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La Divina Commedia #1

The Divine Comedy, Volume 1: Inferno

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This vigorous translation of Inferno preserves Dante's simple, natural style, and captures the swift movement of the original Italian verse. Mark Musa's blank verse rendition of the poet's journey through the circles of Hell re-creates for the modern reader the rich meanings that Dante's poem had for his contemporaries. Musa's introduction and commentaries on each of the cantos brilliantly illuminate the text.

432 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1320

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Dante Alighieri

3,300 books5,081 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 was almost nine years old and she was some months younger. In fact, Beatrice married another man, Simone di' Bardi, and died when Dante was 25, so their relationship existed almost entirely in Dante's imagination, but she nonetheless plays an extremely important role in his poetry. Dante attributed all the heavenly virtues to her soul and imagined, in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, that she was his guardian angel who alternately berated and encouraged him on his search for salvation.

Politics as well as love deeply influenced Dante's literary and emotional life. Renaissance Florence was a thriving, but not a peaceful city: different opposing factions continually struggled for dominance there. The Guelfs and the Ghibellines were the two major factions, and in fact that division was important in all of Italy and other countries as well. The Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor were political rivals for much of this time period, and in general the Guelfs were in favor of the Pope, while the Ghibellines supported Imperial power. By 1289 in the battle of Campaldino the Ghibellines largely disappeared from Florence. Peace, however, did not insue. Instead, the Guelf party divided between the Whites and the Blacks (Dante was a White Guelf). The Whites were more opposed to Papal power than the Blacks, and tended to favor the emperor, so in fact the preoccupations of the White Guelfs were much like those of the defeated Ghibellines. In this divisive atmosphere Dante rose to a position of leadership. in 1302, while he was in Rome on a diplomatic mission to the Pope, the Blacks in Florence seized power with the help of the French (and pro-Pope) Charles of Valois. The Blacks exiled Dante, confiscating his goods and condemning him to be burned if he should return to Florence.

Dante never returned to Florence. He wandered from city to city, depending on noble patrons there. Between 1302 and 1304 some attempts were made by the exiled Whites to retrieve their position in Florence, but none of these succeeded and Dante contented himself with hoping for the appearance of a new powerful Holy Roman Emperor who would unite the country and banish strife. Henry VII was elected Emperor in 1308, and indeed laid seige to Florence in 1312, but was defeated, and he died a year later, destroying Dante's hopes. Dante passed from court to court, writing passionate political and moral epistles and finishing his Divine Comedy, which contains the Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. He finally died in Ravenna in 1321.

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Profile Image for emma.
1,871 reviews54.8k followers
May 8, 2023
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 to his imprisonment. Ugolino was trapped in a tower along with his four sons. as days passed and Ugolino and his sons began to hunger, Ugolino bit into his own hands. his children bade him to eat them before he'd eat himself: "Father, it would be far less painful for us if you ate of us; for you clothed us in this sad flesh it is for you to strip it off."

on the fourth day of imprisonment, the first of his sons died. the remaining three died over the next two days. Ugolino concludes: "Then hunger proved more powerful than grief."


either this guy should have died of his grief, but rather died of starvation, or - you know what's coming - homeboy ate his sons.


that's impressive stuff, but it's not even over!!

Dante is often called a "theological poet." however, theology and poetry are opposed when it comes to the trajectory of Inferno. if it's a theological work, then we should feel less compassion for the people we encounter as we progress, because Dante is descending in hell and meeting more and more sinful people. but if it's a tragedy (or poetic), then we should feel more compassion, because the peak of pity has to occur toward the end of the work for the sake of catharsis. so which side of Dante is the dominant side when it comes to Inferno? it's been the subject of scholarly argument for centuries.

the really impressive, unbelievable, can't-stop-thinking-about-it thing: this entire argument comes down to this single line - Canto XXXIII, line 75: "Then hunger proved more powerful than grief."

because either Ugolino is a story of immense tragedy, a story of near-faultless suffering, and we should pity him immesnely - or he's committed the horrifying, grotesque sin of eating the bodies of his children when cannibalism would not aid his long-term survival, and we should be largely unable to pity him! and it's completely ambiguous. we'll never know.

Dante, you madman.

bottom line: !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,380 reviews12k followers
July 3, 2023

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:

One balmy July evening at a seaside amusement park, Hector and his date strolled past the merry-go-round, toddlers’ swings and tooting fire engine out to the more hair-raising rides. At the very end of the pier, beyond the Wild Mouse and giant Ferris wheel, there was a new roller coaster that looked pretty frightening. Not only did the tracks have steep climbs and amazing plunges but there was an opening in the boardwalk where the roller coaster took its passengers under the pier.

"Look,” Hector said, pointing to the hole in the boardwalk, “I’ve never seen a roller coaster whose tracks go beneath the surface.”

“Oh!” his date squealed, eager for as much of a thrill as the amusements had to offer, “that must really be scary. Let’s go.”

They took their place in line behind the last thrill-seeker and watched as the roller coaster ascended, hurled down and sped around hairpin turns, finally climbing the highest hump of track and descending to where the track ran beneath the pier. Hector looked over at the spot in the boardwalk from which the train would eventually reemerge. He waited and waited. This was taking much more time than he though.

Hector’s girlfriend squeezed his hand. “Wow! I bet they’re really getting spooked down there.”

Hector heard shrieks coming from some place underneath their feet – shrieks not of delight or pleasure but shrieks to make your blood run cold.

“Oh, I can’t wait!” his date said, tugging at his shirtsleeve.

Hector crouched down to hear the shrieks and howls more clearly. Waves of heat rising from the spaces between the wooden boards of the boardwalk scorched his face. After several uneasy moments he stood back up and watched as the roller coaster finally rolled through the cavernous opening in the boardwalk and stopped near the line.

All of the passengers’ faces were ashen and a middle-aged woman in the front seat was weeping on her husband’s shoulder.

“This must really be something,” Hector’s date said.

One terrified passenger unbuckled herself and climbed out. She walked past, eyes downcast, and Hector could both see and smell her hair was singed.

And if this wasn’t enough, the cheerless bearded man running the ride collected everyone’s tickets and pronounced lots would be drawn to determine who would have to ride in the first car. Hector’s date called out that if nobody else wanted, she would gladly volunteer for the front seat.

When the old man nodded, she pulled Hector by the hand to the front of the roller coaster and strapped him in next to her. Hector noticed for the first time the name of this ride – spelled out in red iridescent letters over their heads was “DANTE’S INFERNO.”

Hector slunk down in his seat next to his girlfriend who was now giggling and playfully poking him in the ribs. As the roller coaster began moving, Hector tried to console himself with the grim fact that everyone on the preceding ride did at least come back alive.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews45 followers
August 8, 2021
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 Church, by the 14th century.

It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written, as the standardized Italian language. It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

Halfway through the story of my life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood
Gone from the path direct
For I had wandered off from the straight path
For I had strayed from the straight path
For I had lost the path that does not stray
Midway in our life’s journey
The straightforward pathway had been lost

تاریخ خوانش: در سال 1968میلادی

عنوان: دوزخ - دانته آلیگیری - کمدی الهی؛ نویسنهد: دانته آلیگیری؛ مترجم: شجاع الدین شفا؛ تهران، امیرکبیر؛ 1335؛ در سه جلد: جلد نخست: دوزخ؛ جلد دوم : برزخ؛ جلد سوم: بهشت؛ چاپ بیست و یکم 1393؛ موضوع: شعر شاعران ایتالیا - سده ی 14م

نقل از متن: (در نیمه راه زندگانی، خویشتن را، در جنگلی تاریک یافتم، زیرا راه راست را گم کرده بودم، و چه دشوار است، وصف این جنگل وحشی و سخت انبوه، که یادش ترس را، در دل بیدار میکند. چنان تلخ است، که مرگ، جز اندکی از آن تلختر نیست، اما من، برای وصف صفایی که در این جنگل یافتم، از دگر چیزهایی که در آن جستم، سخن خواهم گفت. درست نمیتوانم گفت، که چگونه پای بدان نهادم، زیرا هنگامی که شاهراه را ترک گفتم، سخت خواب آلوده بودم.) پایان نقل از قسمتی از سرود اول دوزخ

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 11/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 16/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
November 30, 2022
“Do not be afraid; our fate cannot be taken from us; it is a gift.”

“There is no greater sorrow than to recall our times of joy in wretchedness.”

“Wisdom is earned, not given.”

“One ought to be afraid of nothing other than things possessed of power to do us harm, but things innocuous need not be feared.”

A must-read in this journey of life! The best read of the year so far :)
Profile Image for Adina .
891 reviews3,555 followers
December 14, 2022
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, as in other epics. Moreover, elements of Christianity are introduced in the mix.

The Divine Comedy is structured in three parts ( Hell, Purgatory and Heaven) which is expected if I think about the Holy Trinity and the meaning of number 3 in Christianity. I only read Inferno so I will only discuss that part. Our hero finds himself in a forest which apparently is the symbol of a life of sin. He tries to climb a mountain but it is attacked by wild beasts. The poet Virgilius, who else, comes to his aid and convinces the narrator to follow him on journey through Hell and beyond in order to find salvation. Dante's Hell has 9 levels, representing 9 sins. I might not have chosen the same order, for example the sins of violence are less important than fraud but I took them as they came.

I listened to Robert Pinsky's translation, a modernised version, which I think made the poem bearable for me. After failing to read The Iliad, I believe it is very important to find a decent translation, one that makes the text more accessible to a novices to this genre, like me.
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,999 followers
November 10, 2020
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 Divine Comedy rookie status.

