and wait.

How strange the sculptures that adorn these towers!
This crowd of statues, in whose folded sleeves
Birds build their nests; while canopied with leaves
Parvis and portal bloom like trellised bowers,
And the vast minster seems a cross of flowers!
But fiends and dragons from the gargoyled eaves
Watch the dead Christ between the living thieves,
And underneath the traitor Judas lowers!
Ah! from what agonies of heart and brain,
What exultations trampling on despair,
What tenderness, what tears, what hate of wrong,
What passionate outcry of a soul in pain,
Uprose this poem of the earth and air,
This medieval miracle of song!

Mar 2, 2009, 2:44pm Top

Do you think that anyone can learn from their reading or just those that are looking to learn? I ask because it seems to me as I go along with my reading, that there appear to be lessons that have not been learned even today. I'm in Canto VII and Fortune is mentioned as a god. Even in this day and age we have those people that worship wealth and forget to help others. Wouldn't it be nice if they could learn the lessons that appear to be written throughout the Inferno?
Also I find it quite interesting that the Styx in this poem is not a river but some kind of mud marsh where all the angry people are stuck. (Styx in mythology was the river of hate.) this portion of the Canto also reminded me that we should always be grateful for the goodness we have even if it may not be eXactly what we want. (So, Lord, thanks for the snow - it may be a pain in the a-- but it is beautiful.)

Mar 2, 2009, 4:30pm Top

I finished cantos l-iv and tonight will start on cantos v-x. :)

Edited: Mar 2, 2009, 5:15pm Top

Well, I've just spent a very frustrating hour trying to get my QuickTime player to recognize several different links I found to readings of selected cantos in italian. My computer is having issues today, and I'm not prepared to deal with (my own personal "inferno" perhaps?)

Anyway if any of you want to have better luck try


Last but definitely not least, I did stumble on this blog which did a whole lenten series last year on the Inferno. It looked really good. So if anybody finds a link that will work on a Windows Media Player, or MP3 format file, please let me know.

ETA : The Danteworlds site is really cool, even if I couldn't listen to the audio.

Mar 2, 2009, 5:01pm Top

After that rant in #65, I completely forgot to thank Tracy for the beautiful poem. It added a lot and is the sort of additional reading that provides this group with all the extras a community read can do. I'd never have seen that on my own. I've been reading the Mandlebaum version, and while it is nice to have the Italian on the same page, it doesn't scan like either the Longfellow or the Pinsky. I too really want to hear the Italian, but I'm just not sure I'm ready to pay 40 euros to order one from Amazon.

Mar 3, 2009, 12:15am Top

I know I'm a little late in this game, but just found this thread and would love to join in the read. Had already set up a schedule for reading The Inferno, but could sure use a push to get past the organizing stage. I have Musa's and Pinsky's translations in book form, and several others on websites. Read Inferno in Italian about 8 yrs ago in my weekly Italian language study group (more for translation, not for all of the good background info and analysis), and thought I would like to tackle the whole series -- reading first in italian, and then in various translations. I have found a bunch of helpful websites -- will try to get a list together and post them.

To hear a really great reading in Italian, watch Roberto Benigni's interpretation of Canto V on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfvQS0B5lYo

Mar 3, 2009, 11:14am Top

JoonieM....THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU....that link worked well on my computer, and it was fabulous to be able to hear Dante--Italian is such a beautiful language, and Roberto Benigni has a fantastic voice to do it, (although I had to admit that I couldn't watch the video--I kept seeing him tottering on his bicycle LOL)

Welcome to our group - as you can see we are each approaching this via different translations, media, and deep down I think, different expectations. I am certainly finding this read much more enriching and enjoyable ( can hell be enjoyable?) than I expected. It is certainly elping me focus on Lent much more than I have in past years, and at the same time, helping me read several other tomes I wouldn't have tackled. So join right in, we're delighted to have you.

Mar 3, 2009, 11:25pm Top

I checked with the two italian "Profs" in my study group-- one from Northern Italy and one from the South. They hardly ever agree on anything, but on Dante they were firm! No such thing as a modernized translation -- everyone reads the same Dante. To prove it, they started reciting Canto I together, from memory and with emotion and gesturing!! They both had studied it in school, beginning at an early age. In the more advanced grades, they were required to read -- and study extensively -- the entire La Divina Commedia(I did find an abridged modern italian edition on the web - they both thought that was an awful idea).

