Orhan Pamuk, “The New Life” (1998)

orhan-pamuk-the-new-life-1998“. . .’My book,’ [Pamuk] says, ‘is my attempt at being visionary through the experience of love. It has a tongue-in-cheek quality about the effect of love on one’s spirit. The intensity of desire is so overwhelming that the narrator is in a new world, in a new life. It’s about maturing through love, reaching a higher level of consciousness.’
The title is appropriated from Dante’s ‘La Vita Nuova,’ Pamuk allows. ‘Dante’s is an account of how he fell in love, along with autobiographical digressions about the effect of love.’ Although it’s impossible to neatly summarize a Pamuk book, ‘The New Life’ is also a meditation on the way literature can affect — or afflict — a nation.” [. . .]    –Judy Stone, Orhan Pamuk

Gloria Naylor, Linden Hills (1985)

gloria-naylor-linden-hills-1985“Like Amiri Baraka in The Systems of Dante’s Hell (1965), Miss Naylor has adapted Dante’s Inferno to her own fictional purposes – in this instance a tale of lost black souls trapped in the American dream. The setting is Linden Hills, an upper-middle-class black community built on a huge plot of land owned by the mysterious Nedeed family (the locale is not specified). Purchased by Luther Nedeed in 1820 – after he had sold his octoroon wife and six children into slavery and moved from Tupelo, Miss., we are told – the land has remained under the proprietorship of the Nedeeds for more than 150 years. Luther (read Lucifer), as all the males in the Nedeed family are named, opened a funeral parlor, then developed the land and leased sections to black families. His sons and grandsons, all of whom are physical copies of the original landowner, furthered his plan – to establish a showcase black community. That community, as the original Luther says, would not only be an ‘ebony jewel’ representing black achievement, but also ‘a beautiful, black wad of spit right in the white eye of America.'”   –Mel Watkins, “The Circular Driveways of Hell,” New York Times (March 3, 1985)

“Gloria Naylor’s Linden Hills follows two young black male poets on their downward journey through a prosperous community built for blacks who aspire to live out a white-patented dream of social advancement. Naylor’s appropriation of Dante’s Inferno as master narrative for this landscape of private torments (a white model for black society) replicates the choice made by Linden Hills itself. The ironies of this are rich and difficult to control: but the attention paid to the sufferings of women in this arrangement adds something quite new to the English-language Dante tradition.”    –David Wallace, “Dante in English,” in Rachel Jacoff’s The Cambridge Companion to Dante, 2007