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Divine Comedy, The: Inferno

Divine Comedy, The: Inferno

Written by Dante Alighieri

Narrated by James Langton


Divine Comedy, The: Inferno

Written by Dante Alighieri

Narrated by James Langton

ratings:
4/5 (107 ratings)
Length:
4 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Apr 19, 2010
ISBN:
9781400186020
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Also available as bookBook

Description

The most famous of the three canticles that compose The Divine Comedy, "Inferno" describes Dante's descent into Hell midway through his life with Virgil as a guide. As he descends through nine concentric circles of increasingly agonizing torture, Dante encounters doomed souls that include the pagan Aeneas, the liar Odysseus, the suicidal Cleopatra, and his own political enemies, damned for their deceit. Led by leering demons, Dante must ultimately journey with Virgil to the deepest level of all-for it is only by encountering Satan himself, in the heart of Hell, that he can truly understand the tragedy of sin.

This version of the classic poem is the translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poem's first American translator.
Publisher:
Released:
Apr 19, 2010
ISBN:
9781400186020
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was an Italian poet. Born in Florence, Dante was raised in a family loyal to the Guelphs, a political faction in support of the Pope and embroiled in violent conflict with the opposing Ghibellines, who supported the Holy Roman Emperor. Promised in marriage to Gemma di Manetto Donati at the age of 12, Dante had already fallen in love with Beatrice Portinari, whom he would represent as a divine figure and muse in much of his poetry. After fighting with the Guelph cavalry at the Battle of Campaldino in 1289, Dante returned to Florence to serve as a public figure while raising his four young children. By this time, Dante had met the poets Guido Cavalcanti, Lapo Gianni, Cino da Pistoia, and Brunetto Latini, all of whom contributed to the burgeoning aesthetic movement known as the dolce stil novo, or “sweet new style.” The New Life (1294) is a book composed of prose and verse in which Dante explores the relationship between romantic love and divine love through the lens of his own infatuation with Beatrice. Written in the Tuscan vernacular rather than Latin, The New Life was influential in establishing a standardized Italian language. In 1302, following the violent fragmentation of the Guelph faction into the White and Black Guelphs, Dante was permanently exiled from Florence. Over the next two decades, he composed The Divine Comedy (1320), a lengthy narrative poem that would bring him enduring fame as Italy’s most important literary figure.

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What people think about Divine Comedy, The

4.1
107 ratings / 98 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    A handsome book, but a clunky and awkward translation.
  • (5/5)
    Dante's journey through Hell ranks in my top 5 favorite books. I especially like this translation, as it keeps the language modern enough to be readable, but is still beautiful. Also, there are plenty of foot and end notes to explain middle age-phrases and historical references many people may not be familiar with.
  • (5/5)
    Dante's journey through Hell ranks in my top 5 favorite books. I especially like this translation, as it keeps the language modern enough to be readable, but is still beautiful. Also, there are plenty of foot and end notes to explain middle age-phrases and historical references many people may not be familiar with.
  • (4/5)
    This is my first exposure to Dante's writing. I was looking for poetry by a different author when I came across this translation. When I saw the narrator, I decided it was time to read/hear some Dante :)

    Dante sure thought a lot of himself! Good grief, even when he's singing the praises of some denizen of limbo, he's doing so in the context of being the vehicle of their remembrance among the living. You've probably heard the idiom, "damning with faint praise." Over and over, Dante praises himself with faint condemnation. No, Dante, it's not actually all that terrible that you trembled with fear while faced with the horrors of the pit.

    I want to read an annotated translation of The Inferno. I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure he was mocking and calling out some of his contemporaries, as well as commenting on figures from the past.

    Most of the work came from describing and talking to the denizens of the various neighborhood of perdition, but he didn't stint on describing the environs. He readily sketched the horrific backdrops to his interactions, giving just enough detail to be clear, but leaving space for the imagination to fill in the unmentioned horrors. This is not at all bedtime listening.

    I seemed to sense some negative commentary on Church doctrine, but I'm not sure if that was in the text, or if that came from my 20th/21st century perspective. For instance, he lamented the number of people, even great and good people, condemned to Limbo simply because they lived before the establishment of Christianity. To my ear, that's a reason to question the church - but to Dante it may have been just another thing that was and didn't need to be questioned.
  • (2/5)
    Stick with the original, this is "clever" yet not "readable."
  • (3/5)
    Gave me nightmares.
  • (4/5)
    Peter Thornton's verse translation of the first book of the Divine Commedy, The Inferno, is certainly readable. To the extent that that was an (the?) intention it succeeds. 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.
  • (4/5)
    I read the Longfellow translation and despite a huge lack of historical knowledge about Dante's contemporary Florence I really enjoyed Inferno.

