Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Book Review: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

Dante's dramatic journey through the circles of hell in search of redemption—and his encounter with devils, monsters, and the souls of some of the greatest sinners who ever walked on earth—is one of the cornerstones of Western literature, the summit of medieval thinking, and arguably the highest poetic achievement of all time

I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. This book was a lot of firsts for me. This is the first book I've read in verse & the first book that has the original verse and the translated verse in it. I thought the language would be a little difficult and that I would not be able to understand a lot of what's happening as the metaphors used and the events mentioned were those of the 14th Century. But I guess I chose the right edition. There was a brief explanation of what happens before every Canto and there were so many footnotes. 

Anyway, let me tell you what I thought of the book. As you know this book talks of the circles of Hell. Basically it describes what is the punishment for every kind of sin. The graver the sin, the deeper in Hell you are. 

As you can see from the diagram, there are 9 circles of Hell on the basis of the sins committed, with the 7th,8th and 9th circles being further sub divided in to different circles for the kind of sub-sin committed. As you can tell from the illustration above, Hell is a type of funnel and at the end/center of the earth is Satan (a.k.a Dis, a.k.a Beelzebub), the fallen angel. 

Dante must have been one imaginative guy. Or he was someone who was always high on something to have described hell in such gory details.  And Dante's vision of God is one that is pretty strict. An example of this are the souls of those who were good people while they were living but were from a time before Christ. They are all in Limbo. The description of the punishments are also good enough to be on any of the horror movies in our time. I mean, the punishment for heretics is to be put in a coffin/box with  fire underneath it, those who commit suicide become some kind of plants that are attacked by Harpies and they bleed and talk through the wounds, and many more punishments ranging from being frozen to being dismembered and also being drowned in boiling tar. 

But I guess that is to be expected, Hell is something that is made to keep us on the path of the virtuous. One of the things I found interesting in this book was that the old Gods like Apollo, Athena and the other Greek monsters were mentioned in this book and were a part of this Hell. So I was a little conflicted. They were real but we weren't supposed to believe in them? Anyway I just considered it to be another novel while reading it so that I didn't analyze it more than I should. There are still parts that I am unsure of or do not understand, but that just means I'll have to reread this book again. And that is the best kind of book in my opinion, the kind that brings you back to it time after time and teaches you something new each time.

I would highly recommend this to people who have an interest in History and literature. I rate it between 3.5 - 4 out of 5 stars.

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