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Dante: Inferno (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Dante , Robin Kirkpatrick
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Mar 2006

Inferno is the first part of Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy, revealing the eternal punishment reserved for such sins as greed, self-deception, political double-dealing and treachery. This Penguin Classics edition is translated and edited with an introduction and notes by Robin Kirkpatrick.

Describing Dante's descent into Hell midway through his life with Virgil as a guide, Inferno depicts a cruel underworld in which desperate figures are condemned to eternal damnation for committing one or more of seven deadly sins. As he descends through nine concentric circles of increasingly agonising torture, Dante encounters doomed souls including the pagan Aeneas, the liar Odysseus, the suicide Cleopatra, and his own political enemies, damned for their deceit. Led by leering demons, the poet must ultimately journey with Virgil to the deepest level of all. Portraying a huge diversity of characters culminating in a horrific vision of Satan, the Inferno broke new ground in the vigour of its language and storytelling. It has had a particular influence on Modernist writers and their successors throughout the world.

Printed in English with facing pages in Dante's Italian, this edition offers commentaries and notes on each canto by Robert Kirkpatrick.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), scion of a Florentine family, mastered in the art of lyric poetry at an early age. His first major work is La Vita Nuova (1292) an exercise in sonnet form constructed as a tribute to Beatrice Portinari, the great love of his life. It is believed that The Divine Comedy - comprised of three canticles, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso - was written between 1308 and 1320.

If you enjoyed the Inferno you might like Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Kirkpatrick brings to this English Dante both his perfect knowledge of the Italian and an extraordinarily good ear in his own language'

Professor Piero Boitani, University of Rome

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Product details

  • Paperback: 460 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (30 Mar 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0954113284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0954113285
  • ASIN: 0140448950
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Kirkpatrick brings a more nuanced sense of the Italian and a more mediated appreciation of the poem's construction than nearly all of his competitors. . . . There is much to recommend here-certainly the intelligence, the energy, the linguistic range. . . . His introduction and canto-by-canto notes are remarkably level and lucid, as attentive to structure as to syntax, language and motif, and deftly cross-reference the whole poem. On their own, they would justify the price." -"The Times" (London) "We gain much from Kirkpatrick's fidelity to syntax and nuance, and from the fact that the Italian is on the facing page for our inspection. . . . His introduction . . . tells you, very readably indeed, pretty much all you need for a heightened appreciation of the work. . . . Kirkpatrick edges us, smoothly, into Dante's mind, and shows just how and why his influence has seemed to grow with the passage of time. We even get a map of "trecento" Italy (nestling against a map of hell). . . . If the "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso" are as good as this, then English readers will, I hope, start familiarising themselves with the two-thirds of the work most never get round to reading." -Nicholas Lezard, "The Guardian" "The perfect balance of tightness and colloquialism... likely to be the best modern version of Dante. -Bernard O'Donoghue "This version is the first to bring together poetry and scholarship in the very body of the translation-a deeply informed version of Dante that is also a pleasure to read." -Professor David Wallace, University of Pennsylvania

About the Author

Dante Alighieri was born in 1265. Considered Italy's greatest poet, this scion of a Florentine family mastered in the art of lyric poetry at an early age. His first major work is La Vita Nuova (1292) which is a tribute to Beatrice Portinari, the great love of his life. Married to Gemma Donatic, Dante's political activism resulted in his being exiled from Florence to eventually settle in Ravenna. It is believed that The Divine Comedy-comprised of three canticles, The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso-was written between 1308 and 1320. Dante Alighieri died in 1321.

Robin Kirkpatrick is a poet and widely-published Dante scholar. He has taught courses on Dante's Divine Comedy in Hong Kong, Dublin, and Cambridge where is Fellow of Robinson College and Professor of Italian and English Literatures.

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Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful introduction and commentary 12 Dec 2009
For anyone who may not be familiar with the plot of Dante Aligheri's Inferno, in brief, it involves the narrator's descent, while still alive, into the circles of Hell where he witnesses the grotesque punishments of many people including his own contemporaries, from corrupt popes to soldiers. The book is an allegorical journey of humankind's redemption, at the same time casting a critical glance over the politics of Italy and Florence, all portrayed in beautiful verse.

There is a lot of speculation about the exact reason for this descent into Hell, confusion which results in immediate differences in translation from the very first chapter of the book. So the question for most people would be which book has the best translation?

Well, that depends on what you are looking for. This book does have some wonderful translations; in particular I enjoyed Canto 33. And if you are looking for an edition for studying, line by line, then this is a very good version - the introduction and commentary are worth the price of the book alone, though the notes are in the back of the book which can be a little annoying. This version also has the Italian and English side-by-side, one of the main reasons for me buying it. But, I think, if you are reading it purely for pleasure, I probably prefer the Mark Musa or Robert Hollander versions.

That said, when choosing between the various translations, I would say that it really is down to personal taste; I like aspects of pretty much most translations and I enjoy having various translations available to scrutinise. But I would recommend this to anyone studying Dante's Inferno.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good translation and great notes 25 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am not a classics expert but wanted to read the Divine Comedy because it is referenced so much i wanted to be able to understand the references. The explanation notes are great and for the most part understandable. Lots of references to mythological figures with whom I am not familiar however the book is easy to read and understand and that's what i was looking for.
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divinely nasty 4 Feb 2007
"Midway life's journey I was made aware/that I had strayed into a dark forest..." Those eerie words open the first cantica of Dante Alighieri's "Inferno," the most famous part of the legendary Divina Comedia. But the stuff going on here is anything but divine, as Dante explores the metaphorical and supernatural horrors of the inferno.

