Erudite and urgent, Ian Thomsons Dantes Divine Comedy is another book that everyone ought to read SPECTATOR. Dante has no equal as he sings of other-worldly horror and celestial beatitude alike. Yet for all our distance from medieval theology, the Florentine poets allegorical journey through hell, purgatory and paradise remains one of the essential works of world literature. At least fifty English language versions of the Inferno – the first part of Dantes poem – appeared in the twentieth century alone. If Dantes Divine Comedy speaks to our present condition, it is because it tells the story of Everyman who sets out in search of salvation in this world. Dante composed his great poem in the spoken Italian of his time. He wrote about suffering bodies and human weakness, and about divine ecstasy, in words that have resonated with readers and writers for the last seven hundred years. Ian Thomsons lively book is a wide-ranging exploration of a literary masterwork and its influence on writers, poets, artists and film-makers up to our own time.
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