During my time with it, I probably looked at three or four different translations. Some of them seemed to be a bit more termed for the layman, but with others you could better see the poetry of Dante. I suppose to really get a feel for how Dante intended it I would need learn Italian (Tuscan Italian to be specific – according to Wikipedia). If you decide to give it a go, I think it may be best to not just settle on one translation but be flexible and try out a few to see which one gives you the best experience.

As I mentioned in my introductory sentence, it was not as hard as I expected it to be. I thought going in that I would be totally confused, and it would be hard to stay focused. But the narrative was enjoyable and not to hard to follow. It was the poetry and the symbolism that makes this one a bit more complex. So many different elements of mythology, literary history, religion, and world history are referenced that it kept my brain on its toes. I mentioned that this felt like an introductory experience because I could probably go back and spend hours on each Canto researching all the things referenced.

While it was a bit of a labor, I am pleased with my overall experience with Inferno and I will likely give the rest of the Divine Comedy a look sometime in the future.
Profile Image for leynes.
1,118 reviews3,037 followers
May 28, 2022
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 terribly wrong (let's not talk about the clusterfuck that was Jane Eyre). Well, Inferno, surprisingly, fell somewhere in between.

In September, I found a beautiful bind-up of the Commedia for an affordable price and decided to finally buy it. I planned on reading the entirety of the book in 2020 but after taking over two months to plough through Inferno, I knew that that wasn't going to happen. I needed to take my time.

Inferno basically describes Dante's journey through Hell, as he is guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil (himself an inhabitant of Hell). It is followed up by Purgatorio and Paradiso. Ultimately, the story can be seen as an allegory that represents the journey of the soul toward God.

Now, I'm not religious at all and I'm also not interested in learning more about religions, whether that's Christianity or any other religion. I have nothing against people with firm beliefs but religious institutions have always rubbed me the wrong way. Nonetheless, I was able to engage with Inferno very openly. For me, it almost read like an absurd fantasy novel with great world building.

My favorite part about Inferno was discovering how (!) Dante decided to structure his version of Hell. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine concentric circles of torment located within the Earth. Toward the end of the poem, we learn that when Lucifer fell from Heaven, he fell directly into the center of the Earth (striking the Earth at the point which was later to be named Jerusalem), thereby making a huge hole through his impact that then became the physical space of Hell. The extra Earth mass shot upward (as it was repellent to Lucifer's form) and formed Mount Purgatorio, on the summit of which is the Garden of Eden.

For me, it was very interesting to see which sins were punished in Hell and how. When reading through Inferno, one cannot shake the feeling that the punishments are supposed to counter/ match the original sins. Apparently, there's a word for that: contrapasso, which means "suffer the opposite". By Dante's design, the punishment of the souls in Hell are supposed to resemble or contrast the sin itself. One of the more obvious examples of contrapasso occurs in the fourth Bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell, where the sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets have their heads turned back on their bodies such that it is "necessary to walk backward because they could not see ahead of them."

I found that very clever because by use of contrapasso, Dante managed to make each circle of Hell unique and interesting, instead of having all of his souls being punished in the flames (I mean how boring would that have been?). Therefore, just as Dante, the reader is able to discover each corner of Hell anew.

Sin in Inferno is seen less as an offence against God than as a crime against humanity, in which the clarity of rational perception is fatally clouded or perverted. Therefore, the "worst" of sins, according to Dante's plan of Hell, is not lust or greed or avarice but rather treachery, which is punished at the very centre of Hell where Satan resides.

In Inferno, Satan is portrayed as a giant demon, frozen mid-breast in ice at the center of Hell. Satan has three faces and a pair of bat-like wings affixed under each chin. In his three mouths, he chews on Judas Iscariot, Marcus Brutus, and Gaius Cassius. Here again, we see contrapasso at work, as all three sinners are unable to move or speak, since their actions and words while they were own Earth were false, treacherous and full of lies. On top of that, the icy lake symbolises how they rejected God as well as their masters, so that they're now exempt from warmth (= God's light) forever.

There are two reasons why Inferno, ultimately, was incredibly hard for me to get through and not an enjoyable read at all: first of all, I hated the translation that I was reading. In the foreword, it is stated that Dante is also impossible to translate and that translators (no matter of what language) are forced to make some very tough decisions. My translation (= I read this book in the Penguin Deluxe Classics edition, translated by Robin Kirkpatrick), as opposed to the Italian original, does not rely upon end rhyme ... which is a damn shame in hindsight because a lot of the poetic and lyrical nature of the poem was lost in that way. On top of that, certain choices for words seemed oddly out of place and overly modern, so that my reading flow was often unnecessarily interrupted. I really don't wanna sound dramatic but sometimes this translation was truly unreadable. The language was so ugly and ordinary, and on top of that, it was still often hard to understand what was going on. Therefore, I had to constantly check in with secondary sources in order to not lose track of the story.

Second of all, since I'm not knowledgeable on the religious and political figures that Dante chose to write about, a lot of the social commentary went right over my head. It wasn't shocking or juicy seeing Vanni Fucci, Branca D'Oria or Pietro della Vigna suffer in Hell. Why? Because I didn't know these people. I had no idea who they were and what they had done in their lives to warrant such treatment. Of course, at times, it was easy to grasp the shock value Dante's Inferno must have had on contemporary readers when he placed certain well-known high-ranking political (e.g. Cleopatra, Alexander the Great, Attila or Brutus) or religious figures (e.g. certain Popes and bishops) in Hell. Nonetheless, it would be a lie to say I was entertained by that. I simply didn't care.

And so all in all, I'm still glad that I finally read through Inferno because it is a work that has been referenced in literature throughout the centuries and on top of that, I really appreciate the effort Dante put into his architecture of Hell. It's truly a terrific place. Before jumping into Purgatorio, I'll definitely make sure to check out some illustrations inspired by Dante's iconic poem, because I can only imagine how much fun it must've been to transform his words into art.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
Want to read
June 13, 2017
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 translation of a poem can never be more than a shadow of the original. T.S. Eliot famously advised people just to dive in and start reading. It worked for Eliot, and you feel that in principle it must be the right approach. All the same, most readers find it a daunting prospect.

We wondered if there was any way to make the voyage easier. Using the CALL platform we've developed at Geneva University, Sabina and I have been putting together a first version of what a electronic poetry appreciation assistant might look like. If you have a headset and you're on Chrome, Firefox, Safari or Explorer - I'm afraid we don't yet have it available for mobile devices - try going here. Log in as 'guest' (no password required) and click 'Allow' on the popup to let the app access your microphone. You should now be on a screen that looks like this:


On the right, there's a scrollable pane with the first 30 lines of the Inferno in slightly modernised Italian orthography. You can hover your mouse over any line to see it in Longfellow's English translation - we chose Longfellow since he's both a great poet in his own right and translates very literally. At the top, there's an embedded audio file where you can hear Sabina reading the text aloud. Italians who've tried out the app have been complimentary about her interpretation.

On the left, we have an area where you can practise reading yourself. You're shown the poem one line at a time. If you press the Help button (question-mark icon), you'll get Longfellow's translation and hear Sabina reading just that line. The intention is that you should listen a few times, then press on the Record button (microphone icon), keep it pressed down while speaking, and release. You should hear your voice echoed back, and the app will let you know if you said it approximately right: you'll get a green border for "okay", red for "try again". You use the arrows to move to the next and previous lines. We currently have six extracts loaded, taken from Canti I (opening), III (the Gates of Hell), V (Paolo and Francesca), X (Farinata), XXVI (Ulisse) and XXXIII (Ugolino). You can find the other extracts by using the Lesson tab on the left.

Speaking just for myself, I've found the app very helpful for developing my appreciation of the beautiful language; I've soon got to the point where I want to learn pieces by heart, and find myself repeating them mentally. We're curious to hear what people think - please let us know! If you want to try creating your own interactive versions of poems, it's straightforward and just involves copying text onto a spreadsheet and recording the audio using an online tool. Message me and I'll send you details.

Happy Easter!

My multi-talented colleague Irene Strasly (she makes a guest appearance in this review) has used the platform to create interactive versions of several of her own poems. Italians who've heard them say they're quite good.

Two poems by Antonia Pozzi. Here is the first one, with a beautiful translation by Peter Robinson:
Amore di lontananza
Ricordo che, quand'ero nella casa
della mia mamma, in mezzo alla pianura,
avevo una finestra che guardava
sui prati. In fondo, l'argine boscoso
nascondeva il Ticino e, ancor più in fondo,
c'era una striscia scura di colline.
Io allora non avevo visto il mare
che una sol volta, ma ne conservavo
un'aspra nostalgia da innamorata.
Verso sera fissavo l'orizzonte
socchiudevo un po' gli occhi. Accarezzavo
i contorni e i colori tra le ciglia:
e la striscia dei colli si spianava,
tremula, azzurra: a me pareva il mare
e mi piaceva più del mare vero.

Love of distance
I remember, when in my mother’s house,
in the middle of the plain, I had
a window that looked onto
the meadows; far off, the wooded bank
hid the Ticino and, further on,
there was a dark line of hills.
Back then I’d only seen the sea
one time, but preserved of it
a sharp nostalgia as when in love.
Towards evening I stared at the skyline;
narrowed my eyes a little; caressed
outlines and colours between my lids;
and the line of hills flattened out,
trembling, azure: and seemed the sea to me
and pleased me more than the real sea.
She wrote it in 1929, when she was only seventeen. Nine years later, she was dead.

