21 Aug 2012

Pop Inferno

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Elissa Schappell, in Vanity Fair, welcomes the appearance of Mary Jo Bang’s freewheeling and irreverent approach to Dante: Inferno: A New Translation

[T]he only good Hell to be in right now is poet Mary Jo Bang’s innovative, new translation of Dante’s Inferno (Graywolf), illustrated with drawings by Henrik Drescher. Bang’s thrillingly contemporary translation of the first part (the juiciest part) of Alighieri’s 14th-century poem The Divine Comedy is indeed epic. While staying true to Alighieri’s interpretations of religious faith, the bounds of morality, and the soul’s journey toward God, Bang’s sin-soaked voyage through the circles of Hell teems with references to such latter-day personages as John Wayne Gacy, South Park’s Eric Cartman, Stephen Colbert, Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and the Rolling Stones.


Bomb magazine has a not-very-exciting excerpt, consisting of Satan himself at the very bottom of Hell’s abyss. Only the usual Judas, Cassius, and Brutus appear, alas! I had been hoping to find the Archfiend this time munching on Andrew Sullivan, while making a mess of David Frum, Charles Johnson, and John Cole, but I suppose Mary Jo Bang doesn’t personally care about defectors from the political right, and all those guys are alive anyway.

If you want a serious translation of the Inferno, I would recommend the version by John Ciardi.

Via Andrew Sullivan.


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