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Inferno

(La Divina Commedia #1)

by
4.01  ·  Rating details ·  163,669 ratings  ·  6,253 reviews
Of the great poets, Dante is one of the most elusive and therefore one of the most difficult to adequately render into English verse. In the Inferno, Dante not only judges sin but strives to understand it so that the reader can as well. With this major new translation, Anthony Esolen has succeeded brilliantly in marrying sense with sound, poetry with meaning, capturing bot ...more
Paperback, 490 pages
Published December 9th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1320)
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Edward That's kind of a tricky question. Most people will read it in translation from the original 13th-century Italian, so the vocabulary will vary in diffi…moreThat's kind of a tricky question. Most people will read it in translation from the original 13th-century Italian, so the vocabulary will vary in difficulty depending on the translators' goals. In general, any reasonably recent translation will be quite intelligible to most readers. I have seen bright teenagers handle it without any trouble at all, in terms of their ability to comprehend the vocab.

The real challenge is the historical and theological background of Inferno, which is complex. Dante was a high-ranking career politician in Florence, and was subsequently exiled from there, stripped of his property and forced to flee for his life. He was an intensely political man, extremely well educated, and he was nursing grudges that show up in the poem. He makes a lot of references to political events that most modern readers won't understand. And also, he spends a lot of time talking about medieval Roman Catholic theology, applying it to the story at hand. Again, modern readers tend to have trouble.

The best way to ensure a good experience with this poem is for you to choose a translation that is intended to be readable, with good notes on the text. I cut my teeth on the poem with the translation by Mark Musa, which you can find in The Portable Dante. It has fairly good explanatory notes.

A more recent, and possibly better choice, especially if you like parallel text translations, is the Inferno translation by Durling and Martinez, which has excellent notes. It's easily my favorite of those that are commonly available, and I have had glowing reviews of it from friends who wanted an accessible introduction to the poem.(less)
Edward Not really.

I mean, yes, obviously the Comedy as a whole is religious in character. It certainly engages with themes of sin, penance, salvation and red…more
Not really.

I mean, yes, obviously the Comedy as a whole is religious in character. It certainly engages with themes of sin, penance, salvation and redemption. But that's not all it is, and a lot of the stuff that shows up in it is arguably at odds with the advice Dante the Pilgrim gives his readers. So it's "about" religion and how to live a righteous life, but that's not all it is about.

The book is supremely political, although all the political figures in it are now historical figures, and some of them are really obscure if you don't already know a lot about late 13th/early 14th century Italian history. Many of the characters in Hell are people Dante personally disliked, or political opponents of his (Dante was a career politician in Florence, and when things went badly for his political party, he was exiled from the city and all his property was seized).

Others are people he didn't have anything against, but they were famous at the time for assorted sins--consider them the equivalent of Kim Kardashian and her sex tape. Is it a book about medieval Italian politics and pop culture? Sort of, but again, that's not all it is.

And then there's the whole thing with Beatrice, who was this woman that Dante had a crush on in real life before she died of the pox. Beatrice-the-character is an idealization of the real woman, Bice Donati, who never had any interest in him in real life. But in the poem, she loves him enough to dispatch a guide to take him through hell and into heaven. There's all sorts of emotional baggage at work there, some of it kinda creepy, some of it kinda sad. The Comedy is "about" this relationship, too

And there's Virgil, who was a real poet that Dante considered the beginning of the same literary tradition that he was writing in. Picking this guy to be Dante's guide through Hell and Purgatory makes it a story about being an author, and also a story about literary influence.

Saying that the book is supposed to instruct the reader about how to lead a righteous life is . . . true, but also missing the point. Really great literature usually is about everything and nothing.

I mean, really, Dante tells you what it's about in the first lines.

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smaritta.

In the middle of the road of our life, I came back to myself in a dark forest, where the straight way was lost.

