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Dante's Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation (2010)

by Seymour Chwast

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I won this book from Early Reviewers, but never got it. I finally stumbled on a copy and snagged it, so I'll review it here. This odd little volume is a sort of comic strip overview of the Divine Comedy, with Dante drawn as a sort of hapless gumshoe complete with fedora and trench coat, and Virgil as a Broadway-refugee Hercule Poirot on a bowler, cane, two-tone shoes and glasses. Unlike some of the more quirky renditions I've seen, this would not really help someone who doesn't know Dante to read or understand his masterwork. But for those who know the Comedy, it offers an amusing and silly romp through the afterlife rendered with the sort of dry wit and offbeat whimsy one might expect from Chwast. If you know and love the Comedy, you'll likely get a kick out of this, and it deserves a spot on your shelf. If you're new to it, you might still enjoy the humor here, but don't let it throw you!
  raven_moon | Jan 1, 2014 |
I have really enjoyed the books offered by Bloomsbury so eagerly anticipating the arrival of this book. Can't believe I won another Goodreads giveaway so soon!

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Clocking in at a mere 127 pages, this graphic novel is an extremely condensed version of [b:The Divine Comedy|6656|The Divine Comedy|Dante Alighieri|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1320552051s/6656.jpg|809248]. Each canto covers about a page or two of illustration (sometimes less). The many levels of hell, purgatory and paradise described in The Divine Comedy are rendered through Chwast's simple black and white illustrations. The text mirrors this no-frills drawing style and manages to remain concise yet darkly humorous throughout. Here are some of my favorite lines:

"Henry the Fat of Navarre. He died choking on his fat."

"Do you remember me? I am Ciacco. Don't get too close. I stink."

Dante: "Hmm those peaches look good.
Virgil: "You can have your peach and eat it too."

The image is of flames burning the spirits of the lustful as Dante looks on. He says to poet Guido Guinicelli (who is burning in these flames), "I love your work."


I rather enjoyed this first exposure to Dante's Divine Comedy. It was interesting to see prominent Christian figures featured along side those of Roman mythology. I also couldn't help thinking of Dante as a hip Inspector Gadget due to his modern duds. Maybe someday I'll attempt to tackle The Divine Comedy in its entirety. This has definitely piqued my interest. It's nice to know I'll have this illustrated shorthand nearby when I do. If this was Chwast's intention then he has succeeded. I would compare this graphic interpretation to a Cliff Notes version rather than an abridgment of the original. ( )
  diovival | Oct 14, 2013 |
A graphic novel that could serve as a cliff notes to the original "Divine Comedy," but brings nothing of its own to the table. The only creative license is to update the clothing to something more modern, like from the 1930's and 40's, but it doesn't add to anything. Unfortunately, the simplicity of the illustrations doesn't connect well with the ideas, and the sparse narration is simply who is doing what and where. It's unsurprising at how hurried everything feels, since it took the three journeys and put them into single sitting digest, but even the memorable moments are glossed over in a rush to the end. If you're looking to remember what punishments happened in what layer of hell, it's a good reminder. But anyone who wants to read a new interpretation of the classic or get lost in a visualization of their favorite cantos is better off finding something else. ( )
  gaisce | Sep 24, 2013 |
A slightly irreverent look at Dante's Divine Comedy in the form of a graphic novel. While reading it I wondered how Mad magazine would treat The Divine Comedy. This will be fun to pull off the shelf from time to time and "read" it again. ( )
  landlocked54 | Nov 26, 2012 |
Chwast adapts Dante's Divine Comedy in a stark black and white comic. Virgil and Dante appear in suits circa 1940s and they travel through Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise.

The illustrations are simple but effective. Chwast does a nice job of trying to boil down the essentials of Dante's work, although latter parts of the book are not as easy to follow. ( )
  jasonm031572 | Feb 5, 2012 |
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In this Seymour Chwast's version of Dante Alighieri's epic poem, Dante and his guide Virgil don fedoras and wander through noirish realms of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Along the way they catalog a multitude of sinners and saints--many of them real people to whom Dante tellingly assigned either horrible punishment or indescribable pleasure--and meet both God and Lucifer face-to-face. Chwast creates a visual fantasia that fascinates on every page. His inventive illustrations capture the delirious complexity of this classic of the western canon.… (more)

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