Paul Dubuc's Reviews > The Divine Comedy I: Hell

The Divine Comedy I by Dante Alighieri
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's review
Sep 01, 09

bookshelves: classics, hell, poetry
Read in January, 2002

Having wanted to read Inferno for a long time, I was glad to find Dorothy Sayers' translation since I value her own writing. I'm no scholar, so I can't compare this critically to the numerous other translations available. I just come looking to enjoy reading and understanding great classic literature on occasion. It takes a great deal of background information to appreciate this work. The Divine Comedy can be examined from many different angles: Poetry, allegory, theology, a spiritual journey, a love story. Sayers' introduction and notes, and the diagrams and drawings in this book were a great help to me. Some may argue that the scholarship is a bit dated, but Sayers clearly loved The Divine Comedy and wanted her readers to appreciate it also. The result of her work was a very interesting reading experience for me, better than I expected. I particularly enjoyed the insights she incorporated into the notes from Charles Williams' book, The Figure of Beatrice. (Sayers dedicated her translation of The Divine Comedy to Williams.) The verse might make it a little more difficult to get the meaning until you get used to it, but I think it's worth the effort. Once I found a good reading pace, I didn't find the rhyming forced as some readers have. (It might seem that way if you look for it.) It must be a difficult thing to try to give readers of English the same experience that Dante's Italian readers had and I think that was Dorothy Sayers' goal. She got me interested enough to take seriously her claim that readers of Dante are cheating themselves if they stop after Inferno. On through Purgatory to Paradise ... It must only get better from here.
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