As to whether Dante intended that his epic poems be read or spoken -- perhaps both. Since this was one of the first works of literature written in spoken italian, as opposed to Latin (the standard of the day), those who were fortunate enough to have access to a copy (there is great dispute as to whether any of this was published before Dante's death), could now read it in a form not accessible before. However, there is evidence that many of Dante's poems were set to music and sung in public venues, and that his written works were read in public forums and literary societies. Since there were no printing presses, this would seem to be a reasonable way to disseminate his "editorial comments" on the injustices of the times.

Mar 4, 2009, 12:10am Top


I am having a hard time sticking with the schedule, my sister.
I have really enjoyed the Cantos that I have been through and just want to keep going. Maybe I will slow down and listen to the Italian version just to get the cadence and flow even if I can't understand the language.

Mar 4, 2009, 4:26am Top

Hola Inferno readers

When I discovered DailyLit this past weekend, one of the books I looked for on there was this one, thinking I could slowly read it with ya'll. I could not find it and was surprised. After the poster above mentioned reading it by DailyLit, I went back again and looked just now. Lo and behold, there it is. I don't know why I couldn't find it before. So I'm in too. It's a reread for me. I read it in college and I think one of my advance Eng/Lit classes in HS.

Mar 4, 2009, 8:15am Top

JoonieM - Thanks for the fascinating info ... I love knowing how big works were received at the time they were created. I can't wait to spend more time listening to the Italian recordings next week. The snippet I listened to reminded me of French troubador poems in a way (not that I understand French either). I think I recall the tertz rima was a device partly intended to help minstrels/bards with memorization.

Tutu - Thanks for the links to the Dali drawings ...I hope to find time to peruse these and some of the other great illustrations this coming weekend.

Mar 4, 2009, 9:41am Top

Greetings to everyone---

#70 Cheli--please read at your own pace, don't wait for us; just please don't spoil it by chiming in on parts ahead of schedule.

JoonieM- we are really thankful for your joining..the extra info about the language, publication, etc is fascinating and certainly adds to my enjoyment anyway. When you mentioned your two Italian profs who hardly ever agreed, I laughed out loud--so reminiscent of my uncles and father (there were 8 boys in the family). As I've mentioned before, the youngest was the academic linguist in the family, (the others spoke the language in daily life but never studied it), and he was always either correcting their usage or vocabulary, or else sprinkling us with wonderful tidbits about the origin of phrases. Oh how I miss them.

So read on ladies and gentlemen!

Edited: Mar 6, 2009, 1:42pm Top

Old plan >
Reading in Italian first was too hard. Guess I was familiar enough with the first few Cantos to foolishly think my Italian was up to 14th C florientian dialect! Starting with Pinsky frustrating -- don't like all the starting and stopping to check out the references, as it breaks the rhythm.

New Plan >
1) *Read Canto synopsis and on-line prose version, following links for background info
2) Read Pinksy and/or Musa
3)Audio internet italian version -- either just listen or read along with audio
4) Any time left over? Extra Credit! Research or related activities (can you tell I once was a teacher??)

Who knows? By tomorrow I might have another plan ... my brain hurts, and I'll never catch up with the rest of you!!!


-- Prose translation of inferno with notes and Canto summaries. This site is worth exploring (check out the homepage: http://www.tonykline.co.uk ) for an incredible wealth of classical translations, including many that are referenced by Dante in the Inferno. Another site worth exploring is http://www.shmoop.com/intro/literature/dante-alighieri/inferno.html . This site is geared toward high school students. The Intro and Canto descriptions may make you groan, but they are accurate. The sections on themes and quotes are excellent.

Mar 6, 2009, 2:30pm Top

Some side entertainment: one of my favorite singers wrote a song inspired by the Divine Comedy, you can hear it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDw3CyOmj20.

Mar 7, 2009, 12:54pm Top

Wow ! what a group ! We all seem to have great ways of approaching this. Little did I realize when I said --gee, I've never read Dante, anybody want to join--how much fun it would be. I've just spent the morning reading Mandlebaum and Longfellow side by side while listening to Pinksy. This was after I'd spent some time browing thru dali's paintings (I'm not a big fan of Dali's but the color and twistedness he portrays seem to go well with hell) Lastly, I went and slowly digested the blog posts at this lenten series to give me an appreciation that was more personal. I really feel like I'm getting not just an appreciation of literature, but some personal growth here. Enjoy your weekend.

