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The Inferno (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – October 6, 2009
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“It is Mr. Ciardi’s great merit to be one of the first American translators to have…reproduced [The Inferno] successfully in English. A text with the clarity and sobriety of a first-rate prose translation which at the same time suggests in powerful and unmistakable ways the run and rhythm of the great original…A spectacular achievement.”—Archibald MacLeish
“Fresh and sharp…I think [Ciardi’s] version of Dante will be in many respects the best we have seen.”—John Crowe Ransom
Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Italian --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Often a modern English translation cuts out nuances that are in the original. The Longfellow/Neff translation suffers some from this. It is not an oversimplification, but by comparison it leaves out some of the imagery that is found in the other versions. And that brings us back to Ciardi's translation. It's vivid, understandable, and in a poetry style similar to Dante's. At only $3.92 I'd call it a best buy. I started on this journey trying to score with something free, but ended up paying a little bit to get more. It's definitely worth it.
Here are some examples from one percent of the book, Canto IX in the Inferno: "...cannot be surmouated..", "...he generalizesthe questions...", "makes" for "snakes", "I drew dose to the Poet...", "...change him to stonel...", "allegoryl", "...cover the even plainsuchsuch fields..." for "...cover the even plain -- such fields...". It's distracting, and sometimes, as in the last example, it is hard to determine the original meaning.
Well, to say that I was soon in over my head is an understatement! But Ciardi's fine, lyrical translation, as well as his extensive but always clear notes, enabled me to go on without drowning. And what a journey it was! At the time, I was simply dazzled by the invention & imagery of the work; now that I'm older, I can appreciate its many psychological & spiritual levels. Both the capstone of the Middle Ages & the gateway to the Renaissance, Dante's masterpiece is a stunning exploration of the religious & political world of its time. A lifetime of knowledge went into its creation, and every intricately woven thread of poetry shines like gold, without ever becoming pedantic.
Whether you accept or reject a literal belief in God & Hell, the poem remains an astonishing revelation of & descent into the human psyche, the heart of darkness. Dante's insight that the damned have ultimately chosen their fate remains psychologically true today ... how many people trapped in the private hells of their own lives have placed themselves there, bemoaning their fate while unable to find the courage or strength to escape it?
But that's merely one level of meaning in this magnificent work. A visionary epic of learning, of faith, of poetry, it becomes deeper & richer with every new reading. If you don't know the original language, the next best thing is to read as many translations as possible -- and I still recommend Ciardi's as one of the best. This is an illumination of Hell that can't dim or fade with the years -- most highly recommended!