by 1265-1321 Dante Alighieri
In Sandow Birk’s Dante’s Inferno, Birk’s starkly beautiful drawings show a street kid Dante carrying his skateboard through hell, following after a Virgil who often looks like a street bum in his robes. Together they negotiate a Los Angeles-like hell of tattered alleyways, ATMs, long unending strip mall streets, palm trees, street denizens paying for their sins, and freeway ramps. In this modern satiric rendering of a masterpiece, Birk’s translation and drawings are both funny and sobering. While the translation has a bro-man surfer vibe and lacks the poetry of some other Inferno translations, it works well with the drawings, and the drawings themselves are reason enough to read this book. Every person I’ve shown this book to, both teenagers and adults, has loved it (granted, these were people already interested in Dante).
Birk locates the Divine Comedy in the great cities of America, with the Inferno taking place largely in Los Angeles, the Purgatorio in San Francisco, and the Paradiso in New York. At this time, the Denver Public Library only owns the Inferno. It’s definitely worth a look.