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Inferno: A New Translation Hardcover – Illustrated, August 7, 2012

4.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Where Dante looked to the politics and culture of his contemporary Italy for allusions to illustrate his sense of faith and morality, Bang mines American pop and high culture. Yes, traditionalists and scholars may shriek upon seeing Eric Cartman (of South Park fame), sculptures by Rodin, John Wayne Gacy, and many others make anachronistic cameos in Bang's version of Hell, but this is still very much Dante's underworld, updated so it pops on today's page. The result is an epic both fresh and historical, scholarly and irreverent. . . . This will be the Dante for the next generation.” ―Publishers Weekly

“The only good Hell to be in right now is poet Mary Jo Bang's innovative, new translation of Dante's Inferno, illustrated with drawings by Henrik Drescher. Bang's thrillingly contemporary translation of the first part (the juiciest part) of Alighieri's 14th-century poem The Divine Comedy is indeed epic. . . . Once you embark on this journey, you may wish to read not only all of Mary Jo Bang's work but all of Dante's, too.” ―Vanity Fair

“Bang uses anachronisms when they'll add some punch--hell's hot wind is like a 'massive crimson camera flash'--but it's still Dante, wordy, guilty and full of splinters that don't come out. Hell is where Bang went after her National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Elegy, about the death of her son, and her Inferno is a classic recast for our age, a hell we'll find ourselves in, an old poem made new by one of our most surprising and innovative poets.” ―Craig Morgan Teicher, National Public Radio

“Bang [dwells] in depths--not only in Dante's, but our own. . . . Bang's hell is our culture, the numbing proliferation of texts, images, meanings, interpretations. For her, the perfervid busyness of our culture leads to a deadening akin to spiritual numbness. Hence the allusions to everything from Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors to the Boy Scouts to frozen Jell-O to the Hotel California--these are the fragments that have shored up against our ruins, to borrow from T. S. Eliot, who knew a thing or two about Dante, and death, and fittingly appears several times in these pages.” ―New York Daily News

“Mary Jo Bang's new translation of Dante's Inferno restores meaning to that old book-blurb cliche, 'startlingly original.' . . . Imagine a contemporary translation of Dante that includes references to Pink Floyd, South Park, Donald Rumsfeld, and Star Trek. Now imagine that this isn't gimmicky. . . . Imagine instead that the old warhorse is now scary again, and perversely funny, and lyrical and faux-lyrical in a way that sounds sometimes like Auden, sometimes like Nabokov, but always like Mary Jo Bang.” ―BOMBlog

About the Author

Dante Alighieri (c.1265-1321) is the author of The Divine Comedy, a masterpiece of world literature. Mary Jo Bang is the author of six books of poetry, including Elegy, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; Reprint edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555976190
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976194
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,816 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I've tried to make it to the center of Hades before but never completed the journey. With Mary Jo Bang's new translation, I was successful, and I am glad I made the trip. Bang is a professor at Washington University in St Louis, and she brings her considerable talent with words to bear to create a very contemporary translation. There are many references and allusions that would not have been possible with a literal translation of Dante's work -- flashbulbs, war criminals, rock lyrics, even South Park -- but yet those references feel true to the heart of the story. The war criminals, for example, are translated from Italian names, most of which would have had no contemporary understanding, into similar sounding names of people that surely would have a proper place in their respective locations in Hell. While the original Italian is not included, that can easily be found elsewhere. For each canto, Bang includes a set of footnotes that explain both the historical references and the contemporary references. The author's literary background gives her the knowledge to translate phrases from Dante into phrases that echo great authors since, such as Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, and others. If Dante had known those people, I feel certain he would have used those quotes himself.

The illustrations by Henrik Drescher are well-tied to the text, and they are distinctive, sort of an ink-sketches-from-the-underworld style that illustrates the story with specific referents to this translation. While I would not choose to have this style hanging on the wall of my living room, it works well with this book and adds to the experience.

If a strictly literal interpretation is what you are looking for, you'll have to look elsewhere. But for a very enjoyable and readable interpretation, with excellent background material to facilitate a true understanding, I can highly recommend Mary Jo Bang.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I was a senior in high school, I didn't make it through Dante's Inferno. I don't remember which translation it was but it was boring and difficult to wade through. Fast forward 20 years and now I'm teaching Senior English to a group of tweeting, texting, and technology driven high school students with attention spans that are consistent with a tweet's character restrictions. The Inferno is on the syllabus and I wanted to find a translation that was refreshing but not unfaithful, accessible but not simplistic. I took a chance and bought Bang's translation hoping to find what I'd read in the reviews...it is safe to say that Dante is alive and well and INTERESTING! It's fun to read and explain the imagery in class. Students are taken aback by his descriptions and Bang's exacting diction. The best was when we had to figure out what a bitch-kitty was in Canto I. Love it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mary Jo Bang's translation of the Inferno is a modern "Dolce Stil Novo"--with allusions to contemporary poems and pop culture, it situates the medieval concerns of Dante's characters, both human and infernal, in a thoroughly present-day style. Her version makes a wonderful, often very funny, companion to the more traditional translations of the Commedia.
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This is a really neat translation! If you're looking for something exact, then this is NOT your copy. If you're looking for something entertaining (it does have modern pop culture references in it, including South Park) then this is perfect for you! It's a great translation, but know that it is not exact, if you're looking for something very scholarly. I read this in my upper level Religion as Literature class, so it is a little bit of both.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is not a replacement for reading a more traditional translation, but it's a twist on Inferno that profs and newbies alike adore. Whether or not you've read Dante, this is an amazing take on a 700-year-old must-read!

I'm reading Sayer's, the Hollanders', Pinsky's, and Musa's translations simultaneously with Bang's-- and while the others are vital literary sustenance, Bang's is dessert! And who knows? A few to several hundred years from now, it could be the translation from our time that is referred to as most reflective of this age.
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