Olof Lagercrantz won the Nordic Literary Prize in 1965 for the original appearance of this book in his native Swedish (he is the editor-in-chief of Stockholm's leading newspaper). His is a streamlined vision of The Divine Comedy-- ""not a book to be read, but a life to be lived""-- one that brings it into the consciousness in contemporary terms. ""To accompany Dante is to be registered at a vast university of the emotions,"" he says, as he makes the descent into Hell, a moral museum and a madhouse. Purgatory is equated with life on earth, seen as Dante's notebook, where the pain of exile from Florence is a parallel with that of the remove from Paradise. This last is a state of love. Dr Lagercrantz probes Dante's own position in relation to his created universe and the real one, quotes the poet whose aim was ""through art to seem like nature."" He concludes that ""if human reason and human justice are allowed their say, there can be no sin which deserves everlasting punishment."" Less conclusive in the total than in its parts, this is an accessible introduction to, as well as an assessment, of a masterpiece.