Books

Circles of Hell

Dante

'I truly thought I'd never make it back.'

Ten of the most memorable and most terrifying cantos from Dante's Inferno.

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books from around the world and across many centuries. They take us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of blossom in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Here are stories lyrical and savage; poems epic and intimate; essays satirical and inspirational; and ideas that have shaped the lives of millions.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). Dante's works available in Penguin Classics are Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, The Divine Comedy and Vita Nuova.

Inferno

Dante (and others)

Discover Dante's original Inferno in this modern and acclaimed Penguin translation.

Describing Dante's descent into Hell with Virgil as a guide, Inferno depicts a cruel underworld in which desperate figures are condemned to eternal damnation for committing one or more of seven deadly sins. As he descends through nine concentric circles of increasingly agonising torture, Dante encounters many doomed souls before he is finally ready to meet the ultimate evil in the heart of Hell: Satan himself.

This new edition of Inferno includes explanatory notes and illustrations showing the different layers of hell. Robin Kirkpatrick's masterful translation is also available in a bilingual Penguin edition, with the original Italian on facing pages, and in a complete edition of The Divine Comedy with an introduction and other editorial materials.

Dante Alighieri was born in 1265. He studied at the university of Bologna, married at the age of twenty and had four children. His first major work was La Vita Nuova (1292), a tribute to Beatrice Portinari, the great love of his life who had died two years earlier. In 1302, Dante's political activism resulted in his being exiled from Florence. After years of wandering, he settled in Ravenna and in about 1307 began writing The Divine Comedy. Dante died in 1321.

Robin Kirkpatrick is a poet and widely-published Dante scholar. He has taught courses on Dante's Divine Comedy in Hong Kong, Dublin and Cambridge, where is Fellow of Robinson College and Professor of Italian and English Literatures.

'The perfect balance of tightness and colloquialism...likely to be the best modern version of Dante' - Bernard O'Donoghue

Paradiso

Dante (and others)

Having plunged to the uttermost depths of Hell and climbed the Mount of Purgatory in parts one and two of the Divine Comedy, Dante ascends to Heaven in this third and final part, continuing his soul’s search for God, guided by his beloved Beatrice. As he progresses through the spheres of Paradise he grows in understanding, until he finally experiences divine love in the radiant presence of the deity. Examining eternal questions of faith, desire and enlightenment, Dante exercised all his learning and wit, wrath and tenderness in his creation of one of the greatest of all Christian allegories.

Purgatorio

Dante (and others)

In Purgatorio Dante, having described his journey into Hell, narrates his ascent of Mount Purgatory with Virgil, as he encounters penitents who toil through physical agonies, starvation and flames to assuage their earthly vices. Only by learning from them can he achieve his final enlightened transition to the lost Earthly Paradise at the mountain’s summit, where he meets his dead love, Beatrice, and prepares to ascend to Heaven. Depicting a realm of intense sensation and physical experience, Dante’s poem transformed the traditional Christian idea of Purgatory by showing how the free will of the aspiring soul could change wordly perversions into perfection. It is a brilliantly nuanced and moving allegory of human possibility, hope and redemption.

The Descent into Hell

Dante

Many have made the journey. None have ever returned...

Wandering through a dark forest, Dante finds himself at the gates to the underworld. Despite his terror, he dares to enter the Circles of Hell, where the damned lie in torment.

As he descends deeper, he encounters wild-eyed sinners, sees the three-headed, howling hound Cerberus, and meets a long-dead prophet who foretells Dante's destiny. He passes through realms of fire and ice, and at last reaches the frozen heart of Hell - where the hideous Satan, greatest of all the damned, lies in wait...

Inferno: The Divine Comedy I

Dante (and others)

Inferno is the first part of Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy, revealing the eternal punishment reserved for such sins as greed, self-deception, political double-dealing and treachery. This Penguin Classics edition is translated and edited with an introduction and notes by Robin Kirkpatrick.

Describing Dante's descent into Hell midway through his life with Virgil as a guide, Inferno depicts a cruel underworld in which desperate figures are condemned to eternal damnation for committing one or more of seven deadly sins. As he descends through nine concentric circles of increasingly agonising torture, Dante encounters doomed souls including the pagan Aeneas, the liar Odysseus, the suicide Cleopatra, and his own political enemies, damned for their deceit. Led by leering demons, the poet must ultimately journey with Virgil to the deepest level of all. Portraying a huge diversity of characters culminating in a horrific vision of Satan, the Inferno broke new ground in the vigour of its language and storytelling. It has had a particular influence on Modernist writers and their successors throughout the world.

Printed in English with facing pages in Dante's Italian, this edition offers commentaries and notes on each canto by Robert Kirkpatrick.

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), scion of a Florentine family, mastered in the art of lyric poetry at an early age. His first major work is La Vita Nuova (1292) an exercise in sonnet form constructed as a tribute to Beatrice Portinari, the great love of his life. It is believed that The Divine Comedy - comprised of three canticles, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso - was written between 1308 and 1320.

If you enjoyed the Inferno you might like Giovanni Boccaccio's Decameron, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Kirkpatrick brings to this English Dante both his perfect knowledge of the Italian and an extraordinarily good ear in his own language'
Professor Piero Boitani, University of Rome

Biography

Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265 and belonged to a noble but impoverished family. He met Beatrice, who was to be his muse, in 1274, and when she died in 1290 he sought distraction in philosophy and theology, and wrote La Vita Nuova. He worked on the Divine Comedy from 1308 until near the time of his death in Ravenna in 1321.