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Dante's Inferno: Translations by 20 Contemporary Poets Hardcover – July 20, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this adventurous and stimulating experiment in translation, contemporary poets of quite varied persuasions--from Richard Howard to Deborah Digges--reconsider a looming ancestor, Dante. The 34 cantos of the Inferno are shared among 20 poets all known for their strong original work in English, and some, too, for their distinguished accomplishments as translators. The effect of the book is to summon a multiplicity of voices from the one, and to direct readers not only back to the source but to the varying tempos and temperaments of modern poetry in English. Some readers may, it's true, find the plurality of this Inferno engulfing, but it's difficult not to rejoice in such singular abundance. As a project in translation, this one is uncommonly educating, too, asking readers to make judgments on the various approaches and to decide for themselves what matters most about the poetry. In that sense, literary connoisseurship becomes a seemly match for the moral connoisseurship of Dante's work, where sins and sinners are mapped out with a horrifying vividness, harmoniously observed. All readers will have their own favorites, whether these are Cynthia Macdonald's sleekly vigorous Cantos VI and VII, the devastating elegance of Jorie Graham's XI and XII, or others. And yet, the point is finally the whole--the full company, and not the parts.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This new version of the Inferno might be termed more accurately an "interpretation" of Dante rather than a translation. Contemporary poets ranging from Seamus Heaney to Carolyn Forche and W.S. Merwin have collaborated on this book, and poetic license reigns. The poet Daniel Halpern plainly states in the preface that the contributors "were selected for the quality of their own poetry in English"--which is indeed the strength of the book. The fidelity to Dante's Italian varies, but the collection does succeed in carrying forth the spirit and lyrical power of the Inferno. Given the limits of our language in rhyme, the beauty of Dante's verse may never be equaled in English. As contemporary poetry inspired by Dante, this book is recommended. As a translation, it is recommended for strong Dante collections only. For a literal translation of the Divine Comedy , Charles Singleton's (Princeton Univ. Pr., 1970) and John Sinclair's (Oxford Univ. Pr., 1939) versions are still preferred.
- Robert Quartell, Michigan State Univ. Lib., East Lansing
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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