[easyazon-image align=”left” asin=”1612614213″ locale=”us” height=”333″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/510As6luQcL.jpg” width=”216″ alt=”Peter Celano” ]A Guided Tour Of Hell
A Brief Review of
Faces from Dante’s Inferno: Who They Are, What they Say, And What It All Means
Paperback: Paraclete Press, 2013.
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
*** This book is a companion to Longfellow’s translation of Dante’s Inferno, which is available as a free ebook (in multiple formats) here.
Dante’s Inferno, the first part of his work The Divine Comedy, is a piece of literature which many people have heard referenced or have a passing familiarity with its content, but a much smaller number of people have actually read. This classic work of Italian poetry has served as an inspiration for numerous other works of literature, art, and even movies, yet no longer is a text read or studied by many individuals. Many people feel intimidated to even begin such a book. Fortunately, Peter Celano’s newest work Faces from Dante’s Inferno: Who They Are, What they Say, And What It All Means is available to help.
Faces from Dante’s Inferno is a brief tour of Dante’s masterpiece. The 105 pages containing a fairly large typeface, numerous bullet points, and gorgeous illustrations by Gustave Dore is a very approachable work. Celano sets the stage by providing background information on Dante’s life and his work, The Inferno. Celano then walks alongside the reader, in the role of a tour guide, explaining the individuals or “faces” encountered when entering the Dark Wood and then while traveling through the nine circles of Hell Dante describes. The individuals or groups of people met on this journey are real people, although Dante often does not use their given names. Dante’s contemporaries would have easily recognized them, but readers today are less likely to identify the various Popes indicated in this work without a guide such as Celano.
For each individual face, Celano provides identifying information including who the person was, when they lived, and what they did to be consigned to Hell in The Inferno. Celano also quotes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s translation, which is available in the public domain, in order to set the individual in Dante’s actual text. This is very useful for the reader who is balancing Faces in one hand and The Inferno in the other. In several instances, Dante refers to entire groups of people instead of a specific individual. Some of these generalizations include groups of people who share the same profession such as monks or cardinals, and in other instances are people who committed the same type of sin such as anger or heresy.
Peter Celano’s Faces from Dante’s Inferno is a very readable introduction to this work of classic literature which can serve several different purposes. As an introduction, Faces could be read prior to reading The Inferno as a background text. Or Faces can be read simultaneously with The Inferno or each chapter could be read just prior to reading the corresponding canto. Peter Celano has succeeded in demystifying this important work of literature. Faces from Dante’s Inferno could be utilized by advanced high school students, would be an excellent text for an undergraduate humanities course, and can be enjoyed by anyone who wishes to increase their familiarity with this work.
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
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