Discover this fresh, pacy, modern translation of an enduring literary classic.
Halfway through life, you find yourself lost, unsure of the right path. Greed, deception and pride have led you away from the ideals and dreams you cherished in younger days. How do you go on?
This is the starting point of one of the most extraordinary and important journeys in western literature, a stunningly ambitious flight of imagination and philosophy which has reverberated down the years since Dante Alighieri first wrote it down in the fourteenth century. The Divine Comedy is a vision of the afterlife, the three regions of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise, through which the narrator must journey in order to better understand the workings of the universe, the love of God, and his place in the world.
Poet and translator Steve Ellis translated the Inferno in 1994, and it was greeted with great acclaim. Now Ellis's translation of the entire poem is published here for the first time, and Dante's epic can be experienced afresh and in new glorious life and colour, the physicality and immediacy of Dante's verse rendered in English as never before.
A NEW TRANSLATION BY STEVE ELLIS
Do we really need yet another translation of Dante's world-famous journey through the three parts of the Catholic afterlife? We might, if the translator is both as eminent, and as skillful, as Clive James: the Australian-born, London-based TV personality, cultural critic, poet and memoirist (Opal Sunset) is one of the most recognizable writers in Britain. James's own poetry has been fluent, moving, sometimes funny, but it would not augur the kind of fire his Dante displays. Over decades (in part as an homage to his Dante-scholar wife, Prue Shaw), James has worked to turn Dante's Italian, with its signature three-part rhymes, into clean English pentameter quatrains, and to produce a Dante that could eschew footnotes, by incorporating everything modern readers needed to know into the verse from the mythological anti-heroes of Hell through the Florentine politics, medieval astronomy, and theology of Heaven. Sometimes these lines are sharply beautiful too: souls in Purgatory "had their eyelids stitched with iron wire/ Like untamed falcons." Even in Heaven, notoriously hard to animate, James keeps things clear and easy to follow, if at times pedestrian in his language: "I want to fill your bare mind with a blaze/ Of living light that sparkles in your eyes," says Dante's Beatrice, and if the individual phrases do not always sparkle, it is a wonder to see the light cast by the whole.