Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947)

the-malcolm-lowry-project-under-the-volcano-1947Chapter 3. 65.6: “In Canto XIII of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil enter a pathless wood full of withered trees. Hearing a mournful wailing but seeing no one, the poet stops and is advised by Virgil to break off a twig from one of the trees. Dante does so; the tree becomes dark with blood and begins to cry: ‘Perché mi scerpi? / non hai tu spirto di pietade alcuno?’ (‘Why do you tear me? / Have you no spirit of pity?’). The trees are the suicides, those who have wantonly destroyed their lives and poisoned their souls and are therefore fixed for eternity in barren sterility. [. . .]”

Chapter 3. 65.7: “In Mexico, figures of Christ or the Virgin Mary are common features of house or garden walls as reminders of the suffering Christ assumed on behalf of all. The words also evoke the suffering figure of Faustus: the earlier ‘Regard’ recalls his hellish fall, but the emphasis here, as with the echoes of Eliot and Dante above, is on blood and sorrow and compassion. Faustus, in distress and anguish, cannot look up to heaven for the mercy that is there; one drop of Christ’s blood would save his soul, but he cannot avoid despair. Like Faustus, the Consul is unable to ask for relief, even though it is so immediately at hand. In an early draft [UBC 29-8, 1] Lowry was more explicit: ‘You have always secretly longed, like Christ, even like your own brother, to die.'” [. . .]    — The Malcolm Lowry Project: Under The Volcano, June 2012.

See these and many more Dante-related annotations to Under the Volcano at the hypertext resource the Malcolm Lowry Project, sponsored by University of Otago (NZ).

 

Leah Yananton’s Surviving Me: The Nine Circles of Sophie (2015)

“I made Surviving Me because I found from my own experience as an undergrad, that the pressure on our college campuses for women to be hypersexual is damaging to everyone. During my college years in post 9-11 NYC, the world around me stopped making sense and the social scene was full of chaos and escapism, yet in my Medieval poetry class I was reading themes that related to present day. My peers were testing the limits of defying convention regarding sexuality and traditional relationship values, asserting that being liberated meant you were superior to consequences. However, I had the feeling that I had fallen into the River Styx and was swiftly sinking to the bottom. In order to find solid ground, I had to fight for boundaries and integrity and I brought my battle into writing the script. Dante’s Inferno was a constant companion with its focus on behavior and consequences, and Surviving Me became a reflective creative journey.”  –Director’s Statement from Press Notes, Leah Yananton

The 2015 film was directed and written by Leah Yananton and released by Longtale Films. Contributor Alan R. Perry notes that the film is laced throughout with indirect references to Inferno, and the story line is accompanied by Blake’s watercolors, as is also visible in the movie poster at left.

Contributed by Alan R. Perry (Gettysburg College)

Jorge Luis Borges, “Paradiso, XXXI, 108” in Dreamtigers

jorge-luis-borges-paradiso-xxxi“Beside a road there is a stone face and an inscription that says, ‘The True Portrait of the Holy Face of the God of Jaen.’ If we truly knew what it was like, the key to the parables would be ours and we would know whether the son of the carpenter was also the Son of God.

“Paul saw it as a light that struck him to the ground; John, as the sun when it shines in all its strength; Teresa de Jesus saw it many times, bathed in tranquil light, yet she was never sure of the color of His eyes.

“We lost those features, as one may lose a magic number made up of the usual ciphers, as one loses an image in a kaleidoscope, forever. We may see them and know them not. The profile of a Jew in the subway is perhaps the profile of Christ; perhaps the hands that give us our change at a ticket window duplicate the ones some soldier nailed one day to the cross.

Perhaps a feature of the crucified face lurks in every mirror; perhaps the face died, was erased, so that God may be all of us.” [. . .]    –Jorge Luis Borges, The Floating Library, September 15, 2008.

Jorge Luis Borges, “Inferno, I, 32” in Dreamtigers

jorge-luis-borges-inferno-i-32-2020“From the twilight of day till the twilight of evening, a leopard, in the last years of the thirteenth century, would see some wooden planks, some vertical iron bars, men and women who changed, a wall and perhaps a stone gutter filled with dry leaves. He did not know, could not know, that he longed for love and cruelty and the hot pleasure of tearing things to pieces and the wind carrying the scent of a deer, but something suffocated and rebelled within him and God spoke to him in a dream: ‘You live and will die in this prison so that a man I know of may see you a certain number of times and not forget you and place your figure and symbol in a poem which has its precise place in the scheme of the universe. You suffer captivity, but you will have given a word to the poem.’ God, in the dream, illumined the animal’s brutishness and the animal understood these reasons and accepted his destiny, but, when he awoke, there was in him only an obscure resignation, a valorous ignorance, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of a beast.

