An extraordinary new verse translation of Dante’s masterpiece, by poet, scholar, and lauded translator Anthony Esolen
Of the great poets, Dante is one of the most elusive and therefore one of the most difficult to adequately render into English verse. In the Inferno, Dante not only judges sin but strives to understand it so that the reader can as well. With this major new translation, Anthony Esolen has succeeded brilliantly in marrying sense with sound, poetry with meaning, capturing both the poem’s line-by-line vigor and its allegorically and philosophically exacting structure, yielding an Inferno that will be as popular with general readers as with teachers and students. For, as Dante insists, without a trace of sentimentality or intellectual compromise, even Hell is a work of divine art.
Esolen also provides a critical Introduction and endnotes, plus appendices containing Dante’s most important sources—from Virgil to Saint Thomas Aquinas and other Catholic theologians—that deftly illuminate the religious universe the poet inhabited.
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“Dante’s conversations with his mentor Virgil and the doomed shades are by turns assertive and abashed, irritated and pitying and inquisitive, and Anthony Esolen’s new translation renders them so sensitively that they seem to take place in the same room with us. It follows Dante through all his spectacular range, commanding where he is commanding, wrestling, as he does, with the density and darkness in language and in the soul. This Inferno gives us Dante’s vivid drama and his verbal inventiveness. It is living writing.” —James Richardson, Princeton University
“Professor Esolen’s translation of Dante’s Inferno is the best one I have seen, for two reasons. His decision to use unrhymed blank verse allows him to come nearly as close to the meaning of the original as any prose reading could do, and allows him also to avoid the harrowing sacrifices that the demand for rhyme imposes on any translator. And his endnotes and other additions provoke answers to almost any question that could arise about the work.” —A. Kent Hieatt, professor emeritus, University of Western Ontario
“Esolen’s brilliant translation captures the power and the spirit of a poem that does not easily give up its secrets. The notes and appendices provide exactly the kind of help that most readers will need.” —Robert Royal, president, Faith and Reason Institute
Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College. He is a published poet who has written numerous scholarly articles on Renaissance and medieval literature. He is the author of Peppers, a book of poetry, and his translations include Lucretius’s De rerum natura and Torquato Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata.
Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet whose masterpiece The Divine Comedy has exerted a profound influence on Western thought, was born in Florence in May 1265. He entered public life in 1295, later becoming one of the six governing magistrates of Florence. He repeatedly opposed the machinations of Pope Boniface VIII, who was attempting to place all of Tuscany under Papal control, and in 1301 was banished from Florence on trumped-up charges. Dante would never enter his native city again, spending his remaining years with a series of patrons in various courts in Italy. He completed The Divine Comedy shortly before his death in September 1321.
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