on 14 May 2003
This book was fantastic.
Musa's style has made Dante's work accessible to everyone, the blank verse translation is exceptionally easy to read and the accompanying notes means that even non-literature scholars, like me, don't miss a trick. I would like to congratulate him, personally, for a top job. I don't think I would have enjoyed it half as much by a different translator.
on 23 March 2001
After seeing an exhibition of Botticelli's drawings for the Divine Comedy, I thought it would be a good idea to find out what these wonderful drawings were based on. Well the book is just as wonderful. I particularly like the fact that the notes appear after each canto, and they always seem to answer any questions I have about the text. Highly recommended, especially for Dante beginners.
on 19 November 2012
Inferno is the first 34 cantos (verses) of The Divine Comedy written around the beginning of the 14th century.It contains a considerable amount of reference to the political personages of northern Italy and to Greek and Roman mythology,which makes the quality of the translation,and particularly the reference notes,the decisive factor in selecting which version to read.
Each canto(which concerns the punishments going on in a certain segment or bolgia)is around four pages long (roughly 130-150 lines) and the corresponding explanatory notes run typically 3 to 4 pages.I found the notes to be most informative and necessary,as without them I wouldn't have had clue what was going on for the greater part of the book.
Medieval poetry (particularly in a foreign tongue) is never going to be a walk in the park and I must admit my motivation for reading this stemmed from the curiosity of Dante's structure of hell and the punishments that he appropriated the various sins.Aside from these sometimes colourful eschatological ruminations I found the language less than inspiring from a descriptive point of view, and the constant reference to Tuscan politics gave it the feel that the whole thing was structured as a way to support Dante's political views and personal vendettas.On the plus side it was easier to read than I'd anticipated and the notes where excellent.
Having wanted to read this book for a while but being put off by the seemingly endless number of translations available, after not much research I finally plumped for this version by almost picking it at random.
Generally, I didn't have any problems with the translations and it all seemed to flow quite nicely. Admittedly, I haven't read any other versions so have nothing to compare it to, but suffice to say I didn't struggle with this book one bit.
Onto the actual story that Dante tells, I actually really enjoyed it. Despite being hundreds of years old, the story seems very timeless. Although it does seem like a medieval way of name dropping; with a constant barrage of people who were then famous (or infamous, I suppose) but without the notes, I'd have had no idea who they were or their significance.
There's so many layers to each Canto that you don't even realise are there until you read the notes. It's quite brilliant, in a way, and another reason why I enjoyed this version of the book.
The "comedy" part of it is, as you would imagine, rather dark at times. For example, two blokes are stuck in a frozen lake in Hell with only their heads above the ice, with one guy eating the other guys brains. Turns out that the person eating the head was forced to eat his own children/grandchildren after the other guy locked them in a room and starved them to death. Hilarious stuff, I'm sure you'll agree. Although I did laugh out loud at one or two phrases, like the devils that were blowing raspberries at each other, with the other devil "saluting them with his bugle of an a--hole"!
It's an easy to read book, considering how old it is, and it is really worth what little effort it takes to get through. A great book and a very nice translation.
on 8 August 2008
Here Musa does the impossible. He writes translated poetry that is perfectly readable, understandable, and as invigorating as Dante's original. It is by a long way the best translation available in terms of it sheer readability.
Prefacing each Canto with an introductory paragraph, and ending each with copious contextual notes makes this both a good study edition and one in which no shade of meaning is ever lost. However, he also does what many scholars don't: he makes the poetry itself sing and pulsate with life. Musa shows us why this is one of the most important and timeless works of world literature. Dante (like Shakespeare and Cervantes) was writing ripping yarns. Just because they are old and the language may be strange to us now, there is no reason why they should not thrill us as much now as they did when they were written.
If, like me, the original Italian is beyond you, this book is as close as you will get to perfection.
"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.
And Dante's skill as a writer can't be denied -- the grotesque punishments are enough to make your skin crawl ("Fixed in the slime, groan they, 'We were sullen and wroth...'"), and the grand finale is Satan himself, with legendary traitors Brutus, Cassius and Judas sitting in his mouths. (Yes, I said MOUTHS, not "mouth")
More impressive still is his ability to weave the poetry out of symbolism and allegory, without it ever seeming preachy or annoying. Even pre-hell, we have a lion, a leopard and a wolf, which symbolize different sins, and a dark forest that indicates suicidal thoughts. And the punishments themselves usually reflect the person's flaws, such as false prophets having their heads twisted around so they can only see what's behind them. Wicked sense of humor.
Dante's vivid writing and wildly imaginative "inferno" makes this the most fascinating, compelling volume of the Divine Comedy. Never fun, but always spellbinding and complicated.
on 7 April 2016
Just as a heads up - the Kindle option on the paperback of the Musa translation leads here, but this is not the Kindle version of the Musa translation - this is the Blavatsky trans. Up to you whether you prefer it or not, but if you were looking for the Musa version, this isn't it.