In the story, this is literally true--he starts out lost in a forest, literally and also figuratively. And then the rest of the book is about how he got out of the woods, again literally and also figuratively.(less)

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Ahmad Sharabiani
Inferno (La Divina Commedia #1) = The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: Volume 1: Inferno, Dante Alighieri

The Divine Comedy is a long narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed in 1320, a year before his death, in 1321.

It is widely considered the preeminent work in Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature.

The poem's imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Chur
...more
Glenn Russell
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Dante’s Inferno - the first book I was assigned to read in my high school World Literature class. Back then I couldn’t get over how much the emotion of fear set the tone as I read each page. I recently revisited this classic. Rather than a more conventional review – after all, there really is nothing I can add as a way of critical commentary –- as a tribute to the great poet, I would like to share the below microfiction I wrote a number of years ago:

JOYRIDE
One balmy July evening at a seaside a
...more
emma
whoa this book is wild.

in place of a review of this whole book, i'm just going to write about this single line in Inferno that i full on cannot stop thinking about. warning: this is completely nasty. blame Dante. also: all credit goes out to my literary foundations professor. i'm essentially regurgitating his argument.

in Canto XXXIII, the pilgrim encounters Count Ugolino. Ugolino, a former governor of Pisa, is feasting on the neck of Archbishop Ruggieri. in life, Ruggieri betrayed him, leading t
...more
Matthew
I did not expect Dante’s Inferno to be easy, but it was not as hard as I expected it to be.

In order to make sure that I gave it my all, over the course of about 40 days I listened to it twice, had a physical copy that I skimmed and referenced, looked at online study guides, and discussed with some of my Goodreads friends. While I still feel there is more here to be learned and grasped due to all the symbolism and word craft used by Dante, I feel like I at least got a good feel for it in my Divin
...more
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
Sep 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HOW HELL IS GONNA SUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK
Manny
Since it's Good Friday, and thus exactly 717 years since Dante's pilgrim descended into the underworld, I thought it would be an auspicious moment to tell people about the project I've been pursuing together with Dr Sabina Sestigiani, an Italian lecturer at Swinburne University in Melbourne. Dante's poem is celebrated as one of the treasures of world literature - but it is not very accessible, being written in archaic Italian. Although there are translations, and even these are wonderful, a tran ...more
leynes
Dec 22, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not gonna lie, reading this poem felt, at times, like being punished in one of the lower Circles of Hell.

Dante's Commedia is among those classics that I desperately want to *have read* but never actually *read*. Add War and Peace, Don Quixote and Paradise Lost to that list of shame and procrastination. But sometimes, in rare moments, I feel like sucking it up, putting on my big girl pants, and facing the giant. Sometimes it goes right (see my stellar review for Moby Dick) and sometimes it goes t
...more
Manny
The other day, in the comment thread to her review of The Aeneid, Meredith called The Divine Comedy "lame": specifically, she objected to the fact that Dante put all the people he didn't like in Hell. Well, Meredith, you're perfectly welcome to your opinions - but I'm half Italian, and I've been politely informed that if I don't respond in some way I'm likely to wake up some morning and find a horse's head lying next to me. So here goes.

I actually have two separate defenses. First, let's conside
...more
Piyangie
The Inferno, part one of Dante's epic poem, The Divine Comedy, is the most imaginative poem that I've read in my life. I'm yet to read Purgatorio and Paradiso, but I doubt if any other poetic work can surpass Dante's Divine Comedy.

The Inferno is where Dante walks through Hell with his guide Virgil, the famous poet who wrote The Aeneid who was sent to him by Beatrice, Dante's devoted love interest, who is in Paradise. His creation of Hell is influenced by Christian theology, philosophy, and form
...more
Bill Kerwin
Jun 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

An excellent translation--even better than John Ciardi. Like Ciardi, Pinsky is a real poet and makes Dante the poet come alive. His verse has muscularity and force, and his decision to use half-rhyme is an excellent one, since it allows us to attend to the narrative undistracted.
Nefariousbig
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
A fantastic representation of Dante's Inferno - Nine Circles of Hell as divined by divine Lego artist, Mahai Marius Mihu. This is as close as I hope to get to understanding the Nine Circles according to Dante Alighieri.

i. LIMBO - A place of monotony, here the souls are punished to wander in restless existence while they moan helplessly in echoes between the ruins of a temple
Limbo

ii. LUST - Surrounded by erotic representations, those overcome by lust are forced to watch and experience disgusting thin
...more
Hamad
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“But the stars that marked our starting fall away.
We must go deeper into greater pain,
for it is not permitted that we stay.”


