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The Divine Comedy Hardcover – 18 Jul 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main Market Ed. edition (18 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 144724219X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447242192
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.5 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 97,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clive James is the author of more than twenty books, including four previous volumes of autobiography (Unreliable Memoirs, Falling Towards England, May Week was in June and North Face of Soho), collections of literary and television criticism, essays, travel writing, verse and novels. In 1992 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia and in 2003 he was awarded the Philip Hodgins memorial medal for literature. His most recent poetry collection, Angels Over Elsinore, was shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Prize for Poetry.

Product Description

Review

A triumph of great poetry and accessibility. Wonderful. (Melvyn Bragg Observer, books of the year)

Clive James's new translation is wonderfully unstuffy and injects fresh life back into the poem. (Mary Beard, Best Holiday Reads 2013 Observer)

'An outstanding achievement . . . He restores the sense of drama, the colours and music of Dante's vision . . . Clive James has now given us a translation worthy of this and any other time; and a great piece of literature in its own right' - Robert Fox, Evening Standard

‘an extraordinary verse-rendering – the fruit of many years' work – of Dante's The Divine Comedy. According to TS Eliot, this is the only book in the western tradition that surpasses Shakespeare. It is typical of James's chutzpah that he has not only tackled this Everest of translation, but has scrambled to the summit in triumph . . . The result is a revelation. The reader is swept up in the drama of Inferno . . . The tempo and texture of the poem has an inevitable majesty, but there is also a dancing levity that is suited to James and his "joking seriousness"' Robert McCrum, Guardian

A triumph of great poetry and accessibility. Wonderful. (Melvyn Bragg, Books of the Year Observer)

'Clive James comes to the Comedy with two important attributes: many years study of the poem and an impressively accomplished verse technique' - Sean O'Brien, Independent Book of the Week

‘Like most successful translations, there is a sense of the personal throughout… the poetry is certainly here, spurring the reader to learn more.’ The Times Saturday Review

‘This is the translation that many of us had abandoned all hope of finding. Clive James’s version is the only one that conveys Dante’s variety, depth, subtlety, vigor, wit, clarity, mystery, and awe in rhymed English stanzas that convey the music of Dante’s triple rhymes. This book lets Dante’s genius shine through as it never did before in English verse, and is a reminder that James’ poetry has always been his finest work.’ Edward Mendelson, Columbia University

‘Clive James’ translation of The Divine Comedy is a remarkable achievement: not a scowling marble Dante of sublime set-pieces but a living, breathing poet shifting restlessly through a dizzying succession of moods, perceptions, and passions. Under James’ uncanny touch, seven long centuries drop away, and the great poem is startlingly fresh and new.’ Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard University, author of The Swerve

Punchy, theologically serious and frequently funny verse. (Mark Lawson, Books of the Year Observer)

For those who have never quite managed the reverence for Dante required of the well-read, there is at last a translation that makes The Divine Comedy everything it's billed: Clive James's version in quatrain. Suddenly the voice - from teasingly conversational to clangorously epic to tenderly lyric - is right beside you even when it's a talking beast . . . Read it out loud in bed (softly). (Simon Schama, Book of the Year Financial Times)

Fresh, impressive new translation of The Divine Comedy that is both easy-going and lucid (Best Books of 2013 Sunday Times)

Book Description

Renowned critic and poet Clive James presents the crowning achievement of his career: a monumental translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award 2013. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By D. Hammond on 28 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Having read many translations of this masterpiece I have often tried to compare them with each other for both beauty and clarity. Often this is not always the case as the 'Victorian' English mindset and language are at variance with the Italian spirit.
Mr James has however done a exquisite rendering of such a task.
If you ever read only one English translation then this is a good place to start
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Bill Fleming on 24 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
It's a most readable translation and it's great to see an edition with no notes. Most reading of Dante requires one page of text to a frightening ten of notes, but Clive James's translation manages to be quite readable without them.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard France on 26 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
James translation flows well as one would expect from a poet and word smith of his standing. However, I found that he easily loses focus and can drift so far from the original rhythm and meaning that perhaps the book should be described as By Clive James after Dante rather than as a Translation of the Divine Comedy. It will perhaps appeal to first time readers but so do several rival versions, for example the classic terza rima of Dorothy Sayers, the superb blank verse translation of Mark Musa and the recent finely balanced version of JG Nichols. Another reviewer said that she found the Victorian translations beyond her. I agree but there are much more enjoyable and approachable recent ones.
James makes a strong case for his quatrains. However, craftsman though he is, he cannot always avoid the restrictions and infelicities of a verse translation. These are always difficult to forge in English and often can strain the meaning. Here the un-rhymed versions definitely score. Strangely, James is strongest in some of the more theological passages early in Paradiso but the great closing canti of Purgatorio fall strangely flat.
Finally, why is he so against notes? Good notes cf those of Mark Musa, are often necessary and often add a great deal to the reading experience. Surely anybody prepared to take the time and effort to read the Comedy will be prepared to go a little further in order to understand Dante and his environment better?
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Chris Norris on 3 Oct. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Brilliant job of verse-translation - fluent, technically adroit, rhythmically varied, linguistically inventive, scholarly, witty, altogether hugely impressive. A really terrified of work.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Purple fox on 5 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have loved the poem for a long time and I am always impressed by Clive James' use of language, so this was a 'no brainer' for me and it has lived up to my expectations. It is epic in all senses so I dip into sections rather than read extensively and the translation is always fascinating and, often, has the 'wow' factor too. Highly recommended for the 'serious' reader of poetry.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By yelsel on 13 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Really pleased with this one. Well written and explained. Not the sort of book you'd read in one session but worth having
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Dan Smith on 27 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Clive James is right about the disparity between the English and Italian languages - the equivalent word, calzolaio, in English, cobblers, is about five vowels short.

James translates The Inferno with ease and assurance, and brings the babbling quality of Italian to English literature.

James's mission to demystify one of the great works of literature may not endear him to high circles of scholarship; but it brings Italian literature to the masses which is surely a good thing.

The text itself is good value for money - Dante has been a favourite of writers for years and it's easy to see why with lines like: "and the insane applauds himself." Hell is the most fun bit and there is great philosophy here. A great primer for the real thing - if you're lucky enough to speak Italian!!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike Allen on 22 April 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The most readable translation I have come across
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