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Thread: English Translation ?

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    weer mijn koekjestrommel Schokokeks's Avatar
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    English Translation ?

    Hi there
    I'm planning to re-read The Divine Comedy soon, and I would like to collect your opinions concerning English translations of it. My criteria would be affordability and, if possible, on-page annotions.
    What edition do you have, and would you recommend it ?
    "Where mind meets matter, both should woo!"
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    English Dante

    The only English translations I am familiar with personally are the Lawrence Binyon, John Ciardi and Allen Mandelbaum. The cloth-bound Ciardi and Mandelbaum editions are both over $20 retail. The Binyon translation is found in the Viking Portable Dante, a little cheaper.

    Binyon gives notes at the bottom of each page, but his language is not as easy for the modern English speaker to breeze through as either Ciardi or Mandelbaum.

    Ciardi's notes tend to be printed at the end of each individual Canto.

    Mandelbaum's notes are all bunched at the end (kind of a pain).

    My favorite of these three is Ciardi, who (like Binyon) uses Dante's rhyme scheme. Mandelbaum takes out the rhymes, and though he has a lot of nice passages, it doesn't have quite the same force.

    You can find cheap paperback editions of the individual books in practically any used bookstore outside of the midwest.

  3. #3
    Vincit Qui Se Vincit Virgil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schokokeks View Post
    Hi there
    I'm planning to re-read The Divine Comedy soon, and I would like to collect your opinions concerning English translations of it. My criteria would be affordability and, if possible, on-page annotions.
    What edition do you have, and would you recommend it ?
    Hi Schoky. I have been sporadically reading The Divine Comedy for a few years now. I have looked into several translations. Here's what I think:
    Ciardi translation is the most poetic; he was an accomplished poet in his own right.
    Best translation for accuracy is Durling/Martinez, but I have heard good things about Hollander and Musa. Some scholars recommend the Musa.
    I enjoyed the Robert Pinskey translation, but he only tackled the Inferno, but he's an accomplished poet too.

    I would recommend a dual language edition, because I like glancing over to the Italian and checking how Dante actually phrases things.
    LET THERE BE LIGHT

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    My literature blog: http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/

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    weer mijn koekjestrommel Schokokeks's Avatar
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    Thank you, emveedub and Virgil, for your suggestions. I've taken down the names you mentioned, and will see whom I'll find available round here.
    Ciardi sounds good to me; after all, I should get on with poetry .
    Also, a dual language edition sounds like a good idea . I'm not too familiar with thirteenth-century Italian, but Latin will probably help me .
    "Where mind meets matter, both should woo!"
    Currently reading:
    * Paradise Lost by John Milton

  5. #5
    Live. Be. Sing. symphony's Avatar
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    I've downloaded Henry Longfellow's translation of The Divine Comedy...will it be good enough? I've no idea so any help will be highly appreciated.
    Note: I need a version which will be easy enough for me to understand, I have no experiences with epic poems, plus I'm 17 and afraid to touch literary works of such degree, and english isnt even my first language. Plus a hundred other points!!
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    Translations

    I'd recommend Durling & Martinez, Hollander, or Musa. This is because of the corresponding Italian. You will always lose a world in translating Dante, so it's six of one, a half dozen of the other. I can heartily recommend Merwin's Purgatorio because he seems to get the atmosphere right, which is no easy task. For the best overall in English, I'd say Musa's translation and commentary (hardcover, Indiana University Press). He and Singleton take the Italian scholarship (which is and has been the best) into account. Also read Anderson's Dante the Maker and Gilson's Dante the Philosopher, just to get a feel of how two highly intelligent readers read the work, and how their respective temperments (poet and philosopher) mirror the Poet himself. But TRY to read the Italian. It is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.

  7. #7
    Registered User TheLhix's Avatar
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    The Allen translations are very good. You get the nice style of Dante and, all of the understanding that comes with it. It is also a very neatly cloth-bound book at a cheap price. It is durable if kept well.

    I highly recommend it.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Schokokeks View Post
    Hi there
    I'm planning to re-read The Divine Comedy soon, and I would like to collect your opinions concerning English translations of it. My criteria would be affordability and, if possible, on-page annotions.
    What edition do you have, and would you recommend it ?
    This question appears repeatedly: I don't know why those who are plagued by it don't go to the first asking. In any case, what needs to be understood is that all translations of the Commedia are bad - the original poem is a work of such greatness and the elements of its poetic technique so difficult (in execution, I mean, not necessarily in the reading) and so subtle that no translation can reveal its essence, or even come close - and some are very bad indeed - Cary's for instance. But the modern ones, if less bombastic and strident, are hardly better: usually they are wooden, or leaden, and quite pretentious. If you want to read the Commedia, start studying Italian, and one day you will perhaps experience in its verses what Beckett called "the beauty of the way, and the goodness of the wayfarers".

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