    The imaginative punishments are gruesome enough to capture your attention and the whole poem is successful in painting quite a visual image of Dante's incarnation of hell.

  • (5/5)
    Gets 5 star for the translation as much as the masterpiece itself - Pinsky really puts the fun back in the Inferno! ; )
  • (5/5)
    I've read this book, the first of three, in French, when I was 25, and I immediately was swept away by its poetic force, its classical symmetrical construction and its sharp and benign view on the human condition. Brilliantly composed. Each canto tells the story of several prominent historical persons, set in breathtaking landscapes. Tragedy is all around, sometimes with a comical touch, but almost always compassionate. The filosofical and theological dimensions are less prominent than in book II and III. I've reread this book in Dutch (both prose and lyrical translation) and in the original Italian. An everlasting treasure.
  • (4/5)
    Amazing and bizarre. To have lived in a time awhen the fires and ice of hell were as real as the sun rising each day. The horrors of The Inferno were certainly cautionary, but not exactly in keeping with what modernity would deem the correct weight of sins. On to Purgatorio.
  • (2/5)
    I have finally read the Inferno and if I am going to be honest, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. Not being a student of Italian literature and having read Clive James' English translation there was probably a lot I was missing, in the original, but I found that it was really just a horror story with the added s pice of the author being able to denigrate persons he didn't like. All this would have been extremely entertaining at the time when the names were topical, but I do not understand why it is considered such a classic. It was just a litany of various types of physical torture with no overarching point that I could see, except to list all that horror.
  • (4/5)
    It's interesting but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. The morality seems rather heavy-handed, maybe I'm not digging deep enough into it.
  • (5/5)
    (Review is of the Penguin Classics translation by Mark Musa, and applies to all three volumes, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradisio) I would not think to quibble with reviewing Dante himself - Dante is a master, and doesn't need my endorsement. I will say, however, that Musa's translation is an exceptionally sensitive one, and his comprehensive notes are an invaluable aid to the reader less familiar with Dante's broad spheres of reference. Musa is clearly a devoted scholar of Dante, and his concern for Dante's original meaning and tone is evident. This is one of the best translations of The Comedia available.
  • (5/5)
    I first tried reading this about ten years ago when I was studying medieval history, and didn't get very far. In fact, I can tell you that I got to the end of Canto 5, because that's where the margin notes in my copy finish. Reading it now, I can't imagine why I didn't get further. This was a translation by Dorothy L. Sayers (first published 1949), and I found it very accessible and easy to read. In her introduction, Sayers explains that she has stuck to the terza rima in which the original was written, sacrificing (she says) a little verbal accuracy in favour of retaining the speed and rhythm. She also explains at some length her approach to the rhyme-scheme and metre, her use of a wide range of English vocabulary including some colloquial phrases, and the ways in which she has tried to preserve the humour and tone of the original. I think that Sayers achieved great success in this: the vocabulary is gloriously rich, ranging from phrases which are positively Shakespearean all the way to the contemporary vernacular, and just about everything in between. The poetry is evocative and flows well, and the various tones and changes of mood are superbly conveyed.The book has extensive notes on the significant people encountered by the character of Dante in his journey through hell, and on the symbolism and imagery used by Dante the writer, which are not only engaging and well-written but also exceedingly useful. The introduction sets out the historical context in some detail, which is also very helpful: I could have given a detailed history of the Guelfs and Ghibellines ten years ago, but this time I was more than a little reliant on this introductory information to refresh my memory. The diagrams and maps of Dante's hell are also beneficial, as is the glossary of all the characters encountered. Together, the poetry and notes make this a very accessible translation for those who are unused to poetry, unfamiliar with the historical figures, or both. I found the story (if I can call it that) to be more easily understood than I had expected it to be, and also more entertaining than I had anticipated. I did, however, find that the various circles of hell began to merge together in my mind as in some cases there was either little detail given about them or they were very similar to other circles. I expected most of the symbolism in the book to pass me by - most symbolism generally does - but between Dante's own explanations and that in the notes I was able to appreciate far more than I expected to, and to overlook much less than I feared. The commentary on the political situation at the time, as well as that on the Church, is very definitely partisan - but is nonetheless insightful. I have the remainder of the Divine Comedy in the Sayers translation awaiting me on the shelf, and am now very definitely looking forward to reading it.
  • (5/5)
    The narrator was amazing! I loved the fact that he did different voices for the characters. He inspired me to want to read more classics!
  • (5/5)
    The audiobook makes the reading of this book more tolerable. I found the book a difficult read.
  • (5/5)
    Great book ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
  • (4/5)
    .The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri: the Inferno. A verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum. 1982. I had big plans to spend the summer studying The Inferno. I didn’t and ended up skimming part of it to be ready for the book club. I will go back and read it more carefully and study the maps and the notes that are included as read Purgatorio before our next meeting. This masterpiece deserves much more than I have given it.
  • (2/5)
    As much as I enjoyed reading about the tortures he designed for his Florentine political opponents, I spent entirely too much time reading about all these characters in the footnotes. He designed an interesting underworld that was essentially Christian but integrated diverse figures from the Bible, contemporary Italy, classical Greece and Rome, and Classical mythology.
  • (3/5)
    It was kind of hard to understand but once I got it, it turned out to be super interesting.
  • (3/5)
    3.75. Great audio and perfectly syncs up to the book.
  • (5/5)
    Wonderful and amazing classical literature. Dante was a great writer.
  • (4/5)
    It's interesting but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. The morality seems rather heavy-handed, maybe I'm not digging deep enough into it.
  • (4/5)
    I listened to this book on CD instead of actually reading it. The version that I had had an explination at the beginning of each verse to help you understand and then read the verse.

