Dante Alighieri was born in Florence Italy in 1265. In 1301, a political dispute lead to his exile from Florence. Over the next few years he made his home in Verona, Lucca and other cities. By 1310 he had written Inferno and Purgatorio, the first two books of his Divine Comedy. He wrote the third and concluding book, Paradiso, in the years after he found sanctuary in Ravenna in 1318. An allegorical account of his wanderings in a spiritual wilderness and eventual salvation under the guidance of his beloved Beatrice, The Divine Comedy is recognised as Dante's masterwork and a landmark of world literature. He died in exile in 1321 and was buried in Ravenna.
Prolific author, journalist, and British television personality James offers a modern verse translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. This is the product of 40 years of thought and conversation with his wife, Prue Shaw, a noted Danteist and romance-language philologist. Working from the premise that the greatness of Dante's poetry resides in its command of verse and language, James seeks a version in idiomatic English rather than attempting to replicate the elements of Dante's rhyme, meter, and other verbal features. His goal is to make the whole of the work, not just the more lurid parts of the Inferno, interesting to contemporary readers. Poetically, the results are very good English verse, but much of Dante's verbal symbolism and structural patterns is lost. James eschews footnotes or other scholarly apparatus, instead working the identity of various significant figures into the body of his text. VERDICT James offers here a vigorous, poetic paraphrase of the Comedy rather than a translation. Those interested in something closer to the formal properties of the original should stick with translations by Allen Mandelbaum, Mark Musa, Robert Pinsky, or Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.-Thomas Cooksey, Armstrong Atlantic State Univ., Savannah, GA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.