Our friend Kirsten has added an interactive English poem - Shakespeare's sonnet CXXXVIII, which I'd never properly noticed before. You can find it here.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
July 13, 2011
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 consider Dante's artistic choices, given that he's planned to write a huge epic poem where he's going to visit Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, each of which is divided up into a large number of smaller areas corresponding to differents sins and virtues. Now, who is he going to meet there? One option would be to have allegorical figures directly representing Pride, Wrath, Charity etc. That's what Bunyan did in The Pilgrim's Progress, but most people agree that it's not a very good solution: The Divine Comedy is much more fun than The Pilgrim's Progress. Or he could just make people up, but then he wouldn't have any space for character development, and you'd never be able to keep track of all the invented figures. Lindsay tried that route in A Voyage to Arcturus , and, even though the book's worth reading, he showed how hard it is to make it work. Every time someone interesting turns up, they always seem to get killed fifteen pages later.

I think the choice Dante made was the best one: to use real people. Of course, it is a bit presumptuous to decide that the ones going to Hell are mostly guys he doesn't like, but nothing else makes sense. If you want damned souls to populate the Hell of the Hypocrites, isn't Caiaphas, the high priest who falsely condemned Jesus, a sensible choice? If you're looking for Traitors to Lords and Benefactors, then don't Brutus and Cassius fit pretty well? And every now and then he meets his friends down there too. His beloved teacher Brunetto Latini is damned for sodomy, which shocks Dante just as much as it does me, but in his world-view it makes perfect sense; homosexuality is plain wrong, that's all there is to it.

Okay, that was my first defense. My second is that it's far too simplistic to say that Dante is self-righteously damning all his enemies and extolling his own virtues. The theme that continually comes back through the first two books is that Pride is the root of all sin, and Dante is very conscious of his own sinful nature. For example, he's way too happy to gloat over the fact that his enemy Filippo Argenti has been condemned to the Hell of the Wrathful, and Virgil gently points out the irony. Then, later, he has to spend the whole of Book 2 climbing up Mount Purgatory, which is hard work. He's got plenty of sins to purge.

To me, the real problem with Dante is that his world is so very different from mine, and I keep having to scramble to the footnotes to get the necessary background; so it's hard to keep the flow of the book, since you're constantly being interrupted. But even so, it's still a remarkable piece of work. We just don't think seriously any more about the nature of Good and Evil, Sin and Redemption. Dante's world thought they were crucially important, and he's one of the few people who's still able to give us a window into that view of life. It's nowhere near as irrelevant as we like to make out.

Don Corleone, will this do? Or do I have to add footnotes as well?
Profile Image for Piyangie.
530 reviews495 followers
June 13, 2023
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 former literary works of Virgil, Ovid, Homer, and the like. However, Virgil's Aeneid is said to be the most associated literary text with The Divine Comedy.

Dante's Hell is funnel-shaped and has nine tiers that punish different sins. At the bottom is Lucifer. It is fascinating to see how imaginative and creative Dante has been in inventing the different tiers of hell, the sins which are punished in them, and the punishment types. The punishments which begin lightly in the first tier get gruesome as you go down the tiers. Some of the characters (sinners) in Hell include the real-life people Dante knew (some who were not even dead at the time of Dante's fictitious journey through hell) as well as classical and mythological characters that were drawn from famous, old literary works.

I was awestruck by the graphic account of Hell given in such beautiful lyrical verses. Even the gruesome details of punishment of the sinners were made less horrific because the verses describing them were melodious. The sinners, chosen from those existed and existing people and also from some of the most loved mythical characters, give the poem a sense of reality as well as fantasy.

It is amazing that a work written in the thirteen century can have such a strong impression on modern readers. But given the quality of the work, it is not surprising the reverent popularity The Divine Comedy has acquired and maintained throughout the centuries.

This second time reading was more enjoyable. The graphic description of each circle in Hell did give me the intended eerie dismal feeling. With this reading, I understood the poem better, and that understanding helped me to appreciate full well the power of imagination and creativity in Dante. Inferno is undoubtedly one of the masterpieces in epic poetry.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
February 13, 2019

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.
Profile Image for Nefariousbig.
121 reviews109 followers
October 8, 2013
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

ii. LUST - Surrounded by erotic representations, those overcome by lust are forced to watch and experience disgusting things, ultimately being condemned to drown in the menstrual river

iii. GLUTTONY - The circle itself is a living abomination, a hellish digestive system revealing horrific faces with mouths ready to devour the gluttons over and over for eternity

iv. GREED - This pompous place is reserved for the punishment of the greedy ones

v. ANGER - In this depressing place the souls are trapped in the swamp, they can’t move and they cannot manifest their frustration which is making them even more angry

vi. HERESY - The giant demon watches closely over his fire pit, dwarfing the damned that are dragging the new arrivals in the boiling lava. Those who committed the greatest sins against God are getting a special treatment inside the temple where they are doomed to burn for eternity in the scorching flames

vii. VIOLENCE - A place of intense torture where the horrific screams of the damned are eternally accompanied by the hellish beats of drums

viii. FRAUD - : In Fraud the Demons enjoy altering the shape of souls, this is how they feed

ix. TREACHERY - Lucifer lies here chained by the Angelic Seal which keeps him captive in the frozen environment

ARTIST – Mahai Marius Mihu
Artist Mihai Marius Mihu

(All rights and photographs are property of Mahai Marius Mihu/Rex Features. I claim no ownership to any information in this review, and I own absolutely no rights to any of the property mentioned herein.)
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,048 reviews1,382 followers
June 20, 2018
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 post more than a book. Just put some words in certain topics in a column and that’s it.

🌟 I may have gone to the other extremity when I read a book written in 1300. And I was not disappointed. Dante is known as one of history’s greatest authors and you can see that in the writing style. I will take this opportunity to thanks the genius-being who is the translator. To be able to capture the essence, the rhyme and the messages in another language while maintaining the originality is no easy task. And he outdid himself in this one.

🌟 This is not a typical book, I mean there is no character development and plot twists because this is freaking hell! People are tortured here and not supposed to develop. Lol! A point that Dante clearly emphasized is that the punishment is equal to the sin. For example :
In the third circle, the gluttonous wallow in a vile, putrid slush produced by a ceaseless, foul, icy rain – “a great storm of putrefaction” – as punishment for subjecting their reason to a voracious appetite.

🌟 But one thing I am not sure about is how the author was censorious enough to pass judgement on many important figures. He decided that some people as Saladin and Prophet Mohamet were in hell and he even decided what circles to put them in. A slightly offending thing because it was clearly biased.

🌟Summary: A not so typical journey and a not so typical book. If you’re looking to read a slightly heavy book that affected literature (according to my friend who studies Eng lit) then this is what you are looking for.
Profile Image for Fernando.
685 reviews1,127 followers
January 30, 2023
El Infierno tan temido...
Ese que transitaron Hércules en sus desafiantes trabajos, aquel al que descendió Eneas en el capítulo VI de la "Eneida", ese pavoroso y horrendo lugar que describe con impactante realismo en su sermón el padre Arnall en el libro "Retrato del artista adolescente", de James Joyce al que considero de una perfección casi cercana a la de Dante Alighieri, o ese otro infierno urbano en el que camina Adán Buenosayres durante la novela homónima y que Leopoldo Marechal narra con tanta maestría en el séptimo y último capítulo, el "Descenso a la ciudad de Cacodelphia".
El Infierno también puede expresarse de otras maneras: puede ser psicológico y alojarse en la cabeza de los personajes, tanto en la auto tortura psicológica de Rodion Raskólnikov en "Crimen y castigo", en la desesperante situación de Gregor Samsa en "La metamorfosis" o en el sufrimiento Akaki Akakiévich con la pérdida de lo más importante que posee en "El Capote".
También atraviesan un Infierno muy particular aquellos personajes que se alían con el Diablo, Lucifer, Satanás o Mefistófeles (el Demonio posee tantos nombres...), como ocurre con el Fausto de Goethe, el Doctor Faustus de Marlowe y en el calvario al que es arrastrado Macbeth o en el tortuoso desandar solitario de la criatura de Frankenstein.
Del mismo modo, el infierno puede de remitirse también a un lugar, sea ciudad, isla, habitación, celda, etc.
Ese temido infierno se transforma en una ciudad dominada por "La peste" de la ciudad de Orán que con tanta dureza describe Camus. ¿Acaso no es un lugar infernal una ciudad que se infesta de un hedor de muerte y desolación? ¿No sucede también que la tierra se transforma en un infierno deshabitado y apocalíptico como en "La peste escarlata" de Jack London, o la desolación infernal de "La carretera" de Cormac McCarthy?
¿Acaso no vive Winston un infierno en la distópica Oceanía del libro "1984"? Ni que hablar del Infierno cósmico creado por HP Lovecraft en el que somete a todos sus personajes, quienes sufren las amenazas y castigos propias de Cthulhu.
El Infierno puede también tener forma de prisión y puede ser real, se puede vivir en carne propia, como lo que narra Fiódor Dostoievski durante sus penosos y durísimos cuatro años de reclusión en Siberia, donde no arden llamas, sino que todo está terriblemente helado, como el mismo Cocito donde Lucifer despedaza a Judas Iscariote.
Como podemos apreciar, el Infierno tiene muchas formas y todas ellas aterran.
Debo reconocer que al leer este primer libro de "La Divina Comedia", uno reafirma que sigue siendo el más atrayente y entretenido de toda la obra, de todos modos a mí siempre me gustó muchísimo el Purgatorio y creo que no tiene muchas diferencias con el Infierno en la medida de que todas aquellas almas que están sometidas al monte del Purgatorio tienen castigo casi iguales al del estadio anterior. Recordemos que en el Purgatorio, las almas deben rendir cuentas por sus correspondientes pecados capitales cometidos.
La cuestión de la lectura del tercer libro, el Paraíso, es resistida por muchos lectores, dado que para muchos es el la parte que menos gusta. Muchos la consideran tediosa y de una carga teológica muy alta (bueno, estas eran las convicciones de Dante en la época).
Cabe destacar la manera (casi brutal) en que Dante Alighieri describe los castigos que sufren los condenados.
Algunos de ellos son indescriptible y demuestran cabalmente qué poder de imaginación tenía el escritor mantuano, hasta qué punto podía llegar en este aspecto.
Indudablemente, es también un lugar en el que confina a todos sus enemigos, a todos aquellos adversarios políticos (algunos de ellos aún vivos) y de cómo desnuda la realidad del momento político coyuntural que se vivía en la Italia del año 1300.
Párrafo aparte, es de remarcar que la elección de Virgilio no está hecha para nada al azar. Sólo un poeta de ese calibre podría haber acompañado a Dante al Infierno, puesto que es su guía, su maestro y mentor, aunque Virgilio forma parte de ese limbo previo al Infierno, que contiene las almas de aquellos que no fueron bautizados antes Dios y que por ende, no puede ascender al Paraíso. Virgilio acompañará a Dante hasta cierto punto del Purgatorio, por lo que Dante deberá continuar su viaje solo.
Yo leí esta parte de La Divina Comedia, publicada por Editorial Losada en tres libros, con el agregado de aclaratorias notas adicionales, pero tuve la suerte de conseguir un volumen de 1946, ilustrado por Gustave Doré, a quien admiro mucho y con el agregado de que el libro tiene la primer traducción que se hizo al español, y la hizo quien fuera Presidente de la República Argentina, Bartolomé Mitre. Muchos expertos destacan que sigue siendo esta la traducción más clara y fidedigna que se ha hecho de esta obra de arte al español.
Es increíblemente atrapante leer el Infierno de la Divina Comedia. Como suele decirse en inglés: It's a hell of a ride!
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,030 reviews17.7k followers
July 22, 2023
Once, a long, long time ago, I judged someone I Ioved harshly. Like the Bible says, I then called my brother Fool.

