Inferno

Dear Inferno,

Who knew hell could be so captivating! Thank you for taking me along on the journey of self-discover with beautiful poetry and imagination.

With Love,
Hannah

P.S. Book Details
Author: Dante Alighieri
Translator: Anthony M. Esolen
Book Length: 490 pages
Book Genre: Classics//Poetry
Publication Date: 1472
Synopsis: 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.

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The Divine Comedy is a treat to read. It is beautiful, imaginative, self-exploratory, and more. For the first third of the book I really struggled. While I love reading, reading classical literature is a specific kind of muscle. One I definitely want to grow in, but it is not strong. After reading The Iliad, I wanted to explore more classical poetry. I love the story telling while using such mesmerizing language. I marvel at Dante’s ability to bring in the reader with decisive strokes of a pen. It is really quite spectacular.

Honestly, I feel a little bit underqualified to write a review on a book with the legacy of Inferno. Everything I have to add had already been said. So, rather than “reviewing” one of the greatest books, I am instead going to share the legacy of Inferno in my own life.

One, reading Inferno has given me the final push to learn Italian. By the end of Inferno I realized how much I was missing by not reading it in the original language. My translation had the Italian on one page and English on the adjacent one. I know basic Spanish, so I could use some of it as a base to get the gist. I realized English was a poor substitute for the original (although Esolen does an excellent job translating for English readers in keeping the lyrical language of the Italian). While I am a long way from Dante, I am one baby step closer.

Two, there is a line that reads, “…That your art strives to follow, as it may, Nature – you are the pupil, she is the teacher. So we might say that human industry is the grandchild of God”. Since reading this line, I have not been able to get it out of my head. I meditate on the profundity of such a small statement. I must say, as a Christian this book had added layers of impact as Dante spoke about walking in faith and his own religion. Lines like the one above felt special in my own ponderings and meditations.

Three, Inferno is a wonderful read. There are many ways I reflect on this book, but the final one I want to mention is how amazing this book is to read. It is an experience of perseverance (in times when I was struggling to understand), love, and treasure. I am looking forward to a re-read in future years after I have finished the complete trilogy. At the moment of writing this blog, I am reading Purgatory.

If you have not had the opportunity to read Inferno, try it! If you have tried it and put it away because it was difficult to read, try again! If you have already read it, read it again! This book is a delight to read, although it may take some time to get into his rhythm. I am so thankful I finally picked up a copy and read it.

Side Note: If you are like me, when you like a book you want more. Since this book is a classic, there are whole classes devoted to talking about the book. I have recently found one that I have enjoyed from Open Yale Courses (which I access through podcasts on my phone). I highly recommend it for the readers that want to go to the next level with Inferno. It is a time commitment, but in my opinion very much worth it. It makes Dante’s world clearer to those of us who don’t have historical knowledge of Dante’s background and worldview.

Goodreads | Yale Course

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