Literature Reviews

Review: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

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Rating: ★★★★☆

Title: Inferno (The Divine Comedy #1)

Author: Dante Alighieri

Genre: Verse

Publication Date: 11 Apr. 1472

Publisher: Johann Numeister and Evangelista Angelini da Trevi

Edition: Alma Classics (2004)

Where to buy: Inferno

Summary: “Dante’s dramatic journey through the circles of hell in search of redemption” (Source: Goodreads)

Trigger Warnings: gore imagery, blood imagery, threat, abuse, violence, generally anything associated with hell.


One hell of a read – pun intended

Inferno is literally an inferno upon the senses, and this is what I didn’t expect. The fifteenth-century poet crafted a mind-bending narrative that stayed with me long after reading. The imagery of the Inferno is both fantastical and horrifying; how could Dante even bring himself to write such dark material?

ABANDON HOPE ENTIRELY, YOU WHO ENTER.”

(Inferno, Canto III, Line 9, p.27)

The above is etched into the gates of the Inferno. Pretty scary, right? Moreover, this line is ambiguous, as it doesn’t simply say “the dead” who enter; is this directed at Dante too? Who knows?

The main characters we follow through the Inferno are Dante (as a character, not the author) and the poet, Virgil, as his guide. I enjoyed the relationship dynamic between the two characters as the reader witnessed everything through Dante’s eyes, and having Virgil as a reassuring voice was comforting.

As the title suggests, Inferno is a descent. With the absence of light, the Inferno is another universe where sinners endure the consequences of their chosen sin. Dante witnesses the “justice” that the Inferno encompasses and struggles with his conscience. I really enjoyed Dante’s inner conflict as it made him much more humane and realistic, as some of the circles/sins were just absurd, but of course, that would depend on your beliefs. Dante’s vision of the Afterlife is nonetheless scary!

A lot of allusions and references!

I am incredibly thankful for the chapter summary at the beginning of each canto (sections within long poems) as a lot happens rather quickly within each canto: references to the history of Florence, Greek mythology, and historical figures. I found the text rather overwhelming at times due to a number of references, but it was useful having footnotes for some of them.

Why did I read it?

It is a literary classic, plus I enjoy dark poetry/literature.

Does the author have others works?

There are two other verse novels after Inferno: Purgatorio and Paradiso.

Overall…

If you like horrifying imagery, mythological references, and dark poetry – this is the book for you.

– Melissa Jennings

 

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