Dante’s Inferno

By Peter Thornton

Category: Poetry

Formats available: Paperback

Pages: 316

Publication date: 08/09/16

ISBN-13: 9781909954120

ISBN-10: 1909954128

A new free-verse translation of one of the world’s greatest literary masterpieces, with full and contemporary scholarly notes.

Dante was the first poet since ancient Rome to achieve full mastery of a spoken language as a supple medium for conveying complex thought and emotion; and his achievement remains unsurpassed. His style is direct and simple, propelled by vivid imagery and sounding emotional depths. Only a verse translation can attempt to capture some of these effects in English. The present translation sails as close as possible to the wind of Dante’s actual words while remaining recognizable as contemporary English poetry. Playing it straight, the translation achieves a kind of transparency that allows Dante’s stories of passion, violent crime and rollicking satire to make their visual and emotional impact.

The intense drama and poetry of the Inferno can be experienced directly in this translation, but a more detailed appreciation of what Dante is doing requires access to scholarly materials that explain at a minimum who Dante meets in hell and why they are there. The extensive notes provided with this translation, intended for students and the general reader, provide that aid but also illuminate the structure of Dante’s hell and offer parallels from the philosophy, science, theology and art of the Middle Ages as context for Dante’s world view and its relation to classical antiquity.

 

Reviews

'Peter Thornton's eminently readable Inferno combines accuracy, elegance, and vitality, while its accompanying notes situate the poem effectively in its critical and wider cultural contexts.'

- Dr Tristan Kay, University of Bristol, author of Dante’s Lyric Redemption.

‘Thornton’s new translation of Dante’s Inferno immediately joins ranks with the very best available in English. Opting for unrhymed blank verse, the translator succeeds in capturing the poet’s first-person narrative voice with unusual accuracy, spontaneity, and vividness, rendering the otherworld journey with vigor and a flare for the dramatic without ever sounding either strained or unduly creative. Succinct and balanced end-of-canto notes adeptly elucidate historical, classical, and theological references, making this volume a choice contender for both college and general reading audiences.’

- Richard Lansing, Professor Emeritus of Italian Studies and Comparative Literature at Brandeis University. Translator of Dante's Lyric Poetry.

Dante Alighieri

Dante was born in Florence in 1265 into a family in modest circumstances, though he claimed noble origins for his forebears. In his youth he became one of the leading lyric poets in Italy, along withhis friend Guido Cavalcanti. In his late twenties Dante wrote the Vita Nuova (“New Life”), an autobiographical prose narrative that served as a frame for poems written earlier about a woman named Beatrice Portinari. He says he met her when they were both eight years old and she first greeted him in the street nine …