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Divine Justice meets Medieval Tuscan Politics
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.