Well, then - way beneath me - Minos' forked tail twitched, then circled seven times.

If you know Dante you know what that means.

Well, the flames still sometimes scorch the very marrow of my naked soul. You know where I was then?

In a very special inferno, home to the Prince of Lies. NEVER call your brother (or any member of your beloved family) Racca.

You then besmirch someone you call sacred to you: your judgement destroys your love.

So now, as an elderly bipolar male, it's time for me to put my very dull, psychiatrically stained, and labelled-for-life two cents' worth into the purgatorial kitty.

I write with some distinction, in spite of my reputation for being a nut case, for I see in Dante's inscription over the gateway to the just (yes, just!) Infernal place of torment four words -

Give Up All Hope. And I did.

The very hand of God wrote those words, and His words are just. Why?

Because, well, you give up Hope - then you give up Love. Love is what saves us: not justice.

But justice is what consigned me to the Pit...

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence -
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less travelled by -
And that has made ALL the difference.

My circumstances in confinement belittled me. I turned awry intellectually. Judgement is justice, though, and accepting weakness is purgatorial.

And Kate Millet tried her best, too. And lived to tell the tale. Though she fell deep.

And we bipolar converts, unlike Kate, see all that, and must burn now temporarily - as Dante says he did while living - in our personally enforced purgatories.

Our label, a serious little joke, makes us seem like we’re going Down the Up Staircase! But don't laugh. Kate didn't know that our illness is our just deserts.

But to heal we must admit our guilt. Now we must say Mea Culpa. Mea Maxima Culpa!

And simply putting up with subtly-inferred put-downs is purgatorial! It works.

We’d now rather burn in mortified embarrassment than “burn in bale and smother in smoke,” as the librettist W.H. Auden says in The Flood of the Head of Hell, Satan.

For when virtue is relative, we join the denizens of this Infernal Pit. Mortified embarrassment at our wrongdoing happens only in purgatory.

And love and forgiveness lead us there out of our private hells.

That's why some are eternally there. We've lost the key to the exit. "What is Truth?" mocked Pilate.

Yep, him too. Dante’s acumen is a sharp petard. But there is no comfort in purgatory, either. Literally, no rest for us wicked. But it doesn’t last.

So you see, don't you, that Dante flatters no one?

We're either burning with infernal fire, or we're burning with embarassment. The latter is our ticket to paradise!

Pure Being.

But now, both sides burn eternally. Nostra culpa.

But only one side knows eternal peace in the end, my friends.

And we will know peace in the end only -

“By a lifetime burning in every moment” -

In the Peace of whatever Cross we're bearing right here and now!

And we have Plenty of them - all of us:

Mourning and weeping
In this Valley of Tears!

Sovegna vos a temps de ma dolor.
Profile Image for فؤاد.
1,067 reviews1,762 followers
May 5, 2017
ای آن که بدین مکان داخل می شوی، از هر امیدی دست بشوی!
سر در دوزخ

کمدی الهی، شاهکار "دانته" شاعر ایتالیایی، شرح سفر خیالی او از دوزخ به برزخ و سپس به بهشت است. دانته در توصیف طبقات دوزخ و بهشت، از تلفیقی از الهیات مسیحی و اساطیر رومی و تخیل خویش بهره برده است.
معشوق او، "بئاتریس" که ساکن بهشت است، یکی از ارواح را (روح "ویرژیل"، شاعر رومی) می فرستد تا دانته را راهنمایی کرده، از دوزخ نجات دهد و به بهشت برساند. برای این سفر، دانته باید از طبقات دوزخ یک به یک پایین برود و از میان ارواح معذب بگذرد تا در قعر دوزخ، به دریچه ی برزخ برسد.

چرا کمدی؟
در ادبیات آن دوره، اشعار دو دسته بودند:
اشعاری که زبانی فاخر و پایانی فاجعه بار داشتند، "تراژدی" نامیده می شدند.
و اشعاری که زبانی عامیانه و پایانی خوش داشتند، "کمدی".
و چون کمدی الهی هم زبانی عامیانه دارد و هم پایانی خوش (رسیدن به بهشت)، خود دانته بر آن نام "کمدی" نهاد که بعدها به "کمدی الهی" مبدل شد.

جغرافیای دوزخ

بنا بر کمدی الهی، تمام سه مرحله ی دوزخ، برزخ و بهشت، بر روی زمین هستند.
بر اساس جغرافیای قرون وسطا تنها یک چهارم زمین قابل سکونت بود که از شرق به هند، از غرب به اسپانیا و از جنوب به استوا محدود می شد و مرکز آن، شهر مقدس اورشلیم قرار داشت، و باقی زمین همه آب بود. دوزخ، در زیر سطح این نیمکره ی مسکونی قرار دارد و بهشت، دقیقاً در زیر اورشلیم، در آن سوی کره ی زمین.
دوزخ، حفره ای است به شکل قیف که بر اثر سقوط مهیب شیطان از عرش الهی بر زمین ایجاد شده است. شیطان، خود، در قعر این گودال (در مرکز زمین) تا کمر در زمین فرو رفته است و باقی گنهکاران، در طبقات پلکانی نه گانه ی آن عذاب می شوند.
Profile Image for Zidane Abdollahi.
125 reviews39 followers
March 8, 2020
درباب ترجمه

چندباری در کتابفروشی‌ها ترجمه‌های مختلفی از آن دیده بودم. شهرت کتاب هر بار ترغیبم می‌کرد که نگاهی به آن بیندازم، اما به‌طور کلی برداشتی از جملات نمی‌کردم و منظورش را نمی‌فهمیدم؛ آن موقع ترجمۀ آقای شفا را ندیده بودم و فقط با ترجمۀ کزازی و آقای میرعباسی آشنا بودم؛ چندبار ورق زدن آن‌ها هربار علاقه‌ام را به مطالعۀ اثر کور کرده بود، بنابه اینکه برای من زیبایی ادبی در اولویت قرار نداشت و تمایل داشتم اثر را کامل بفهمم و این دو ترجمه فاقد این ویژگی بودند؛ اینکه کدام برگردان، بهترین گزینه برای مطالعۀ این مجموعه شعر ایتالیایی است، بستگی به نگاه خواننده دارد. برای من که آشنایی کاملی با اساطیر و شخصیت‌های یونان و روم و همچنین شخصیت‌های معاصر شاعر نداشتم (که تقریباً تمامی شخصیت‌های کتاب از آن‌ها سرچشمه می‌گیرند)، اینکه ساختار ادبی شعر تا چه حد نگاه داشته شده است، در اولویت نخست نیست. آنچه مهمتر است، متنی ادبی و در عین حال قابل فهم باشد تا بتوانم مفهومی را که نویسنده در تلاش برای انتقال آن است، دریافت کنم؛ بنابراین شاید برای کسی که اطلاعات نسبتاً خوبی از شخصیت‌های داستان (که برگرفته از اساطیر و تاریخ یونان و روم و همچنین سرشناسان معاصر دانته بوده‌اند) ترجمۀ شاعرانه‌تر دیگر مترجمان مناسب باشد، اما برای افرادی چون من بهترین انتخاب همین ترجمه است؛ آقای شفا تا جایی که توانسته ترجمه را ادبی ساخته، علاوه بر اینکه با پانوشت‌ها، مقدمات و توضیحات ابتدای هر سرود، سبب شده که هم استعاره‌ها و اشارات ثقیل و زیاد اشعار درک شوند و هم از زیبایی کتاب نهایت لذت را برد.
اگر توانستید چاپ قبل انقلاب تهیه کنید، که نقاشی‌های آن سانسور نشده باشند (حدود نصفی، که البته متن کتاب خوشبختانه تغییری داده نشده است) و اینکه بقیۀ آثارِ گوستاو دوره را دربابِ کمدی را از سایت ویکی آرت طی خوانش هر سرود بررسی کنید که دیدنشان بسی دلنشین است و به تصویرسازی هم کمک می‌کنند

