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on June 1, 2016
While this translation by Longfellow is reminiscent of the Douay-Rheims Bible (Latin to sometimes mannered, even stilted English), this edition is splendidly bound and illustrated with the classic drawings on THE DIVINE COMEDY by Gustave Dore. The cover is red linen hardcover embellished with gold titles and a large black "engraved" Dore drawing. The book is oversized and comes in a superb box "book sleeve" for protection and display. Any informed and educated Catholic must read (at least once) and keep a copy of THE DIVINE COMEDY, but so should any informed and literate person. There are other translations that I prefer to this one by Longfellow (i.e., Mark Musa's in the Penguin edition also available on Amazon). However, this is one I will keep on my shelf for its beauty as an example of the book art alone.
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on December 19, 2017
Excellent translation with superb commentary. Dante Alighieri’s triology is undoubtedly the giant amongst giants in the world of classic literature and an important adjunct to the bible. The bible, while alluding to the afterlife that continues in eternity, does not focus on the places a soul can reside in the after life. Three places, namely hell, purgatory and paradise, are where souls will check in, depending on whether they are God's elect and the sins one has committed. It is clear that if one is God's elect, he could reside in either purgatory, a temporary holding ground based on the sin records, or paradise where God's chosen will end up for eternity serving and praising Him ceaselessly. If one is not amongst the chosen, hell is the only destination. But hell has nine levels. *The unchosen will go to one of the nine levels depending on one's predominant sin. The worst sin in Dante's definition was betrayal and we find the unfortunate Judas Ischariot in the company of Satan on the deepest coldest level of hell.

A person can commit the worst sin or sins and yet he is not condemned to hell if he is chosen. But he will have to purify himself by doing time in purgatory, the holding place for sinful souls, before they finally reach paradise.

Paradiso is Dante's crown jewel in the three part Divine Comedy. But certainly Dante gave us much more than the Bible can tell us about heaven. He gave us a fantastic blinding light show of celestial symmetry complete with song and dance by angels and souls that made it to paradise. Some prominent souls Dante met in paradise were Adam the first man who fell from grace and began the adventure for mankind, and the king Solomon, whose excess and debauchery would have earned any other mortal a certain place in hell. But because they were were God's elect and they only had to do time in purgatory before gaining entry of paradise. So unless one is super Biblical savvy, informed in astronomy, well versed in Greek mythology and has paid attention in school to European and middle eastern history from ancient times to the 13th century, one will miss many gems in Dante's presentation of God's Alpha and Omega plan for mankind and His exquisite design of the universe. Underpinned by His unchanging laws of the nature or laws of classical physics, the stars and planets orbit in perfect rhythm and position. Complex as Dante's 33 cantos are, fear not because our excellent translator Robin Kirkpatrick gave us wonderful notes to cross check. We also live in the age of Google and Wikipedia. Uncovering the background of that unfamiliar name of a person or place is only a few keystrokes on the keyboard away. Just like 9 descending strata of hell, and the slow ascent to the different heights of purgatory, Dante's paradise too is an interstellar journey across the planets and stars, each orbit with lights more blinding and celestial hymns more haunting than the previous as Dante zooms across space in light speed with his sweetheart Beatrice as guide. At some point, I began to the wonder if I was reading Dante's poetry and not actually reading astronomy and the law of physics written by someone who lived centuries before the appearance of people like Newton, Einstein and even Hawking. For those of us who love and know the Bible, Dante gave us the additional info on the Biblical characters by writing about his encounters with such eminent characters like the first man Adam, the blessed virgin Mary, Jesus' favourite disciple, Apostle John the eagle, and king Solomon just to name a few. Mysteries such as how did Adam remain in the garden of Eden, the language he spoke and the exact offence Adam angered God to give mankind the inheritance of the original sin. It is clearly evident that Catholicism was Dante's Christianity with the blessed Virgin Mary getting more ink and praise compared to her son Jesus. The protestant church did not exist during Dante's time since Martin Luther was still a futuristic figure by two hundred years. It was surprising to read Dante's brutal and scathing criticism of the papacy and the corruption of the Catholic church pre-Lutheran times. But maybe I shouldn't be surprised that discerning educated people like Dante and Luther, especially in the Latin language could cross check the actions of the Catholic church with the Latin Bible. I was also at first surprised theologically by Dante's strong advocate for predestination and God's favour for only His elect, a theology on God's grace we often associate with John Calvin, who also came roughly the same time as Martin Luther, which was 2 centuries after Dante. But I shouldn't be surprised if the Bible I read today is the same as the Latin Bible of Dante that contains the same clear messages that God saves only his elect and his criteria is only known by Him. It was interesting to read that people of olden times like Dante (lived 900 years ago) also grappled with questions like the fate of virtuous people who lived the earth and died without knowing Jesus. Much more widespread was ignorance of Jesus in olden times before the digital age of internet and when bibles were hand copied in a few languages, chiefly Latin. Accessibility to Jesus then was acutely reserved for monks and the educated who had their hands on the precious few hand copied of bibles in extremely limited circulation. Also the souls of babies who died too soon. Where do their souls go? Dante seized his chance to get answers from the higher powers and was comforted to know that God had reserved places for these ignorant virtuous souls and the babies that died too soon. But alas places in Heaven are limited to those God has elected and they are filling up even as I write this book review. Once the last throne is filled, the day of reckoning will be upon mankind and all will be revealed. We will see how close Dante's vision of hell, purgatory and paradiso are to the real thing. Paradiso was not rarefied air or a vacuum of darkness as Dante reached beyond the outermost of Primum Mobile to finally glimpse the orbit call Empyrean, reserved for the most exclusive club (called paradise) members like the blessed Mary and Abraham. Far from it, we find a universe bathed in Gods blinding rays of love emanating from the centre of the Empyrean (which encircles the Primum Mobile and all the other 9 orbits of paradiso). God's love represented by the ray of lights of the sun is the single force that holds the universe in perfect unchanging symmetry & balance, the future of mankind and the meaning of life and the universe. While Hawking may still be seeking his elusive "unifying theory" for the universe, Dante Alighieri has already revealed it to the world, nearly 900 years ago.
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on October 6, 2017
Divine Comedy, especially in its earlier versions is one of the most remarkable books written by man. This translation of it is perhaps the best in English. I first read this work three decades ago, and reading it now is as refreshing as ever.