Mar 7, 2009, 2:01pm Top

Ok...just realized, we've all been discussing how we're reading Dante, but not anything we're actually reading. I've been making some notes, so I'm going to throw out just a few tidbits here:

There are so many delectable phrases that Dante uses, and it's interesting to see how the different translations treat them, and how the illustrators see them. For instance, in Canto V, line 4, Minos stands to examine sinners and uses his tail to determine what level they are sent to. Moser's pen and ink drawing is spectacular (although it may 'cause some blushing if you've never seen a naked man!). Dali, OTOH, doesn't show a tail at all, and I admit that in all my studies of mythology, I never pictured Minos as having a tail. All the translations however, are clear that it is Minos. did anyone else find that portrayal surprising?

Another phrase I love is referring to Minos as the "connoisseur of sin" (V/9 - Mandelbaum and Pinsky). One does not often (at least I don't!) think of sin as being something I need to develop such a taste for that I can become a connisseur.

Others however translate it as:
discriminator of transgressions, Longfellow
judge severe of sins Cary
discerner of sins Norton

I had to do some digging thru italian dictionaries for conoscitor (And Google online translation services) but the best i came was 'expert on sinners'. Oh well, it was fun, and listening to the Italian is fun too, even if my comprehension level is too low to understand all of it, the tertia rhyma is wonderful.

does anyone else have a favorite phrase they clamped onto?

Mar 7, 2009, 2:15pm Top

I got overzealous and finished the book yesterday...but the last line of canto xxi made me giggle like a school girl. I figured that since I never actually read this as a youth, it gave me a certain license to be a little immature, hehe:

The turned along the left bank in a line;
but before they started, all of them together
had stuck their pointed tongues out as a sign

To their Captain that they wished permission to pass,
and he had made a trumpet of his ass.

From the Ciardi translation.

Mar 7, 2009, 2:39pm Top

The most interesting part for me, so far I'm only through ix (I'm being good - that's my penance), is the mixture of the old mythology with the Christian symbolism. For instance, fear of Medusa's head and the rescue by the heavenly messenger.

Mar 7, 2009, 6:39pm Top

# 78 - TeresaHPIR - I have to join you! And thanks for posting that! I laughed right out loud too! I had to go back and check my translation. It's not near so clearly worded.

To leftward o'er the pier they turn'd: but each
Had first between his teeth prest close the tongue,
Toward their leader for a signal looking,
Which he with sound obscene trimphant gave.

Nowhere near as humorous. :)

Mar 8, 2009, 1:36pm Top

My favorite phrase so far --- In Canto V, Dante is comparing the spirits to a flock of starlings in the winter winds. I love the way this reads in Italian; you can hear the spirits tossing in the wind without knowing what the words mean.

E come li stornei ne portan l'ali
nel freddo tempo, a schiera larga e piena,
con quel fiato li spiriti mali
di qua, di là, di giù, di sù li mena; . . .

I was also struck by this passage because of a strange phenomenon we are having here in Kansas this winter. Every evening at 4:30-5:00 a huge flock of starlings, red winged blackbirds, robins, and seagulls fly over and around our house - dark ribbons of birds for almost an hour - estimated at over 100,000 by local birders.. On windy days it is like a chaotic dance: a whirlwind of birds . . .

Pinsky (1994):

As winter starlings riding on their wings
Form crowded flocks, so spirits dip and veer
Foundering in the wind's rough buffetings,
Upward or downward, driven here and there

and Musa (1971):

. . and as the wings of starlings in the winter
bear them along in wide-spread, crowded flocks,
so does that wind propel the evil spirits:
now here, then there, and up and down, it drives them . . (Musa, 1971)

I would love to see some of the other translations of this - it's about a fourth of the way into Canto V.

Loreena's song was beautiful, and Tina, your lenten reference was very insightful - my Sunday 'Extra Credit'!

