This widely praised version of Dante's masterpiece, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets, is more idiomatic and approachable than its many predecessors. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Pinsky employs slant rhyme and near rhyme to preserve Dante's terza rima form without distorting the flow of English idiom. The result is a clear and vigorous translation that is also unique, student-friendly, and faithful to the original: "A brilliant success," as Bernard Knox wrote in The New York Review of Books.
Though transforming Dante's terza rima into readable English has bogged down many a distinguished translator, Pinsky (The Want Bone) more than meets the challenge. His rendering has an efficient feel; the lines seem slimmer and less unwieldy than most contemporary verse translations. Each one of the cantos features a good number of stanzas dominated by monosyllables-his answer, along with intriguing patterns of assonance, to approximating the splendor of Dante's profusion of rhymes, which are impossible to replicate in English. The coherent narration of the translation is also welcome, as it keeps a harness on the sometimes meandering diction of the original. Pinsky's voice is nearly irresistible when rounding out the grotesqueries of Dante's Hell: his versions of the ninth and final circle bring the bizarre terror of the fiery pit to life. Plainspoken yet elegant, this Inferno sustains a tactile succession of images over 34 cantos, and lends itself to being read aloud. Illustrations not seen by PW.