Customer Review

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You either love or hate it..., 10 Oct 2008
This review is from: Dante: Inferno (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Dante's Inferno tells of a fantastic journey into the inner circles of Hell and was written in the early 14th century. Dante uses himself as the main character and his lierary hero, Virgil, as his guide given to him by his lost love Beatrice. What follows is a moving tale which details Dantes travels through the different realms where sinners live out their horrific punishments. He meets well known people (such as Homer, Ovid and Judas Iscariot), but also talks to a lot of his political rivals that he met during his time in Florence (before his eventual exile).

There isn't much in the way of a storyline, but what there is is a frightening depictiction of this terrible plane of existance, and at times it feels as if he himself struggles to write. But then this could probably be due to Kirkpatrick's translation.

Guranteed, a translation from the Italian vernacular epic poetry into English is no easy task. But I must say Kirkpatrick did amazingly well. Sure it is understandable that the poem may lose its original rythm and meaning, but this extremly qualified translator still gives the poem its beauty. Added to this penguin classics edition is an incredible introduction that talks about Dante's backstory, the politics of Florence (that has a huge amount of influence on the poem), an insight into Inferno, and a look at Dante's writing style. Another addition is a map of 14th century Italy and a plan of Dante's hell.

At the back of the book is a description and explanation of each of the 34 cantos that are thourough and I believe essential, and notes that you can find the appropriate lines throughout the poem, giving an even more detailed insight into this divine comedy.

However, whilst reading this, I couldn't help but feel that at times Dante was lying back on Vergil's (and at times Ovid's) legacy. Many of the events/characters/meanings are based on Vergil's Aeneid (of which I haven't read), which I find slightly irritating. That a master of the Italian language such as Dante, who you can tell has a vast imagnation, must use unoriginal story ideas from Vergil, is a little disappointing. Maybe Dante felt that it was neccessary to use these images to create a more vivid picture of hell, but I think that it wasn't needed.

To conclude, this is a medieval masterpiece, which I thouroughly enjoyed reading and went on to influence many literary giants in the future. Incredible.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jan 2010 20:20:34 GMT
Last edited by the author on 30 Jan 2010 20:21:38 GMT
Sarah says:
This review is naive and incorrect because it suggests that Dante was being 'lazy' by using stories from the Aeneid - when in fact all European intellectuals up to Victorian times had a thorough classical education and would naturally include classical allusions and characters which their readers would be well aware of. The classical allusions and the way they were interwoven into the new work was all part of the writer's art, as we see in Dante.
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