Influenced by his exile in a rift between the papacy and the Holy Roman Emperor at the time, which saw him favoring the pope, Dante's "The Divine Comedy" not only provides an insight into the church and the state that has haunted humanity for two millennia, it takes us through our spiritual voyage through life and even our anticipated embrace of the afterlife as reflected in the three canticas---Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. Not only is the allegory rich, reflective and mind-stirring, it explains our human perceptions in so many ways.

The deep political and social implications of the work is not lost. This all-encompassing nature of the work is not common around. Would be looking for more of it. So far, I found it in "The Union Moujik", "Paradise Lost" and "Animal Farm". "Divine Comedy is a book that requires reading more than once.
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on August 13, 2014
Excellent publication. The print was clear and the illustrations spectacular. Gustave Dore's wood engravings stood out against the white paper. I think his illustrations are the best available for The Divine Comedy. A quick summary before each Canto was very helpful. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's translation to English was very poetic. A nice edition protected in a beautiful case.
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on June 27, 2013
I wanted to read this for a while. Before I bought it though I looked at a lot of copies, even free. A lot of reviews said that this translation by John Ciardi was one of the best. I found it easier to read than the free version I had also downloaded. It also has notes inside of it that helps to explain some of the things that happening in case you get confused. I really appreciated John Ciardi's beginning section, "How to read Dante", in the book. It helped me to catch on to things quicker. I also liked that Ciardi explained his translation process. It made it easier to read in a way. I have not made it through all of it, but I have enjoyed all that I have read. I have also understood it. For comparison, I could not follow the other versions I downloaded. Their Cantos were in paragraphs and sometimes the wording made no sense. Overall - If you want to read The Divine Comedy... I would suggest this version translated by John Ciardi.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 1, 2016
The Knickerbocker Classics version of The Divine Comedy is the translation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Longfellow was the first U.S. translation of The Divine Comedy, and because of that it is a very accessible translation. It's not the best translation I have read in terms of beauty, but it is an easier read than others which I have attempted. The best part of this edition is the images of Gustave Doré. The illustrations of Doré are easily recognized and you will also find them in the works of John Milton. Like all books in the Knickerbocker Classics line, the pages are thinner than my liking, and that creates both word and image bleed-through. This is not a textbook edition, but more a bookshelf edition. Because of that, it is missing footnotes both for translation and literary references. Those are helpful and I'd argue essential for anyone reading through Dante the first time. There is a brief introduction on Dante, a section on "The Life and Times of Dante Alighieri," and some keys to studying the text at the end. However, for a thorough study, you'll want a more scholarly translation and perhaps a textual guide or commentary on it. Overall, this is a good book for an affordable price and you could walk away from it with a basic grasp and appreciation of The Divine Comedy. I recommend it for someone who has never read this great work or someone looking to re-introduce themselves to this work.
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on April 14, 2013
This is an interpretation rather than a translation. Explanation is inserted into the verse in lieu of footnotes. This will surely drive the purist wild and certainly this is not the version to read is you want unadulterated Dante. (Singleton is that, although then you must give up the verse). But James gives you much of the poetry and a reasonably faithful approximation of Dante and he is intermittently able to hit the grandeur as well. But his singular achievement, which as he says in his intro was his goal, is his readability. This Dante begs to be read aloud. Gone the terza rima but a propulsive quatrain scheme is substituted with plenty of internal, alliterative rhyme. And he is able to achieve mostly full rhyme without the clangy fall into limerick, a danger full rhyme is prone to.