درباب خود اثر
کار من نیست که چنین کتابی را نقد کنم و ایرادی به آن وارد کنم یا جایی را نقطۀ عطف اثر بنامم؛ با این وجود، گفتن چند نکته برایم مهم است:
1. براستی نبوغ دانته شایستۀ ستایش است که توانسته هنرمندانه اساطیر غربیان را با داستان‌های دینی مسیحیت بیامیزد و در طراحی جهنم به‌کار ببرد؛ توصیف‌هایی که شده‌اند نیز بی‌نظیرند.
2. سمبلیسمی که به‌کار برده است داستان را بسی زیباتر کرده؛ برای من هم داستان ظاهری جذاب بود و هم آنچه که از این نمادها نیز مفهوم می‌شود.
3. روایت‌های مجزایی که در خلال سفر اصلی بیان می‌شوند به خودیِ خود شاهکاریند. به‌ویژه داستان عاشقانۀ پائولو و فرانچسکا و داستان یوگولینو و فرزندانش که براستی خواننده را غمگین می‌کند.
4. تناسبی که دانته میان جرم و مجازات هم مایۀ شگفتی‌اند.

سختی مطالعه:

اگر از زاویۀ تعصب دینی به اثر نگریسته نشود، به قطعیت اثری بسیار دوست‌داشتنیست و مخاطب را خسته نمی‌کند؛ اما باید در نظر داشت که در بیشتر سرود‌ها اگر اطلاعات کافی در ذهن خواننده نباشد، از اشعارش آن چنان چیزی درک نخواهد کرد (یا حداقل برای من چنین بود!)؛ به‌همین سبب توصیه می‌کنم که هر سرود حداقل دو مرتبه مطالعه شود، یکبار تنها از نگاه ادبی و با دقت در توصیفات و زیبایی ادبی اثر و باری دیگر به‌همره توضیحات مترجم محترمِ عزیز و برای درک نسبی اثر! نسبی، از این منظر که هنوز تمامی اشعار دانته برای متخصصان دانته‌شناس نیز فهم نشده‌اند که یک خوانندۀ عادی برای نخستین بار بتواند تمام اثر را بفهمد.

!را خیر و رحمت دهاد Course Hero خداوند
دوستان! من این کانال یوتیوبی را در خلال مطالعۀ همین دوزخ کشف کردم و براستی خداوندگارِ ناموجود، دانته را که سبب خیر شد که با این کانال آشنا شوم و همچنین سازندگان این کانال را برای کارستانشان خیر دهد! این کانال محترم با فیلم‌های کوتاه دو تا پنج دقیقه‌ای، به سراغ آثار ادبی بزرگ جهان می‌رود و داستان آنها را به‌طور کلی ( و با تصویرسازی که بسی مهم است!) توضیح می‌دهد و گاهی تفسیر نیز می‌کند! حسن آن این است که می‌توان بعضی آثار را که قصد مطالعه ندارید را از این کانال پیدا کنید و فیلم‌هایش را ببینید، یا برای مرور یک کتاب اما از راهی دیگر از آن استفاده کنید. اینجا لینک کانال و همچنین دوزخ دانته را قرار داده‌ام.

دوزخ: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list...
کانال: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt_T...
Profile Image for Dream.M.
509 reviews90 followers
September 9, 2021
بئاتریس! ای بئاتریس زیبا !
قدرت عشق تو چنان نیرویی شگفت از ذوق به دانته بخشید که سرانجام توانست در وصفت شعری بسراید که پیش از آن برای هیچ زنی سروده نشده بود .

کمدی الهی یک شعر حماسی معروف قرون وسطایی ایتالیایی است که قلمروهای زندگی پس از مرگ را به تصویر می کشد. این داستان سفر آن جهانی دانته است که در عرض ده روز و به راهنمایی ویرژیل(مظهر عقل) و بئاتریس(مظهر عشق)صورت می‌گیرد .
داستان قسمت اول این سفر که در کتاب دوزخ نگاشته شده است در زیرزمین، یعنی در ظلمات طی می شود. این آن قسمتی از سفراست که به دوزخ مربوط است، زیرا دوزخ دانته از زیر قشرزمین شروع می شود و به نقطۀ مرکزی کرۀ خاکی پایان می پذیرد که در آنجا شیطان، فرمانروای دیار رنج ، مکان دارد و قلمرو عظيم خود را اداره می‌کند.
این حفرۀ عظيم که دوزخ نام دارد، خانه ظلمت و سرما و کینه و جهل ، ترس و ضعف و زشتی یعنی همه آن آثار شر است که از جانب اهرمن می‌آید و به اهرمن باز می‌گردد. ولی آنچه با ماهیت دوزخ سرشته شده و در واقع تار و پود آن را ساخته است، بی‌امیدی یعنی محرومیت ابدی ازامید است.
تمام گناهان و گناهکاران روی بدین دوزخ دارند. هرقدر گناهی سنگین تر باشد، صاحب آن پایین تر می‌افتد. تا نوبت به یهودا می‌رسد که از فرط سنگینی گناه در‏ کام شیطان جائ دارد. در این جهنم گناهکاران به حسب انواع گناهان خود به دسته های مختلف گناهکاران تقسیم شده و به دست انواع کیفرها وع��اب‌ها سپرده شدەاند که سخت‌ترین ان‌ها ظلمات مطلق و سرمای ابدی طبقۀ نهم، یعنی آنجاست که شیطان در وسط آن مکان دارد. این ظلمات و سرما مظهرانکار کامل عواطف انسانی و محبت و عشق از طرف گناهکارانی است که بدین ورطه افتاده‌اند تا طبق قانون تاوان که قانون کلی و اصلی جهنم است مجازات بينند .

سفر دوزخ را صرفنظر از حوادث ظاهری آن می‌توان چنین خلاصه کرد:
دانته (مظهر نوع بشر) که در شاهراه زندگی سرگرم حرکت است درنيمۀ این راه ناگهان خود را در جنگلی تاریک و موحش می یابد (ظلمت خطا و گناهکاری). احساس می کند بی آنکه خود متوجه شده باشد از جاده به دورافتاده راه است راگم کرده است. درین جنگل تاریک که از هیچ جانب فروغ خورشید(آرامش و پاکی) بدان رخنه نمی‌تواند کرد دانته خود را سخت پریشان و نوميد می‌یابد.
وی ناگهان در پیش روی خود ولی در فاصله ای دور، دامنه تپه ای را می‌بیند که با فروغ خورشید روشن شده است. این تپه کوه سعادت و رستگاری و این فروغ، فروغ صفای الهی ست. دانته با شوق رو بدان سو می‌نهد ولی می‌بیند این مسیر سخت و صعب العبور است و وی شهامت جهاد با نفس را ندارد. در این هنگام ویرژیل مظهر منطق و عقل بشری به کمک او می‌آید تا او را از وادی گناه (دوزخ) به سرمنزل پشیمانی(برزخ) و سپس سعادت(بهشت) برساند...

در سراسر این کتاب، دانته از نمادهای اساطیری و دینی برای القای مفاهیم مدنظر خود بهره جسته است . به طور خلاصه می‌توان سه نوع تفسیر از تمثیل ها و نمادهای این اشعار درک کرد و آن را به روشهای مختلف خواند:
برداشت تاریخی: اگر کسی بر شخصیتهای واقعی و تاریخی تمرکز کند، کمدی الهی می تواند به عنوان یک بیانیه سیاسی و تقویت کننده استدلال های دانته در مورد ضرورت وجود یک امپراتور جهانی در رم برای بررسی قدرت سکولار پاپ هایی مانند پاپ بونیفاسیه هشتم، که نیرنگ های او منجر به تبعید دانته شده بود؛ تفسیر شود.
در برداشت اخلاقی از تمثیلات، کمدی الهی پیشرفت معنوی زائران را، از سطح درک معنوی بسیار محدود در ابتدا تا تأیید واقعی اراده خدا در پایان، نشان می دهد. 
در نگاه مذهبی به این اشعار ، این کتاب منعکس کننده‌ی تاریخ نجات بشر است که در کتاب مقدس مسیحیان بیان شده است . و راهنمایی است برای روش درست زندگی و اصلاح بندگان .

در آخر ترجمه کتاب و پانویس ها بینهایت جذاب و کامل هستند. من ترجمه دیگری از کتاب نخوانده ام و شخصا بعید می‌دانم ترجمه ای زیباتر و دقیق تر از این هم بتوان یافت.
خیلی خیلی به خودم افتخار میکنم که کتاب اول از این سه گانه رو خوندم و در کنارش پروژه های دیگه‌م رو هم پیش میبرم. تجربه عمیقا عاشقانه و شیرینی بود و هست.
از ف عزیزم که دیگه منو نمیخونه هم تشکر میکنم بخاطر این کتاب بینهایت زیبا. جزو ۵ کتاب بسیار باارزش زندگیمه و واقعا از داشتنش خوشحال و مفتخرم.
Profile Image for James.
Author 20 books3,729 followers
March 5, 2020
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 on the other two, but I'd like to some day. They were not written in English, so I have read a translated version. These works are considered comparable in fame and beauty as those of William Shakespeare. OK... that said, my thoughts:

For as long as people have been alive, Christians, that is, they have worried about what happens after death, turning to God and the Bible. In the 14th century, religion was one of the only things people did with their lives besides work and raise a family. They had a lot of time to spend on it, wondering what might happen. Dante captures the exact sentiments we've all felt throughout our lives, and he displays it through the nine circles or gates of hell. He presents it as a torture for all those who did bad things while they were alive. The story, in its basic form, is Dante himself traveling in a boat through the river that runs through Hell, stopping to see each realm. He's led by the famous poet Virgil. He encounters people or archetypes of people he knew and those he's heard of. Essentially, it's a story of justice and the contradictions in religious beliefs for all of God's followers. Dante pushed people to think about their actions and beliefs. And he created a story based on his own journey to say everything he felt about what he's experienced in life.

