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Great, plain english translation of this highly innovative poem & important metaphysical study from the middle ages
on 26 January 2014
Once I heard about The Divine Comedy, I was always intrigued by it's bold story and even more so after seeing Gustave Dore's illustrations for the poem. When I finally got round to reading it, I was surprised at it's more narrative based text and autobiographical, highly personal way of reading. It amazes me that such an imaginative, personal, emotional, metaphysical, innovative and controversial work could be written in this time (c.1308 - 1321), especially when concerning the political & social context and political rivals of his time that Dante implicates in the poem.
With both the illustrations and the poem itself there is something very mystical, ethereal, surreal, dreamlike and yet realistic about the way it reads (which is a great credit to C. H. Sisson's translation & David Higgins notes, diagrams and maps in this edition). It's as if you as the reader has discovered or been given Dante's personal diary after his passing, which has been left, written from the spiritual world for you to find and be read as a guide and preparation for the afterlife in itself. The first line speaks to you immediately, with no introduction of who, where, how or why; just Dante's personal expression of waking up and finding himself lost in an unknown world, yet accepting of his own death.
I have currently only finished reading Dante's Inferno, which was at times an intense read in itself and a lot to take in and understand at times when concerning the political subtext especially, but in this edition there is plenty of historical context, appendix and notes that help you to understand and appreciate the text more so. I also found it effective to read the poem alongside Gustave Dore's superlative illustrations for the poem, which seem to capture the atmosphere perfectly from the prose.
I would highly recommend this Oxford World Classics edition to any newcomer; as Sisson's translation and Higgins notes help you to greatly understand and appreciate this epic poem for what it is; a metaphysical study, political / social commentary of it's time and literary, artistic masterpiece.