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Inferno (Modern Library Classics) Mass Market Paperback – October 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


“Dante’s conversations with his mentor Virgil and the doomed shades are by turns assertive and abashed, irritated and pitying and inquisitive, and Anthony Esolen’s new translation renders them so sensitively that they seem to take place in the same room with us. It follows Dante through all his spectacular range, commanding where he is commanding, wrestling, as he does, with the density and darkness in language and in the soul. This Inferno gives us Dante’s vivid drama and his verbal inventiveness. It is living writing.” —James Richardson, Princeton University

“Professor Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Inferno is the best one I have seen, for two reasons. His decision to use unrhymed blank verse allows him to come nearly as close to the meaning of the original as any prose reading could do, and allows him also to avoid the harrowing sacrifices that the demand for rhyme imposes on any translator. And his endnotes and other additions provoke answers to almost any question that could arise about the work.” —A. Kent Hieatt, professor emeritus, University of Western Ontario

“Esolen’s brilliant translation captures the power and the spirit of a poem that does not easily give up its secrets. The notes and appendices provide exactly the kind of help that most readers will need.” —Robert Royal, president, Faith and Reason Institute

From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editions of important works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torch-bearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Bilingual edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034548357X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345483577
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (282 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dante Alighieri was born in 1265 in Florence. His family, of minor nobility, was not wealthy nor especially distinguished; his mother died when he was a child, his father before 1283. At about the age of 20 he married Gemma Donati, by whom he had three children. Little is known of Dante's formal education-it is likely to have included study with the Dominicans, the Augustinians, and the Franciscans in Florence, and at the university in Bologna. In 1295 he entered Florentine politics and in the summer of 1300 he became one of the six governing Priors of Florence. In 1301, the political situation forced Dante and his party into exile. For the rest of his life he wandered through Italy, perhaps studied at Paris, while depending for refuge on the generosity of various nobles. He continued to write and at some point late in life he took asylum in Ravenna where he completed the Divine Commedia and died, much honoured, in 1321.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 95 people found the following review helpful By Kristin Van Tilborg on August 28, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Ciardi's translation of Dante's Inferno is one of the very best. Its major strength is the intensity and power of its language. Although the translation is now more than fifty years old, it remains fresh, unencumbered by archaisms. Ciardi is a poet and it shows. I found myself more stunned by the horrors of hell in this translation than any other I've seen. Chills ran down my spine as I read about Count Ugolino encased in the ice.

This edition includes a plot summary before each canto, and footnotes telling you which dead Florentine did what after each canto. For the first-time reader, these are truly helpful -- indeed, essential.

Unlike most translators who completely abandon the idea of making Dante rhyme in English, Ciardi preserves a partial rhyme scheme. The first and third lines of each tercet rhyme, while the middle rhyme is dropped. While Ciardi's translation is reasonably faithful to the original, he had to take minor liberties with the text to make it rhyme. The excellent Musa and Hollander translations are more literal and straightforward, and the Hollander version comes in a handy bilingual edition if you want to try your hand at reading Dante's incredible Italian. Still, the best poetic translation of the Inferno in English remains Ciardi's.
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139 of 157 people found the following review helpful By Vijay Singh on December 15, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First let me say that i am 13 years old; however, my favorite thing to do is to sit down with a good book and read for a good 2 to 5 hours. I have read books like For Whom The Bell Tolls and To Kill A Mockingbird. I heard about the inferno from one of my teachers who said that I should read it when I get to college or to my seinor year in high school. Well I didn't want to wait that long so I came to this site and purchased this book. It changed my life, never before have I read anything like it. When I finished this book I went and read other translations of it. However, this one was by far the best. It captured every aspect of Dante's genious writing and put it into american coming the closest to the real version as possible. Notes also help to decipher and understand Dante's masterpiece. I would recommend this book to anyone who can read.
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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Shirley Li on April 6, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Don't read Dante for his fame, don't judge The Inferno for its subject. Instead, savor Dante's overpowering language that is cleverly winded around one of life's most daunting matter-Hell. Pervaded with vivid and often gruesome imageries, Inferno captures the very essence of suffering through Dante's unqiue understanding of religion with a blend of paganism and christianity. Also it's a thrilling ride down the underworld to be met by history's greatest souls. The notes before every Canto is crucially helpful in helping readers keeping up with ancient historical references. And feeling yourself penetrating the Nine Circles of Hell in the company of Dante and Vergil, you will surely catch a rare taste of the living value as Vergil guides curious eyes down a path where judgment befalls every single flaw of human nature. Perhaps, just perhaps you will attain a better sense of your existence once matched against the standards of Nine Circles designed for different sins. I call that a gripping journey.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By STEPHEN PLETKO on November 28, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback

(Note: this review is for the book "The Inferno" translated by John Ciardi and published by Signet Classics in 2001.)

This is book one containing part one (or "canticle" one) of poet Dante Alighieri's (1265 to 1321) three part "The Divine Comedy." This book describes Hell and the eternal suffering of the damned. This poem is comprised of 34 episodes (or "cantos").

Dante at the beginning of the poem explains why he has begun this journey:

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

Thus because Dante's life journey has led him "astray from the straight road" (that is, from the straight and narrow), he now finds himself "in a dark wood" (that is, in Hell). Thus the journey through the nooks and crannies of Hell begins. Dante takes this incredible journey with his master and guide, Virgel. Along the way the reader along with the travelers encounters such things as mythical creatures and people, legends, people of Dante's time, biblical people and references, and human victims.

Hell, according to Dante, has 4 complex parts:

(1) The Gate of Hell
(2) The first 7 stone ledges or "circles"
(3) The eighth circle which consists of ditches
(4) The nineth circle with Satan at its center

At the end of this long trek through Hell, Dante says, "My Guide and I crossed over and began / to mount that little known and lightless road / to ascend into the shining world again."

From here, they acsend "The Mount of Purgatory" (which is the subject of Book 2 containing Part 2 called "The Purgatorio").

There is a historical introduction by Archibald MacAllister of Princeton.
Read more ›
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Jim Conlin on November 29, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
600 years and I'm the first to review it?
Okay, maybe just the first to review this paperback edition.
Having read my fair share of classic literature, this is the first time I've read the poetic technique of storytelling (haven't read any Homer yet either).
I gather from the translator's note and the Introduction that Ciardi's departure from the original, strict three line rhyme gave him more freedom to translate Dante's spirit and intent of the journey through Hell and make it an easier read for the typical reader (like me) than other translations. As it is, Ciardi employs the rhyming first and third line rhythm and it worked for me.
I found the "prefaces" at the beginning of each chapter or "Canto" to be very useful in preparing me for what was to appear on the following pages. And not being a student of mythology, the notes at the end of each chapter tended to fill in the blanks in what I had just read.
For me it was still a challenging read but the simplification helped. And while purists may find Ciardi's liberties an abomination (just a suspicion), they certainly helped me understand and enjoy the work more. If Dante's Inferno is required reading for class or personal enlightenment, this edition is likely a good choice.
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