212 of 219 people found the following review helpful
on August 21, 2005
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I always felt it a crime that I made it through high school and college without reading this. I recently read The Dante Club which re-ignited my interest in finally reading The Divine Comedy. I looked at all the versions out there and decided on this one. I am so glad I did.
There is an introduction on "How to read Dante" which was indispensible for my first time foray.
There is a note from the translator that explains how his translation might differ from others and why.
There is an introduction from a collegue of the translator that puts the Divine Comedy in a historical context.
So easy to read!
Each Canto begins with a synopsis. If all you wanted to know was the plot of the Divine Comedy you could just read all of these half page summaries (but you'd really miss out.)
Then the canto in beautiful verse.
Then copious notes that explain the minute details about whom you meet in the Canto and relevant events in history. The notes are as interesting as the Cantos themselves.
I am so glad I picked this copy up. I have now read and ENJOYED Dante's Divine Comedy. I highly recommend this as a starting point. It is extremely accessible.
179 of 186 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 1999
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Those of us not fortunate enough to be able to read Italian and thus savor Dante's masterpiece in its original language have the next best thing--the comprehensively noted translation by another great poet, the late John Ciardi. This superb and handsome hardbound edition of Ciardi's translation of Dante's Divine Comedy is not simply the collected, earlier translations of The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso, which in past years appeared in separate paperback editions: This edition is the final Ciardi translation from earlier forms which were "a work in progress." In this magnificent final translation, the non-Italian-speaking reader can savor Dante's extrodinary fusion of morality with the metaphorical architecture of Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, explored with pathos and sympathy for the human condition which, in the mind of Dante, constantly yearns for The All in All. A volume that should be required reading for anyone who aspires to understand man's place in the universe.
224 of 245 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I was introduced to Ciardi's translation of "The Divine Comedy" in an anthology of continental literature I read in college. At that time, after experiencing fragments of Fagles' horrible "verse" translation of Homer's works, I had low expectations for the translations in that anthology.
However, the instant I started reading John Ciardi's verse translation of "The Inferno", my hardened heart once again began to beat with the vibrancy it had when I read poems of Wordsworth or Browning.
John Ciardi, with a poetic talent that seems to be unmatched -- except for what I?ve read of W.S. Merwin's "Paradiso XXXIII," -- creates a poetic flow that feels, tastes, and even smells Italian. A poetic flow that delightfully contrasts Fagles', whose poetic flow is limited by popular styles and even phrases of the 20th century.
Instead of trying to lift Dante to the 20th century, Ciardi gracefully carries us to the early 14th century.
Instead of assuming that Dante is arcane, old fashioned, and in need of John's own poetic help, he believes that the original Italian is fresh, exciting, and poetically graceful.
The translation of Dante would have been diluted if Ciardi were to try and bring the 14th century to us through the modernization of the language, symbolism, and even the geography of Dante's world. (Fagles even geographically modified his "Odyssey" at one point to rename a Greek river the Nile because readers may get 'confused'.)
I?m glad that Ciardi tries to bring us back in time when the universe was cosmically full of life, where even the stars were more than the mere byproducts of abstract forces, chance, that can only be systematically analyzed and dissected.
The medieval worldview is far richer than the purely logical and scientific mindset that?s now common. By bringing Dante to us unfiltered by that mindset, Ciardi helps move us towards the bright and vibrant medieval world.
I strongly recommend John Ciardi's poetic translation of "The Divine Comedy," a lot is missed when reading only "The Inferno." The whole work is amazingly balanced.
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2005
Ciardi, a noted poet and educator in the post-World War II era --and an Italian American -- remains after many years the most accessible Dante translator to the modern American ear. Of the generation of great American writers who reshaped our language, he was a lively fully engaged fellow and not prisoner of any ivory tower, despite his peerless credentials. Line by line, stanza by stanza, it shows. The Comedy requires many talents and understanding life and people is not the least of them.
"Dante was a drummer," Ciardi aptly notes in his introduction, and Ciardi's meter and rhyme scheme give a good English facsimile of Dante's incessant, intoxicating drum beat -- his famous 11 beat terza rima. You simply cannot do it in English, where most words end in hard consonants, not open vowels as in Italian. Yeah some people have tried -- always a noble aim -- but unless you're Superman don't climb Everest without oxygen. Purism will never get most of us through a first reading of this poem or for that matter through a few readings after. Music is what you need and Ciardi expertly lays it down.