Mar 8, 2009, 2:05pm Top

To all of you, thank you. I have lots of thoughts running around in my feeble brain, but have not been able to sit down to organize them. I hope to do it today and post tonight. The one thing I can tell you is that reading this has prompted me to locate copies of Macchiavelli and another historian of medieval Italy, Francesco Guicciardini, to learn about at least Dante's era. So many of the references would mean so much more if I had any working knowledge of the time!

Mar 8, 2009, 3:25pm Top

# 81 - JoonieM - Here is that passage from my 1946 translation...

...And multitudinous, when winter reigns,
The starlings on their wings are borne abroad:
So bears the tyrannous gust those evil souls.
On this side and on that, above, below,
It drives them...

Mar 8, 2009, 3:34pm Top

1980 Mandelbaum Translation:

And as, in the cold season, starlings' wings
bear them along in broad and crowded ranks,
so does that blast bear on the guilty spirits;
now here, now there, now down, now up, it drives them.

Edited: Mar 8, 2009, 5:05pm Top

The one I liked was in Canto v

"O Living soul, who with courtesy and compassion
Voyage through black air visiting us who stained
The world with blood: if Heaven's king bore affection

For such as we are, suffering in this wind,
Then we would pray to Him, to grant you peace
For pitying us in this, our evil end."

FYI I couldn't wait so I'm finished...I'll hold my comments.

Mar 13, 2009, 8:36pm Top

As I went along and Dante goes deeper and deeper, I kept wondering, if this was me, would I have arranged the sins differently? What about you?
In this day and age, has the severity of the impact of a sin changed? How would the drug trafficking be handled?
Should some of the punishments be different?

I thought that reading this book would be enlightening, but I am surprised at the number of questions that it elicited in my mind.

Hope you all are enjoying the read.

Mar 14, 2009, 1:09pm Top

I haven't been focused too much until this week on the arrangement of the sins. I spent some time studying the moser sketch of the rings, and also the Dali paintings. This week, instead of reading a canto a day (I really got to busy doing my library's web page which was my own version of hell), I did the whole week together, and included Canto XVII to finish up the 7th circle. My mind kept trying to put modern criminals onto the 13th century names. The pedophilic (is that a word?) priests and bishops certainly came to mind in Canto XV when the pope (Shepherd of Sheperds) moves a bishop to another town. and the words Madoff, Enron, banks and Wall st kept popping into my head, to the point where I had to stop, and go back to get into Florence vs modern day hell.

I'm still really enjoying this, and can see where people can devote an entire life to studying Dante (sorta like Shakespearean scholars). I think I'll be ready to say "Basta!" when I get Inferno done, and let it rest awhile, but my appetite has been whetted for Purgatorio and Paradiso for future TBRs.

Mar 14, 2009, 1:29pm Top

>86 cyderry: Great question! So many times in the last few weeks I have thought about current events in terms of Dante's Hell. I wonder about the financial woes, Madoff, the shooting spree in Germany, the latest celebrity antic, talk show hosts . . . Sometimes it seems that the current "sins" are worse, because we have access to so much more knowledge about what constitutes "sin." However, there seem to be so many new temptations, leading to forms of "sin" that have greater consequences than Dante could ever have imagined. Perhaps he would have seen the need for a few more Circles.

Here is an interesting take on "modern" sins: http://www.echeat.com/essay.php?t=29553 (the purpose of this site is in itself questionable. . .)

Mar 14, 2009, 10:26pm Top

I have been having similar thoughts about how Dante would have described the levels of sins in today's world. Question: How much did the politics of Florence and ongoing conflicts between Florence and neighbors influence him in writing "Inferno"? In most Cantos so far, he encounters souls of persons he clearly thought had committed some sin against people he knew or against Florence.

Mar 17, 2009, 2:15am Top

My book had to go back to the library so I am getting a different copy on Tuesday.

Edited: Mar 19, 2009, 4:39pm Top

I am not so surprised at the order of the sins, but rather how they are interpreted--especially in the seventh ring. I find violence against others, god and self too broad of categories. I have some difficulty seeing homicide punished at the same level as assault and battery, and especially suicide punished at the same level as frittering money away.

I did find the canto on the suicides the most evocative so far ... rooting these troubled souls seems cruel and ironic at the same time.

I also find Dante's selection of examples surprising. I knew there would be tons of classical references and was aware of the connections to the political situation in Florence, but I expected there to be a lot more examples from the bible.

