- Paperback: 427 pages
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Bilingual edition (September 1, 1997)
- Language: English, Italian
- ISBN-10: 0374525315
- ISBN-13: 978-0374525316
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #635,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Inferno of Dante: A New Verse Translation (English and Italian Edition) Paperback – September 1, 1997
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The one quality that all classic works of literature share is their timelessness. Shakespeare still plays in Peoria 400 years after his death because the stories he dramatized resonate in modern readers' hearts and minds; methods of warfare have changed quite a bit since the Trojan War described by Homer in his Iliad, but the passions and conflicts that shaped such warriors as Achilles, Agamemnon, Patroclus, and Odysseus still find their counterparts today on battlefields from Bosnia to Afghanistan. Likewise, a little travel guide to hell written by the Florentine poet Dante Alighieri in the 13th century remains in print at the end of the 20th century, and it continues to speak to new generations of readers. There have been countless translations of the Inferno, but this one by poet Robert Pinsky is both eloquent and tailored to our times.
Yes, this is an epic poem, but don't let that put you off. An excellent introduction provides context for the work, while detailed notes on each canto are a virtual who's who of 13th-century Italian politics, culture, and literature. Best of all, Pinsky's brilliant translation communicates the horror, despair, and terror of hell with such immediacy, you can almost smell the sulfur and feel the heat from the rain of fire as Dante--led by his faithful guide Virgil--descends lower and lower into the pit. Dante's journey through Satan's kingdom must rate as one of the great fictional travel tales of all time, and Pinsky does it great justice. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Though transforming Dante's terza rima into readable English has bogged down many a distinguished translator, Pinsky (The Want Bone) more than meets the challenge. His rendering has an efficient feel; the lines seem slimmer and less unwieldy than most contemporary verse translations. Each one of the cantos features a good number of stanzas dominated by monosyllables-his answer, along with intriguing patterns of assonance, to approximating the splendor of Dante's profusion of rhymes, which are impossible to replicate in English. The coherent narration of the translation is also welcome, as it keeps a harness on the sometimes meandering diction of the original. Pinsky's voice is nearly irresistible when rounding out the grotesqueries of Dante's Hell: his versions of the ninth and final circle bring the bizarre terror of the fiery pit to life. Plainspoken yet elegant, this Inferno sustains a tactile succession of images over 34 cantos, and lends itself to being read aloud. Illustrations not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Pinsky does his best to maintain the poem's terza rima structure -- and his "Translator's Note" at the beginning of the book will help you appreciate just how difficult a task that is -- but those accustomed to reading straight prose will hardly know the craft to which they're being exposed. While Pinsky does indeed keep to the integrity of the terza rima, the text remains eminently readable. And if you're one of those readers who has a tendency to take a slight mental pause at the end of each line of poetry (a real problem, I find, when rhyme is involved), then you'll appreciate how Pinsky's careful enjambment keeps things moving along in a manner that sounds natural to ears accustomed to modern-day spoken English. No forced rhymes or wacky syntax here.
And for those concerned that they may get lost among Dante's political, historical, and literary references, this translation comes with top-notch notes by Nicole Pinsky that help put everything into their proper context. Sure, there are times when you don't really care which obscure Italian pickpocket is getting his comeuppance in Hell -- but more often than not, the notes are an invaluable companion to the poem. There's also an intriguing topographical map of Hell included near the front of the book that you'll find yourself marking with your thumb for easy reference as you journey from one Ring of Hell to another.
But while the Pinskys definitely keep the show moving from the wings, it's Dante who's the real star here, and modern readers who have never experienced the Inferno before will be surprised at how versatile Dante can be. Dante's Hell is a place where the punishments truly fit the crime -- where those who professed in life an ability to see the future are doomed to walk the Rings of Hell with their heads turned around backward -- and Dante pulls no punches when it comes to describing the punishments inflicted on Hell's inhabitants. Fans of the modern horror novel will find lots of familiar elements in here, as demons fight each other in mid-air over bungled chances to punish souls, as men turn to beast and vice versa, and as Dante and his guide encounter a forest filled with trees which are actually the transformed souls of suicides. It's creepy stuff. But there's also a bit of romance, redemption, and a really good fart joke.
Whether its thoughtful ruminations on the nature of God's will, retribution, and Man's place in the City of God, or just the thief Vanni Fucci giving God the finger, there are more than enough bits in here to keep even the most casual reader interested. And more serious readers will likely find themselves turning to this translation again.
In other words, even if poetry's not your thing, you may still want to check out this translation of a classic. You won't be disappointed.
The Inferno is the story of Dante's journey through hell on the night before Good Friday in 1300. He moves through the nine circles, until he meets Satan in the middle. Each circle holds souls who committed various sins, each catagorised by their sins and punishments. All of Dante's sinners receive retribution, ironically based on their respective sins. He also fills hell with famous sinners, making it easier to determine what sins belong to which circle of hell. The nine circles are also catagorised by regions: the first five are the sins of incontinence, the next three are the sins of violence, the next is the sins of fraud, and the last and most terrible circle is the sins of betrayal.
One of the most notable things about The Inferno is that Dante's theme is not that of Christian forgiveness, but instead it is justice. All sinners in hell deserve their punishments, and they will suffer them forever. This is illustrated by the case of the sinful love of Francesca da Rimini.
Pinsky's gift to the readers of this version of The Inferno is twofold: the first is his ability to write so well in English, and the second is the way he chose to present the English with regard to the Italian. The Inferno is written in terza rima, which Dante invented for the Divine Comedy. This involves a rhyming scheme, and many translators restrict themselves to it when publishing The Inferno. However, Pinsky keeps the three line stanzas of terza rima while writing in plain verse instead of rhymed, letting him mirror Dante's phrasing and flow without restriction.
Pinsky's version of The Inferno is also bilingual - Italian on the left page and English on the right. This allows even the most casual Italian scholar to follow the translation, and see the logic of it, which is a thoughtful and useful bonus. The notes on each canto are superb, and necessary to catch all of Dante's in-jokes.
This version of The Inferno is perfect for anybody who really wants to read and understand Dante's classic. I recommend it as a gift, to others and to yourself.