    In this book, you travel with Dante through the 9 circles of hell.

    I really liked this book. I forgot how much I liked Greek Mythology (which I did not expect in this book at all). It has pushed me to look into more mythology again.
  • (5/5)
    I never would have understood this book if my professor hadn't guided the class through it. Regardless, it became one of the most interesting piece's of literature I have ever read. I frequently think about. 'Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here," says the sign above the entrance to hell. Now, that's cool . . . I mean hot. Whatever.
  • (3/5)
    Mildly amusing, though this ostensibly pure Christian author clearly has a perverse streak running through him. (As does the Christian God, so not surprising.)
  • (4/5)
    I'd never read this, though references to it abound in countless books, movies, etc. I found the translation (having not even the slightest knowledge of Italian) very readable/accessible/beautiful in parts. Recommendation: if you want to find out the source of most of what we think about hell, go to hell...with Dante.
  • (3/5)
    Basically, Dante made a list of people he didn't like and put them all in Hell. Disturbing imagery abounds and there are loads of interesting references to mythology. But it's not exactly summer reading. Glad I read it from an academic perspective, but to be honest it was a little bit of a slog. Perhaps if I knew more about Italian history I would have appreciated it a little more.
  • (5/5)
    This past spring I took a class on Dante in which we read the entirety of The Commedia. After taking some time to think through and digest this massive poem, I think I am finally ready to write my review.At the opening of the poem, Dante awakes to find himself lost in a dark wood. Unable to leave the valley, he is greeted by the shade of Virgil, who tells him that he has been sent by Mary and Dante's dearly departed Beatrice to guide Dante through Hell, Purgatory, and eventually to the highest parts of Heaven. Although Dante is initially reluctant to go, he eventually follows Virgil down into the mouth of Hell. While the idea of reading such a long old poem seems daunting, the language and imagery that Dante uses makes it as compelling and fresh as if it were written yesterday. It is, first and foremost, a journey, and the sights the pilgrim sees on his journey to the bottom of Hell are described in vivid and sometimes gross detail. Hell is a very physical place, full of bodies and bodily functions, and Dante doe snot skimp on the imagery. But as often as his language is crude, it is at times stunningly beautiful. There were similes that absolutely stopped me in my tracks with their perfection and beauty. If you want to read the Inferno for the first time, read it like a novel. Jump in, enjoy the story, gawk at the imagery, and stop to relish the beautiful passages.Just as Dante the pilgrim takes Virgil as his guide through Hell, Dante the poet uses Virgil as a poetic guide in his attempt to write an epic that encompasses religion, politics, history, and the human experience. In each circle, Dante meets a new group of sinners who are in Hell for different reasons. The first thing to note about the damned is that they seem to be mostly from Florence. Seriously, sometimes I think Dante wrote this just so he could shove everyone he didn't like into the fiery pit. But in all seriousness, Dante's goal wasn't just to describe the afterlife, he was also trying to describe life on earth. By putting people from Florence in Hell or Heaven, Dante was commenting on what was happening in Italy at the time. Most important for Dante was the corruption he saw in the church, so there are entire cantos of the Inferno devoted to religious leaders, especially Popes, and especially Boniface, who was Pope at the time Dante was writing.The other thing to note about the damned is how relatable they are, at least in the beginning. When you meet Paolo and Francesca in Canto V and listen to Francesca's story, you can't help but be drawn in and pity her. Dante the pilgrim pitied her too, and swoons (again, seriously, he spends like the first 10 cantos swooning left and right) due to his empathy for them. Again and again the pilgrim pities the damned, but as the canticle goes on this happens less and less. By the end of the canticle he has stopped pitying the shades at all, and instead feels that their damnation is deserved. Why did Dante the poet make the pilgrim