Ned Denny, B (After Dante) (2021)

“Gustave Doré’s Beatrice is disappointingly bland, a strapping damsel in a nightgown, not that fierce beauty whose name the poet can barely utter. His angels, however, are sublime. It was important to me that we have an uplifting image on the cover, Dante being so associated with the infernal regions and the austere features of his face (which the large B was originally to have overlaid). A comedy is, of course, a story that ends well, and what better end could there be than coming face to face with ‘eternal light’? Such is, moreover, the ‘joy that man is meant for.’

[. . .]

B was supposed to have come out in 2020, seven hundred years after the original’s probable 1320 completion (this latter number inscribing itself, miraculously, into the actual structure of the poem). Yet, happily perhaps, and due only to a delay in the editing process, it is instead appearing on the 700th anniversary of not only Dante’s death but the last Cathar’s prophecy – spoken from the flames – that ‘in seven hundred years the laurel will grow green again.’ It is also May, month of the Virgin, with the sun having just entered Gemini (Dante’s natal star and mine).”   —Ned Denny for Carcanet Press, describing B (After Dante), his 2021 translation/adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy

“Published to coincide with the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, Ned Denny’s baroque, line-by-line reimagining – the follow-up to his Seamus Heaney Prize-winning collection Unearthly Toys – shapes the Divine Comedy into nine hundred 144-syllable stanzas. Audacious, provocative and eminently readable, tender and brutal by turns, rooted in sacred doctrine yet with one eye on the profane modern world, this poet’s version – in the interpretative tradition of Chapman, Dryden and Pope – is a living, breathing Dante for our times. Hell has never seemed so savage, nor heaven so sublime.”   —Carcanet Press

Purchase B (After Dante) from Carcanet Press here.

Read Denny’s full blogpost here.

University of Toronto’s multilingual Dante reading (2021)

Commemorating the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, Toronto Salutes Dante features more than thirty Canada-based guests who read Dante’s Inferno in various languages, several for the first time. In addition to ten different Italian dialects, there are represented American Sign Language, Anishinaabemowin, Arabic, Bulgarian, English, Farsi, French, German, Latin, Mandarin, Portuguese, Québécois, Russian, Sanskrit, Slovak, Spanish, Stoney Nakoda, Swedish, Thai, and Ukrainian. In 15-minute clips, well-known personalities of Canadian public and cultural life, professors, and students at the University of Toronto, and members of the Italo-Canadian community share their voices and fresh memories of the most important Italian author in world literature. Listen to Dante’s Inferno as you have never heard it before on the Department of Italian Studies’ YouTube channel from March 25th to June 2021.

From an original idea of Elisa Brilli, George Ferzoco, and Nicholas Terpstra, and thanks to the invaluable work of Alice Martignoni and Nattapol Ruangsri (Research Assistants). Sponsored by the Department of Italian Studies, the Emilio Goggio Chair in Italian Studies at the University of Toronto, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Toronto, and Villa Charities.    —University of Toronto

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Inferno Translation

Nineteenth century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translates Inferno, featured in this 2013 book. More information about this translation can be found here.

The Florentine, “Best Dante Books: A Deep Dive Into The Medieval Poet”

best-dante-books-a-deep-dive-into-the-medieval-poet-2021“T.S. Eliot famously said, ‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.’ While Dante is still rigorously read in Italian schools, most English-speaking countries limit themselves to a bit of the Inferno in Western literature courses, if at all. Approaching Dante for the first time can be daunting, especially since some knowledge about his life and times is essential for understanding the poem. Fortunately, there is no shortage of excellent books on the subject to help make the journey easier and more enjoyable.” [. . .]    –Alexandra Lawrence, The Florentine, March 5, 2021.

“The Divine Comedy Like You’ve Never Seen Before”

“Take a peek inside! In a bustling studio in Brooklyn, New York, contemporary artist George Cochrane is immersed in a monumental challenge: to exquisitely letter and illustrate every page of Dante’s Divine Comedy, completely by hand – INCREDIBLE!

“George’s obsession with Dante is apparent through his achievement of painting hundreds of portraits of the poet over the years. But his dream has always been a simple one: to  and more attractive to younger generations.

“George recognized that the best medium to achieve his dream was a combination of the ancient illuminated manuscript and the modern graphic novel.

“This combination will equally delight Dante enthusiasts and first-time readers of the Divine Comedy.”   —Facsimile Finder, 2021

 

REVIEWED: Dante’s Inferno: A Verse Translation by Sean O’Brien

“At least 50 English translations of The Inferno — the first volume of Dante’s three-part epic — have appeared in the 20th century alone. And now we have another, by the Yorkshire-born poet Sean O’Brien. O’Brien’s is a brave undertaking, given the scores of august literary figures who have attempted the task in previous centuries, often obscuring Dante’s brilliance in the process.