It's full of questions. It's been the basis for so many movies, books and plays in the future. It's so often quoted or referenced, it's literally one of the most famous works around... and to think it was written nearly 700 years ago is amazing. Though it's no where near a comparison, it reminds me a little bit of The Ninth Gate, a movie with Johnny Depp, that I love, about people trying to reach the Devil. And it's a translation of a new Spanish author I'm very fond of: Arturo Perez-Reverte. I've read one of his books and plan to read The Club Dumas soon.

As for this one, I encourage everyone to find a passage from The Divine Comedy, even if you prefer Paradise or Purgatory, something a tad more positive, just to see the language and the lyrics Dante shares. It's beautiful. I could go on and on, but hopefully this is enough to wet your appetite.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews... here's the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you'll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I've visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
501 reviews708 followers
August 18, 2022
Digna representante medieval pero también con algunos tintes renacentistas.

Me ha gustado muchísimo más de lo que pensé en un comienzo. Es cuanto menos un libro interesantísimo con una cosmogonía obviamente religiosa, basada en el cristianismo y tintes ideológicos de Aristóteles. Se nota mucho la influencia filosófica.

Ahora, también es verdad que a mí me gusta el lirismo poético de Dante y he disfrutado muchísimo la construcción de ese infierno sofocante y que va aumentando la sensación insana y flagelante en la medida en que te vas sumergiendo hasta el fondo de lo que Dante consideró bajo su lupa un pecado peor que el anterior.

La lectura de esto puede ser a veces literal, otras veces alegórica pero de lo que no hay duda es que hay muchas connotaciones y su contenido es altamente moral, político y religioso. Las sanciones para los pobres condenados son muy imaginativos y demasiado simbólicos, ya sea por antítesis o por analogía a sus pecados así son castigados. La base aristotélica de Dante está muy bien basada y es más disfrutable sabiendo de antemano parte de la biografía del autor para identificar porqué escribió esto y con qué intenciones políticas, filosóficas y teológicas, ya que bebe mucho de referencias literarias, mitológicas y también de su vida personal con inclusión de personajes ficticios, históricos y de su misma contemporaneidad.
Profile Image for Murray.
Author 151 books549 followers
March 2, 2023
Abandon hope all ye who enter this review 💀😁

🔥 Of the three volumes of Dante’s After Life poetry I enjoyed Inferno and Paradiso the most. Paradiso, often unjustly neglected, has astonishing visions of light and extreme geometric precision. But the writing in both volumes is exceptional. (I couldn’t get entranced by Purgatory.)

🔥 You can get bogged down by Dante. Names names names and all in Italiano. So, I suggest you purchase an annotated edition of Inferno. Virgil will only explain so much and Dante stuffs Hell with his enemies. You won’t know who they are without the annotated version. Might as well find out who he hated the most.

Enjoy what others have enjoyed for hundreds of years 🔥🔥🔥
Profile Image for Leo ..
Author 2 books382 followers
April 13, 2018
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.���👍
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,000 reviews
August 11, 2022
أول جزء في الكوميديا الإلهية.. رحلة خيالية لدانتي في الجحيم
ملحمة شعرية في ثلاثة أجزاء كتبها الشاعر الايطالي دانتي اليجيري بعنوان الكوميديا
وبعد سنين أضاف الشاعر الايطالي جيوفاني بوكاتشيو للعنوان كلمة الإلهية
يبدأ دانتي رحلته للعالم الآخر في الجحيم بصحبة الشاعر الروماني فيرچيل
وفي يومين يمر على الكثير من الشخصيات ويعرض خطاياهم وعذاباتهم
الترجمة النثرية لحسن عثمان جيدة وسلسة والحواشي مفيدة في التفسير والتعريف بالشخصيات
وفي المقدمة عرض صورة عامة للكوميديا وكل ما يتعلق بعصر دانتي وحياته وشخصيته وأعماله
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
768 reviews662 followers
April 11, 2023
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 time now (isn’t it funny how people say Dante, rather than Alighieri, when all other writers are known by their surnames?) and so I began my research. I also began reading.

Sayers keeps the original Italian terza rima rhyme scheme which many translation omit, including James. I wondered if this meant that the translation would be “less honest”, but frankly, it was the decision between closer to Dante’s precise words or closer to Dante’s precise rhyme/rhythm. In the end there were three reasons I stuck with Sayers, (1) Umberto Eco says in an essay that Sayers “does the best in at least partially preserving the hendecasyllables and the rhyme” and (2) after every canto (all 33), Sayers includes fairly extensive notes that outline context, allusions, meaning, etc and (3) I began reading it whilst still researching and realised I was in love, to quote Catch-22It was love at first sight.
Midway this way of life we're bound upon,
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
Where the right road was wholly lost and gone.

Ay me! how hard to speak of it—that rude
And rough and stubborn forest! the mere breath
Of memory stirs the old fear in the blood;

It is so bitter, it goes nigh to death;
Yet there I gained such good, that, to convey
The tale, I'll write what else I found therewith.

Before anything else the very concept of Hell/Inferno sets my imagination alight: the poet Virgil guides Dante Alighieri himself into the depths of Hell. And what further set it alight was the detail in which Dante has constructed Hell, with bridges and slopes (and Sayers does her best, with diagrams, to track exactly how the two poets moved about), and how fantastical it all is. There are giants, centaurs, figures from myth like Odysseus himself, other writers such as Homer, countless figures from Dante’s real-life (particularly political “enemies”), raining fire, rivers of lava, beasts, people as trees or people with their heads on backwards of any number of other Ovidian metamorphoses. In a way, I think having a general knowledge of Greek/Roman myth would be beneficial for the reading of Dante but not necessarily essential. If you are reading Sayers, she breaks down a lot of the allusions and references, as I said, but knowing them yourself would of course allow for greater and deeper meaning.

I was completely bowled over by how entertaining this was, how humorous at times, how violent and intelligent and how purely addictive. I’ll admit that like my reading of Joyce, I paced about my bedroom in an imagined auditorium reading the cantos aloud. After each canto I read Sayers’ fantastic notes and pored through online resources to learn more. Writing this review is difficult because I have so much I want to say, I can almost say nothing. It’s impossible to know where to start. So I will hang my rambling from the amazing artwork by Doré; it captures the feeling and atmosphere and pure dramatics of the poem far better than I can. The only thing the artwork doesn't manage to capture is the humour, for there is humour, though it may be hard to believe. Dante writes himself realistically, by which I mean, he hides behind Virgil, he cries a lot (at the beginning of Purgatory he must wash his face of the tears he shed in Hell), and generally finds him startled by everything they come across in Hell, the poor poet even faints on several occasions. There’s no Kafkaesque acceptance of what he sees: Dante is horrified by the horrors of Hell. For example, here is Dante clinging to the arm of Virgil as he pushes Filippo Argenti back into the river Styx in the Fifth Circle.


Or Dante as he remains on the boat as Virgil steps out to confront the devils outside the city of Dis:
A long way round we had to navigate
Before we came to where the ferryman
Roared: 'Out with you now, for here's the gate!'

Thousand and more, thronging the barbican,
I saw, of spirits fallen from Heaven, who cried
Angrily: 'Who goes there? why walks this man,

Undead, the kingdom of the dead?' My guide,
Wary and wise, made signs to them, to show
He sought a secret parley. Then their pride

Abating somewhat, they called out: 'Why, so!
Come thou within, and bid that fellow begone—
That rash intruder on our realm below.


(Oddly, one of the most fascinating parts of the whole Inferno for me was the detail. I've mentioned it briefly in regard to the circles themselves and how the poets move between them via paths and bridges, but more so, regarding Dante himself. There are countless allusions throughout to the fact that Dante is in fact "alive", as the devils call out here, 'why walks this man, / Undead, the kingdom of the dead?' At one point, fairly early on, it describes how rocks and pebbles are shifted and kicked by Dante's movements around Hell, but not Virgil's. He casts no shadow. And for the extreme detail, Dante mentions that when he speaks, his throat moves, where of course Virgil's doesn't, or anyone else's either.)

The humour is only slight throughout the horrors of Hell. In Canto V we see the lustful who are caught in a permanent gale/hurricane of wind.
A place made dumb of every glimmer of light,
Which bellows like tempestuous ocean birling
In the batter of a two-way wind's buffet and fight.

The blast of hell that never rests from whirling
Harries the spirits along in the sweep of its swath,
And vexes them, for ever beating and hurling.

When they are borne to the rim of the ruinous path
With cry and wail and shriek they are caught by the gust,
Railing and cursing the power of the Lord's wrath.

Into this torment carnal sinners are thrust,
So I was told—the sinners who make their reason
Bond thrall under the yoke of their lust.