🌟 Basically this book is about Dante’s journey in hell, so it must be one hell of a book, right?

🌟 I am not actually the biggest fan of modern poetry. I have tried books as The princess saves herself in this one and Milk and simply did not like them because they felt like a Facebook or a Tumblr p
...more
Adina
Another book in verse that I read and it did not make me scream as in the pains of hell. Pun intended.

The divine Comedy is a post-classical epic poem, apparently. It is an epic because it is long (such as the Iliad and Aeneid), it talks about heroic deeds, it is an allegory and it does have history elements, of Florence to be precise. What makes this poem different from others is that the narrator is inside the story instead of omniscient compared with the other epics. Moreover, elements of Chri
...more
James
Book Review
4 out of 5 stars to Inferno, the first of three books in the "Divine Comedy" series, written around 1320 by Dante Alighieri. A few pieces of background information for those who many not know, before I get into a mini-review. Inferno, which means "Hell" was one of three books Dante wrote in the 14th century, essentially about the three spaces people occupy after death: Hell (Inferno), Purgatory and Heaven (Paradiso). I've only read Inferno, so I'm not able to discuss much
...more
Leo .
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Maybe Dante was referring to the levels of materialism. The more one has the more one wants, spiraling downwards, deeper and deeper until the matter consumes. So dense and dark with matter and at absolute evil, Hell, where Satan resides.🐯👍
Matthew Ted
49th book of 2021. Artist for this review is the magnificent French artist Gustave Doré, who did illustrations for The Divine Comedy. There will be many in this review, because they are hauntingly beautiful.

In Brighton a long time ago now I picked up Clive James’ complete The Divine Comedy translation and have poked a few times, non-committedly into it. I’ll read it properly once I’ve finished reading the rest of Sayers (and maybe after Ciardi too). I’ve been wanting to read Dante for a long ti
...more
Riku Sayuj
About Translation

It took me a while to decide on the translation to use. After a few days of research and asking around, I shortlisted Musa and Hollander. Went with Hollander since it seemed better organized. Turned out to be a good choice.

The translation is fluid and easy on the ear. The Italian version is also available when you want to just read the Italian purely for the sound of verse. I am no judge of the fidelity of the various translations, but this was an easy read and that was good. Th
...more
Maureen
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I DID IT. I FINISHED IT. BLESS.
This is such an interesting book, though definitely very hard to get through. I think if I was able to read it in Italian it would be a little easier as it would actually be read like Dante intended, but it's still really cool to see all the concepts! This is such an influential piece of literature and is referenced SO MUCH in culture that it is really cool to have a basis for it. I think I may reread this in a different rhyming translation next time to see what th
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Before I start talking about the book proper, I have a confession to make: I wasn't sure I really wanted to read philosophical poetry written seven centuries ago. I had doubts about style, quality of translation and my own lack of literary background in decyphering the numerous Christian and mythological references, not to mention political and cultural trivia from Dante's Florence. Thanks to my Goodreads friends, I took the plunge and I can report back that it was well worth the effort. Even be ...more
Alan
Jul 03, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: italian, poetry
I did not have plans to start with Dante any time soon, but lately I had been thinking about not needing to “be ready” before I did things – in a bid to get rid of the rationalizing Devil on my left shoulder (telling me that I would need to take a few years to make sure I could understand all the references), I jumped in. There I was, 10 years younger than Dante would have been when he awoke in the woods, but nevertheless ready for a journey. I turned to my right shoulder this time, hoping to fi ...more
Richard Derus
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, stude
...more
Richard
For the Celebrity Death Match Review Tournament, The Complete Tales and Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh versus The Divine Comedy

(All citations from the Inferno are from the Longfellow translation.)

