Some years ago, I bought a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy, but a rather academic and intimidating introduction saw me soon putting it back down again. This Little Black Classic was the perfect taster, comprising as it does a sort of ‘Greatest Hits’ of a handful of cantos from Inferno.
I was surprised to find how easy this was to read in comparison to that dreadfully off-putting introduction from so many years ago, with a rich and evocative use of language that sometimes amused as well as conjuring hellish images (particularly when a thief came out with the terribly modern sounding ‘It pisses me right off’). However, the fact that this comprised only a handful of pieces of the whole also meant that big leaps were often taken between cantos, meaning that I’d often start a new one completely flummoxed as to how we’d got there. Additionally, it seems that it was largely taken for granted at the time that we would know the people and images Dante was conjuring up – aside from recognising the name of Judas Iscariot and the Emperor Constantine (thank you, Inheritance of Rome!) these all remained meaningless to me.
And so, in conclusion, while I’m glad that I read this (even if it was at a time when I was entering my very own personal Circles of Hell, from which it didn’t provide much relief) I think my copy of the Divine Comedy might continue to gather dust for a few more years yet.