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The Portable Dante

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  916 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
The scope and fire of Dante's genius in a single volume.

Includes "The Divine Comedy," "The New Life," and other selected poems, prose, and letters accompanied by biographical and introductory sections.
Paperback, 2nd Revised Edition, 654 pages
Published April 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1312)
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Douglas Wilson
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Of course, glorious and wise. Well worth it. But I was struck -- and perhaps unfairly -- with the Christlessness of his Heaven.
Feb 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh Dante! Tuscan master of belle langue
Who crafted these three heavenly pearls
Of stunning verse, that unleash in song
Of tortuous treks, our pilgrim led by Virgil's
Wise spirit, mastering fierce devils and Hell
To reach the base of Purgatory's mount
Bewitched by souls who stumble in a veil
Attempting Heaven's Gate too long to count
Menagerie of repenting souls, now wise
To past life's sins, Latins whom before
Our pilgrim Dante, in asking, brooks no lies
And gains much wisdom wending through the door
Mar 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you want a kind of bare-bones Dante (and who doesn't?)--this revised edition is for you. The complete Divine Comedy and Vita Nuova, more than competently translated, with the absolute minimum of notes, put at the bottom of each page. No flipping back and forth to the back to find out who this person was, and no lengthy discussions of every minute point. Also no Italian on facing pages, but you can't have everything. A version to be read quickly. An excellent introduction for which I'm very gr ...more
Sep 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of creative history
Shelves: repeat-reads
Although I had read Dante's work and quite enjoyed it previously, this book really brought the entire Comedy into a new light for me. The notes by Mark Musa seem to occupy nearly as much room as story they detail, with very wonderful results; exquisite details--about Dante's own life, then-contemporary society, and even his references to mythology--are compiled and laid bare or the reader to absorb. Below is an example of the text as well as the accompanying notes.

Canto XVII lines 60-69

"But w
Jan 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am still in awe after reading this book. Dante is a genius on so many levels it's mind numbing. He has this unbelievable ability to write like he is painting. His imagination is so vivid and visual that his writing actually made me question whether or not he had really been on a guided tour of hell, purgatory, and paradise. On top of that, he's got that magical poet's ability to write that one line that makes you wake up for a second and take note. I think knowing the story of Dante and Beatri ...more
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection contains the Laurence Binyon translation of The Divine Comedy. Harold Bloom recommends it as the translation closest to reading Dante in the native Italian. Since I don't read (or speak) Italian, I could hazard an opinion, though I would say that it appears to be the most poet of the translations I have seen, which would be the Longfellow and Mandelbaum translations. These two translation are available online at

My suggestion, if you are wi
Brandon Pearce
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, epic
WOW! Absolutely inspiring. This book made me take a thorough look at my own personal axiological assumptions and changed my mind in a couple of instances. The last Canto of Paradise just about blew my mind- epistomologically speaking of course. The entire progression from underground to mountain to the overpowering radiance of God was very Plotonic; loved it! The unified understanding of God as well as the symbolic representation of the godhead as the only way to mediate the truth of God to Dant ...more
Laurence Binyon's masterful terza rima translation is the essential Divina Comedia for English readers. Anthony Esolen's is an excellent translation that while exacting fails to capture the marvels of Binyon's rhyming stanzas. (He certainly understands the Dante's allusions and especially his theology, better than Binyon). Mandelbaum's translation is worth owning, and occasionally excels, but does not excite me like the two previously mentioned. Except for various fragments, I've never found a t ...more

Tentative, unsatisfying prolegomena to a review currently under construction:

Before I start rolling up the ol' sleeves, I want to admit straightaway that I am indeed a neurotic, superstitious fool with variously delusional notions of grandeur who chose to not add this book to my GR "read" list because, at the time, I was poised on the cliff of having read (by the GR tally) six hundred and ninety-nine books and I wanted Dante (who dug him some numerology) to give me the magic push up to the big
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
5 stars for this translation and edition, 3 for how much I enjoyed reading it this time. I tried to cram it for a book discussion, and it just can't be read that way. So I split the difference. I really did find this edition and the footnotes to be super readable.
Aug 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Aeneid was read by Dante and others and the first part of the epic poem can be read as an allegory for the journey of one's life. The surface meaning of the Virgil's poem is the travels and travails of Aeneas between the time he leaves Troy and arrives in Latium, where he will found the city that one day becomes Rome. But the allegorical reading is one which can be applied to any man including Dante. Aeneas demonstrates self-control in resisting the attractions of Dido while persisting in hi ...more
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I personally was intrigued with this book for quite awhile now ever since reading it back in High School. However, it is the fact that there is a game coming out based loosely on Dante's Inferno that made me go through with it. Also, the one-two kick from Bruno Rontini's view of the Divine Comedy from the novel ""Time Must Have a Stop"" added to the wanting of reading this book.

I love all the themes used during the Divine Comedy, which I found out was just given the ""Divine"" part later on fro
Ken Moten
Dec 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-stuff
This review is for the Laurence Binyon translation of The Divine Comedy that I read as a part of this(The Portable Dante; 1947, 1965 edition) anthology:

All I can say is that this was breath-taking. An epic poem in every sense of the word. I began reading this Poem on and off since 2007-2008, and have only finished it now in January 2012!
It was staggering and just magical to read this poem and I mean the WHOLE poem not just the Inferno. As a bonus the Binyon translation renders the English in t
Dec 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Yes, I am a total nerd.

