11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Divine Comedy: Inferno: Inferno v. 1 (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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.
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Initial post: 28 Dec 2012 23:59:25 GMT
If the original Italian is "beyond you" as you say, how can you truly tell if it's a decent translation?
In reply to an earlier post on 24 Mar 2013 03:06:31 GMT
Last edited by the author on 24 Mar 2013 03:30:14 GMT
Daft Wader says:
I think that Jim defines his terms of reference adequately. He does not claim it is the most accurate translation, but the "best in terms of its sheer readability" which "makes the poetry sing and pulsate with life".
What any individual reader requires from a translation varies. Scholars prize accuracy, but when translating from a language spoken in one part of a country hundreds of years ago, even scholars may be stymied by the exact meaning. Would you know the many English regional words for "stream" used in Cornwall, Northumberland and Yorkshire hundreds of years ago, or even today? Then again, you might choose to translate Dante's word for "man" simply and rather dully as "man", or choose "master, squire, chap, bloke, guy, geezer,male,sire etc." to try and convey the idea of a vigorous living language. Language changes constantly, so books have to be constantly retranslated for new generations. What we think sounds natural will sound very quaint and stilted to our great-grandchildren. Try reading any Victorian novel thinking about how its beautiful language jars on modern ears and often has to be explained to young readers. The translator has to consider his/her audience's use of language today - and then do you translate for a scholar, a poet or the general reader - or a youngster?
Finally, I suppose, you have to rely on respected publishers signing up translators who know their stuff.
Anyway, Jim really enjoyed this translation, so it must be at least "decent", although of course a Victorian might think that word just meant "respectable and within the bounds of propriety and not referring to ladies' ankles". Just imagine the problems an Italian translator in the year 2800 might have working out which meaning you intended.
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