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To find them at once in the same author, writing an epic about the ultimate questions, is—well, all I can say is that we will not see his like again. What made you interested in doing translations? Once, when I was a graduate student attending a party given by a professor of German, I met a young man who said he was studying Georgian, the language spoken by the natives of the Caucasus mountains.

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His answer shamed me. He writes epics in Georgian, and I want to translate them into English so that other people can read them. Then, years later, my wife Debra suggested the same thing to me, and that is when I started work on Lucretius. Is Dante difficult to render well in English?

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What were some of the challenges you faced as a translator, and what are you trying to achieve with this translation? Dante is difficult, period. I think, though, that once you get over the issue of rhymes, English is actually a pretty good language into which to translate the Commedia. I love German, but I do shudder to think of Hell in the Teutonic tongue! English is a peculiar language, after all: it contains its good stock of short, brusque, German or Middle French words, enriched by an enormous stock of words derived directly from Latin or from the Romance languages.

So the vocabulary, with all its subtle semantic and tonal shades, helps a lot, as does that most supple tool, English iambic pentameter. What was I trying to achieve? I want to make people fall in love with Dante—really fall in love with him, and not just pretend to in order to score points at a literary soiree. For that, you need swift and vigorous but also musical verse.

Why iambic pentameter? Nothing else will do. Music must somehow be translated into what retains traces of the music. Iambic pentameter is the natural meter of English narrative poetry, imitating most faithfully the rhythms of our speech, and it is capable of extraordinary variation consider the uses to which Shakespeare put it in his plays. We are fortunate to have it. What kind of research did you do for this translation , and how did you go about doing it?

For the translation, I consulted many Italian editions of Dante, especially those whose notes brought out most clearly the meanings of his coinages or of strange dialectal words. Well, for a while Dante did go out of fashion: too medieval, you know. With the important exceptions of Milton and Blake, he really did not have many admirers among English writers from the Tudors to the end of the eighteenth century. The English Romantics and their Victorian followers rediscovered his greatness—or at least they found the story of Dante and Beatrice to harmonize with their own beautiful, dreamy, half-sickly love of the chivalric past.

That was in England; in Italy, Dante has been the poet who defined both language and nationhood. But I think that modern readers are attracted to Dante because they find in him what the modern world cannot offer: a cogent and coherent vision of the universe. Also, I think that you miss much of the joy of a work of art when you cannot walk a little way into the world that gave it birth.

  • At last, a readable rendering of Dante.
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  • How hard to speak of it. The forest wore a look so stern and wild and threatening that mere remembering brings on fear once more,. But there was goodness too, and I shall tell of sights encountered there in everything. I know not where I found myself, nor well remember how such sleep had fallen, nor when erring from the narrow path befell. And so on. Of darkness fell from the awakened Earth. Their trembling eyelids to the kiss of day, Swinging their censers in the element, With orient incense lit by the new ray. Far too easy. The opening lines of Still Abiding Fire, believe me, were very different from what exists now:.

    We buckle up and watch the needle spin as, prospects narrowing to straight ahead, the coloured cavalcade of days begin. A fence or tree. From this it seems to me there are two ways of proceeding. If we find the simple rendering above too plain, we can either write a more ornamented and phonetic-patterned version:.

    Mary Jo Bang's Dante

    Anna Evans. The translation of Dante therefore assumes an enormous importance, an importance that this essay will attempt to analyze and parse into recommendations for the would-be English-language-reader.

    3. Inferno I, II, III, IV

    One of the key difficulties in approaching Dante lies in the fact that the student is attempting to read not just a different language, but the different language of a different time. Indeed Dante Alighieri predates Chaucer C. Dante peopled his Divine Comedy with figures from that Florence, many of whom would not be remembered today were it not for their presence in his work. On learning that he also included figures from classical mythology and history no longer instantly familiar, the modern reader can begin to understand why The Divine Comedy is also one of the most extensively footnoted Great Books.

    Evans 2 The medieval history of Florence was one of conflict between the Guelph party, who were loyal to the Pope in Rome, and the Ghibellines, who were loyal to the Holy Roman Emperor in Austria.

    INFERNO: A New Verse Translation

    Unfortunately, the Guelphs now became ridden with internal squabbles, between the black Guelphs, who still followed the Pope, and the white Guelphs, including Dante, who now began to lean toward the Emperor. In the white Guelphs were expelled from Florence. Dante was traveling at the time but was convicted in absentia in and never returned to his beloved native city again. It is thought Dante began writing his masterwork in around , having exhausted all political possibilities for contriving a return from exile.

    Pinsky to Read New 'Inferno' Translation

    One device Dante used which allowed him to demonstrate these effects was to set The Divine Comedy back in April This enables all the characters the pilgrim Dante meets on his journey to provide accurate prophesies about his upcoming exile. The journey taken by Dante the pilgrim, and described by Dante the poet—an important distinction—is one through the geography of Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

    Put simply, Hell is the destination for all unrepentant souls, Purgatory a transitional state for repentant souls whose lives were interrupted before they attained a state of grace, and Heaven the ultimate destination for the souls who have achieved that grace. Dante assigns 33 Cantos, each with a number of lines varying from to , to each section.

    An introductory Canto at the beginning of the Inferno brings the total number to The three books of The Divine Comedy are a unit and it is important to be aware of the progression of Dante the pilgrim as he moves through them. Many themes touched upon in the Inferno, such as the concept of Limbo, are developed further in the following books.

    Dante's Inferno: A Poetic Translation in Iambic Pentameter and Terza Rima

    However, the Inferno is considered by many to be the finest of the three books and the best introduction to Dante. Perhaps this is why the Inferno, more so than the other two books, has been incorporated in or has inspired so many other original works. Evans 4 I attach in Appendix I a number of diagrams of hell to clarify its structure and will give only a brief summary here. Hell is envisaged as an inverted cone dropping down into the bowels of the earth. As Dante descends therefore, he travels a circular path around the cone, passing through the Circles of hell, which have decreasing diameter, until at the bottom he encounters Satan in the frozen Sea of Coctys. The Circles themselves are also subject to multiple divisions, which gives Dante the opportunity to make fine distinctions between various categories of sin.


    Dante entertains three basic categories of sin, which are in order of increasing severity: sins of Incontinence, Violence and Fraud, a classification originally devised by Aristotle, and received by Dante via the writings of Cicero. As Dante the pilgrim descends through Hell, guided by the shade of Virgil, he observes sinners of all types and is given the opportunity to talk to them. Many of those he talks to turn out somewhat fortuitously to be Florentine, which provides Dante with the opportunity to make his larger moral points while at the same time taking literary revenge on enemies from his recent past.

    In the early Cantos, a single Canto corresponds closely to one Circle of Hell and to one sin—e. Canto 5 is the Second Circle of Hell, location of the Lustful.