To You

Paw in paw we come
Pooh and the Bouncer
To lay this review in your lap.
Give us one of those sultry little smiles
and say you're surprised!
Say you can't get over it!
Say it's just what you've always wanted
and it's even more fun than a day at the spa
(because, let's face it, hunny honey, on my salary
I couldn'
...more
Tahani Shihab
3 stars
7jane
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
(2016: review to 9780141195872 cover - hardback, red devils cover art:)
(I didn't read the main text of this one, but I think I will read the English half at some point.)
This one has chronology, introduction, map of Italy, plan of Hell plus commentaries and notes at the end. The main text itself is shown with Italian text on the left side, English on the right side. Commentaries include many comments on the linguistic details that I don't remember the paperback Penguin version having. There is al
...more
Sara (taking a break)
In the journey of my life I found myself in a dark wood, for I had lost the right path.

Thus begins Dante’s descent into Hell, where, with Virgil as his guide, he sees the punishments meted out to those who have sinned and felt no remorse. Even in the upper levels, the punishments seem horrendous, but each is cleverly designed to fit the sin itself and, while I might have ranked the seriousness of the sins in a different way, the justice of the punishment is always evident.

There is no need for me
...more
Vessey
I realize that I need to edit one particular part, but this review means a lot to me and I would like for it to stay the way it was written, regardless of the revalations and events that took place later.

Beautifully written and emotionally draining. However, this isn't simply a tale of terror. It is a philosophical and, I suppose, historical work as well. (I learned interesting historical facts). Who among us are sinners? Who are the righteous ones? Are people and deeds simply right or wrong, go
...more
Edward
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Inferno is fantastically written and incredibly fascinating. Probably because it is soooo dark.
Johann (jobis89)
"They yearn for what they fear for."

The Inferno tells the journey of Dante through Hell, accompanied by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil.

Dante’s Inferno presents one of those incredibly frustrating scenarios where the plot, imagery, themes etc are all fucking insane, but the prose made me want to claw my eyeballs out. I looked at how long the actual poem was and thought “that’ll take me about 2 days?” WRONG. Over a week. This may have been due to the fact that I was also reading the accompanying n
...more
Alex
In Florence, Italy, in the early 1300s, in the middle of the path of his life, a poet finds himself in a dark forest. Here’s Dante Alighieri - he always looks like this, by the way, just super mad. He’s got the worst resting bitch face.


hope: abandoned

And this is the problem with Inferno: Dante’s an asshole. In the poem he’s guided through hell, and later through Purgatory and then Paradise, by Virgil, whom you remember as the author of the Aeneid. There are some terrifically imaginative punishme
...more
Debbie
Jan 26, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure where the copy of the book came from. The copyright is one year before I was born, but I don't remember picking it up in a used book store. But I guess that's neither here nor there.

I wish I could honestly check off 5 stars and say that my eyes were opened. That I really felt transformed by having read this classic of literature and that I will make it point to re-read it every year on the anniversary of my having discovered the error of my ways in not reading it at age 5.

But I can'
...more
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4,704 followers
Dante Alighieri, or simply Dante (May 14/June 13 1265 – September 13/14, 1321), is one of the greatest poets in the Italian language; with the comic story-teller Boccaccio and the poet Petrarch, he forms the classic trio of Italian authors. Dante Alighieri was born in the city-state Florence in 1265. He first saw the woman, or rather the child, who was to become the poetic love of his life when he ...more

Other books in the series

La Divina Commedia (3 books)
  • The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Volume 2: Purgatorio
  • Paradiso (The Divine Comedy, #3)

Articles featuring this book

Every month is a good month to appreciate poetry, but in April it's an official thing. Founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets,...
61 likes · 28 comments
“Do not be afraid; our fate
Cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”
3116 likes
“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.” 734 likes
More quotes…