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The Inferno (English and Italian Edition) Hardcover – December 26, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (December 26, 2000)
  • Language: English, Italian
  • ISBN-10: 0385496974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385496971
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #829,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Translation is always an imperfect art, demanding from its practitioners a level of dual fidelity that even a seasoned bigamist would envy. And no work of art has prompted more in the way of earnest imperfection than Dante's Divine Comedy. Transforming those intricate, rhyme-rich tercets into English has been the despair of many a distinguished translator, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to W.S. Merwin (whose estimable rendition of Purgatorio found the poet rattling over more than one linguistic speed bump). Now comes a fresh rendition of the Inferno from a husband-and-wife team. Robert Hollander, who has taught Dante for nearly four decades at Princeton, supplies the scholarly muscle, while his wife, poet Jean Hollander, attends to the verbal music.

How does their collaboration stack up? In his introduction, Robert Hollander is quick to acknowledge his debt to John D. Sinclair's prose trot of 1939, and to the version that Charles Singleton derived largely from his predecessor's in 1970. Yet the Hollanders have done us all a favor by throwing Sinclair's faux medievalisms overboard. And their predilection for direct, monosyllabic English sometimes brings them much closer to Dante's asperity and rhythmic urgency. One example will suffice. In the last line of Canto V, after listening to Francesca's adulterous aria, the poet faints: "E caddi come corpo morto cade." Sinclair's rendering---"I swooned as if in death and dropped like a dead body"--has a kind of conditional mushiness to it. Compare the punchier rendition from the Hollanders: "And down I fell as a dead body falls." It sounds like an actual line of English verse, which is the least we can do for the supreme poet of our beleaguered civilization.

Robert Hollander has also supplied an extensive and very welcome commentary. There are times, perhaps, when he might have broken ranks with his academic ancestors: why not deviate from Giorgio Petrocchi's 1967 edition of the Italian text when he thinks that the great scholar was barking up the wrong tree? In any case, the Hollanders' Inferno is a fine addition to the burgeoning bookshelf of Dante in English. It won't displace the relatively recent verse translations by Robert Pinsky or Allen Mandelbaum, and even John Ciardi's version, which sometimes substitutes breeziness for accuracy, can probably hold its own here. But when it comes to high fidelity and exegetical generosity, this Inferno burns brightly indeed. --James Marcus

From Publishers Weekly

The opening canzone of Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy has appeared in almost every imaginable variety of English translation: prose, blank verse and iambic pentameter; unrhymed or in terza rima; with and without the original Italian; with commentary ranging from a few notes to a full separate volume. The translations have been produced by poets, scholars and poet-scholars. In the past six years alone, six new translations of the Inferno have appeared (including Robert Pinsky's 1994 rendition for FSG) and at least 10 others remain in print, including Allen Mandelbaum's celebrated 1980 translation (Univ. of Calif. Press and Bantam) and the extensively annotated editions of Charles Singleton (Princeton Univ. Press) and Mark Musa (Univ. of Indiana Press), the latter two unlikely to be surpassed soon in terms of extensiveness of commentary.Dante scholar Robert Hollander and the poet Jean Hollander bring to this crowded market a new translation of the Inferno that, remarkably, is by no means redundant and will for many be the definitive edition for the foreseeable future. The heart of the Hollanders' edition is the translation itself, which nicely balances the precision required for a much-interpreted allegory and the poetic qualities that draw most readers to the work. The result is a terse, lean Dante with its own kind of beauty. While Mandelbaum's translation begins "When I had journeyed half of our life's way,/ I found myself within a shadowed forest,/ for I had lost the path that does not stray," the Hollanders' rendition reads: "Midway in the journey of our life/ I came to myself in a dark wood,/ for the straight way was lost." While there will be debate about the relative poetic merit of this new translation in comparison to the accomplishments of Mandelbaum, Pinsky, Zappulla and others, the Hollanders' lines will satisfy both the poetry lover and scholar; they are at once literary, accessible and possessed of the seeming transparence that often characterizes great translations. The Italian text is included on the facing page for easy reference, along with notes drawing on some 60 Dante scholars, several indexes, a list of works cited and an introduction by Robert Hollander. General readers, students and scholars will all find their favorite circles within this layered text.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Customer Reviews

