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Customer Review

294 of 302 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly the best one-volume edition of Dante in English, October 9, 2004
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This review is from: The Divine Comedy: Inferno; Purgatorio; Paradiso (Everyman's Library) (Hardcover)
This Everyman edition of Allen Mandelbaum's superb translation of Dante's DIVINE COMEDY is my favorite one-volume edition currently in print in English. There are many very, very good things to say about this translation and edition. First and perhaps foremost, it contains Mandelbaum's remarkable translation of Dante, a translation often noted for being the best compromise between poetic rhythm, beauty, and accuracy. Of recent translations, the only one that I like as much as Mandelbaum's is Pinsky's great translation of the INFERNO, but unfortunately he has not, as has Mandelbaum, gone on to translate the entirety of Dante's masterpiece. Though Pinsky's translation is renowned for following the terza rima rhyme pattern, it actually reads more like a prose translation, primarily because he observes no meter for each line (Dante's original has eleven syllables per line, precisely like Shakespeare's famous line, "To be or not to be, that is the question"). Mandelbaum observes neither meter nor rhyme, but I personally find more of a poetic concentration of language than one finds in Pinsky. Most of all, Mandelbaum's translation is, like Pinsky's, highly readable and extremely dynamic. Until and if Pinsky completes his translation, Mandelbaum is likely to remain my favorite translation of Dante in English (though happily there are a host of very good translations, including those by Huse, Sinclair, and Singleton).

The volume is remarkably attractive, with a lovely dust jacket (not shown in the Amazon book photo), covers wrapped in cloth, non-acidic, nonreflective paper, and a ribbon bookmark. Also, the volume features a large number of Botticelli's illustrations of Dante, which obviously adds immensely to its value and its attractiveness. Also enhancing the volume's value is the marvelous introductory essay by Eugenio Montale and the comprehensive notes by Peter Armour. The only conceivable criticism of this volume is the absence of the Italian original, but that is not to be too regretted since its presence would have required so many additional pages that it would have been an unwieldy and unusable volume. One can get the Mandelbaum translation in either mass market paperback or hardback editions featuring each part with facing Italian.

The final thing to note is that one gets all these features in what is a very reasonably priced volume. I think for most readers of Dante, this is going to be the single volume of choice. Indeed, unless one especially wants the Italian text facing the English, this might be the edition of choice under any circumstances. The one edition that is clearly the supreme edition of Dante in English, that of Charles Singleton published by Princeton, is simply too expensive for all but the most serious readers of Dante. I will merely add that this is probably one of my favorite editions of any classic in my personal library. Obviously, I strongly recommend this version to anyone contemplating either reading or rereading Dante.
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Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 6, 2009 10:33:00 PM PST
Great review! Deservedly (still) in the "spotlight," four years on.

Left a "helpful" (Number 73 if my vote shows up, for a change!) Just had to say, "attaboy, Robert Moore" for this, and for being the only "Top 20" reviewer -- among the 5.3 million (correct) of us ordinary souls, pouring our hearts out at the world's biggest website -- the only Top reviewer I know to maintain the same ranking (18) on both the "New Reviewer" and "Classic Reviewer" rankings.

Keep writing the fine reviews in 2009.

Mark B-of-the-frozen-North

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 16, 2010 4:35:28 PM PDT
Excellent review Mr. Moore. I studied The Comedy at Stanford under Professor John Freccero who used this translation for the reasons that you cited. Thanks for your reviews

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2011 6:48:09 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Mar 11, 2012 10:51:36 AM PDT
J. Janssen says:
No "possibly" about it; the definitive English translation.

Posted on Jul 26, 2013 9:18:59 AM PDT
J. Caneday says:
Great review, thanks!

Have you read the Ciardi translation? Any thoughts on it?

Posted on Mar 1, 2014 9:14:50 AM PST
Carny Asada says:
This review does not apply to the Amazon Digital Services edition, but only to the Mandelbaum translation. The Digital Services Edition is bound in the wrong order. Amazon really needs to segregate these reviews by edition, because it is very confusing.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2014 10:57:52 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2014 12:35:22 PM PST
J. Janssen says:
Amazon isn't about to do what you suggest because they benefit from the "confusion". How many copies of the flawed electronic version do you think they'd sell if potential customers were allowed to focus specifically on individual EP reviews?

When kindle readers were first introduced they needed (lots of) cheap media to lure customers into purchasing hardware. Amazon's review pages are filled with kindle reviews which are essentially product complaints, and no where is this more evident than in the classic literature catalog. These negative reviews are buried in with any number of print and audio editions, not to mention all the used books, mass market paperbacks, luxury editions, large print, and sundry sets. You could literally have hundreds of reviews of popular titles, and dozens of even the most arcane of works. Over time all the reviews have accumulated and amazon's road apples are now effectively hidden in plain sight.

They may not have designed it this way, but it's a condition they're not likely to change now. Too much future revenue at stake.

Posted on Nov 24, 2014 6:30:50 PM PST
Robert Moore must have some special source for his information on the translator (Mandelbaum, he says) because it does not appear on the extract available.
The translator or editor has also remarkably reversed the order of the three parts. Every other version I know starts with the Inferno, and ends with Paradise, which must surely have been the way Dante wrote it, since a journey is described.
This version starts with Paradise and ends in the Inferno. I cannot understand the justification for that.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2014 6:32:08 PM PST
Are you reviewing the book or extolling Moore?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 24, 2014 6:34:03 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 24, 2014 6:36:26 PM PST
Ciardi is the translation used in the Folio edition and personally I find it easier to read than Longfellow, and didn't much care for what I have read of Mandelbaum.
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