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The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (English and Italian Edition) Paperback – September 1, 1997
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“Splendid . . . Pinsky's verse translation is fast-paced, idiomatic, and accurate. It moves with the concentrated gait of a lyric poem . . . It maintains the original's episodic and narrative velocity while mirroring its formal shape and character . . . Pinsky succeeds in creating a supple American equivalent for Dante's vernacular music where many others have failed.” ―Edward Hirsch, The New Yorker
“Pinsky's rare gifts as a poet, a wild imagination disciplined by an informed commitment to technical mastery, are superbly well suited to the Inferno's immense demands. Pinsky has managed to capture the poem's intense individuality, passion, and visionary imagery. This translation is wonderfully alert to Dante's strange blend of fierceness and sympathy, clear-eyed lucidity and heart-stopping wonder. It is now the premier modern text for readers to experience Dante's power.” ―Stephen Greenblatt
“A new translation of Dante's classic poem uses slant rhyme and near rhyme to preserve the original terza rima form without distorting the English meaning, providing a lively and faithful rendition of the poem. ” ―Ingram
About the Author
A former Poet Laureate of the United States, Robert Pinsky was born and raised in Long Branch, New Jersey. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Boston University and has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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As an example, here's the start of Cary's Canto I:
In the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct : and e'en to tell,
It were no easy task, how savage wild
That forest, how robust and rough it's growth
Midway on our life's journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
About those woods is hard - so tangled and rough
Cary's translation is really lyrical and beautiful but it's not pure Dante and you see how Pinsky almost effortlessly maintains the three-line terza rima and loses not a bit in his near-direct translation. A marvelous thing about this is that a new Dante reader will open it up and become engrossed and will not think of this as a chore. I only wish that Pinsky would translate the remaining two books of The Divine Comedy: Purgatorio and Paradiso.
The illustrations in this book are by Michael Mazur and are a little too abstract for me but only because I love the Gustave Dore illustrations of the Divine Comedy. You may want to get the Dore illustrations The Dore Illustrations for Dante's Divine Comedy and keep it in your lap while reading Pinsky's translation.
If you're worried about not getting the references, don't. I mean, you shouldn't be anyway. If you're reading this review, you clearly have access to the internet and therefore google. But anyway, the book contains all the footnotes you'd need to follow Dante's every reference. Definitely worth the read.
The readings are a variable lot. Pinsky sounds as if he is chewing each of his words. Any word with "s"'s in it is an adventure, but his delivery is okay, if surprisingly inexpressive. Heaney is a little more expressive although it takes a while to get used to his Hibernian pronunciation. Bidart, who has a light, high-pitched voice, is the most interesting reader. He is responsive to the pulse of the lines and to the drama of their content. Gluck is simply horrible. She drones everything in a kind of monotone as if she were drugged or hypnotized. She swallows her consonants and might as well be reading recipes or phone listings for all the effect the words have on her delivery. She is also recorded at a low level or speaks very softly so that you find yourself straining to hear...and then some sort of overamplified BOOM crashes in on you. Not amusing after a few times.
I had looked forward to hearing this set both because I know Pinksy's translation and because I thought it would be instructive to hear real poets reading it. How wrong I was! Give me a reading by a trained actor or a poet with demonstrated reading skill any time. Of course, this one could have been read by Richard Burton and Vanessa Redgrave and would still be a trial because of the idiotic noises. What could the producer have been thinking?
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Love the cover and binding, and the choice of including the Gustave Dore woodcuts was the right one.