When Dante originally wrote the Inferno, he did so in the vernacular, not in the literary Latin. This instinct is taken to new levels in Bang's translation—where her idiomatic, contemporary diction includes allusions to popular television shows, poets, musicians, philosophers, and other familiar cultural references. Accompanied by the gorgeous, haunting black and white illustrations of Henrik Drescher on nearly every page, this update of Dante's captivating text, Jonathan Galassi notes, "brilliantly reflects the inexhaustible capaciousness of The Divine Comedy." Take, for example, the opening lines of "Canto XXVI"
Enjoy your braggart status, Florence—you're so great
That your wings flap over land and sea,
And your famous name echoes in the halls of Hell.
Bang is meticulous about explaining her allusions; the notes throughout her translation are beautifully and comprehensively rendered, adding to the masterful quality of the work. Bang's renewal of this classic text is, as Galassi states, "accurate, deeply pondered....richly, provocatively, movingly alive."
This book review originally appeared in American Poets.