Here is the entrance to Hell: FROM NOW ON, EVERY DAY FEELS LIKE YOUR LAST
FOREVER. LET THAT BE YOUR GREATEST FEAR.
YOUR FUTURE NOW IS TO REGRET THE PAST.
FORGET YOUR HOPES. THEY WERE WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE. (Page 15)
No longer "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here". In fact his reading alters the meaning of Hope slightly (I was going to say "a shade" but feared the resulting groans).

My favorite Dante is Pinsky's but he only did Inferno. Hollander is particularly good for the scholarly footnotes and the accuracy of the verse. Ciardi remains the most poetic for the entire Commedia. And I continue to have a fondness for Sayers, despite the just criticisms, as she was my "first" and you never forget the first time with Dante. But James honorably joins the team of wonderful Dante translators and since the explanations are built into the verse, he remains the most readable of them all. He is an excellent guide to this great poem - almost as admirable as Virgil himself.
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on April 2, 2013
I've read The Divine Comedy several times, in different translations, but I have always found Paradise a slog. I'm happy to report that Clive James has made even this abstract exploration of light and doctrine (and, I might add, occasionally smug self-righteousness on Dante's part) a fascinating journey. James has chosen an unusual verse form - quatrains, with an abab rhyme scheme - to translate this, but it works well: it moves quickly and smoothly, each line pulling you forward to the next. I'm sure the labor was intensive, but most of the time the word order, the rhythm, the rhymes all fall into place as if they just happened that way. It unfolds naturally. And James has extended the verse in places by filling in some of the oblique references Dante makes. You can read it without having to flip back and forth between notes, which is a good thing, because there aren't any.

There are risks in bringing notes into the verse itself: some references in the poem are ambiguous; which do you pick? James tries to stick close to scholarly consensus, where there is any. For example, the "one who made the great refusal" is identified in the verse as Pope Celestine: if you have to pick one among many, that IS the closest to a scholarly consensus; but purists would argue against closing off other possibilities. If that bothers you, this is not the translation for you. But if you've never read Dante before, I would definitely recommend starting here.

My one complaint is that the quatrains are not separated by a space. I don't know whether this was James's decision or the publisher's. I suppose it was an effort to increase the forward momentum and call less attention to the formal structure. Just a personal preference on my part; in no way does it detract from the readability of the poem.

(In case this review floats around, the way they sometimes do on Amazon, I should clarify that I'm describing the 2013 translation by Clive James.)
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on June 9, 2017
It is good because it has all three, -- Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, in one book; it has lots of margins to write your own comments; and the paper quality is good. (though not as high as Japanese paperbacks, which are quite thin, but tough). All middle and higher school students should buy this book. I recommend paper than electronic form for classic books like this, to feel the volume of the writing in your hands, and absorb the contents to make it your own book by writing your memos in margins, sticking flags, coloring it, and such. Consume it. Eat it to its bone, kids!
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on August 31, 2017
There seem to be many jumbled reviews of many different editions and translations of the Divine Comedy. This is in reference to the Knickerbocker cloth bound edition — the Longfellow translation with Doré's illustrations included.

I've been looking for a high quality edition of the Divine Comedy for a number of months now. This is the second one I've found not entirely satisfactory (I first picked up a leather-bound edition at a brick & mortar bookstore, and very soon after returned it, for the same reason I am about to describe here). The book's construction is indeed beautiful, but the major shortcoming is with respect to the printing of Gustave Doré's engravings, which happen to be a large part of why I was interested in this volume. The reproduction of the engravings is of low quality, and in many of them the exquisite detail is not even clearly visible. My guess is the pictures were printed from computer-prepared facsimiles, and as such they exhibit the jaggy "copy-of-a-copy" artifacting, along with an unsightly moiré effect in many of the backgrounds.

Again, the exterior of the book is truly gorgeous, but it's what's inside that counts. The poor quality of these illustrations cost this overall rating of mine two stars. I would prefer a paperback edition with top quality illustrations. I would even resort to two volumes, the text in one and the engravings in another, if that was the way to ensure I could have Doré's artwork in the vivid, glorious detail it really deserves.
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