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Books > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Ancient, Classical & Medieval > 0871404486
  1. The Divine Comedy
    The Divine Comedy
    The Divine Comedy
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  2. The Divine Comedy

    Delivery: 10-20 Working Days
    Customer Ratings (41 reviews)
    Price R881.00

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Renowned poet and critic Clive James presents the crowning achievement of his career: a monumental translation into English verse of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

The Divine Comedy is the precursor of modern literature, and this translation―decades in the making―gives us the entire epic as a single, coherent and compulsively readable lyric poem. Written in the early fourteenth century and completed in 1321, the year of Dante’s death, The Divine Comedy is perhaps the greatest work of epic poetry ever composed.

Divided into three books―Hell, Purgatory and Heaven―the poem’s allegorical vision of the afterlife portrays the poet’s spiritual crisis in terms of his own contemporary history, in a text of such vivid life and variety that modern readers will find themselves astounded in a hundred different ways. And indeed the structure of this massive single song is divided into a hundred songs, or cantos, each of which is a separate poetic miracle. But unifying them all is the impetus of the Italian verse: a verbal energy that Clive James has now brought into English.

In his introductory essay, James says that the twin secrets of Dante are texture and impetus. All the packed detail must be there, but the thing must move. It should go from start to finish with an unflagging rhythm. In the original, the basic form is the terza rima, a measure hard to write in English without showing the strain of reaching once too often for a rhyme. In this translation, the basic form is the quatrain. The result, uncannily, is the same easy-seeming flow, a wonderful momentum that propels the reader along the pilgrim’s path from Hell to Heaven, from despair to revelation.

To help ensure that no scholastic puzzles get in the road of appreciation, James has also adopted the bold policy of incorporating key points from the scholarship into the text: uploading them from the footnotes, as it were, and making them part of the narrative, where they can help to make things clear.

For its range of emotion alone, Clive James’s poetic rendering of The Divine Comedy would be without precedent. But it is also singled out by its sheer readability. The result is the epic as a page-turner, a work that will influence the way we read Dante in English for generations to come.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

I've read The Divine Comedy several times, in different translations, but I have always found Paradise a slog. I'm happy to report that Clive James has made even this abstract exploration of light and doctrine (and, I might add, occasionally smug self-righteousness on Dante's part) a fascinating journey. James has chosen an unusual verse form - quatrains, with an abab rhyme scheme - to translate this, but it works well: it moves quickly and smoothly, each line pulling you forward to the next. I'm sure the labor was intensive, but most of the time the word order, the rhythm, the rhymes all fall into place as if they just happened that way. It unfolds naturally. And James has extended the verse in places by filling in some of the oblique references Dante makes. You can read it without having to flip back and forth between notes, which is a good thing, because there aren't any.

There are risks in bringing notes into the verse itself: some references in the poem are ambiguous;... Read more
This is an interpretation rather than a translation. Explanation is inserted into the verse in lieu of footnotes. This will surely drive the purist wild and certainly this is not the version to read is you want unadulterated Dante. (Singleton is that, although then you must give up the verse). But James gives you much of the poetry and a reasonably faithful approximation of Dante and he is intermittently able to hit the grandeur as well. But his singular achievement, which as he says in his intro was his goal, is his readability. This Dante begs to be read aloud. Gone the terza rima but a propulsive quatrain scheme is substituted with plenty of internal, alliterative rhyme. And he is able to achieve mostly full rhyme without the clangy fall into limerick, a danger full rhyme is prone to.

Here is the entrance to Hell: FROM NOW ON, EVERY DAY FEELS LIKE YOUR LAST
FORGET YOUR... Read more
I first read Dante's The Devine Comedy in college and have read it a number of times since. Each time, as I grow older, I understand it a little more. James, admits his translation as a younger man would be much different that this one, written as an older person who has gone through life threatening illness. This modern translation has so much more meaning because of where he is in his life.
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