Daily Archives: July 9, 2008

What the Hell … Dante’s Inferno for the 21st Century

Seemingly since time immemorial, high school students have regularly been banished to the Hell that is Dante’s Inferno. Recently, courtesy of my favorite readers’ blog, Blog of a Bookslut, I discovered that there is a new paper puppet adaptation of Dante’s Inferno coming out this month on DVD. Here’s a tasty preview:

For those with hearty hard drives, you might want to try one of the higher-tech versions at the film’s website. If any version of the trailer tantalizes, Ovation TV has posted a 4-minute excerpt that portrays the Flatterers as congressional lobbyists (no bias here – liberals and conservatives alike are toast). If this isn’t in the spirit of the original epic poem, I’ll take my 8th circle punishment right now. Oh, what the hell, here’s the 4 minute excerpt:

Ever wonder exactly what’s going to happen to you after you die? Well, you can find out exactly which of the Nine Circles of Hell in The Inferno you will be consigned to if you simply take this little survey.

Perhaps this is all just much ado about nothing. Maybe you are looking to improve your knowledge of the classics or just impress the occasional date? Here are some of the more traditional print renderings of The Inferno, both classic and modern, if you would dare abandon all hope and enter there:

All of the above have something to recommend them; many have been translated by well-know poets (Ciardi, Carson, Pinsky, plus the Halpern edited version with each of 20 poets translating a different section) and three are heavily illustrated (Birk, Moser, and Dore). My personal favorite is the translation by the Irish poet/novelist Ciaran Carson, who manages to anachronistically sneak in words like “jabberwocky” while producing an extremely readable version that manages to preserve Dante’s original terza rima rhyme scheme.

Since the recommended list of Infernos above only had 8 versions, I tried very hard to find a ninth to round things off nicely, considering the Nine Circles and all. Then, I thought about all those high schoolers and exactly where their teachers would consign them for faking their way through the assignment and the ninth version came to me in a yellowish, sulphuric flash:

– Don


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