Dante's Divine Comedy A Graphic Adaptation

Seymour Chwast

Bloomsbury USA



128 Pages


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In Seymour Chwast's version of Dante Alighieri's epic poem, Dante and his guide Virgil don fedoras and wander through noirish realms of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Along the way they catalogue a multitude of sinners and saints—many of them real people to whom Dante tellingly assigned either horrible punishment or indescribable pleasure—and meet both god and Lucifer face-to-face. Chwast creates a visual fantasia that fascinates on every page. His inventive illustrations capture the delirious complexity of this classic of the western canon.


Praise for Dante's Divine Comedy

"Chwast's clean lines and simplistic style work surprisingly well for a poem that, until now, one might have associated with the grim, beautiful engravings of Gustave Doré. In some cases, there's even a surprise: Chwast's rendering of 'Paradise,' for example, is so visually exciting and Fellini-esque that I couldn't help but feel that Dante's original is a little, gulp, boring by comparison. (I know: sacrilege!) One gets quickly engrossed in this book's portrayal of Dante's journey from Hell to Heaven, which is an act of redemption he needs after leading a sinful life . . . What Chwast's book reminds us is that Dante's epic is very visual, even cartoonish. This isn't an insult. Think only of the image of Lucifer flapping his giant wings and producing gusts of wind that turn sinners' tears into ice. It certainly is a medieval comic strip of sorts, isn't it? And in his adaptation, Chwast has given us a fascinating companion piece (not a replacement!) that successfully complements Dante's original."—Nick Owchar, Los Angeles Times

"Diabolically witty, devilishly expressive cartoon drawings . . . An accessible introduction to The Divine Comedy—a sort of high-end 'wham pow' Cliff's Notes . . . Fiendishly entertaining."—NPR.org

"Famed artist and graphic designer Chwast has turned his talents to the graphic novel form for the first time, and we can all be happy about it. In a highly compressed version of Dante's Divine Comedy, Chwast takes us on a whirlwind tour of hell, purgatory, and heaven. With his signature mix of humor, artistry, and high-level design, he conveys a breathtaking amount of information in clear black and white line drawings. One graph illustrates 'reasons for different levels of punishment,' with sins ranging from 'no self-control' (deemed 'not so bad') to 'insane brutality' (which is 'terrible'). In another, the levels and regions of purgatory are laid out in an ascending birthday cake format. Much of the book is beautiful, with page design showing naked sinners tossed in a wind of words, a two-page spread of men and snakes wrapped in writhing battle, or a large flower made of angels as they fly from God. Dante himself is portrayed as a pipe-smoking detective type in sunglasses and a trench coat, while his guide, Virgil, wears a porkpie hat and wire-rimmed spectacles with his suit. It all works seamlessly as Chwast does a stunning job of telling Dante's story in his own brilliant style."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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Seymour Chwast was born in New York City and is a graduate of The Cooper Union, where he studied illustration and graphic design. He is a founding partner of the celebrated Push Pin Studios, whose distinct style has had a worldwide influence on contemporary visual communications. In 1985 the studio's name was changed to the Pushpin Group, of which Mr. Chwast is the director. More information about Mr. Chwast can be found at www.pushpininc.com.
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  • Seymour Chwast

  • Seymour Chwast cofounded Push Pin Studios, which rapidly gained and international reputation for innovative design and illustration. He is a recipient of the A.I.G.A. Medal, was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame, and has an honorary Ph.D. from the Parson School of Design. His work is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and has been collected in The Left-Handed Designer and Seymour: The Obsessive Images of Seymour Chwast. He lives in New York with his wife, Paula Scher.