The Divine Comedy

By Dante Alighieri, C.H. Sisson (translator),

Book cover of The Divine Comedy

Book description

Described variously as the greatest poem of the European Middle Ages and, because of the author's evangelical purpose, the `fifth Gospel', the Divine Comedy is central to the culture of the west. The poem is a spiritual autobiography in the form of a journey - the poet travels from the…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Divine Comedy as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Long after I began studying Italian, I resisted reading Italy’s greatest poet. His classic book seemed too daunting, too distant, too dull. Then, an Italian teacher gave me the first adaptation of the La Divina Commedia that she had read as a girl: a vintage Italian Walt Disney comic book featuring Mickey Mouse (Topolino in Italian) as Dante with Minnie Mouse as his adored Beatrice.   

I was so intrigued that I bought an English translation of the Divine Comedy—several, although I’m partial to John Ciardi’s. My unanticipated reaction: Wow! Like modern readers ensnared by the wizardly world of Harry…

From Dianne's list on italy and italian.

Dante's Divine Comedy is an epic poem in three volumes. It's perhaps the most beautiful poetry the world has ever seen.

Read it in Italian! Even if you can't read Italian, read it in Italian. Read it out loud, and you'll see what I mean. The language is so beautiful. Then read it in translation.

In it, Dante describes three worlds. The inferno is hell. An intermediate world called purgatory represents the hardest efforts that we make to be good people on Earth. The third volume is paradise.

The entire book was a huge influence on my early writing, which…

Dante the pilgrim’s journey through the afterlife has always inspired me with its inventiveness and topicality.

Dante’s hometown, Florence, is here, but altered: he meets politicians and historical figures and discovers the previously unseen outcomes of their choices. Because no human—except Dante!—has ever returned alive from the afterlife, the poem must undo our preconceptions.

As he travels, Dante learns that the experiences he is having alter the information his senses and mind receive.

In this he is like we twenty-first-century humans, whose technologically morphing world estranges us, often unconsciously, from ways of seeing and doing things we knew before.


From Eluned's list on being a stranger.

This poem is probably the greatest single poem in world literature; sadly, it’s not written by an English poet but an Italian, which means it’s important to get a great translation! To get the feel for the poetry and for accuracy of the Inferno, I recommend J. Simon Harris’s very recent Dante Inferno for book 1 and Dorothy L. Sayers's version for the rest. Truly, this is a hero’s journey – it has everything: hell, purgatory, and heaven; not to mention sexual passion, perversion, deepest treachery, friendship, and such a love as makes the heart stop! The opening line of…

The Divine Comedy is an oldie but a goodie that covers the entire gamut of afterlife possibilities in Christian tradition. Written in 1320, the three-layered tale is still studied to this day and continues to inspire new creative endeavors. The "Inferno" section gets—by far—the most attention, with its map of the Circles of Hell and extensive descriptions of the torments meted out therein. But don’t skip "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso," which also feature Dante’s lovely prosaic style along with insights into human nature and the role of free will in our lives and afterlives.  

From Miriam's list on Heaven, Hell, and the Afterlife.

When I was sixteen, I had a great love of rollicking, satiric tales, and a work called The Divine Comedy sounded like it should fit the bill. I soon found that Dante’s three-day journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise wasn’t quite the knee-slapper I’d expected, but I was drawn in by his melancholy eloquence, his spiritual intensity, and his ability to bring his cosmic landscape to life through the most concrete details. 2021 is the seven-hundredth anniversary of Dante’s death, but he still speaks intimately to us of the perils and the pleasures of our travels “nel mezzo del cammin…

From David's list on imaginary journeys.

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