“O’Brien’s Inferno is touted by the publishers as ‘the most fluent, grippingly readable English version of Dante yet’.”   –Ian Thomson, The Spectator, 2006

Read the full review here.

Tom Phillips’ Illustrated Inferno (1983)

In 1983, English artist Tom Phillips translated and illustrated his own version of Dante’s Inferno.

Phillips intended that his illustrations should give a visual commentary to Dante’s texts. As he writes in his notebook, ‘The range of imagery matches Dante in breath encompassing everything from Greek mythology to the Berlin Wall, from scriptural reference to a scene in an abattoir, and from alchemical signs to lavatory graffiti.’ And the range of modes of expression is similarly wide, including as it does, early calligraphy, collage, golden section drawings, maps, dragons, doctored photographs, references to other past artworks and specially programmed computer generated graphics.

“‘I have tried in this present version of Dante’s Inferno which I have translated and illustrated to make the book a container for the energy usually expended on large scale paintings… The artist thus tries to reveal the artist in the poet and the poet helps to uncover/release the poet in the artist.’”   —Notes on Dante’s Inferno, Tom Phillips’ website

Phillips also co-directed A TV Dante with Peter Greenaway in 1986.

Read more about Tom Phillips here.

 

Paradise: Dante’s Divine Trilogy Part Three, by Alasdair Gray (2020)

“Published posthumously, the third instalment of Alasdair Gray’s ‘Englishing’ of Dante’s Divine Comedy is a welcome reminder of the brilliant strangeness of the original.”

“It is darkly ironic that this is a posthumous work given that its great theme is heaven. Alasdair Gray died in 2019, and one ought to take account of the phrase ‘De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum’: of the dead nothing but good is to be said. It is not an aphorism that wholly applies to Dante himself, given the glee with which he torments his foes in the first third of the poem, the Inferno. But it is applicable to the Paradiso, the triumphant conclusion.”

[. . .]

“Gray did not call this a translation and it is not. The folksy chumminess of his prosaic verses are all well and good as a crib, but the problem with the Paradiso is that it is profoundly serious. This is a poem that wrestles with free will and predestination, with the different moral qualities of action and contemplation, and above all with the inability of the human to utter the divine. I read the book almost stereoscopically, with three other versions by my side and an excellent online resource from Columbia for the Italian. The Paradiso has images both homely and intellectual, but in this part the tension of the form becomes paramount.”  –Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman, 2020

Read Stuart Kelly’s full review here.

Humanities Magazine’s “What’s the Best Way to Read the Divine Comedy If You Don’t Know Italian?”

humanities-magazine-tour-of-translation-2020-wikimedia“In comparing these two translations, the Sayers version seems to win out in two ways—it matches Dante in form and, to a degree, in content. By starting with ‘Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,’ she remains faithful to the starting point, ‘nel mezzo,’ while Mandelbaum pushes this to the middle of the first line. Sayers adds ‘bound upon’ (not, strictly speaking, in the original), which allows her to make the rhyme in the third line with ‘gone.’ But Mandelbaum is more faithful to the directness of the original, not stretching the meaning or introducing words to make the rhyme. His metered language often seems more natural than Sayers’ and more in keeping with the diction of Dante, which favored solid vocabulary and straight-forward syntax. Mandelbaum, will, in fact, interject rhyme if it’s not forced (as he does with way and stray). In spite of first impressions favoring Sayers, most readers who choose to make the entire journey from inferno to purgatory and finally paradise ultimately find the Mandelbaum translation more satisfying.” [. . .]    –Steve Moyer, Humanities: The Magazine Of The National Endowment For The Humanities, 2017

 

“Alasdair Gray’s Translation of Dante’s Purgatory

“Following on from his translation of Hell (published last year), Alasdair Gray has turned his attention to the second part of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy. Unlike Lanark, Gray’s epic debut novel from 1981, Purgatory is a short read at around 130 pages. It is divided into 33 cantos – essentially chapters – each of which are divided in turn into three-line stanzas. The plot is linear: guided by the poet Virgil, Dante must ascend Mount Purgatory in order to be reunited with his love Beatrice. Along the way, he encounters the poor souls forced to linger in heaven’s waiting room until they are cleansed of their earthly sins. As in Hell, the narrative is littered with historical figures, for instance ‘Cato, Caesar’s foe, who stabbed himself / rather than see the Roman Empire kill / the glorious Republic that he loved.’ Reading Purgatory, written in the early 14th century, it is easy to see the crucial role Dante played in the Renaissance, when Italian artists rediscovered the glories of antiquity.”    –Chris Dobson, The Herald, November 17, 2019

Check out our original post on Alasdair Gray’s Hell here.