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Dante's Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation Hardcover – August 31, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-1608190843 ISBN-10: 1608190846 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1St Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190846
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190843
  • Product Dimensions: 11.7 x 8.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #262,240 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description
The "left-handed designer," Seymour Chwast has been putting his unparalleled take—and influence—on the world of illustration and design for the last half century. In his version of Dante's Divine Comedy, Chwast's first graphic novel, Dante and his guide Virgil don fedoras and wander through noir-ish realms of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, finding both the wicked and the wondrous on their way.

Dante Alighieri wrote his epic poem The Divine Comedy from 1308 to 1321 while in exile from his native Florence. In the work's three parts (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise), Dante chronicles his travels through the afterlife, cataloging a multitude of sinners and saints—many of them real people to whom Dante tellingly assigned either horrible punishment or indescribable pleasure—and eventually meeting both God and Lucifer face-to-face.

In his adaptation of this skewering satire, Chwast creates a visual fantasia that fascinates on every page: From the multifarious torments of the Inferno to the host of delights in Paradise, his inventive illustrations capture the delirious complexity of this classic of the Western canon.

A Look Inside Dante's Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation
(Click on Images to Enlarge)

Second circle of Hell Sins of the flesh
The three furies Sixth circle of Hell

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Famed artist and graphic designer Chwast has turned his talents to the graphic novel form for the first time, and we can all be happy about it. In a highly compressed version of Dante's Divine Comedy, Chwast takes us on a whirlwind tour of hell, purgatory, and heaven. With his signature mix of humor, artistry, and high-level design, he conveys a breathtaking amount of information in clear black and white line drawings. One graph illustrates "reasons for different levels of punishment," with sins ranging from "no self-control" (deemed "not so bad") to "insane brutality" (which is "terrible"). In another, the levels and regions of purgatory are laid out in an ascending birthday cake format. Much of the book is beautiful, with page design showing naked sinners tossed in a wind of words, a two-page spread of men and snakes wrapped in writhing battle, or a large flower made of angels as they fly from God. Dante himself is portrayed as a pipe-smoking detective type in sunglasses and a trench coat, while his guide, Virgil, wears a porkpie hat and wire-rimmed spectacles with his suit. It all works seamlessly as Chwast does a stunning job of telling Dante's story in his own brilliant style.
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Customer Reviews

His level of detail is quite impressive even as his perspective and anatomy are haphazardly executed.
Dan Bergevin
Perhaps the reader of this review would say, "So much the better. This is a graphic novel, not a traditional book."
Russell Fanelli
The illustrations are in black ink (unlike the full color book cover) and the illustrations are not very detailed.
ChristineMM

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Silverman VINE VOICE on July 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a collection of drawings by an iconic illustrator, this is a great book. Granted, Chwast isn't for everyone, but fans will eat this up. As an adaptation of the Divine Comedy, well, it's OK but slight. Chwast's simple, straightforward black and white line drawings provide visual interpretations of the sights described by Dante, but much of the literary value of the work is lost. References to historical characters and their fates are brief at best. It's more like a simple travelogue. I was hoping for much more detail -- this is basically a quick synopsis. So while I didn't get much of the substance of the Divine Comedy from this, I did enjoy it as an art book.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Russell Fanelli VINE VOICE on August 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It took me less than an hour to "read" Seymour Chwast's 127 page graphic novel based on The Divine Comedy. The text would fit easily into ten pages or less.

Perhaps the reader of this review would say, "So much the better. This is a graphic novel, not a traditional book." I agree. However, the graphics had better be good if the book is to succeed; they are not. I just took a moment to look at Gustave Dore's wonderful illustrations for The Divine Comedy and then Sandow Birk's illustrations for The Inferno section of Dante's great poem. Some readers will be familiar with Dore and Birk and be much disappointed in Chwast's amateurish efforts.

The Divine Comedy is a difficult read for the modern reader not familiar with Florentine history and a cast of characters known to historians and academics, but not the general reading public. Chwast does a fairly good job making some of the people Dante mentions and their back story understandable; but few, I think, will take much interest in Chwast's truncated version of Dante's great poem.

Chwast fails both to tell a good story and illustrate it with creative and exciting art. This book has not yet been published; it should stay that way.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Monty Moonlight VINE VOICE on April 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Chwast's version of Dante's Divine Comedy is certainly not going to be for everyone. This graphic novel version is, naturally, more about the illustrations than the text, and this is a very not-too-wordy take. What we get is the poet Dante's journey through the afterlife with his spirit guides, the basic story intact, but only the most simplistic dialogue and narration. Still, this manages to be confusing at times in part by Chwast's choice to dress the characters as though they are from the 20th Century. In my opinion, the medieval man's point of view of a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise is bizarre enough, even when the dialogue is thoroughly dumbed down, without the need for making it more confusing by illustrating a flashback to the crusades with Sherman tanks and WWII soldiers. Well, that's just my opinion. It's still easy to follow and probably easier to understand than the original work, and though it's 127 pages (black and white), it's a VERY quick read. My biggest disappointment is with the art, and I shudder to go into this, being a much less successful cartoonist/illustrator myself. The art here is consistent, which is tricky no matter what your style, but the style itself, I don't know how to put it except to say it looks like a kid drew the whole thing. I look back on the first graphic novel I illustrated, and as much as I hate to see that crude example of my early work (and as harsh as I am on my current work), one thing I can say about the art here is that it really makes me feel good about my poorest creations and gives me hope for the future, when it doesn't flat out make me mad that I so rarely land a paying gig while this stuff sells.

At any rate, if you are in the market for a simple version of Dante's Divine Comedy, this is... an option.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Richmond VINE VOICE on July 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I wanted more. Obviously, reducing Dante's epic down to a single graphic novel requires major editing and abridging, but Chwast does a terrific job on what he kept; I just wanted him to keep more. The wit and humor that permeate, along with Dante's words, make this slight book a treasure. The art, replete with Roaring Twenties fashion (flappers and bowler hats) are droll and charming. While this could never replace (nor does it intend to) reading Dante, it, like its Classics Illustrated forebears, provides a sufficient taste of style and content and suggests and entices the reader to return to (or to discover for the first time) a monumental work of art. Somehow I suspect that Dante himself would be pleased to see this. Again, more please.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jim TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've been a fan of Seymour Chwast's illustration and design since the late sixties, which is when I started studying illustration and design at The School of Visual Arts in NYC. At that time, Push Pin Studios (today the Pushpin Group), which Chwast founded in 1954 with acclaimed graphic designer Milton Glaser, was right around the corner from the school, and I once came this close to getting into a night class taught by Chwast.

As a longtime fan of "the left-handed designer" (I too am left-handed), I find Chwast's graphic, black & white adaptation of Dante's Divine Comedy irresistible. It is funny and I laughed out loud several times when reading it. And it is also poignant; I had tears in my eyes when I read the final words about "the love that moves the sun and other stars." One can read the Divine Comedy from a religious or a secular perspective, and from the latter perspective and perhaps the former as well, it can be read as a story about the human condition. For me, the lightheartedness of Chwast's illustrations serve to offset rather than undermine the gravity of the story (if read as a story about the human condition).

This book will certainly be of interest to other fans of Chwast's work, and I think it would make a nice gift for anyone who is interested in (and/or creates) humorous illustration. Do note that as I mention above, the book is in black & white; only the covers are in color.
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