Edited: Mar 19, 2009, 4:40pm Top

The most enjoyable part of this reading to me has been the opportunity to see the differing translations and all the associated artwork. I can't decide whether I find the Dali or the Suloni Robertson (a young man from Kenya who apparently created his illustrations expressly for the UT Danteworlds site) illustrations most fitting. The Dore are what I expected, but the William Blake and Botticelli seem much too tame to really add anything to the poem in my opinion.

Personally, I'm finding that different translators shine in different Cantos. Overall, though, I'm finding the poetry part of this kind of flat. Dante does so much name-dropping and doesn't even bother to add a single descriptor that it disrupts the flow even when I know who he's referring to without looking it up. I can't help but think this poem was mainly a political barb and all that really mattered to many in the audience would have been finding out who ended up where.

To me Dante's genius is as a geographer. He has created a fantasy world by creatively combining classical myth, religious lore (for example the Harrowing of Hell) and physical geography to invent a place that seems startlingly real. He just isn't all that interesting of a travel guide through it in my opinion.

I am standing at the edge of the eighth circle and hoping Dante doesn't find my comments too unkind!

Mar 19, 2009, 9:31pm Top


I think you are spot on as to the political motivation for The Divine Comedy. We must remember that all of this was written after Dante was exiled from Florence under a death sentence, and that he never returned to Florence. I have seen discussions that attribute great religious meaning to the structure and the content of the poem, but I really don't believe Dante was any more religious than others of the time. The "name dropping", as you say, almost seems to be his way of saying "you might have gotten the better of me in this life, but you will rot in hell!" I am waiting to get my hands on The History of Florence by Francesco Guicciardini to put some historical perspective on this.

Mar 19, 2009, 9:40pm Top

91: tracy, I didn't find it as surprising that more Classics than Bible were referenced. I think we have to remember, that, particularly among Roman catholics, the Bible was not universally read or studied at that time, at least by laymen. Educated men would be much more likely to have studied classical Roman literature, so the references to contemporaneous churchman would have been more political than Biblical. He obviously has not much respect for the church's hierarchy, but I do still see a healthy skepticism about the afterlife. I find it really interesting to see who he places where--a telling view into his political and religious views.

Mar 19, 2009, 10:51pm Top

One of the questions that I have been waiting to ask seems to be referred to above. It seems to me that he needs to namedrop constantly throughout. Was this my imagination or does it seem that way to others?

Mar 22, 2009, 1:33pm Top

Well Dante certainly doesn't hold much love for grafters...I've finished thru XXII now, and echos of the money ills of today could certainly be put right on top of what he is writing. I am deciding that while I can understand the Inferno by reading various notes and commentaries, I'm not going not having a full appreciation of the greatness of this piece until I have a more in depth understanding of the history and culture of the time. As Lisa said in #82, it may be time to put Machiavelli and Guicciardini on the TBR list.

Now for my favorite phrase of the week: Canto XXI:139
ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta.

Both Longfellow and Norton have this as
he made a trumpet of his rump.

Cary is much more elegant:
Which he with sound obscene triumphant gave.

Mandelbaum and Pinsky are together with my favorite (particularly when you hear it declaimed by George Guidall on the audio):
and he made a trumpet of his ass.

It's quite powerful when it's recited and left hanging at the end of the canto.

Enjoy next week.

Mar 25, 2009, 2:42pm Top

I agree ... the whole of canto XXI was one of the best so far.

Overall, I think Dante is hitting his stride in the eighth circle: The punishments are getting more gruesome, there is a little more commentary on why individuals are being punished and the demons are getting a life of their own. As Dante puts it in XXII, "one must go with boozers in the tavern and saints in the church."

Mar 25, 2009, 2:50pm Top

I am curious about the usurers Dante comments on as he moves from the seventh to eighth circle. I thought that money-lending was a primarily Jewish trade. I would have expected the traditional medieval anti-Semitic tirade against the evil Jews here. What role did Jews play in Dante's Florence and how were they viewed?

Mar 25, 2009, 3:49pm Top

Tomorrow I am going to pick up from the library Guicciardini's History of Florence. I don't know how it is going to be to read, but I will let you all know. I have sort of put Dante on hold until I can see if this book will be useful as an adjunct to reading Inferno.

