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Three things keep drawing me back to Dante’s Commedia: the skill, inventiveness and human depth of his story-telling, his lyrical genius, and the beauty of his terza rima meter. His use of terza rima can only be enjoyed in Italian, which for me involves heavy dependence on English translations and on the notes and glosses in modern Italian given in Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi’s editions of the Commedia for Zanichelli and Oscar Mondadori. In this essay I want to focus on comparing how the narrative and lyrical aspects of the poems come through in Ned Denny’s freely adaptive poetic version, … Continue Reading

Nick Havely and Bernard O’Donoghue, eds., After Dante: Poets in Purgatory – review

After Dante: Poets in Purgatory is both a presentation of the whole Purgatorio section of Dante’s Commedia, and an anthology of sixteen poets’ different approaches to carrying it across into English. Only two really wrench it into new contexts but, as the word ‘after’ indicates, all approach the task as poets making poetry, allowing themselves more inventive freedom than, say, Robert Durling or Jean Hollander in their parallel text translations. For readers who already know the Purgatorio, or the whole Commedia, I think the diversity of the different poets’ approaches will make for richly varying interest. For those who don’t, … Continue Reading

Dante Alighieri, Purgatorio, translated by D. M. Black – review


Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri, translated by D. M. Black, preface by Robert Pogue Harrison,
NYRB Classics, Paperback, 488 pp, £15.99

You can read my review on the London Grip here.

Peter Hainsworth and David Robey, Dante: A Very Short Introduction – review

Peter Hainsworth and David Robey, Dante: A Very Short Introduction; OUP, £7.99, pbk, 144pp.

Hainsworth and Robey have to work within the limits of the Very Brief Introduction format. Their first pages rise brilliantly to the challenge. Swift-moving, decisive, sensitive and suggestive, plunging straight into a discussion of two famous encounters in the Inferno, and illustrating points with well-chosen references, this opening would have made me feel I knew why Dante’s ideas still matter, why he’s a giant among poets, and why people so praise his dramatic gifts in particular, even if I hadn’t read a word of him before.

Of course … Continue Reading

Prue Shaw, Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity – review

Prue Shaw, Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity; W. W. Norton, 398pp, hbk, £20.00;
ISBN 9780871407429
Published 29 April 2014

If I could recommend only one book on Dante it would be this one by Prue Shaw.

Her scholarship is profound and I think she must be a brilliant teacher: she shows an unusual ability to enter imaginatively into the minds of people who don’t have her knowledge. This book isn’t just “approachable”; it comes to meet you, seizes your hands and whisks you away to a glittering party where you’re involved in the conversation as if you were an old friend.

Shaw’s writing style … Continue Reading

Dante: A Very Short Introduction – review


You can read my review of Peter Hainsworth and David Robey’s Dante: A Very Short Introduction, OUP, £7.99, pbk, 144pp. by clicking here .

Prue Shaw, Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity – review

Prue Shaw, Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity; W. W. Norton, 398pp, hbk, £20.00

You can link to this review on the Manchester Review website here.

CH Sisson translating Dante’s Purgatorio

I used to think highly of Sisson’s poetry; I can remember being excited when Anchises and Exactions came out in the late seventies. I don’t know how I’d find his own poems if I read them again now, but I’ve just read his translation of Dante’s Purgatorio and was deeply disappointed. I did it because I wanted a more continuous reading process than you can get from the John Sinclair parallel text, which involves constant movement between the languages and interruption by the pages of commentary after each canto. What startled me in Sisson’s version was how heavily the line … Continue Reading