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The Inferno by Dante Alighieri
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The Inferno

by Dante Alighieri

Other authors: Dorothy L. Sayers (Translator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Divine Comedy (1)

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English (124)  Italian (1)  Swedish (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (128)
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
This is far and away the best and most accessible translation I have read and I looked at several since 2010. But best of all is that it can now be listened to, as it is read with great cognition by Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, Nobel Prize Winner Seamus Heaney, Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize Winner Louise Glück, and Bolligen Prize Winner Frank Bidart, in a new production cosponsored by Penguin Audio and FSG Audio. It doesn't take long to listen to (5 hours), and it packs a punch, just like the original should have.

Dante's The Divine Comedy is an epic poem in three parts and was written in the 14th Century, at a time when oral traditions in storytelling were still prevalent. One benefits from hearing the work spoken aloud, as in all poetry. But in this audio presentation we get only Part I, The Inferno and not Purgatorio and Paradiso. How I yearn to learn that the latter parts will also be translated by Pinsky. I have read Part I many times, Part II once, and never Part III. I'd like to see what Dante has to say about heaven. The whole work was originally entitled Commedia, and in later centuries other artists added the "Divine." The meaning is the same: our God plays with us humans...setting us difficulties and seeing how we manage. Many of us fail.

I came away wondering if this is the version of hell that the Catholic Church promulgated and has adhered to for centuries. Wikipedia says it is, and that in fact, Dante drew on St. Thomas Acquinas' Summa Theologica from medieval Christian theology. It is grim. It is horrible. It is hell in every definition. It is so similar to what I was taught that I wonder now how it is possible that so little has changed in Church teachings and at the imaginations of our religious leaders that no one has come up with a more hellish (or even a different) scenario. How little ignorance is excuse for wrongdoing in Dante's eyes. We have only ourselves to blame, he says. How clear our human moral conundrums seem from this fiery pit.

Remind yourselves of moral wisdom, and listen, just listen to our greatest living poets read Dante.


( )
  bowedbookshelf | Oct 6, 2014 |
Descent into Hell is an excerpt from Dante's Alighieri's legendary Divine Comedy. It comprises most of the first portion of that masterpiece, Inferno. The Penguin Epics edition is an absolutely glorious translation by Dorothy Sayers from her broader 1949 Divine Comedy translation. This is the 18th book in the Penguin Epics collection and is by far the most sparkling translation.

Descent into Hell is a small 130 page work in the poetic style known as terza rima which Dante arguably created. It makes for a great flow as sentences and ideas converge through the narrative keeping up an engaging beat. Dorothy Sayers has transferred the style to English so expertly it is hard to believe possible. English is nowhere near as easy a language as Italian for the three-line rhyme to be kept up over long periods given the much smaller number of potential rhyming pairs. The translation keeps the sentence structure intact giving the right number of beats for each line. Quite a remarkable achievement.

The quality of Dante's original is of course legendary and has had a major influence on popular culture. It stands the test of time. His tale of a journey through the nine circles of hell is a magnificent 14th century work that stands comparison with anything written since. Compared to the other Penguin Epics it is at times a class apart. The richness of the world Dante develops and the quality of both narrative and character development are outstanding. Brief interactions with hell's denizens are all that is needed to both tell their story and expand upon the role of Christian morality in defining the values of the societies it inhabits.

Probably most interesting of all is the huge range of well-known characters from history who appear as part of the journey. Their existence is also a brilliant deconstruction of some of the irrationality of the Christian belief system. The virtuous pagans for instance who are encountered early on and who embody some of the finest values Europe holds dear spend eternity in the outer ring of hell because they existed before Christianity did. Through no fault of their own great figues from ancient Greece are excluded from heaven because Christianity had not been invented when they died. The explicit depiction of this is Dante's guide Virgil, the great Roman poet who falls short because of the time in which he lived. It is a withering but well disguised critique of Christian value that have nothing at all to do with morality.

