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Comment: Some underining inside. Binding tight & structurally sound. Noticable cover wear from prior semesters.
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The Divine Comedy, Part 1: Hell (Penguin Classics) Paperback – June 30, 1950

4.2 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“The English Dante of choice.” –Hugh Kenner

“Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths.” –Robert Fagles, Princeton University

“A marvel of fidelity to the original, of sobriety, and truly, of inspired poetry.” –Henri Peyre, Yale University

From the Back Cover

This story begins in a shadowed forest on Good Friday in the year of our Lord 1300. It proceeds on a journey that, in its intense re-creation of the depths and the heights of human experience, has become the key with which Western civilization has sought to unlock the mystery of its own identity.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (June 30, 1950)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140440062
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440065
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #61,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This review relates to the volume 1 of Dante Alighieri's
-The Divine Comedy-, Hell; Translated by Dorothy L. Sayers,
Penguin Classics, 1949. 346 pp.
Other reviewers have spoken to the perceived weaknesses
and problems with this particular translation and
volume, with Ms. Sayers' "Introduction" and "Notes."
Perhaps one should be warned before entering its portals,
as constructed by Ms. Sayers, that this is not an "easy"
Hell to assimilate.
Yet, at the beginning of her "Introduction," she presents
the offering in an inviting fashion: "The ideal way of
reading -The Divine Comedy- would be to start at the first
line and go straight through to the end, surrendering to
the vigour of the story-telling and the swift movement
of the verse, and not bothering about any historical
allusions or theological explanatios which do not occur
in the text itself. That is how Dante himself tackles
his subject."
Some readers may not find Ms. Sayers' translation to be
one that lends itself to "swift movement of the verse."
The value here, however, is the wealth of information
provided in both the "Introduction", the Notes, and
in the map drawings which clearly help the mind's eye
understand the "lay-out" of Hell as depicted by Dante.
The value of Ms. Sayer's "Introduction" is its clear
presentation of HER view of Dante, his work, his value,
his meaning, and his emphases.
She concentrates on the Images of Hell and on the Christian
doctrine implicit in the work.
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Format: Paperback
Having wanted to read Inferno for a long time, I was glad to find Dorothy Sayers' translation since I value her own writing. I'm no scholar, so I can't compare this critically to the numerous other translations available. I just come looking to enjoy reading and understanding great classic literature on occasion. It takes a great deal of background information to appreciate this work. The Divine Comedy can be examined from many different angles: Poetry, allegory, theology, a spiritual journey, a love story. Sayers' introduction and notes, and the diagrams and drawings in this book were a great help to me. Some may argue that the scholarship is a bit dated, but Sayers clearly loved The Divine Comedy and wanted her readers to appreciate it also. The result of her work was a very interesting reading experience for me, better than I expected. I particularly enjoyed the insights she incorporated into the notes from Charles Williams' book, The Figure of Beatrice. (Sayers dedicated her translation of The Divine Comedy to Williams.) The verse might make it a little more difficult to get the meaning until you get used to it, but I think it's worth the effort. Once I found a good reading pace, I didn't find the rhyming forced as some readers have. (It might seem that way if you look for it.) It must be a difficult thing to try to give readers of English the same experience that Dante's Italian readers had and I think that was Dorothy Sayers' goal. She got me interested enough to take seriously her claim that readers of Dante are cheating themselves if they stop after Inferno. On through Purgatory to Paradise ... It must only get better from here.
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Let's begin with Dante. Called "the divine poet" (hence the adjective attached to his humbly titled Commedia), it is a difficult moniker to argue with, not because Dante is writing of heaven but because his imagery, his imagination, and his humility are true imitations of the creative activity of God. Dante is a sublime "sub-creator" to use the coinage of JRR Tolkien. If you can read the Commedia and not be moved to tears, one is tempted to doubt your humanity for Dante portrays the race in all its beauty and putridness and denies neither. He neither celebrates mankind's faculties and achievements beyond their due nor fears to recognize the vileness of which humans are capable.

And it is Canticle II, the poet's ascent through Purgatory, which stirs so deeply the soul and inspires the very penitence and hope of purgation which Dante describes there. One need not be a Roman Catholic or ascribe to Purgatory as doctrine in order to recognize and appreciate what Dante has done in describing the landscape of repentance and hope. (Being a Christian may help, but even on this point one suspects that the divine poet may well perform the function of evangelist, as well as exegete, and lead the searching soul to beatific vision of its own.) Clearly his purpose is not merely to describe what sinners of the past are doing in the afterlife to purify their souls for Paradise, but also to inspire his contemporary readers (who are, of course, yet living when the poem is published in 1321) to examine themselves just as the joyful penitents do on the cornices of Mount Purgatory. It is refreshing--a sort of glorious wound, the healing of which leaves one stronger and more whole than he had been before the hurt.

But what of the translation?
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