Review: The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri / narrated by Ralph Cosham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Divine Comedy / B002V0TLKM

I like being able to follow along to audio books with my eyes, when possible. This Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed version is a little obscure, but can be borrowed as an ebook at Open Library. Note that the audiobook skips over the opening introduction by Grandgent in the book edition; the sync between audio and book occurs at "Note on Dante's Hell" on page 25 of the PDF version. (Also note that the ePUB version is a very poor OCR with a lot of artifacts; stick with the PDF would be my advice.)

As for the audiobook quality, I really like the narrative and reading - it's very flowing and well-done. Each Canto leads in with a quick summary as to what is about to happen, and I found these very helpful as a listener, but it would have been more helpful if it were easier to tell the difference between the narrator's "summary voice" and "reading voice". The difference between his inflections on these is *very* subtle. (As a side note, this is the same narrator who reads my copy of The Jungle Book, which is all kinds of awesome.)

Overall, I really like this audio book version of The Divine Comedy and feel like the book was worth the price.

~ Ana Mardoll


chris the cynic said...

What are your thoughts on the quality of the translation being narrated? You talk about the quality of the narration, and a little bit about the content when discussing how the summaries help, but beyond that not much about the translation itself.

Ana Mardoll said...

I haven't delved into the Divine Comedy translations like I did with the Arabian Nights -- plus, there are, like 80 DV translations to the AN's popular 4 -- so I have less experience to speak to the translation, but having said that, I personally like this translation fairly well. Of the free (public domain) translations out there, I think it's one of the easier ones to read. I certainly like it better than the Longfellow translation, which is probably the most popular (in terms of hits on Open Library) of the PD editions. Comparison:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.

So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

But after I had reached a mountain's foot,
At that point where the valley terminated,
Which had with consternation pierced my heart,

Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders,
Vested already with that planet's rays
Which leadeth others right by every road.

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.

Ah! how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild, and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thought renews the fear!

So bitter is it, that scarcely more is death: but to treat of the good that I there found, I will relate the other things that I discerned.

I cannot rightly tell how I entered it, so full of sleep was I about the moment that I left the true way.

But after I had reached the foot of a Hill there, where that valley ended, which had pierced my heart with fear,

I looked up and saw its shoulders already clothed with the rays of the Planet that leads men straight on every road.

Not sure if that helps. I do like COW just fine, but I don't know how it compares to others on the market. When I bought this Audible edition it was the *only* full version of the Comedy (they had a few versions of just Inferno, but I wanted the whole thing), so I didn't have a lot of choices. I'm not sure if they've added more since then, but I gather it's not a bigger seller for them. (I wonder why not?!)

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