About the poem? I've read it 7 times through, in different translations (Ciardi thrice) over 40 years and am just getting started. I do Ciardi between the others because I love my good modern Yankee language, soon drown without it. Ciardi really understands it -- from the jive of the street punk to the most austere scholar or saint -- its all here -- Dante's whole world talking to you like everybody you ever met.
77 of 83 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2011
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The links all go to the first book. If you click on Cantos 1 in Inferno it will go to Cantos 1 in paradise. In addition to that the INferno book is missing a ton of sections. It says it has them until you get to them and realize the pages are missing. Inferno is very chopped up. This kindle version is not readable.
Also, when flipping through the book it is very slow and often acts like it is frozen.
73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2004
Which in Italian means, roughly, "To translate is to betray." This review speaks entirely to translations, not to Dante, who is for God to review.
John Ciardi's translation is wonderful. To my taste it is the best verse translation we have. Its notes are just adequate. The Italian text is not supplied.
Now, Dante translations come in various schools: original metre, English metre, prose divided as verse, straight prose. Dante's original metre (terza rima) is not at home in English, though Chaucer's (somewhat approximate) first English translation uses it, as does Dorothy Sayers (whose Dantean scholarship is superb when she is not being Lord Peter Whimsy). Her heroic attempt is to my mind a waste of time. Nor, to me, does pure prose (such as the magnificent Singleton, work). The Divine Comedy is a poem, and prose does not follow the climaxes, hesitations, and rythms faithfully enough. So we are left with English metre, and with prose structured as verses (cantos). For readers who know some Italian, or Latin, or even French or Spanish, the latter would be my choice, so long as the Italian is supplied on the facing page--you can then hear Dante's own voice while understanding it. For this I would recommend the Durling translation (Oxford). It is wonderfully done and superbly annotated (though Singleton's notes are even more majestic)--which will deal with the common Dante complaint, "Who are all these people?". If you want to read directly in English verse, Ciardi is your man. Additional reading would be Dorothy Sayers' "Further Readings on Dante" (Harper). Or, buy Ciardi for his verse and Singleton for his notes and Italian text. AND, PLEASE don't read JUST the Inferno. Read Purgatorio and Paradiso too. You must! Inferno is just a part. If you dedicate your life's leisure to this poem you will have made a perfectly sound choice.
A note about Dante's Italian. In the Comedy it is extremely challenging. This is not at all because it is old, nor because it is poetry. Though my own Italian is by no means exemplary, I quite easily read Dante's approximate contemporaries, Ariosto, Tasso (a lovely poet) or even older poets such as the charming lady La Compiuta Donzella. With Dante in the Italian I must have a crib (I use Durling's edition, as above), though I can read it straight from the Italian after I have been through it with English across the page. However, it would be more correct to say that Dante's language is difficult than that his Italian is. The other poets are writing primarily about chivalry, war, and love (Dante, elsewhere, most definitely writes above love--far too much, Beatrice will comment in Heaven). In The Comedy, Dante presents his reader with very knotty thoughts and very unexpected images, out on the far frontiers of language. At one point in the Inferno, among the thieves, he presents souls being eaten by serpents, in effect excreted as serpents, then returning to their own form to be again eaten by serpents. (Hackers beware! God's identity theft is more comprehensive than yours.) The image is exceedingly dense. I have great respect for translators such as Ciardi or Durling who can grasp it in Italian and then present it in English. With all respect for Love, this is just more complex. You really do not quite read Dante unless you read the Italian, but to read the The Comedy in Italian without aid is, undeniably, a test.
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
It seems to me that almost all of these reviews are NOT for this specific book. They must be for a different one. Many of these reviews refer to a translation of "The Divine Comedy" by John Ciardi and also refer to the book having many wonderful helpful notes. That certainly is NOT true of the book listed here. This book is translated by Longfellow and has absolutely NO notes (no preface, no introduction, no summary, no footnotes, and not even any information on the back cover). I find this translation very hard to understand and the lack of any explanatory notes makes the story line very hard to follow. Most of these reviews must refer to a different book of "The Divine Comedy."
I know that this is a classic book and the content is outstanding. But I certainly would NOT recommend buying this edition of "The Divine Comedy." I am very disappointed with this book.
So, I highly recommend you reading "The Divine Comedy;" but not this book. Try to find a one with a better translation and many helpful notes.