I just finished reading the Inferno, and am taking a brief break before entering Purgatorio. Dante really liked imagining gruesome punishments, especially for people he knew in real life and apparently hated. I'm looking forward to seeing how he treated people he liked.

Update as of 2/15/2010 - I made it through the Purgatorio, which could be described as slightly less painful version of the Inferno. Filled with plenty of punishments that aren't quite as horrible as Hell, b
Nov 19, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a great version of Dante's Devine Comedy because at the top of each section there was a summary of the chapter. It helped a lot when I wanted to look back at events that happened previously. It was also good if some things in the chapter were unclear, I could read the summary to help me understand what was going on. I think the chapter summaries make this an ideal translation for students and casual readers alike.

My favorite of the Divine Comedy was Purgatario. Inferno is by far the most
Mar 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, poetry, fantasy
It's been a few years since I read this, but three things stand strong in my mind, and influenced my rating:

1. Inferno is not the most commonly read portion of Dante's Divine Comedy without reason. The reason is quite simple; it's the best written of the three acts in his comedy. Here Dante's biting wit, poignant judgments and creativity come through stronger than in any of the other two, and separately I'd rate this as "five stars".

2. Sadly, it goes downhill from here. While Purgatory was an in
Jul 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
What I learned from this book is that I need to read it again! Actually, I "only" read The Divine Comedy, and just bits and pieces of the rest. But going for that whole reading experience was quite a challenge and a satisfying one at that. Making such an incredible journey was absolutely worth it. The only problem is, there was just so much to take in, so many footnotes explaining each character that Dante meets, that an overall impression, or a general memory of it, is hard to give. All I truly ...more
CX Dillhunt
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
You can read Musa straight trough, nice notation as needed, including great intros to each canto, not over bearing, he has the poetics carry the poem...his best translation is Paradiso! Also includes Vita Nuova at the end which I'd recommend reading first as it is shorter, tighter, but still plays the poetic games so loved by Dante as well as being a series inter-linked love poems to Beatrice...and in this translation of V.N.(unlike the earlier Oxford & Indiana press ones) he imbeds the Lati ...more
Jan 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mark Musa's translation is straightforward, easy to follow, and in friendly blank verse. I only wish I had purchased the individual Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, because apparently they have many more notes. The notes are somewhat sporadic in this version (being portable, after all) and you get the feeling they were selected at random - some persons, referred-to events, and concepts are explained at length and others are not at all. But maybe I just don't know better.

A personal four stars,
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dante, you brilliant creep. This was my third re-read and I still like Inferno best, followed by Purgatorio. Sorry, Paradiso. Not sure what I think of La Vita Nuova, to be honest. It is weird and problematic on so many levels, yet interesting.
Bebe Burnside
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
I know what why 700 years later people are reading Dante. His Divine Comedy was just amazing. I enjoyed the footnotes which helped me to understand more, but I found I could figure out most of the story line on my own. I would recommend this story to anyone.
Dave Maddock
Mar 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, religion
Read this translation of the Divine Comedy a while back. I just picked it up the other day to read La Vita Nuova.
Melinda Jane Harrison

Every so often, I look back at books that shaped my writing life. Dante is one. So I have spent some time rereading this book. It's fantastic. Next to Milton's Paradise Lost and Regained, it's my favorite work of its kind. Beautiful. I really love the Inferno! Laughing. It's influenced me a lot.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love Viking Portable Editions.
Jan 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's always a certain torture in reading a foreign genius. It's awful to read a translation and to know that the author's full meaning is lost to us through the medium of another person. The pleasure I get from reading Milton and Shakespeare in English is paid back in the pain of knowing that I, as a speaker of English and middling Spanish, will never fully experience a vernacular other than my own. The best one can hope for is a reliable translator.

I like to think I've found this in Laurenc
Abbey Dupuy
Apr 07, 2018 rated it liked it
I recognize that it says more about me than about Dante’s masterpiece that I gave it a three star rating. I really enjoyed Inferno and Purgatorio, and if I had stopped there, I would have liked the book a lot better. Here’s the thing, though: Dante’s Paradise is kind of boring. Beatrice, the object of his lifelong devotion, is superior and condescending. She hardly gets any lines that make her seem anywhere near as fascinating as he clearly believes her to be. Even the Virgin Mary seems unintere ...more
Feb 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dear Dante Alighieri,

I can't thank you enough for this classic volume. Inferno terrified me as I could see myself placed in most any of the circles of hell. And Purgatory then brought me from fear to hope as I see myself being cleansed by the grace of God. And Paradise was so confusing and beautiful and amazing. The vision of the Trinity: WOW!

Thank you for inspiring me when I need it. I just wish that I could have read this in your Italian because it must be even more beautiful. Regardless, this
Joshua W.D.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good edition: it's nice to have Dante in just one volume, and the inclusion of the Vita Nuova is an important reminder that the story of Beatrice dominated his thinking.

As another reviewer said, it's a downside to not have the Italian text facing the English, but if that were included, "Portable" would probably no longer apply.
Taylor Kniphfer
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a wonderful piece of literature that fully deserves its reputation.
Charlie Ericson
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Musa's translation can be lifeless but a lot came across well
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