Or one of the most harrowing images, the poets walk Cocytus in the ninth (and lowest) circle of Hell. It is described as a frozen lake rather than a river, and traitors are submerged in the ice to varying degrees, dependent on their crimes in life.
I thought I saw a shady mass appear;
Then shrank behind my leader from the blast,
Because there was no other cabin here.

I stood (with fear I write it) where at least
The shades, quite covered by the frozen sheet,
Gleamed through the ice like straws in crystal glassed;

Some lie at length and others stand in it,
This one upon his head, and that upright,
Another like a bow bent to feet.


Of course the poets find their way out of Hell, after passing Satan himself (climbing on Satan, even). Dante now must wash the tears from his face. I've actually become rather obsessed and have been sitting around wondering if it's possible to go to Dante School, or become a dedicated Dante scholar. Or to somehow spend the rest of my life reading Inferno. First though, I must read the other two, before I get carried away. From here the plan is to read the rest of Sayers' beautiful translation (though the final one was finished by Barbara Reynolds in 1962 following Sayers' death) and then read the Ciardi translation. After that perhaps Clive James, though from what I've read so far, it seems like one to leave for later. Perhaps Hollander before James. I may add more to this review as I inevitably learn more. I will write new reviews for future translations read to compare them with one another and slowly, hopefully, grow a rather complete understanding of this seminal and magnificent work; it is a certain favourite.

But first, Mount Purgatory.

Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,531 reviews978 followers
March 15, 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 better, it wasn't an effort, but a joyride, thanks primarily to my lucky pick of the Ciardi translation for my first foray into the phantastical world of Dante. So my answer to the questions: can we still read Dante for pleasure and not for academic study is a resounding yes. Another big Yes is the answer to the relevance of the Commedia for the modern reader. The fundamental soul searching questions about the relationship between spiritual and material life, morality and political power, religious and secular governance, reason and faith remain unchanged over centuries and must still be answered by each of us after our own fashion. Dante is as great a choice as the lightbearer showing the way to redemption, as Virgil was to the poet on his descent into Hell.

Nell mezzo del camin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
che la diritta via era smarrita."

Right from the start it is evident that the poet's major talent is to say so much with such economy of words and with such elegance. Page after page of commentary has been written about these famous opening lines. The key to deciphering the poem is here: an allegorical journey of self discovery and liberation from doubts, uncertainty and fear. Dante is the hero of his own epic poem, and he starts with a confession of how he almost lost his faith in his search for the ultimate truth through the books of ancient philosophers and the myths and legends that have been passed on from antiquity. But Human Reason on its own is not enough, and salvation for Dante can come only by way of Divine intercession. Somebody up there loves him (Beatrice, the love of his life, symbol of purity and innocence, taken away to Heaven in her early youth). She sends a guide to help Dante on his perilous journey: the Roman poet Virgil, the mentor and personal hero of our narrator. Together they must pass through the underground halls of the damned, there to witness the justice administered by a stern God upon sinners of every variety. Only after renouncing and condemning sin, can the upward journey begin.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate

Another famous quote that has entered into the world's cultural heritage marks the gate to the depths of eternal torment and despair. I have no intention of enumerating every level of the arhitecture of Hell and every lost soul that Dante and Virgil encounters. What impressed me most though was the rigid organization and the careful planning of each punishment, designed to reflect the gravity of the crime and to correctly assign the torment most appropriate for each category of sinner. For example, thieves must steal from one another the very shapes in which they appear. Nothing is left to chance, and accurate maps can and have been drawn of the allegorical geography of Hell, its nine concentric and descending level, its dark rivers and fiery pits. Instead of chaos and anarchy I discovered an inflexible and merciless order, with Minos as the judge who weights each soul's guilt and then sends them to their correct circle and niche, like with like, crime and punishment linked together for eternity.

There is no place for pity here. Who is more arrogant
within his soul, who is more impious
than one who dares to sorrow at God's judgment.

The escalation of dread and horror is well served by the poet's imagination, who starts the journey with sights and dialogues still anchored and related to the world above, but grows more grim and grotesque as the deeper levels are reached. Monsters and tortures grow more elaborate, more frightening, more inventive with each circle, until the senses are overwhelmed and humbled. The main lesson in Hell is to be aware of the wages of sin:

O endless wrath of God: how utterly
thou shouldst become a terror to all men
who read the frightful truths revealed to me!

And an example of a gargoyle riding a centaur, an image worthy of the brush of Brueghel:

Upon his shoulders, just behind his head
a snorting dragon whose hot breath set fire
to all it touched, lay with its wings outspred.

Coming back to the sinners Dante meets in his downward journey, it should be noticed that he is not above paying back some personal political woes, by placing his contemporaries and adversaries inside particularly gruesome torture chambers. These human foibles, coupled with the apparent vanity and pride of the poet conscious of his worth as an equal of the ancient masters, are a source of humour and gentle irony at his own fallible nature, a more enchanting and entertaining portrait than his pious and hollier than thou alter ego. As a literary device, Dante uses prophecy to warn about the risks of the future of his beloved Florence, from which he was exiled by conspiracies within his own party, aided and abetted by the papal legate:

Two are honest, but none will head them. There,
pride, avarice, and envy are the tongues
men know and heed, a Babel of despair.

I should also mention the major political aspect of the poem, on one hand denouncing the corrupt and venal warring families of Tuscany, and on the other launching impassioned attacks on the degradation of the church in its power games and search for material governance. These ideas will be later developed into a pamphlet (De Monarchia) that was quickly put on the list of forbidden books by the papacy. Dante argues in favor of a secular government coupled with a church that renounces wealth and power and takes care only of the spiritual needs of its flock. He is well ahead of his time in this humanist plea for separation of powers and in his references to the ancient philosophers.

Another major appeal of the journey for me was the recognition of many of the mythological characters residing in Hell. The most often referenced sources are Ovid with his metamorphoses and Virgil with his Aeneid, but the erudition and the variety of Dante's interests (history, cosmology, art, etc) are reason enough to name him among the greatest personalities of a nascent Renaissance movement.

Much has also been said and praised about his liberation of the Italian language from the restrictions and limitations of Church latin, putting his vision into the live and colourful 'vulgata' dialect of the people. John Ciardi has this to say about the style of the poem, and he should know best, as a poet himself and a native speaker of Italian :

I do not imply that Dante's is the language of common speech. It is a much better thing than that: it is what common speech would be if it were made perfect.

Like Cervantes and Shakespeare centuries later, Dante stands as a national idol that defines a culture and makes it universal. I did try to read some of his verses in the original Italian and I was struck by the musicality and the rhythm that is so difficult to translate in another language. Ciardi did an excellent job in keeping the faith with this singsong quality of the poem, even if he is said to have taken liberties with the actual content. Not being a scholar or a purist, I was well satisfied with the result, especially as he kept the introductions and the end of canto notes to a minimum, allowing me to get immersed in the story instead of chasing endless commentaries and interpretations.

The Ciardi translation is also the reason I am reviewing separately the three books that comprise the Commedia (The Divine was apparently an appelation added by later commentators) , as I have them published individually. I should warn though that The Inferno is not a standalone book. In the big concept of Dante's allegory, it is only the first step towards salvation, and the next two books are just as important in the final judgement. I had several more notes and quotes saved, but I'll stop for now, hoping I've managed to convince some of my friends to put Dante on their reading lists. In the words of Arnie:

"I'll be back!" (After Purgatory)
Profile Image for Riku Sayuj.
656 reviews7,105 followers
December 11, 2016
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. There is enough difficulty in the poem without the translation adding to it. Besides, Dante’s own Italian is supposed to be written in an unaffected style anyway. To me the more important consideration in choosing the edition was the quality of the footnotes and the ease of accessing them.

About Footnotes

Here the notes are scholarly yet accessible with very little arcane stuff (and mind you this is a classic for which proper footnotes are essential to the reading to keep up with the erudition (classical, political, geographical, etc) displayed by Dante throughout the Comedia).

As an intro to the Longfellow translation (Barnes & Nobles: The Inferno: The Longfellow Translation) says: The best advice to the reader of The Divine Comedy in general and to the Inferno in particular is to pay attention to the literal sense of the poem. The greatest poetry in Dante resides in the literal sense of the work, its graphic descriptions of the sinners, their characters, and their punishments. In like manner, the greatest and most satisfying intellectual achievement of the poem comes from the reader’s understanding (and not necessarily agreement with) Dante’s complex view of morality, or the sinful world that God’s punishment is designed to correct. In most cases, a concrete appreciation of the small details of his poem will almost always lead to surprising but satisfying discoveries about the universe Dante’s poetry has created.


As Ciardi’s (The Inferno) intro says:

Dante demands more careful reading. Because of that demand, because of the immense and minute scholarship that has been expended upon Dante, and because too few English readers have been pointed in the right direction to him, Dante has acquired a reputation as an immensely difficult poet.

It is true that Dante writes in depth. Though his language is normally simple, his thought is normally complex. But if the gold of Dante runs deep, it also runs right up to the surface. A lifetime of devoted scholarship will not mine all that gold; yet enough lies on the surface—or just an inch below—to make a first reading a bonanza in itself. All one really needs is some first instruction in what to look for. Thereafter he need only follow the vein as it goes deeper and deeper into the core of things.

But of course, footnotes is not all. The footnotes are like our Virgil through these pages, the guide that is Reason. But at some point we have to surrender to the Poet to truly fathom its depth of feeling.


After I finished Hollander I raced through the Ciardi translation, without pausing for the notes much. I also hope to read Carson (NYRB - Inferno) in the future. Earlier I had read the Inferno with Longfellow, and sad to say I had been left as scared as Dante at the beginning of his own journey after that encounter. Hollander is the one who offered to be this reader’s gentle Virgil. Overall the Ciardi translation is grander and more familiar - since a good chunk of the famous quotes and phrases come from it, and Ciardi also tries to force us into looking at the symbolism of the poetry overtly by pointing it out at the very beginning of his cantos.