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2000
Well of course the work is incredible... it is one of the top works of epic poetry ever, with vivid imagery, deft technique, deep symbolism, and some scenes both harrowing and uplifting. In addition, it is one of the absolutely crucial works in the historical development of serious writing in colloquial language (italian in this case of course), the important mixing of pagan and Christian doctrines, and just plain fun to read. However, the point here is also to judge the translation. In short, there is none better than John Ciardi's! Ciardi manages to keep the terza rima, the meter, and best yet.. the actual power of the words in his brilliant translation. There are other good ones, like the old Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed translation, but with "thees" and "thous" everywhere, it doesn't quite capture the feel of modern day colloquial rendering, one of the points of the work, but worth checking out nevertheless. Want to compare, just read the first page of several translations and you will see how great Ciardi's is!
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
"Midway life's journey I was made aware/that I had strayed into a dark forest..."
Those eerie words open the first cantica of Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy," the legendary poem that takes its author through the eerie depths of hell, heaven and purgatory. It's a haunting, almost hallucinatory experience, full of the the metaphorical and supernatural horrors of the inferno, and joys of paradise.
The date is Good Friday of the year 1300, and Dante is lost in a creepy dark forest, being assaulted by a trio of beasts who symbolize his own sins. But suddenly he is rescued ("Not man; man I once was") by the legendary poet Virgil, who takes the despondent Dante under his wing -- and down into Hell.
But this isn't a straightforward hell of flames and dancing devils. Instead, it's a multi-tiered carnival of horrors, where different sins are punished with different means. Opportunists are forever stung by insects, the lustful are trapped in a storm, the greedy are forced to battle against each other, and the violent lie in a river of boiling blood, are transformed into thorn bushes, and are trapped on a volcanic desert.
Well, that was fun. But after passing through hell, Dante gets the guided tour of Purgatory, where the souls of the not-that-bad-but-not-pure-either get cleansed. He and Virgil emerge at the base of a vast mountain, and an angel orders him to "wash you those wounds within," then lets them in.
As Virgil and Dante climb the mountain, they observe the seven terraces that sinners stay on, representing the seven deadly sins -- the angry, the proud, the envious, the lazy, the greedy, the lustful and the gluttons. It's a one-way trip, and you don't even get to look back.
The road up the mountain leads to the gates of Heaven, and soon Dante has been purified to the point where he's allowed to go inside. Virgil doesn't get to enter Heaven, so he passes Dante on to the beautiful Beatrice, the woman he loved in his younger years.
She whisks him up to the spheres of those who are now pure of soul -- the wise, the loving, the people who fought for their religion, the just, the contemplative, the saints, and finally even the angels. And after passing through heaven's nine spheres, he passes out of the physical realm and human understanding -- and sees God, the incomprehensible, represented by three circles inside each other, but all the same size.
Needless to say, it's a pretty wild trip.And admittedly "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso" aren't quite on the writing level of "Inferno," which has the most visceral, skin-crawling imagery and lines ("Fixed in the slime, groan they, 'We were sullen and wroth...'"), and a wicked sense of irony. It makes the angels and saints seem a bit tame.
But there's plenty of power in the second two books, particularly when Dante tries to comprehend God, and almost blows out his brain in the process -- "my desire and my will were turned like a wheel, all at one speed by the Love that turns the sun and all the other stars." It's haunting, and sticks with you long after the story has ended.
More impressive still is his ability to weave the poetry out of symbolism and allegory, without it ever seeming preachy or annoying. Even at the start, Dante sees lion, a leopard and a wolf, which symbolize different sins, and a dark forest that indicates suicidal thoughts. Not to mention Purgatory as a mountain that must be climbed, or Hell as a Hadesian underworld.
Dante's vivid writing and wildly imaginative journey makes the "Divine Comedy" a timeless, spellbinding read, and hauntingly powerful from inferno to paradiso.
67 of 75 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
A very poor offering. The print is essentially photocopies from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's initial translation, with page marks and notations included, and in some places worn to the point of incomprehensibility.
The major issue, however, is that the book offered does not contain Inferno or Purgatorio! Despite the description here on Amazon and even the title on the cover, the entirety of the work is Paradiso. I can see why the publisher declined to allow viewers to 'look inside' before purchasing.
Needless to say, I'll be returning this and likely not buying anything from Kessinger Publishing again.