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Thread: Best Translation of Divine Comedy

  1. #1

    Best Translation of Divine Comedy

    I plan to read Dante's Divine Comedy this summer, and I want to buy a good copy from Amazon. With so many versions around to pick from its kind of hard to decide which one would be the best. So what publisher/translator has the most accurate, closest translation to the original work?

  2. #2
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    For a book such as this you could probably do a search and find that this question has popped up repeatedly before. My first reading of Dante was in the classic John Ciardi translation which I still love. Robert Pinsky's Inferno, which I read recently, is also especially strong. Right now, however, I think I would go with the Jean and Robert Hollander translation. Robert Hollander is a Dante scholar having written and taught on the poet almost exclusively for some 300 years. The translation is quite fluent and the notes (a necessity in reading Dante the first time... unless you have a strong background in Medieval Italian history, politics, philosophy, theology, literature, art, etc...) are unsurpassed.
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    Card-carrying Medievalist Lokasenna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stlukesguild View Post
    Robert Hollander is a Dante scholar having written and taught on the poet almost exclusively for some 300 years.
    Crikey, he should be retired by now!

    "I should only believe in a God that would know how to dance. And when I saw my devil, I found him serious, thorough, profound, solemn: he was the spirit of gravity- through him all things fall. Not by wrath, but by laughter, do we slay. Come, let us slay the spirit of gravity!" - Nietzsche

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    I'll second the Hollander version. The poem itself is translated very well and is a pleasure to read. The notes are incredibly extensive (the books are more notes than poem), and for a first read, I'd almost say there's a but too much. It can be overwhelming. Of course, this can be easily remedied by simply skimming the notes after each canto, as I did, picking out areas you were especially unclear on.

  5. #5
    So most people favour the Hollander translation? I was leaning towards Ciardi but does he have as good of notes as Hollander?

    The Mark Musa translation seems good as well. What are the thoughts on his translation?
    Last edited by Venerable Bede; 04-23-2011 at 08:15 PM.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Ciardi's notes are certainly more than adequate... perhaps not as extensive as Hollander, but they were more than enough for my first approach to the Comedia. I haven't read Musa's translation. I understand it is well respected, and certainly his Petrarch is perhaps the best... but I honestly haven't heard many recommend him over Hollander, Ciardi, or a number of others.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
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  7. #7
    Allen Mandelbaum for me. His translation of the Divine Comedy (especially Inferno and Purgatorio) is one of my favorite translations of anything.
    That link is to the hardcover that contains all three works, but even though that one is in my bookcase I never read it. I like the paperbacks of the individual works, as they're more manageable flipping back and forth to the notes section, which is at the back of the book.
    Inferno
    Purgatorio
    Paradiso

    (BUT! I've read so many good things about the Hollander that I bought them to read next.)

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    read Sergio Flores review here: will put Mandelbuam translation in perspective:

    http://www.amazon.com/Inferno-Bantam...3632154&sr=1-1

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    My prof in grad school recommended Mandelbaum's translation too. I bought the hardcover that contains all three books. It's been a long while since I last read it, so my memory isn't so fresh as to recommend it to you--besides, this is the only translation I've read in its entirety, so I also can't compare it to other translations to make a valued judgement as to which translation is better.

    I really like Mandelbaum's translation of the Odyssey and would highly recommend that if you ever want to read this epic. It's such a fluid read.

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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    I've read Mandelbaum's translation... as well as Ciardi's, Pinsky's, and Hollander's. I quite enjoyed Mandelbaum... but prefer both Ciardi and Hollander. I can't give a lot of credence to recommendations by college professors with regard to preferred translations as they often are influenced by other circumstances (such as which publisher has cut the best deal with the university). Having said that much, Ciardi was the translation of choice during my course on Western Literature.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
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  11. #11
    Thank you for all of the suggestions and recommendations. I think I've made a decision now. After comparing the first twenty or so lines from Ciardi, Hollander, Mendelbaum, and Musa, I was torn between Musa and Hollander. I slightly prefer Musa over Hollander, plus his version is significantly cheaper. I found a copy that contains the Divine Comedy and one of his other works for only 15 Canadian dollars including shipping.

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    Registered User ralfyman's Avatar
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    I couldn't tell which translation is best so I got most of them. I used Mandelbaum's translation in school, though, Pinsky later and for the Inferno and Ciardi for the whole poem. I will try Hollander and Musa in the future.

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    Clinging to Douvres rocks Gilliatt Gurgle's Avatar
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    I had picked up a copy of The Inferno at a bargain bin a few months back. It turns out that it is a Longfellow translation. Based on the preferences noted above, it would seem I ended up with a lemmon (?)
    At any rate, I am enjoying it immensely.

    .
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    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Actually I quite thought the Longfellow translation wasn't half bad.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
    My Blog: Of Delicious Recoil
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  15. #15
    Whosie Whatsie? Ser Nevarc's Avatar
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    I have been using Ciardi for years

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