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In this clip, Sharmeen Islama Contracts Associate at Berkley Bookstalks about Dante's classic. Click here to watch the complete twenty-minute video program, The Ten Essential Penguin Classics, highlighting each of the essential books.
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The most famous of the three canticles that comprise The Divine Comedy, Inferno describes Dante's descent in Hell midway through his life with Virgil as a guide. As he descends through nine concentric circles of increasingly agonizing torture, Dante encounters doomed souls that include the pagan Aeneas, the liar Odysseus, the suicidal Cleopatra, and his own political enemies, damned for their deceit. Led by leering demons, Dante must ultimately journey with Virgil to the deepest level of allfor it is only by encountering Satan himself, in the heart of Hell, that he can truly understand the tragedy of sin.
Another Penguin staffer, Cory WilliamsCustomer Service Representativesent us these thoughts about why Dante's book is essential...
Why It's a Classic:
The Inferno is a classic because it is a text that comments on the tragic human flaw of desire. Whether it is greed, gluttony, wrath, or any of the other "deadly sins," Dante shows that it is human nature to fall victim to desire. Dante shows that every action has consequences. Even though Dante's work seems dated today, the idea of decision and consequence is still very much important today.
What It Influenced:
It has influenced many authors and poets, particularly during the Romantic Period. The film "Se7en," starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, is very similar to Dante and Virgil and their descent into various levels of hell. However, "Se7en" is set in a modern day metropolis, and the idea of the "seven deadly sins" was given a believable application as a murderer kills those who blatantly ignore these "deadly sins." There was also a videogame that was recently released that follows Dante into Hell, named Dante's Inferno.
Four Penguin staffers recently sat down to talk about the Top Ten Essential Penguin Classics, how the list was compiled, their own favorite classics, and why classic books can appeal to modern readers. Click here for the transcript.
Each Tuesday we'll be adding a new page to this minisite that features an in-depth look at one of the books on the list, starting at number 10 and working our way up to number 1.
Click here to read about book number 1: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
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Congratulations to Chrandra Smith from Duncan, Oklahoma for winning our Ten Essential Penguin Classics Sweepstakes. Thank you to all who participated and shared their favorite classic with us.