The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri my rating: 5 of 5 stars (Blackstone Audio edition)
This is one of those works that you think you should have read in college if not in high school, yet the idea never appealed to you enough to get it done. Out of curiosity I picked this off the library shelf and I’m glad I did. It is a 3-disc audio recording of a radio play by BBC actors including John Hurt. It is much more than a simple audio narration. The acting is superb with many actors. Music and sound effects help give it a full dramatic impact. Screams of the condemned can be heard in the background. I had expected archaic, hard-to-follow language like Shakespeare in the original form, but this was in contemporary English. Other than a few references to specific popes and other religious and political leaders, it could be mistaken for a work written today. Dante writes with a biting satirical lance colored by the clear religious fervor of the devout Catholic of his day and place. Everyone is skewered – the bankers and politicians, the greedy and the envious, the lustful and the lazy, even the good well-meaning rulers who do not use their power to better the lives of others.
Dante is the main character in his own story. He is led through the many levels of Hell, then through Purgatory, and finally into Paradise. This journey is made possible by his first love Beatrice, a beautiful young woman who died years before who has obtained permission to lead him thus.
I tried to find this edition on Goodreads and Amazon but could not. Perhaps it is only a library edition. Since the review is based heavily on the dramatic production values, I can’t say it applies to written translations. I don’t even know who the translator was for this radio play. In whatever form you find it, it is still something you will instantly recognize as a classic with which everyone should be familiar.