The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy

Book - 2013
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The Divine Comedy is the precursor of modern literature, and this translation--decades in the making--gives us the entire epic as a single, coherent and compulsively readable lyric poem. Written in the early fourteenth century and completed in 1321, the year of Dante's death, The Divine Comedy is perhaps the greatest work of epic poetry ever composed.

Divided into three books--Hell, Purgatory and Heaven--the poem's allegorical vision of the afterlife portrays the poet's spiritual crisis in terms of his own contemporary history, in a text of such vivid life and variety that modern readers will find themselves astounded in a hundred different ways. And indeed the structure of this massive single song is divided into a hundred songs, or cantos, each of which is a separate poetic miracle. But unifying them all is the impetus of the Italian verse: a verbal energy that Clive James has now brought into English.

In his introductory essay, James says that the twin secrets of Dante are texture and impetus. All the packed detail must be there, but the thing must move. It should go from start to finish with an unflagging rhythm. In the original, the basic form is the terza rima, a measure hard to write in English without showing the strain of reaching once too often for a rhyme. In this translation, the basic form is the quatrain. The result, uncannily, is the same easy-seeming flow, a wonderful momentum that propels the reader along the pilgrim's path from Hell to Heaven, from despair to revelation.

To help ensure that no scholastic puzzles get in the road of appreciation, James has also adopted the bold policy of incorporating key points from the scholarship into the text: uploading them from the footnotes, as it were, and making them part of the narrative, where they can help to make things clear.

For its range of emotion alone, Clive James's poetic rendering of The Divine Comedy would be without precedent. But it is also singled out by its sheer readability. The result is the epic as a page-turner, a work that will influence the way we read Dante in English for generations to come.

Publisher: New York : Liveright, c2013
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780871404480
Characteristics: xxx, 527 p. ; 25 cm
Additional Contributors: James, Clive 1939-


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Apr 21, 2017

Perhaps not everyone knows that the metric prose within the text are cryptically encoded for pictorial patterns, and the complexity of layered meanings does require some experience with Tuscan beyond basic Italian. The descriptions of hyperspace transformation in the middle of the book are original to the author and the first known appearance in literary history. While the pacing is very slow, try to remember that the layering is meant to encode for other meanings.

Apr 21, 2017

For those serious persons who have the intelligence and perseverance to read this great work of Dante, I may suggest to find and read another work by a Hungarian aristocrat, Imre Madach, who published his theatrical drama in 1861, titled: "The Tragedy Of Man." Some say if this work had been written in English or other great languages, it would figure among the greatest works of world literature. There is an English translation of it by William N. Loew, a Hungarian Jew, a genius, who immigrated to the USA from Hungary in the early 1900s and who got a law degree in New York, and was member of the Bar there. I found his translation on the I-net; it's in the California Public Library as an e-book. He, the translator says that the original (archaic) Hungarian language of this work is so terse and so expressive, it's impossible to render its full strength in any other languages. (He's right - I as a Hungarian can tell). This "Tragedy Of Man" is allegedly (by official sources) a "poetic vision" of the past and future of Humanity, but me, being a Hungarian myself and having learned from Canadian library sources, I discovered that it's not exactly a "vision," it's also a broad picture of the human condition, and it includes many details that I learned from other Western books about the plans of ancient secret societies about the planned future of Mankind. I'm sure the author was initiated into those plans in the mid-1800s and he took an overall view of the past and the planned and the possible future of Mankind. Read Act 12 (the Phalanx) and you will find there all the plans for the future robotic world, and the rule of science, and even genetic modification plans for the living world. The author even foresees space travel. In the end he rejects those "scientific" society's plans of the Phalanx, and says that Man (Adam, or the author himself) should accept Nature as God has given it to us, and try to live more sensibly to resolve the problems of overpopulation and the depletion of resources. My overall view is that Madach, the author was let in on secret plans by secret societies that created America and spread over Europe in the early 1800s, and as he breached his vow of secrecy, he was punished by those secret societies that have no mercy for those who betray their secrets. He (the author) fell ill after he published his work in 1861, and was consumed by a mysterious illness, and died at age 41 in 1864. He presents his work as a fight between God Creator and Lucifer the Rebel who says that the original Creation is imperfect and Lucifer is opposed to it and He wants to create a better world of his own, using Science, which is "holy" for him. And it's holy for those secret societies too, who initiated Madach. (Those secret societies in question are Luciferians and they are among us today - they hold that by acquiring knowledge men can become gods). In another library book I read that those secret societies (Weishaupt's was one of them) spread in Europe starting from 1819, when they recruited the wealthy and influential aristocracy into their camp, and the most renowned Hungarian aristocratic families joined them. What Madach shows and tells us in Act 12 of the "Tragedy Of Man," can also be found in some modern books, including Dr. John Coleman's book "The Conspirators' Hierarchy" (1992, 1997), and it's amazing that 131 years after Madach he tells as the future plans for Mankind, the exact same details as you find in Act 12 of Madach's work - an absolute robotic world with no family, no private property, no nations states; a totally controlled society. So, the plans for Man's future are old, at least 150 yrs old, but probably at least 2,000 yrs old. Unfortunately, the Luciferian plan is necessary, bec. people are selfish and don't care. This is the tragedy of Man.

Apr 09, 2016

A very readable translation, but it has the defects of its qualities. No notes or maps, nor even stanzas, though every second line is made to end rhyme. On the whole very good, and more enjoyable than other translations because one isn't always flipping around to find the notes.

7Liberty7 Oct 23, 2014

I can actually read this! Clive James did a great job translating the Divine Comedy into English.

Aug 09, 2014

First read a merits encyclo doing of Dante. Had heard soo much about the classic of classics that it was a must. In my late teens. Nothing. Again in my early twenties, twice. Still nothing. But all those great genius' of literature Luvd it.. What was I missing? Subtly of mind? Brain power? What? Well, this Allen Mandelbaum translation is what. I can now understand why it was so beloved by so many bushels of egg heads. It's beautiful.

Aug 07, 2013

Who knew? The Divine Comedy - a page turner!
A background knowledge
of Italian history and characters helps, but once you get in the rhythm, the
prose just flies by and gives the most amazing little tidbits of knowledge from the era.

origen Mar 04, 2012

I've made a number of stabs at Dante over the years, but could never find a translation who's language I found accessible. This translation is perfect for someone new to the work and just wanting to explore the text, not only because the language is very accessible, but also for the reams of footnotes that outline everything for you. Really a translation that takes you by the hand.


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Jan 08, 2015

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colombina Oct 26, 2014

"All hope abandon, ye who enter here."


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