Inferno, by Dante Alighieri

Possibly due to my lack of college education, I’ve for some time been under the impression that many of these very old texts are read only for education purposes, and not for enjoyment. So when I came across a copy of Inferno in a Goodwill, and looked at the first couple pages out of curiosity, imagine my surprise at how beautiful, interesting, and just plain readable it was.

The narrator/author, Dante, is walking down a path when he’s attacked by various wild animals, and is unable to escape. A stranger (who he later recognizes as the poet Virgil, sent from heaven to guide him) saves him and leads him another way. Apparently the only way for Dante to get to safety is to first travel through hell. A bit silly of a start but, well written and right away we get into hell and start journeying down all the various circles of torments.

Besides the really great writing, and lovely descriptions of everything, I loved that hell was filled with actual people, many of which were contemporaries of Dante, making it a sort of reverse fan fiction about the recently dead. The version I read (translated by Mark Musa) was stuffed full of historical notes explaining the meaning of all the references to events and people. But even without the notes (I skimmed most of them) the text on its own was enjoyable just for the adventure and beauty of it.

I thought, as I was reading it, ‘how could Purgatory and Paradise be interesting after this?’ well, I bought both of them and am currently reading Purgatory. It’s interesting, and enjoyable, and beautiful too! And from what I’ve been told, Paradise has one of the most beautiful endings to any poem ever… so I’m very looking forward to finishing this trilogy!

If you have even the slightest interest in ancient texts, or poetry in general, check this out for sure!


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