The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy 1

by Clive James and Dante Alighieri

Paperback / softback Publication Date: 01/06/2015

5/5 Rating 1 Reviews
RRP  $19.99 $17.25
"Finally I realised that I had been practising for this job every time I wrote a quatrain ... I had spent all this time - the greater part of a lifetime - preparing my instruments" The Divine Comedy is the precursor of modern literature, and Clive James's new translation - his life's work and decades in the making - presents Dante's entire epic poem in a single song. While many poets and translators have attempted to capture the full glory of The Divine Comedy in English, many have fallen short. Victorian verse translations established an unfortunate tradition of reproducing the sprightly rhyming measures of Dante but at the same time betraying the strain on the translator's powers of invention. For Dante, the dramatic human stories of Hell were exciting, but the spiritual studies of Purgatory and the sublime panoramas of Heaven were no less so. In this incantatory new translation, James - defying the convention by writing in quatrains - tackles these problems head-on and creates a striking and hugely accessible translation that gives us The Divine Comedy as a whole, unified, and dramatic work.
Poetry by individual poets
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Pan Macmillan
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Dimensions (mm):
Clive James

Clive James is the multi-million-copy bestselling author of more than forty books. His poetry collection Sentenced to Life and his translation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy were both Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, and his collections of verse have been shortlisted for many prizes.

In 2012 he was appointed CBE and in 2013 an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence Italy in 1265. In 1301, a political dispute lead to his exile from Florence.

Over the next few years he made his home in Verona, Lucca and other cities. By 1310 he had written Inferno and Purgatorio, the first two books of his Divine Comedy.

He wrote the third and concluding book, Paradiso, in the years after he found sanctuary in Ravenna in 1318.

An allegorical account of his wanderings in a spiritual wilderness and eventual salvation under the guidance of his beloved Beatrice, The Divine Comedy is recognised as Dante's masterwork and a landmark of world literature. He died in exile in 1321 and was buried in Ravenna.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating

5 / 5 (1 Ratings)
  • Classic of Classics

    by on

    What does one say about Dante's Divine Comedy that hasn't already been said? After all, it is probably the greatest piece of poetry ever written...well who cares this is my review anyway. Completed in the fourteenth century, this was originally written in Italian so the English translation can be a bit jolting sometimes. It is also in a different poetic format to the original. An untranslated version would be interesting but alas I don't read Dante's language. This epic takes the reader on a fantastic journey from Hell to Purgatory and finally, to Heaven. The basis for this powerful, prodigious poem is the belief in the afterlife. Namely, the Christian belief in Heaven and Hell.

    Hell is probably the most famous of the three books and indeed it is the only one I really knew a little of beforehand. It is a place of endless, creative torment and I would definitely not want Dante in charge of coming up with a punishment for me. Even my beloved Greek philosophers were humourously in Hell for the crime of living before Christ. Later on there is an unsettling canto where the reader is urged not to question the voracity of God and scripture, but it does appear that the poet doubted his own faith. Dante is simultaneously concerned with more worldly matters as well, such as politics in Florence or the credibility of recent popes. Along the way he also meets many prominent Italians of the day but I had no idea who most of them were.

    The Divine Comedy's classical status is clearly well deserved and I would urge everyone to read this at some point in their life. I normally wouldn't recommend something just because of reputation or to appear cultured, but the sheer brilliance of this work has stood the test of time and it should be appreciated. I'll admit it took me a long time to get through, and the poetry doesn't flow quite as well as the glowing reviews would have one believe. This by no means detracts from the quality of the work, however, and Dante's ability to make the abstract and fanciful come alive is incredible. And Beatrice sounds really hot.

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