Mar 26, 2009, 9:17am Top

TracyFox: maybe since it wasn't a sin for Jews to lend at interest, since they aren't Christian, he decided not to include any. More often than not, it seems Dante is focusing his anger at Christians who have betrayed their oaths/religious teachings. At least, that's how I remember it.

Mar 26, 2009, 6:58pm Top

In 1300 the population of Italy was about 11 million, including an estimated 15,000 Jews. Most were in Sicily. There was an established community in Rome and also in other parts of southern Italy, but it wasn't until the late 14th and 15th centuries that Florence and points north became a destination for Jews.

From http://www.initaly.com/regions/ethnic/jewish.htm : After 1000 CE, conditions became more uncertain for the Jews because the feudal system and artisan guilds began to be put into place. Jews were barred from all guilds and were only allowed two positions, that of money lending and the selling of used clothing. It is notable that they were allowed to be moneylenders. At the time the church had forbidden all Christians from money lending and this would not be repealed until the fifteenth century with the passing of Monte Di Pietà. However, the position of money lending helped Jews to survive and eventually even to own property. Many feudal lords were kind to their moneylenders and kept them from harm's way.

Amazing what you can find on the web! Did you know that -- In 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council decided that Jews had to live in separate quarters and wear special insignia for the first time in the Italian states. Men were forced to wear red or yellow hats and a cloth badge on their coats. Jewish women had to wear a yellow veil over their hats. These rules were not carried out for very long but they would not be forgotten and they set building blocks for the future.

Mar 27, 2009, 9:38am Top

Lisa, ArmyAngel and Joonie, thanks for your help. I did a little more digging too and found it interesting that Pope Clement V ("the lawless shepard from the West" "even uglier in deeds" in Canto XIX) declared it was a heresy, subject to prosecution under the inquisition, to even say that usury was not a sin. (Clement V is also the pope who moved the papacy to France and who caved in to the French king and dissolved the Knights Templar.)

I believe the Torah was interpreted by Jews to allow collecting interest from Gentiles but not other Jews. I also believe the medieval church found usury to be a mortal sin.

Other writings just a little later than Dante (esp. Chaucer in The Prioresses' Tale) have numerous grotesque charicatures of money-lending Jews. I think Joonie's note that Jews were just not a big part of the Florentine commerce scene probably explains it best.

Mar 27, 2009, 9:49am Top

On another train of thought, I am still surprised by the lack of Biblical characters ... finally we see Simon Magus from Acts, but why not Bathsheba for lust or the Witch of Endor for sorcery.

The Jerome's Vulgate translation of the bible into Latin had been around for hundreds of years and any educated person who have been able to read it. Medieval churches were full of stained glass, statues and paintings depicting Bible stories. Traveling mystery plays went from town to town presenting the more dramatic stories with props and elaborately painted backdrops. I think Dante's reasons for not including Biblical references had nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or a concern that his audience would not understand the allusions.

I know we will meet Judas in a few weeks, but I will be interested to see who else pops up.

My current theory is that maybe including Biblical personages was too "easy," and Dante didn't want his masterwork to be dismissed as nothing more than entertainment for the illiterate masses.

Mar 27, 2009, 7:34pm Top

In Canto IV, translation by CAry

"Piercing the secret purport of my speech,
He answer'd: "I was new to that estate,
When I beheld a puissant one arrive
Amongst us, with victorious trophy crown'd.
He forth the shade of our first parent drew,
Abel his child, and Noah righteous man,
Of Moses lawgiver for faith approv'd,
Of patriarch Abraham, and David king,
Israel with his sire and with his sons,
Nor without Rachel whom so hard he won,
And others many more, whom he to bliss
Exalted. Before these, be thou assur'd,
No spirit of human kind was ever sav'd."

Those that were not baptized, linger in Limbo.

Edited: Mar 28, 2009, 12:05pm Top

Hello everyone.. I hope we're all on track to finish next week. I'm enjoying this read much more than I expected to, although I could not tell you what I really expected.

This week's batch has many more Biblical references, although Dante is certainly not focusing on them from a biblical perspective. I have the feeling that he sees the biblical personages more in an historical light, just as he is steeped in classical Greek and Latin poetry. The references to the ancients tho, IMO, are almost a way of trumpeting his erudition and education. It becomes more apparent as we descend into each circle that he had more than one ax to grind with (then) current and recently past politicians and the city fathers of Florence. The contemporaneous Church authorities certainly aren't overlooked either.