Great lovers appear in the second ring of hell. People who inhabit some of the epic tales of human love are sinners in the Christian world and so find themselves tortured for eternity as a result of being in love. The conversation Dante describes with an Italian called Francesca di Rimini is a beautiful exposition of the cruelty of the Christian belief system when compared with the beauty of love. There is so much pathos directed towards these lovers that Dante himself expresses sorrow at their outcome. It must have been so brave for Dante to have been so explicit in a turbulent century.

Inhabitants of the lower circles are decreasingly sympathetic creatures. Dante categorises the various sinners by their cardinal sin and ranks those sins in terms of their dastardlyness. The worst punishments are those for whom treachery was the sin. The final sinner being Judas with beyond him only Satan existing as a worse example of immorality.

Along the way there are many greats from history. The Inferno contains so many who would be familiar from great works of antiquity. The re-imagining of morality by the 14th century also helps to cast some who were treated as heroes of their time into hell. Odysseus (Ulysees) for instance was a monster but was a celebrated hero in Homer's great Odyssey. He finds himself in Dante's hell because of his deception at Troy rather than his massacre of many who did not deserve it in particular on his return home from his journey.

Others appear and do so because of the myth that developed around them. It is hilarious to read a reference to Michael Scott who after his death had become mythologised as a wizard because of his interest and capability with technology far beyond his contemporaries.

Naturally the Prophet Mohammad appears in one of the lower circles of hell for being a schismatic. This was not necessarily an anti-Islam stance just the natural conclusion of the monothestic belief system that cannot accept other versions as equal. Saladin on the other hand is a heroic figure and appears in the first circle (Limbo) - Islam is clearly not the issue at stake and Saladin's virtues were clearly acceptable to Dante.

It is harder to follow the stories of many of the near contemporary Italians Dante mentions so additional research is necessary to unpick their stories. The Penguin Epics version offers no commentary so no additional analysis is available in the book. For most of the characters this should pose no problem but for local Italians of various persuasions it is a bit of an issue.

Interestingly the ninth (lowest) circle is divided into four sub-categories. It is not truly nine levels but Dante actually describes twelve.

Dante's descriptions all the way through are stunning. His depiction of the worlds of hell is absolutely mind-blowing. The full Divine Comedy is one of the great works of literature ever produced. The version offered here is a truly incredible translation of most of the first part, Inferno. For those with the Penguin Epics collection it has to be a prized part of that group. Absolutely excellent. ( )
  Malarchy | Sep 19, 2014 |
I would not recommend this book to my friends. I enjoyed it, but it had very little action and the language used made the book very hard to follow. I believe most people would stop reading it after a little while unless they had to finish it. 5Q3P The cover art is okay and I'd recommend this to adults. I chose to read this book because I heard of it on TV and wanted to see how sins are dealt with. DanielS
  edspicer | Aug 25, 2014 |
So, in terms of the Inferno itself, not too much to say--I mean, it's a classic. Compared to, say, Aeneid Book 6, it's a bit lacking in plot, which makes it harder to keep going, but the constant classical references kept me interested.

This version is fantastic. Helpful maps, well laid out introduction, superb notes (and additional notes--short essays, really--in the back), and a really cool set of indices (including of passages cited in the notes, which will make it easy to research Vergil, Ovid, et al. as referenced by Dante). Oh, and the original Italian on facing pages--my favorite bit being Bocca's "va via" (get lost) in Canto 32.

Highly recommended. ( )
  saholc | Aug 3, 2014 |
Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: This widely praised version of Dante's masterpiece, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets, is more idiomatic and approachable than its many predecessors. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Pinsky employs slant rhyme and near rhyme to preserve Dante's terza rima form without distorting the flow of English idiom. The result is a clear and vigorous translation that is also unique, student-friendly, and faithful to the original: "A brilliant success," as Bernard Knox wrote in The New York Review of Books.

My Review: The Doubleday UK meme, a book a day for July 2014, is the goad I'm using to get through my snit-based unwritten reviews. Today's prompt is the twenty-fourth, a book that reminds you of your English teacher.

