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.

“Dante Alighieri and the World”

“There was the endeavour to untangle knots — truth and lie, sin and redemption, piety and lust. There was always the goal to risk all for truth. Take this tercet from Dante Alighieri:

‘When truth looks like a lie,
a man’s to blame
Not to sit still, if he can, and
hold his tongue,
Or he’ll only cover his
innocent head with shame.’

“Scribes and great TV anchors, who can give a spin to any development, should heed the lines. We need to take sides when truth stares you in the face. In Canto III, some angels did not take sides when Satan revolted, but timorously sat on the fence. They were placed lock, stock and barrel in Hell. The colourless mediocrities most of us are, get short shrift. He talks about the ‘sorry souls who won neither praise nor blame for the lives they led’. Of course, the first words we learnt of Dante’s Inferno, as students, were ‘All hope abandon, ye who enter here’, the inscription on the gates of Hell. During the lockdown, I thought that the three translations of Dante I possess should be put to good use. One hoards books and never reads them, though 20 years back I had read Dorothy Sayers’ fine translation of Inferno my father had left me. Michael Palme’s translation is better. What Dante did was mind-boggling. The entire European civilisation was placed before the reader, from Greek legends onwards. You have a full canto on the Dis, which is his word for the underworld. The river Lethe, Acheron the boatman who herds the souls who drop: ‘So from the bank there one by one drop all… As drops the falcon to the falconer’s call.’ The eighth circle gets flatterers (half our political parties would be in trouble, praising the 8 pm lockdowns, or the two-line denunciations by Rahul G). There are also soothsayers in the same circle (good grief, our Chandraswamis with red tilaks and rudraksh malas!). Actually, you can’t honestly exclude we Indians from any inferno you can devise.”    –Keki Daruwalla, The Tribune, August 2, 2020