I still find myself pondering what Dante would have said about today's world, and would his 'punishments' have instilled as much horror in a generation steeped in hours and hours of violence and killing in our current media?

Anyway, I did have a happy thought while reading this morning, when Dante mentions the Pillars of hercules in canto 26:106. I had actually visited them, and remember a wondrous visit with the monkeys of gibraltar. Not nearly as imposing as they are reputed to be in the Inferno, but here's your illustration of the week (complete with a person named Tutu).

Mar 28, 2009, 12:07pm Top

One more request: I'd really appreciate it if those of you who have been reading along with us but haven't been able to post could at least just give us a holler and let us know that you're still with us, and how far along you've gotten. Enjoy your week. Tina

Mar 28, 2009, 1:42pm Top

I'm a little behind, but up to Canto 21 and expecting to finish by Easter.

Mar 28, 2009, 9:09pm Top

I have finished and am finding the discussion interesting.

Mar 30, 2009, 9:22am Top

I should finish in time. I´m in canto 29 I think(haven´t got the book with me now).So far it has been an interesting read and I´m considering reading both Purgatorio and Paradiso this year. Not sure yet will it be in April or in the summer.

Mar 30, 2009, 10:49am Top

Ive thought about reading the rest of the Divine Comedy but I won't be ready until at least fall. I need to catch up on all the omes I should have had finished by now.

Edited: Apr 4, 2009, 1:57pm Top

Whew! I'm done. What a tremendous experience. I'm so glad I read this, and don't think I would have been able to get started without knowing others were with me. I now know I could read Purgatorio and Paradiso on my own, but having a definite structure to a read like this is definitely a help.

I've posted a generic commentary on tutu's two cents, my blog, and will post semi reviews on my 999 thread.

Here I'd like to throw out some final discussion comments.

Like many of you, I found it fascinating how Dante arranged his circles, and what levels he assigned to each sin. I have to wonder if there was a personal agenda in those designations. IOW, did he personally feel more aggrieved by traitors (9th circle) than by murderers (7th circle)? Why were flatterers(8) more vile than Heretics (6)? It certainly seems he is more concerned with punishing those who betray on a political basis, then those who have committed some sin against a Church canon.

Was anyone else surprised to see hell frozen at the bottom? I really had never read this before, and had never studied the drawings. I knew that Dante had divided Hell into circles, but never realized it was sitting on a frozen lake. I guess I'd best be more careful when I use the expression "When Hell freezes over..."

Up til this last week with the final 5 cantos, (the 9th circle) I hadn't had a Stephen King kind of revulsion at the horror of Hell. For some reason tho, this final circle finally smacked me and I began to see how very awful the conceptin or idea of Hell is. Whether the reader believes in the actuality of it or not, this poem certainly makes any sane person wish to avoid the place.

I read four different translations and listened to the Pinsky. Of all those, I personally prefer the Longfellow--it scans truer than the others, to my ear anyway. The only translation I really didn't like was the Cary, but can't really put my finger on why.

I hope all of you who joined us found this an uplifting experience. I'm not ready to hop into Purgatory yet, I have one more Lenten book to finish, and another to read next week, before diving into an Easter basket of cozies, fluffies, some poetry and a few short stories.

Thanks to everyone for a great read.
edited to fix touchstones

Apr 4, 2009, 2:42pm Top

I second Tina's feelings. I too am glad that I did not undertake this literary adventure alone. I had a little trepidation when I originally suggested this for one of my Classics but Tina offered to go there with me and I felt that I could make it with some help. Knowing that all of you were with us on this journey through "Hell" made it an enlightening experience. May we all meet in Paradise someday! Thanks to you all!

