Known now primarily for her series of mystery novels, Dorothy L. Sayers, considered her finest work to have been her translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. In this respect, I believe she was correct. Though the more modern verse translation by the Hollanders is very good, I prefer DLS's more classic translation--which she sets out (as in the original Italian) in terza rhyme. Her notes throughout are the best I've found anywhere (short of delving into the deeper waters of Charles Williams works on Dante). And, although many (if not most) readers nowadays never venture beyond the first of the three volumes (we tend to find Hell or The Inferno much more interesting), I would encourage making the whole three part journey through to the glorious finale! Futhermore, as Dante will remind you: pay attention to the stars.
Guided by the poet Virgil, Dante plunges to the very depths of Hell and embarks on his arduous journey towards God. Together they descend through the nine circles of the underworld and encounter the tormented souls of the damned - from heretics and pagans to gluttons, criminals and seducers - who tell of their sad fates and predict events still to come in Dante’s life. In this first part of his Divine Comedy, Dante fused satire and humour with intellect and soaring passion to create an immortal Christian allegory of mankind’s search for self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.
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About the Author
Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265 and belonged to a noble but impoverished family. He was married when he was around twenty to Gemma Donati and had four children. He met Beatrice, who was to be his muse, in 1274, and when she died in 1290 he sought distraction in philosophy and theology, and wrote La Vita Nuova. He worked on the Divine Comedy from 1308 until near the time of his death in Ravenna in 1321.
Dorothy L. Sayers wrote novels, poetry, and translated Dante for Penguin Classics. She died in 1957.
Barbara Reynolds was Lecturer in Italian at Cambridge University and subsequently Reader in Italian Studies at Nottingham, and Honorary Reader at Warwick. She has written books, both on Italian authors and on Dorothy L. Sayers.
“The English Dante of choice.” –Hugh Kenner
“Exactly what we have waited for these years, a Dante with clarity, eloquence, terror, and profoundly moving depths.” –Robert Fagles, Princeton University
“A marvel of fidelity to the original, of sobriety, and truly, of inspired poetry.” –Henri Peyre, Yale University