This is helpful, but in the final analysis, the Hollander is the better choice for the new reader. So in case you are searching for the right translation and using that as an excuse to procrastinate (like me), you can go with Hollander and get down to it.


For Comparison

John Ciardi:

Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray
from the straight road and woke to find myself
alone in a dark wood. How shall I say

what wood that was! I never saw so drear,
so rank, so arduous a wilderness!
Its very memory gives a shape to fear.

Death could scarce be more bitter than that place!
But since it came to good, I will recount
all that I found revealed there by God’s grace.

How I came to it I cannot rightly say,
so drugged and loose with sleep had I become
when I first wandered there from the True Way.

But at the far end of that valley of evil
whose maze had sapped my very heart with fear!
I found myself before a little hill

and lifted up my eyes. Its shoulders glowed
already with the sweet rays of that planet
whose virtue leads men straight on every road,

and the shining strengthened me against the fright
whose agony had wracked the lake of my heart
through all the terrors of that piteous night.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

MIDWAY upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say What was this forest savage, rough, and stern, Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more; But of the good to treat, which there I found, Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
I cannot well repeat how there I entered, So full was I of slumber at the moment In which I had abandoned the true way.
But after I had reached a mountain’s foot, At that point where the valley terminated, Which had with consternation pierced my heart,
Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders, Vested already with that planet’s rays Which leadeth others right by every road.
Then was the fear a little quieted That in my heart’s lake had endured throughout The night, which I had passed so piteously.

All hope abandon, ye who enter in!

Robert & Jean Hollander:

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,

for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh—

the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found

I will recount the other things I saw.
How I came there I cannot really tell,
I was so full of sleep

when I forsook the one true way.
But when I reached the foot of a hill,
there where the valley ended

that had pierced my heart with fear,
looking up, I saw its shoulders
arrayed in the first light of the planet

that leads men straight, no matter what their road.
Then the fear that had endured
in the lake of my heart, all the night

I spent in such distress, was calmed.


Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate (Inf. 3.9)

Profile Image for Maureen.
574 reviews4,185 followers
May 29, 2015
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 that would be like, though I know the rhyming translation leaves a lot of the content out, or I may read a more modern translation so it will be easier for me to understand. Either way, I'm really glad I read this! Dante's version of hell is so interesting and poetic (har har) that it's hard not to like it.
NOTE TO SELF AND OTHER READERS: LONGFELLOW TRANSLATION IS OLD ENGLISH. If you would rather NOT read old english, pick something else. I read Longfellow's translation the whole way through and just looked at another (why i waited this long I have no idea) and the other was a lot easier to read! SO JUST FYI!
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,981 reviews1,991 followers
July 9, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Alan.
472 reviews215 followers
July 3, 2022
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 find my angel, my guide, someone who could hold my hand through Inferno as Virgil had Dante’s – the same Dante who wept his way through the 9 circles of Hell. I had to do a double take. A middle-aged man with a rectangular face, a weird mullet, and an 80’s moustache + soul patch was sitting there, smiling at me. I was confused. I was scared. I began to cry, but I could not tell if I was sad. The waterworks were… reverential? It was the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Anthony Kiedis.


What an odd place to have met him. I dropped to my feet.

Anthony, I said, lead the way. Sing your tunes. What the Hell, get the whole crew together. Let us sink into this blazing fire.

That angel-voiced master of the nonsense smiled. Flea won’t be able to join us today, he said, as he is busy scouring the internet for footage of a concert we played on the 25th of July, 1999… Woodstock, I believe it was.

Say no more, I urged. Chad?

Chad is being Chad. He needed to have breakfast, mow the lawn, clean the toilets, do grocery shopping, run other errands, and spend some time with his dog.

Sounds like Chad, I said. And what about… Him?

Anthony looked shaken to his core. Do not even think of invoking his name in the presence of such mire, such filth, he spat out.

I began to cry. I had not thought to bring up His name, but even an allusion had been beyond the realms of proper conduct. I fell to my knees, begging forgiveness. He could see that I was close to fainting, and thus surmised that I was feeling remorse.

Stand, young one, he said. If You Have to Ask, you’ll never know.

We began to walk, coming across Dante and Virgil about to read the famous stone above the gates of hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter” (Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate). I did not speak Italian, so Anthony had to do his best. He mentioned that he had picked up a smattering of the language Around the World, as well as in the act of reading recipes online while preparing different risottos (this is not all that he had picked up, but it was not my place to judge). He gave me a general overview of our journey of stalking Dante and Virgil – as it turned out, he had been down that same road before. He told me that currently we were on Higher Ground, and that our journey concerned The Righteous & the Wicked. We were, in other words, about to enter a Parallel Universe, vastly different to our own, coming out on the Otherside and attempting to Get on Top.

The initial part of the journey went by Easily, and I began to look forward to the deeper circles. Why would I not have done so, seeing as how we encountered famous classical poets in Circle I, Limbo? Homer, Horace, Ovid, Lucan, all names that I knew and had pretended to read in my lifetime. I started to feel slightly embarrassed. My classical knowledge should have been better by now, it really should have. For crying out loud, I hadn’t even read The Iliad, Metamorphoses, or The Aeneid. No matter, I thought. I reminded myself that I had to stop attempting to wait to read “the big works”, to do so “Right on Time”, because somehow I wouldn’t be ready – I was ready. I was there.

As the journey continued, I turned to Anthony.

I want you to Torture Me, I said.

He looked confused. I… I didn’t see our relationship that way, he muttered.

No no, I said, I didn’t mean… not that… look – I just meant, I would like you to take me to the boundaries of discomfort, take me out of my zone of rest and relaxation.

He understood the assignment. Not a worry, he said. You want discomfort? This Is the Place, Universally Speaking. Once Dante’s political and geographical references begin, it will be Hard to Concentrate.

I took him at his word as we moved forward. I found that he was right – the references were sometimes out of control and not of interest on a first journey, but I was hooked regardless. There was precise symbolism in every word, every line, displayed in parallelism and structure. The Devil was truly in the details. When the “mysterious messenger of Heaven” appeared to allow the duo ahead of us to walk through the Gates of Dis and enter Circle VI, I began to cry.

Wipe your Tear, little one, Anthony said. We Can’t Stop.

I would not want to, I replied. This is One Way Traffic. I am having trouble taking in the gravity of the situation, the buzz of the place. I wish this feeling was more readily and communally available in the 21st Century.

I shed tears once again when faced with Circle VII, Round 2, The Wood of the Suicides. I felt that there was So Much I could have done and said, but remained silent, weeping as Virgil advised Dante to snap a twig off of one of the poor trees.

Coming to the Malebolge, Circle VIII, and its magnificent descending ditches, Anthony asked if I felt Dosed yet.

Oh, more than that, my good Savior, I replied. I am blown away. But beyond that, I have a question.

Go for it, little butterfly, said Anthony.

I find myself wondering where I would be if Dante was to place me in his Inferno. Do you ever think that? Where you would be?

Oh, only all the time, he answered. I think I would own property across several circles. I could settle with the carnal, maybe the gluttonous. You could make a case for the heretics, but maybe even the seducers and the panderers. Speaking of which, take a look down. Here we are, Circle VIII, Bolgia 1.

I took a look down and was immediately surprised to see someone I knew. Is that... Yoko Ono’s soul? I asked. Why is she wailing like a banshee?

I know, he said. Her soul is doomed to roam this ditch, making noises that she passes as “art” back above ground. Let’s keep moving, there is So Much I want to show you, and I fear we are running out of time.

Other sights wowed me. Ulysses, why were you so far down? I shed a tear out of pity. The Giants at the central pit of Malebolge, what a sight that was! I shed another tear due to being mortally afraid. Anthony watched and allowed me to cry.

As we approached the final portion of our journey, he took me aside.

Hey, he said, By the Way, we are about to encounter the Poster Child of this place. Get ready. This is the climax.

I followed, only to see Satan/Lucifer/Dis/Beelzebub, gnawing on Cassius, Brutus, and of course, Judas Iscariot. I was bitterly disappointed, as I had been expecting more. I guess it was deeply symbolic in a way, as I reasoned to myself. These Are the Ways, It’s Only Natural. This is Hell, after all. Disappointment was the name of the game.

We followed the poets down Satan’s nut sack. Finally, we all walked out “once more beneath the stars” (E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stelle).

Anthony gave me a look of pride. You ready for the next bit kid? He asked.

I wasn’t sure that I was. Will you be with me? I replied.

Wipe your tears, he said. I will be with you for most of the journey.

Most...? Now I was afraid. I began to cry.

Reader, I have spared you the trouble of the minute details of our journey and have given you some highlights only, but some further notes are worth mentioning. We can start with that very topic: notes. Mr. Ciardi’s notes were immaculate. Each canto began with a summary of what was about to follow, and the back of each canto had detailed notes that held my hand along with my spiritual guide. I was too wrapped in the spectacle to be paying attention to the terza rima rhyme scheme, at least until my stalking of Dante in Purgatorio, the story of which will follow soon. Mainly, I remember being blown away by the dark forest (selva oscura) and how pertinent it was to all our lives – I would often find myself at its mouth once every several years, and continue to do so to this day.

Even now, when I look back on the whole journey, I smile. It’s an all-knowing smile, showing less than it contains. Until next time. Until Purgatorio, where I relay what happened when Anthony took me up the mountain.
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