Dante Translations

Yesterday I came across a 2007 New York Times review, by James Longenbach, of some Divine Comedy translations.

All my experience with Dante has been through Robert and Jean Hollander’s facing-page translation of Inferno, and I’ve never even finished that (I do have a bad habit of not finishing books but dipping into books, articles and Wikipedia all over the place). My defence is that I was working through the Italian at the same time, not just zipping through the Hollander translation, and so I used the translation primarily as a guide to my reading of the original text: Hollander was my Virgil, not my Inferno.

Since I with my extremely rudimentary Italian probably can’t get the poetic tension of the text from reading the Italian directly, what Dante translations do you recommend? My pastor’s wife seems not to favour Dorothy Sayers’s, but I’d like to see what people have found to convey not only the first-order meaning but also the artistry of the literary text.


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