cover image Dante's Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise

Dante's Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise

Seymour Chwast, Bloomsbury, $20 (128p) ISBN 978-1-60819-084-3

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. (Sept.)