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Translated by H. F. Cary With an introduction by Claire Honess. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) is one of the most important and innovative figures of the European Middle Ages. Writing his Comedy (the epithet Divine was added by later admirers) in exile from his native Florence, he aimed to address a world gone astray both morally and politically. At the same time, he sought to push back the restrictive rules which traditionally governed writing in the Italian vernacular, to produce a radically new and all-encompassing work. The Comedy tells of the journey of a character who is at one and the same time both Dante himself and Everyman through the three realms of the Christian afterlife: Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. He presents a vision of the afterlife which is strikingly original in its conception, with a complex architecture and a coherent structure. On this journey Dante's protagonist - and his reader - meet characters who are variously noble, grotesque, beguiling, fearful, ridiculous, admirable, horrific and tender, and through them he is shown the consequences of sin, repentance and virtue, as he learns to avoid Hell and, through cleansing in Purgatory, to taste the joys of Heaven.
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Prolific author, journalist, and British television personality James offers a modern verse translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. This is the product of 40 years of thought and conversation with his wife, Prue Shaw, a noted Danteist and romance-language philologist. Working from the premise that the greatness of Dante's poetry resides in its command of verse and language, James seeks a version in idiomatic English rather than attempting to replicate the elements of Dante's rhyme, meter, and other verbal features. His goal is to make the whole of the work, not just the more lurid parts of the Inferno, interesting to contemporary readers. Poetically, the results are very good English verse, but much of Dante's verbal symbolism and structural patterns is lost. James eschews footnotes or other scholarly apparatus, instead working the identity of various significant figures into the body of his text. VERDICT James offers here a vigorous, poetic paraphrase of the Comedy rather than a translation. Those interested in something closer to the formal properties of the original should stick with translations by Allen Mandelbaum, Mark Musa, Robert Pinsky, or Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.-Thomas Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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