- Series: Vintage Classics
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (October 1, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679757082
- ISBN-13: 978-0679757085
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 598 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Inferno Paperback – October 5, 1999
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From the Inside Flap
"As poetry, Mr. Zappulla's English Dante is successful--. The power of Dante's descriptive poetry should be apparent, and that is perhaps the highest compliment one can pay a translator."--Washington Times
In this new rendition of a timeless classic, Italian scholar Elio Zappulla captures the majesty and enduring power of the Inferno, the first of the three canticles of Dante's The Divine Comedy, unarguably one of the masterpieces of world literature. Rendering Dante's terza rima into lyrical blank verse, Zappulla's translation makes accessible to the modern reader the journey of the famed Florentine poet Dante through the nine circles of hell. With Virgil at his side, the great poet descends through horrific landscapes of the damned--dark forests, boiling muck, and burning plains filled with unspeakable punishment, lamentation, and terror--depicted with gruesome detail unmatched in all literature. Richly annotated, this translation takes even the first-time reader on a truth-seeking journey whose imaginative and psychological discoveries make clear why this work persists at the heart of Western culture.
"If Dante's Inferno is a cautionary tale of the history of human depravity, it is also an amazingly complex narrative, treating timeless ethical themes, medieval philosophy and religion, tendentious political issues and deeply personal events."--San Diego Union-Tribune
From the Back Cover
“Professor Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Inferno is the best one I have seen, for two reasons. His decision to use unrhymed blank verse allows him to come nearly as close to the meaning of the original as any prose reading could do, and allows him also to avoid the harrowing sacrifices that the demand for rhyme imposes on any translator. And his endnotes and other apparatus provoke answers to almost any question that could arise about the work.”
- A. Kent Hieatt, Professor Emeritus, Yale University
"Esolen’s brilliant translation captures the power and the spirit of a poem that does not easily give up its secrets. The notes and appendixes provide exactly the kind of help that most readers will need."
- Robert Royal, President, Faith and Reason Institute, author of Dante Alighieri: Divine Comedy, Divine Spirituality
“Dante’s conversations with his mentor Virgil and the doomed shades are by turns assertive and abashed, irritated and pitying and inquisitive, and Anthony Esolen’s new translation renders them so sensitively that they seem to take place in the same room with us. It follows Dante through all his spectacular range, commanding where he is commanding, wrestling, as he does, with the density and darkness in language and in the soul. This Inferno gives us Dante’s vivid drama and his verbal inventiveness. It is living writing.”
- James Richardson, Princeton University
From the Hardcover edition.
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The verse itself is a second reason I liked this translation. The meter – iambic pentameter, the ordinary meter of the English language – does not intrude into the poetry itself. That is, I wasn’t conscious of stretching of words or awkward diction for the sake of the meter.
You can enjoy the translation without bothering to read the footnotes, but once you start, you are off on another journey, equally absorbing – this one through contemporary (to Dante) Florentine history, Christian metaphors and allusions, Roman legend and mythology, and Catholic scholars from Augustine on.
Read the translation; savor the footnotes. There’s always room for a fresh version of hell.
I cannot encourage you strongly enough to get this book. You will not be disappointed. I'm now trying to find a comparable translation of Purgatory and Paradise so we can complete the story.
I think for a general reader who just wants to know why The Inferno has remained influential this will serve them well. There are plenty of contextualizing notes, a must for just about any translation, which will make understanding why certain people are where they are comprehensible to a contemporary reader.
For study purposes I have my doubts but I have my own favorite translations so am doing more of a comparison than simply an isolated assessment. First, my preferred verse translation is still Ciardi's version (plus, if for study purposes, he translated all of the Comedy not just one book so you don't have to change translations when you leave the Inferno). Part of my favoritism here is likely because it was the third version I had read and the first with a professor who made it come alive for me, so I do want to acknowledge that. Part of it for me is how the translators try to solve the issue of form. Some compromise is necessary to make an English translation and I am not sure there is a right vs a wrong way, they will all fall well short of Dante in Italian. I just think that wrestling with a form closer to Dante's helps students to slow down and do a better close reading while making it too easy to read turns Dante's work into simply a story that can be read quickly and easily. Again, this is personal opinion and preference. The necessary notes will keep the work from being read like a contemporary novel and could, with the right effort from an instructor, keep the reading close. I just have a hard time imagining The Inferno as an easy read and hope not to see this type of translation of Purgatorio or Paradiso since those should be more difficult to grasp in keeping with Dante's apparent intentions.
I would certainly recommend this to general readers who just want to read it and maybe for high school classes that want to get through it with just a few areas of closer reading. I would also recommend instructors look at it and decide if this translation would serve their purposes for what they hope to achieve in their courses. It is a good translation even though I would personally choose not to use it.
Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via Edelweiss.