on 4 January 2004
This is the story of a descent into Hell, still being read over 700 years after it was written. Whatever your religious beliefs, Dante wrote about a journey common to many; the downward spiral we can only escape from when we finally reach the very bottom.
The advantage of the D.L. Sayers translation is its readability. Miss Sayers was a best selling author; like Dante she knew how to keep the reader interested in the story. Her translation isn't always 100% accurate (which is why this edition gets four stars, and not five). But the technical accuracy was generally sacrificed for the more exciting read - if you want to read Dante for your own pleasure, this is the version to get.
Mark Twain once (possibly apocryphally) described a "classic" as a book everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read. I suspect a lot of people view Dante in this light, but I found this excellent, readable translation of Inferno surprisingly enjoyable and very rewarding. It is well worth reading Inferno for its narrative skill and its exceptional insights into human frailty and it is surprisingly engrossing - but then, if you're looking at this page you probably don't need me to tell you that.
My academic discipline is physics, not literature so I am not able to comment on this translation's accuracy or suitability for academic study, but for the interested general reader like me it is terrific. Dorothy L. Sayers was a very considerable scholar and a fine writer (as her Lord Peter Wimsey books show). This combination produces an excellent translation here. It is eminently readable and seems designed to draw the reader into the narrative and carry them along without ever losing the intellectual weight and important content of what Dante was saying.
Sayers has a deep understanding of the 14th Century mind and of the intricacies of Florentine politics which inform quite a lot of the book, and she brings it all alive very vividly. She uses a verse-form which tries to capture the spirit of the original which I found very engaging, with a summary of the story of each Canto at its start. There are excellent notes and readable, witty and scholarly introduction if you're interested or if you need explanations. I suggest that you read a few of the sample pages available here to see whether it's to your taste; personally I was hooked after a very few pages.
Sayers writes that The Divine Comedy has an enduring beauty because it is built upon noble bones. I agree, and Sayers herself has done a fine job in making that beauty available to modern readers. I warmly recommend this book - it has been a source of enormous pleasure for me.
on 7 July 2016
The Inferno paperback I ordered was the Dorothy Sayers translation which was last reprinted some 40 years ago, but I wanted it for the excellent introduction to the work, I was very pleased with the overall condition of the edition which was printed in 1975 - the cover was in good shape, and while the pages of the text were inevitably yellowing with the passage of time, there were no manuscript notes.
on 18 May 2015
A great book. I'm so glad I began my journey of reading the Divine Comedy through this translation of the Divine Comedy - I wonder if they sell this translation, specifically this translation, any more in bookstores. There is a lot of rhyme in the translation and it really helps me appreciate the poetry of the language which of course makes my reading experience all the more enjoyable. I would definitely recommend it before all the copies run out!