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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.
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on 28 October 2016
I have read the Divine Comedy rapidly; so I must return in the future. It is an astonishing work in spite of its scholasticism, excursions into Florentine history and plethora of classical allusions. Dante was liberal in relation to his times, but his mediaeval attitude is often trying. A saving grace is his poetic eloquence which illuminates many cantos. The translator's notes are exemplary in their scholarship.
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on 7 December 2016
Musa's translation of Paradise is surely his crowning achievement. The clarity and beauty of this translation, together with his very insightful notes, has yet to be surpassed in my view. And although I consider Pinsky's and Merwin's translations of the Inferno and Purgatorio as somewhat more powerful, I use Musa's notes throughout the Divine Comedy.

Even though the Comedy (naturally) contains scholastic elements, the poem's originality, coupled with its existential dimension, make sure the Divine Comedy still resonates.
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on 13 October 2012
This Clothbound Classic from Penguin is beautifully bound and enjoyable to read. The quality of the paper and the fact that each double page has the Italian and English text displayed, makes this a real treat. The notes on the text offer some insight into the political climate that Dante was writing and give the lay reader an important context for the work to be set against.
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on 1 September 2015
IMO, Mark Musa does the best translation of Dante. I read Dorothy Sayers' version and it was purgatory (sticking to rhyming couplets, iambic pentameter and a bizarre Provencal-to-Burns Scottish stanza). Musa keeps the meter but doesn't tie up with rhyming, nor going for medieval English as another translator decided. More accurate and, importantly, accessible as a result. Accompanying notes on the figures appearing in each chapter very helpful.
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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.
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on 7 February 2008
Italy in the late 13th century. A poet writing in the modest sonnet form on themes of love in his younger days, meditates on a higher less personal love. To express the love of God for the universe, rather than the love of an individual for a woman, he devises a means of extending and enlarging the sonnet into the Canto.

While the Vita Nuova is a sequence of sonnets forming a story of private mystical love, the Divine Comedy is a sequence of massive sonnets manifesting the story of God's love for society and the earth.

Dante belonged to Italy, what he saw as the centre of the world. In the dream of making it perfect, he joined the struggles of the political factions to realise the best human polity. He was exiled. A brave and homeless man thereafter, he took revenge on his enemies in his poem. Note that he reserves his most fierce scorn for the money lenders and those who took possession of the Empire and Church for private gain.

Today, such a thing could also be written - perhaps by a dissident, as he was.

TS Eliot could not determine whether Dante actually saw what he says that he did. Did Dante really see Hell underground, then Purgatory, and finally Paradise? Are you willing to deny that the spiritual world is real? A lot of people today deny that other worlds, fully formed, after death, exist.

But I can imagine a 'dissident', exiled, outcast, who is exiled because he could see the other world with his own eyes, and because he held in the highest contempt those who use the creations of God (i.e., people) for their own private ends, and have perverted the Church and the Empire for their private ends.

Dante will always be the poet of resistance and truth - his work was neglected or denied veracity even by the Catholic Church until recently. He is not the poet of Catholicism, but freedom and the power of the unchained mind, fortitude in the face of mute power and enslavement by the establishment.
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on 24 April 2014
I'd highly recommend this edition of The Divine Comedy to any fan of poetry and even if you've read it before or own a different version (as I do), it certainly makes a great addition to any book collection. It is a beautifully produced book that really stands out on the shelf, with golden edged pages and a spine that grants it an age old and dignified feel.

It's quite striking when you open it up for the first time, I was studying the front and back cover for some time before I even began reading and it instantly felt precious; it's something that should be looked after with great care. These features certainly enhance the words on the page too and truly make the work feel that much more epic. There are illustrations throughout the book that are quite spectacular too and, as the poem itself can be a little tricky to navigate at times, the images certainly help to clarify some of the more convoluted parts of the poem, at least for me, and make it clear what is going on. In many ways the images strengthen the work, helping you to visualise what's going on and also adding to the shock value, particularly in the Inferno.

There's a neat introduction preceding the poem which is very informative, with a bit of background information on Dante and an outline of each of the three sections, which is also helpful. I'd have liked more in way of analysis, but that's probably best left for the Oxford Classics Edition. At any rate, the information given here is made very accessible, and it's a nice little addition to the rest of the book. The layout is clean and tidy too, with the cantos neatly divided up and line numbers to help clarify where you're at.

Buy it, you won't regret it.
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on 9 July 2014
reading this book was like wading through treacle. It is real hard going but worth the effort. I'm gonna read it again to see if it makes more sense, as I think this is a read more than once book !! there are written notes that try and decipher the meaning of the text ,otherwise I would have been totally lost. Apparently there are study groups and "leading authorities" who have spent years studying Dante s Inferno so if you dont get it first time round dont despair !!!!
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on 10 November 2014
Aside from the fact that it is such a famous classic - I truly love this print.
You are not to judge a book by its cover but you can with this one.

The leatherbound cover is beautiful as as the gold page trimming. The images inside are great and the print is easy and fluent enough to read.

Bring on cold winter nights, the blanket and hot coco for this one.
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