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on January 11, 2014
The translation is clear and accurate (Prof. Esolen built his reputation with translations of later, more obscure Italian renaissance works). But any translation of Dante should be an introduction to reading the original Italian - and (as is now standard), the Italian text is printed on the facing pages.

But Dante also needs commentary: the tradition of publishing commentary along with the Divina Commedia is old as that of publishing the Commedia itself. A commentator must explain all three levels of Dante's references: topical (Dante's own Italy), Catholic-theological, and classical-mythological.

Prof. Esolen achieves this brilliantly, allowing us to understand Dante as Dante understood himself and his world. It's a different world from ours in many ways (not all!) but that's part of the challenge of reading him.

Esolen's only rival as a Dante annotator, I'd say, is Dorothy L. Sayers (and her version, while still worthwhile, lacks the Italian on facing pages). Honorable mention as well to Robert and Jean Hollander. But I would give Esolen first place.
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on November 15, 2012
Dante's Inferno is a fascinating text to read because as a reader you feel as though you are with Dante on his journey through Hell. Most people envision Hell as a terrible place full of fire, but Dante takes the idea of Hell to another level. All of his nine circles are described with impeccable detail, allowing the reader to visualize the horrific scenery and creatures of Hell. Not only are readers taken along on the literal journey through Hell, but also on the allegorical journey to understanding sin and evil. As Dante travels, guided by Virgil, he encounters multiple characters that aid him in learning about and understanding sin, and the reader is able to learn along with him. Readers will come out from reading this poem, just as Dante emerges from Hell, enlightened and with a better understanding of the nature of sin.
In addition, John Ciardi's translation is great and is the best way to read the Inferno. Although I have not read any other translations, I would not want to because Ciardi's goes above and beyond what I expected in a translation. First, the text alone is great, as Dante's rhyme scheme is kept mostly intact and the language is very powerful. Not only is the text well written, but Ciardi also included summaries before each Canto. This is extremely helpful because all the important points are highlighted for the reader. This assures that as a reader you do not miss anything important that you may have by reading the poem alone. Also, Ciardi included notes at the end of the Cantos to clarify any allusions, characters, or events that may be unfamiliar to the reader. Finally, he put in some illustrations of the layout of Hell to assure that the reader fully comprehends Dante's descriptions. Overall, this translation is fantastic, as it makes sure the reader will not be lost in Hell.
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on December 11, 2014
This is a well written translation, although I'm not a scholar on translations from the Italian of Dante. It's easy to read and poetic. Extensive annotations explain the characters and the process of translation, especially where there is ambiguity or nuances of the the Italian that can't be translated. Surprisingly enjoyable read.

As for the work itself, it is important for its place in history and the effect it has had over the centuries. Much of it sounds like Dante's revenge against his political enemies (I wonder where his political opponents in Florence would put him it hell). The descriptions are vivid, horrid and fascinating. Being a non Christian, I would probably be in one of the rings of Dante's hell. However, it is only Dante's hell, after all.
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on April 4, 2012
Esolen's translation of Dante's 'Inferno' is clear, easy and compelling to read, while retaining eloquence and good literary style. With previous translations I've tried, the translators have forced rhyme or mixed up the order of words perhaps in an attempt to sound more poetic - not so with this translation. Esolen captures the poetic essence of Dante's writing in a way that a good translation of a classic text should. He makes it accessible without simplifying or diminishing the great richness of Dante's work. It's also great to have Dante's original verses on the opposing pages - just in case you want to compare the English with the original. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and highly recommend it to anyone wanting to take this dark journey with Dante.
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on April 16, 2015
This book opened up my mind, I became totally fascinated by how masterfully Dante could tell a story, how he could craft and visualize complex sense. This is a definite read for anyone who wants to go beyond entertainment and would like to deeply explore the different venues to exploit ideas, Yes Ideas! If you decide to buy this book, stay Keen and keep an open mind, let your thoughts run wild, Tap into the imagination of Dante and allow yourself to manifest new ideas- That is what I found in Inferno. As for the Author he has gone through extensive means to bring forth a semi-modern translation of the original Master-piece and still allow the true meaning and intent of Dante to shine through. Buy it Now!
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on May 15, 2015
I read part 1 (Inferno) when I was 20 when an Engineering student, why I don't know. Now that I'm much older and can truly appreciate it I picked it up and read all three of Dante's journeys: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso. Simply beautiful poetry constructed in a manner that makes one deeply think. Although most that haven't read it think it's purely a religious poem he does take potshots at organized religion and focuses more on an intellectual questioning of spiritual life whatever that may mean to each of us. It shows the genius of Dante as a thinker and with the pen. A MUST READ although certainly not an easy one in order to get the full understanding.
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on March 7, 2017
Loving the book -- Enjoying each new Canto..A book that fills my spaces and my mind.
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on October 3, 2017
Excellent presentation and translation! The original Italian appears on the left-hand pages, while Esolen's translation appears on the right-hand pages. Excellent translation, and there are appendices in the back of the book to further explain the true meanings of events and persons in the Divine Comedy. I highly recommend this!
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on November 22, 2014
After spending some time comparing, I think this must be one of the best English language versions of Dante's classic. It presents as poetry, not just prose, and uses understandable modern English. I started with the Inferno by downloading an 1800's Cary translation for from another source for free. It is a very dense prose, written in a style that you would expect from that time. So I decided to see what other versions were available at Amazon. I found the 1884 Sibbald translation here, also free. The English is a bit more modern and Sibbald translates in rhyme. To preserve the rhyme, however, he frequently ends up using complex and unusual sentence structures. For $4.49 you can get the Kindle version of Neff's modern English translation. This is very readable, and preserves the 3-line couplets that Dante used; though it does not rhyme. Neff based his translation on the 1800s English translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. If you are interested you can find Longfellow's version here for as little as $0.99.

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.
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on November 30, 2011
As an honors college student I was a little distraught when I saw this book on the reading list for my literature class. Not only was this book on my list but it was also the last book we would read in the semester. When it finally came time to read Dante's Inferno we were all suffering from a long and tough semester. However, this book brought the literature class to a whole new level. We thought we would never be able to understand what was going on; however we all did and we started making our own interpretations of the story. This is a book anyone can relate too; for everyone knows someone they can place in each circle of hell. Dante begins his journey to become closer to God but he can not become closer to God without seeing the temptations that live in hell. Virgil leads Dante through hell; Virgil is Dante's voice of reason throughout the Inferno. I do not want to give away all the shocking developments that take place while Virgil and Dante travel through the circles of hell. I will say, though, this book does hold your attention; Dante really did know what he was doing to be able to keep the attention of college students who have the biggest distraction known to man, facebook, centuries after his own death. I truly recommend this book it is timeless anyone could relate. And you will find yourself creating your own circles in your everyday life. Happy reading!
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