transforming such a way? Just as the description of Hell also serves as a description of Earth and of the nature of the human soul, the pilgrim's journey through the afterlife mirrors the soul's journey from the dark wood of sin and error to enlightenment and salvation. Dante is at first taken in by the sinners because he is not wise enough to see through their excuses. He is too much like them to do anything other than pity them. As he goes through Hell, he learns more and shakes off the darkness of the wood, so that by the time he gets to the bottom he no longer pities the damned. Still, even in the lowest circles, the shades are all deeply human, and their stories of how they ended up in Hell are incredibly compelling.Dante the poet shows again and again how similar the pilgrim and the damned really are. He constantly explores sins that he could have committed or paths that he could have taken, exposing his own weaknesses and confronting what would have been his fate if Beatrice and Mary had not sent Virgil to save him. I think it speaks to his bravery as a poet that he insisted on exposing not just the weaknesses in society, but also the weaknesses in his own character.Dante the poet is also brave, I think, for tackling some very serious theological, political, and psychological issues. When Dante the pilgrim walks through the gate of Hell, the inscription on the gate says that the gate and Hell itself were made by "the primal love" of God. Here, Dante tackles one of the greatest theological questions; how can a just and loving God permit something as awful as Hell? While the real answer doesn't come until the Paradiso, Dante was brave to put that question in such stark and paradoxical terms. Dante's constant indictments of the political and religious leaders of his day show bravery, intelligence, and a good degree of anger on his part. Before writing the Inferno, Dante had been exiled from his home city of Florence for being on the wrong side of a political scuffle. He was never able to return home, and his anger at the partisanship that caused his exile mixed with his longing for his home make the political themes of the poem emotionally charged and interesting to the reader, even now.Lastly, Dante shows both bravery and a great deal of literary skill in his treatment of Virgil. Virgil is Dante's guide through Hell and, later, Purgatory. He leads Dante every step of the way, teaching him like a father would, protecting him from daemons and even carrying him on his back at one point. It is clear that Dante admires Virgil, and in some ways the poem is like a love song to him. Virgil, living before Christ, was obviously not Christian, so Dante's choice of Virgil as a guide through the Christian afterlife is really quite extraordinary. It shows that wisdom can be attained from the ancient world, and that the light of human reason, which Virgil represents, is necessary for the attainment of enlightenment and salvation. Dante believed strongly that reason and faith were not opposites, but partners, and his choice of Virgil as a guide is a perfect illustration of that principle.But, despite Dante's love of Virgil, Virgil is, to me, one of the most tragic characters in literature. Virgil, as a pagan, cannot go to Heaven. He resides in Limbo, the first circle of Hell, home of the virtuous pagans. There, he and the other shades (including Homer, Plato, and others) receive no punishment except for their constant yearning for Heaven and the knowledge that they will never see the light of God. Virgil, at the request of Mary and Beatrice, leads Dante toward a salvation that he can never have. Human reason can only lead a soul so far; to understand the mysteries of Heaven one has to rely on faith and theology. Virgil's fate is the great tragedy of this otherwise comic poem, and the knowledge of that fate haunts the first two canticles. And while it makes sense thematically and in terms of the plot, Dante makes you love Virgil so much that his departure in the Purgatorio never really feels fair. I still miss him.The Inferno is a long and complex poem, filled with vivid imagery, vast psychological depth, scathing social commentary, and deep theological questions. It is also a journey, a real adventure in a way, and a pleasure to read. Though the real fulfillment of Dante's themes does not come until the Paradiso, the Inferno is well worth reading on its own. Even if you don't go on to read the other two canticles, reading The Inferno is time well spent.