301 Moved Permanently

301 Moved Permanently


Fresh Hell


A new translation of Dante’s Inferno by the American poet Mary Jo Bang (Graywolf Press) has been well received by most critics, and less favourably by some who are offended by references to Woody Allen, Virginia Woolf, Bob Dylan, T.S. Eliot, Jell-O, Boy Scouts, South Park, Pink Floyd, Star Trek, etc., that seem to me to be flourishes renewing one’s attention to the sometimes recondite aspects of the Dantean view of hell. The book is well laid out and lavishly illustrated by Henrik Drescher, whose work is appropriately gritty and scratchy. The endnotes to each canto are worth a separate read. In the ninth circle, for instance, Bang points out that “commentators vary on whether the giants standing in the pit with Satan are standing on the bottom of the pit, or on the ledge surrounding it.” The only flaw in the book is the paper it’s printed on: a dense, coated sheet cold to the touch and far too heavy for 340 pages of poetry: one’s wrists complain.

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