Apr 5, 2009, 8:15pm Top

Hello again...alyhough this isn't a post specifically about the Inferno, I couldn't resist. This afternoon, I finished a wonderful book by Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace. My full review will be on my 999 thread. But I was so tickled when I read in her essay on Hell, about the Singapore amusement park depicting the ten courts of Confucian hell. Now I have to tell you that I've been to Singapore three times, and this one completely slipped my radar, but here's a quote I thought we all would enjoy:

"Statues of demons stand at the gate, and visitors, mostly families with small children pass through dark spooky rooms filled with sculptures depicting liars having their tongues pulled out, prostitutes boiled in oil, drug dealers chained to hot pillars on which they are slowly cooked, and stones grinding up people who have cheated on their taxes or disobeyed their parents...a sound track plays the screams of the damned....the park is enormously popular with parents, where they bring their children...'to learn right from wrong'...What we Americans might call 'family values.'"

I wonder if Dante ever heard of Confucius?

Edited: Apr 6, 2009, 6:34pm Top

Finished. I've posted a review on my thread.

I was quite struck by how political the book was, and also by the symbolism of the punishments - and particularly some of the later ones. Canto 28, for example, where those who sow division are themselves 'divided', or Canto 25 where those who make no distinction between what is theirs and what belongs to another suffer by having that lack of distinction imposed upon them.

I also loved the style of the Sayers translation, which kept the original form of the poem. The vocabulary and the rhymes were wonderful:

Canto XXII:
I have seen horsemen moving camp, and beating
The muster and assault, seen troops advancing,
And sometimes with uncommon haste retreating,

Seen forays in your land, and courses prancing,
O Aretines! and I've beheld some grandish
Tilts run and tourneys fought, with banners dancing,

And fife and drum, and signal-flares a-brandish
From towers, and cars with tintinnabulation
Of bells, and things both native and outlandish;

But to so strange a trumpet's proclamation
I ne'er saw move or infantry or cavalry,
Or ship by sea-mark or by constellation.

I'm now hoping to get to the Sayers translation of Purgatory and Paradise some time soon.

Apr 6, 2009, 6:32pm Top

Oh Caty....thanks for sharing that translation. That is one I did not see, but I definitely do like the way it follows the original rhyme scheme. Thanks for joining us on this adventure.

Edited: Apr 8, 2009, 12:15am Top

E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle.

It's great to see the stars again! Many thanks to Tina for initiating this group and to all of you for the thoughtful and interesting comments. Where to go from here? Before all of this mashes up in my mind, I think I will step back and read more of Virgil's Aeneid, and Ovid's Metamorphoses -- both of these are available in on the web. I don't want to wait too long before going on to Purgatory for fear that all of this new background knowledge will be quickly forgotten. . . but I definitely need a short break. . .

Mysteries set in Italy are my favorite brain-basters, and going through my own library I have found three that are heavily influenced by Dante's Divine Comedy -- The Dante Game by Jane Langton, Through a Glass Darkly by Donna Leon, and In The Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches. I have just finished rereading the first two and have started Tosches's book ( which I have never read). There is a great deal of satisfaction in discovering the ah-ha! moments (based on new dantesque insights) in these works. All of these authors are obviously very familiar with Dante, and it is so interesting to see how they incorporate his works into their story lines.

Apr 8, 2009, 9:32am Top

Joonie...thanks so much for accompanying us on this journey. I have read several Donna Leon's and love her stuff. I'm not familiar with the other two, but will keep my eyes open for them.

I finished my Religion/Spirituality category last night...Dante really inspired me..and the best part was that I was able to leave the Inferno in the poetry category.

Look forward to seeing your progress with the rest of the Divine Comedy.

Apr 22, 2009, 1:39pm Top

If anyone will be in Chicago on June 12, you can get tickets to see Roberto Benigni performing "Tutto Dante" at the Harris Theater.


Apr 22, 2009, 3:48pm Top

Now that's almost worth coughing up some frequent flyer points!!!

Edited: Apr 28, 2009, 12:16pm Top

Oh Wow...I wish I'd read this before we started Dante. Thomas Cahill's Mysteries of the Middle Ages, The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe has an entire chapter devoted to Dante and the Florence of the period. The art work is exquisite, and he suggests a translation none of us seem to have stumbled upon by Peter Dale - Cahill says "widely available in the UK".

There is an illustration of a mosaic of Satan in Hell in the Baptistry of San Giovanni in Florence that can certainly be seen as inspiration for some of Dante's imagery. There's also a very good synopsis of Dante's life, political troubles, and the popes, prelates, and politicians of the day. Well worth reading to tie up loose ends.

It's a great chapter in a book I'm overall ambivalent about. Full review here.

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