Ninth grade, or freshman high school year, was The Odyssey, and tenth was The Inferno. We used, in 1974, the then-newish Ciardi translation, made in 1954; it was quite an event, since Ciardi (a poet of some renown) translated it as poetry instead of as Italian-to-English words.

Pinsky's translation attempts the damn-near impossible feat of preserving the terza rima (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.) rhyme scheme invented by Dante for this cycle of poems. The result is a noble experiment, one marked by many successes. There are some weird things like quotes flowing over multiple stanzas, and there are some...odd...rhymes. But hell, the man tried a damned near impossible feat! Italian is a language in which it's harder *not* to rhyme than otherwise, and English resists rhyme with all its might and main.

So what is any reviewer to say about a 700-year-old poem? Nothing hasn't been said by now. I am anti-christian. The theology behind the entire Divine Comedy appalls and repulses me. I speak rudimentary Italian. Pinsky's efforts to reproduce terza rima are, to my ears, clunky and unnecessary. But in the end, rating a book like this is about what the take-away is for the reader. I take away a sense of Dante as an intelligent, desperately lonely man, attempting to make a Universe in which his existence matters and is of some moment. I stand in awed amazement at his gloriously baroque imagination. I am gobsmacked by the sheer audacity of a medieval poet writing in the vernacular. If Dante was alive today, he'd be writing raps.

Ugh. Horrible thought.

But nonetheless, I am wowed at a root level by the joyous, exuberant viciousness and the unapologetic cruelty of Dante's score-settling fates for his enemies. What a guy! Those raps he'd be writing today? They'd inspire Wes Craven to make movies and Clive Barker to write gore-fests!

Try this exercise: Imagine a beat-box under the terza rima stanzas. Read a piece aloud imagining hand-claps at the end of each stanza. This is what I think we, in this relativistic age, should strive for: to interpret the classics of literature and poetry by standards relevant to today, in addition to the standards that we know were applied at the time of the work's creation.

Many more layers to this work that way. After all, a literary classic is a work that's never finished saying what it has to say.

And here one is.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
6 vote richardderus | Jul 23, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (93 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alighieri, Danteprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Doré, GustaveIllustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sayers, Dorothy L.Translatorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bego, HarrieRegistersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blake, WilliamIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Boeken, H.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bosco, UmbertoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Botticelli, SandroIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bremer, FredericaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brouwer, RobTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carson, CiaranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cary, Henry FrancisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chiavacci Leonardi, A. M.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ciardi, JohnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doré, GustaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ellis, SteveTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freccero, JohnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Halpern, DanielEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollander, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollander, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janssen, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuenen, WilhelminaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Longfellow, Henry WadsworthTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MacAllister, Archibald T.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mandelbaum, AllenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mazur, MichaelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moser, BarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Musa, MarkTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pinsky, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pipping, AlineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reggio, GiovanniEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rooy, Ronald deIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rutgers, JacoBeeldredactiesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sayers, Dorothy L.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scott-Giles, C. W.Mapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sibbald, James RomanesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sinclair, John D.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Singleton, Charles S.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tiggelen, Chrisjan vanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, HeathcoteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Judith
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When I had journeyed half of our life's way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray. (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovai per una selva oscura, che la diritta via era smarrita.)
Midway in his allotted threescore years and ten, Dante comes to himself with a start and realizes that he has strayed from the True Way into the Dark Wood of Error (Worldliness).
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Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451527984, Mass Market Paperback)

Considered to be one of the greatest literary works of all time- equal only to those of Shakespeare-Dante's immortal drama of a journey through Hell is the first volume of his Divine Comedy. The remaining canticles, The Purgatorio and The Paradiso, will be published this summer in quick succession.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:43 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

In the first part of Dante's epic poem about the three realms of the Christian afterlife, a spiritual pilgrim is led by Virgil through the nine circles of Hell.

» see all 22 descriptions

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