If you're one of those readers who runs screaming from the Epic Poem because (a) the poetry is too hard to read or (b) you're worried you won't undersIf you're one of those readers who runs screaming from the Epic Poem because (a) the poetry is too hard to read or (b) you're worried you won't understand all the allusions, metaphors, or get the really dirty hidden jokes . . . well, then, Robert Pinsky's highly entertaining translation of this classic poem is made just for you.
Pinsky does his best to maintain the poem's terza rima structure -- and his "Translator's Note" at the beginning of the book will help you appreciate just how difficult a task that is -- but those accustomed to reading straight prose will hardly know the craft to which they're being exposed. While Pinsky does indeed keep to the integrity of the terza rima, the text remains eminently readable. And if you're one of those readers who has a tendency to take a slight mental pause at the end of each line of poetry (a real problem, I find, when rhyme is involved), then you'll appreciate how Pinsky's careful enjambment keeps things moving along in a manner that sounds natural to ears accustomed to modern-day spoken English. No forced rhymes or wacky syntax here.
And for those concerned that they may get lost among Dante's political, historical, and literary references, this translation comes with top-notch notes by Nicole Pinsky that help put everything into their proper context. Sure, there are times when you don't really care which obscure Italian pickpocket is getting his comeuppance in Hell -- but more often than not, the notes are an invaluable companion to the poem. There's also an intriguing topographical map of Hell included near the front of the book that you'll find yourself marking with your thumb for easy reference as you journey from one Ring of Hell to another.
But while the Pinskys definitely keep the show moving from the wings, it's Dante who's the real star here, and modern readers who have never experienced the Inferno before will be surprised at how versatile Dante can be. Dante's Hell is a place where the punishments truly fit the crime -- where those who professed in life an ability to see the future are doomed to walk the Rings of Hell with their heads turned around backward -- and Dante pulls no punches when it comes to describing the punishments inflicted on Hell's inhabitants. Fans of the modern horror novel will find lots of familiar elements in here, as demons fight each other in mid-air over bungled chances to punish souls, as men turn to beast and vice versa, and as Dante and his guide encounter a forest filled with trees which are actually the transformed souls of suicides. It's creepy stuff. But there's also a bit of romance, redemption, and a really good fart joke.
Whether its thoughtful ruminations on the nature of God's will, retribution, and Man's place in the City of God, or just the thief Vanni Fucci giving God the finger, there are more than enough bits in here to keep even the most casual reader interested. And more serious readers will likely find themselves turning to this translation again.
In other words, even if poetry's not your thing, you may still want to check out this translation of a classic. You won't be disappointed....more