Dante: The Most Vivid Version

Inferno

by Dan Brown
Doubleday, 461 pp., $29.95

Inferno

by Dante, translated from the Italian by Mary Jo Bang, with illustrations by Henrik Drescher
Graywolf, 340 pp., $35.00

The Divine Comedy

by Dante, translated from the Italian by Clive James
Liveright, 527 pp., $29.95

The mystery of Dante’s Divine Comedy has little to do with the encoded games of hide-and-seek that Dan Brown plays with readers in his best-selling mystery thriller. It has to do instead with the poem’s staying power. How is it possible—after so many centuries of manhandling by commentators, translators, and imitators, after so much use and abuse, selling and soliciting—that the Comedy still has not finished saying what it has to say, giving what it has to give, or withholding what it has to withhold? What is the source of its boundless generosity?

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Letters

Oy! November 21, 2013