The date is Good Friday of the year 1300, and Dante is lost in a creepy dark forest, being assaulted by a trio of beasts who symbolize his own sins. But suddenly he is rescued ("Not man; man I once was") by the legendary poet Virgil, who takes the despondent Dante under his wing -- and down into Hell.

But this isn't a straightforward hell of flames and dancing devils. Instead, it's a multi-tiered carnival of horrors, where different sins are punished with different means. Opportunists are forever stung by insects, the lustful are trapped in a storm, the greedy are forced to battle against each other, and the violent lie in a river of boiling blood, are transformed into thorn bushes, and are trapped on a volcanic desert.

If nothing else makes you feel like being good, then "The Inferno" might change your mind. The author loads up his "Inferno" with every kind of disgusting, grotesque punishment that you can imagine -- and it's all wrapped up in an allegorical journey of humankind's redemption, not to mention dissing the politics of Italy and Florence.

Along with Virgil -- author of the "Aeneid" -- Dante peppered his Inferno with Greek myth and symbolism. Like the Greek underworld, different punishments await different sins; what's more, there are also appearances by harpies, centaurs, Cerberus and the god Pluto. But the sinners are mostly Dante's contemporaries, from corrupt popes to soldiers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great text, unfortunate formatting 17 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've read a couple of Dantes and to my ear Kirkpatrick's version is the best yet. It gives a "feel" for medieaval Europe somehow; obviously (and rightly) the rhymes aren't maintained - Kirkpatrick considers accuracy of meaning more important - but the metre and rhythms work well; the imagery is brought to life by very careful word choice.

However - this is the Kindle edition, ASIN B002RI9HHU Inferno: The Divine Comedy I - and there's a problem. The print edition includes the original Italian text on facing pages. While great for study, the differing lengths of English text versus Italian mean no amount of formatting reliably delivers a Kindle pageful of Italian followed by a pageful of English; everything is in one long column making the book virtually unreadable. The edition includes Real Page Numbers, which in future versions of Kindle software may allow page-by-page flickthroughs or side-by-side layouts as the formatters intended, but the technology isn't there yet, making this a much less enjoyable read than it should.

I'm a Kindle nut, but if you want this excellent work, buy it in paperback.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Politics of Dante 10 Feb 2011
By J A R P
Dante was first exiled from Florence, and then condemned to death in his absence.

He wrote this poem about the political corruption of his times. He particularly hated those who were lending money at interest, and those who were using the Church as a political power.

The evil sorts of lower kind of men were gaining the upper hand in his time. Those who were waging wars for purposes of the unreal, those who were using religious and important public bodies for personal gain.

We see this everywhere today. He was also against the commercial expansion of his city, seeing large scale 'multinational' sorts of activity as bad for human life in its proper visionary state.

Ezra Pound took Dante's politics and economics seriously. TS Eliot speculated that Dante really had seen what this book says that he saw: God, angels, devils, underground worlds, beings, bipods which were not human.

When books become proscribed, removed from shelves and bookcases in homes becuase of political purges in the future, Dante's will be one of the first to go. Forever, Dante will be the example of the human genius for freedom, revolt, dissidence, visionary abilities, and love.

His book is a book of divine love, written in extended large scale sonnets. These love poems are not aimed at a single solitary woman as the earlier Vita Nova ones were, but at the whole circle of existence as humans can perceive it. God is the source of love, and is inside those who are not corrupted by power, money, lies, violence, hate.

This is why it is the greatest book of the post classical era.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Book
Bought this for my grandson as a Christmas pressie (his request) ......... A well known book by Dante, and in my view something to treasure, as the written word moves into... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Mrs. M. R. Scrimshaw
3.0 out of 5 stars Dante Alighieri – The Inferno | Review
Mark Twain once described a classic as "a book which people praise and don't read". Dante's Inferno fits the bill, then. Read more
Published 2 months ago by
5.0 out of 5 stars Dante, Dante...Dante
This book is AWESOME!!!! It is very hard to grasp, but once you'll never put it down. 'Life time appreciation'.
Published 3 months ago by Miss Unique
5.0 out of 5 stars For the Missus
Bought this for the Missus as she had always wanted to read The Divine Comedy. I got this copy as everyone recommended it as a more realistic translation as opposed to others that... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael Weaver
5.0 out of 5 stars CIardi's translation is superior
There are more faithful translations and more poetic translations, but Ciardi really gets the filth-and-all quality. There is no translation I'd rather read. Read more
Published 9 months ago by E. B. Wilford
4.0 out of 5 stars Its a classic.
You wont understand much. You will read canto's twice just to get the jist of things, and you will get lost in the metaphors. Read more
Published 11 months ago by alan
5.0 out of 5 stars execellent
same as the other two English and Italian throughout incredible foreward which is a history lesson in itself. wonderful gift or present to oneself.
Published 12 months ago by Mark Twain
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, good value for money
I bought this book as I'm devising a play based on the story. This copy is particularly helpful, as it contains diagrams of what Dante's hell looks like. Read more
Published on 1 Mar 2011 by Miss Jacob
5.0 out of 5 stars Best translation
Of all the translations I have read, this one seems to best capture Dante's powerhouse tone. I'd read in short bursts however, because reading it in quantity I find myself... Read more
Published on 16 July 2010 by M. J. Powell
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