Also, their notes are very helpful.
J. Warren
This translation - the Hollanders' - is rendered by beautifully readable, relaxed, English verse that is remarkably close in meaning to Dante Alighieri's great poem.
Stephen McLeod
It's an easy read and really is one of the best books written.
Zmc12

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Ed Brickell on January 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have started several Infernos and have dropped every one of them at some point, unwilling to continue Dante's journey. This is the first one I have read all the way through, enjoyed, and learned an immense amount without hurting my head at all.
I'm no authority on Italian but I am an avid poetry reader and I found the translation to be superb; there is no straining for effect, nor does it sound flat and/or prosaic. It's a subtle and highly admirable balance of the dramatic and scholarly. But it's the outstanding notes that really make this version work for me. Detailed without being overwhelming and referenced by line for ease of use, they bring up the key points of interpretation (as well as a lot of fascinating lesser subjects) in a friendly and enlightening manner.
I now envy those who have been fortunate enough to take Robert Hollander's class on Dante, but take solace that having his and his wife's wonderful work in this handsome volume may be the next best thing to being there. If you have found the Divine Comedy too daunting in the past, I urge you to check out the Hollanders: they provide great poetry for enjoyment and much food for thought, and all without "dumbing down" what is truly one of the greatest works of the human imagination. For me, a revelation.
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Stephen McLeod on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
This translation - the Hollanders' - is rendered by beautifully readable, relaxed, English verse that is remarkably close in meaning to Dante Alighieri's great poem. The music of the poem is a harder thing to imitate, but the Hollanders have given us a lovely sounding diction. Which is to say that it is an excellent translation.

But more importantly, here's why you need to own this translation: People REALLY need to know why Dante Alighieri's Commedia is great and why they should read it even if they're not assigned it in school. Not only do they need to know why, they also need to experience the poem profoundly, even though its inception is seven centuries past. Anybody who would bring into the world yet another translation of this poem must be able to answer that question in one way or another. These translator's do that in an excellent user-friendly format: beautifully made rendering of the verse, followed by brief, illuminating line-commentary at the end of each Canto.

Also, read the introduction. It's not one of those forbiding 77 page monographs that one finds so often at the start of too many wonderful books. This one's fresh, to the point, and gets you into the poem very quickly. This in itself is worth the price of the book.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on July 23, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This translation of The Inferno, the first canticle of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, by Robert and Jean Hollander, is one of the best that I've read. Their English version of the Comedy is fast and straightforward, sticking close to the original text but adding vigor to what can sometimes be very bland in English. Having read the Comedy numerous times in many different translations, I didn't expect to be swept up in it again as I was. The Hollanders have done us a great favor with this translation.

The notes are copious and excellent, presenting numerous perspectives on textual, symbolic, narrative, and historical issues in the Comedy. A line-by-line breakdown of each canto is at the beginning of each, and charts detailing the layout of Dante's Hell help organize a narrative that can be infinitely confusing to the beginner.

Highly recommended for beginners and seasoned fans of Dante alike.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dallas Fawson on July 14, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read three translations of the Inferno, and this one is by far the best. It's very accurate to the original text but also very readable. I found that as well as flowing better than the other translations, this one is also the most interesting.

As well as being the best translation, I also think it has the best notes. The notes and chapter outlines are helpful without being overbearing, and really help through the story.

The edition is also beautiful. It's a high quality paperback with excellent art. Simply put, if you want to read The Inferno, get this version.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By D. Bannister on February 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Hollanders have done a remarkable job in presenting Dante's Inferno. The annotations are extensive and varied as they pull from many authoritative sources. If you do not have a strong classics background, reading the Inferno is difficult as Dante referenced and copied the great epic poets who came before him. To read it, without the guidance of an experienced teacher or a superb annotation is to ultimately lose the book and wonder why it is a classic.
The joy of this translation is that through its notes it opens the whole text to you and if you do get lost it is in mastery of Dante which is how it should be. The Hollanders should be proud and we eternally thankful for their intelligence and care which shine through their Inferno.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on July 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Inferno translated incredibly well. It has English/Italian side by side. The english reading is translated using the same verse structure and as close a translation as possible. Excellent explanation of the verse and character references in the story. I would highly recomment this work and translation. Hopefully, Mr. Hollander will also offer a translation of the Purgatorio and Paradisio.
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