“Years later, Dante was dying in Ravenna, as unjustified and as lonely as any other man. In a dream, God declared to him the secret purpose of his life and work; Dante, in wonderment, knew at last who and what he was and blessed the bitterness of his life. Tradition relates that, upon waking, he felt that he had received and lost an infinite thing, something that he would not be able to recuperate or even glimpse, for the machinery of the world is much too complex for the simplicity of men.” [. . .]    — Jorge Luis Borges, The Floating Library, July 28, 2008.

Alessandro Barbero’s “Lezione su Dante e il Potere” (2020)

alessandro-barbero-lezione-su-dante-e-il-potere-2020“Grazie alla consolidata collaborazione con la Casa Editrice Laterza, la Fondazione del Teatro Grande propone per questa Stagione una speciale Lezione di Storia che vede protagonista Alessandro Barbero, storico e scrittore italiano tra i più acclamati degli ultimi tempi. Domenica 18 ottobre alle 15.30, anticipando gli eventi legati alle celebrazioni per i 700 anni dalla morte del Sommo Poeta, il Professor Barbero darà vita a una imperdibile Lezione sul tema “Dante e il potere.” Un incontro che insisterà soprattutto sulla grande passione di Dante per la politica.

“Oltre alla poesia, e a Beatrice, la politica è stata la passione dominante di Dante. Non solo la politica fatta di riflessione teorica e di alti ideali, ma quella concreta e sporca, fatta di gestione del potere, di lotte fra correnti, di disciplina di partito e di appoggio agli amici, di interventi in aula e di votazioni pilotate, di scelte drammatiche e di espedienti meschini. Alla fine della sua carriera lo aspettava un processo – politico anch’esso – per malversazioni e abuso di potere, un processo che gli sarebbe costato l’esilio, e grazie a cui noi oggi abbiamo la Commedia.

“Alessandro Barbero è considerato uno dei più originali storici italiani ed è noto al largo pubblico per i suoi libri – saggi e romanzi – e per le sue collaborazioni televisive. Studioso di prestigio, insegna Storia medievale presso l’Università del Piemonte Orientale, sede di Vercelli.” [. . .]    —QuiBresica.it, October 14, 2020

Final Chapter of Adam Buenosayres: “A Journey to the Dark City Cacodelphia” (1948)

the-final-chapter-adam-buenosayres“A modernist urban novel in the tradition of James Joyce, Adam Buenosayres is a tour-de-force that does for Buenos Aires what Carlos Fuentes did for Mexico City or José Lezama Lima did for Havana – chronicles a city teeming with life in all its clever and crass, rude and intelligent forms. Employing a range of literary styles and a variety of voices, Leopoldo Marechal parodies and celebrates Argentina’s most brilliant literary and artistic generation, the martinfierristas of the 1920s, among them Jorge Luis Borges. First published in 1948 during the polarizing reign of Juan Perón, the novel was hailed by Julio Cortázar as an extraordinary event in twentieth-century Argentine literature. Set over the course of three break-neck days, Adam Buenosayres follows the protagonist through an apparent metaphysical awakening, a battle for his soul fought by angels and demons, and a descent through a place resembling a comic version of Dante’s hell. Presenting both a breathtaking translation and thorough explanatory notes, Norman Cheadle captures the limitless language of Marechal’s original and guides the reader along an unmatched journey through the culture of Buenos Aires. This first-ever English translation brings to light Marechal’s masterwork with an introduction outlining the novel’s importance in various contexts – Argentine, Latin American, and world literature – and with notes illuminating its literary, cultural, and historical references. A salient feature of the Argentine canon, Adam Buenosayres is both a path-breaking novel and a key text for understanding Argentina’s cultural and political history.” [. . .]    –Amazon, April 1, 2014.

Jennifer D. Upton, The Ordeal of Mercy (2015)

jennifer-d-upton-the-ordeal-of-mercy-2020“The Ordeal of Mercy is a book of wide erudition and simple style; its goal is to present the Purgatorio, according to the science of spiritual psychology, as a practical guide to travelers on the Spiritual Path. The author draws upon many sources: the Greek Fathers, notably Maximos the Confessor; St. John Climacus; Fathers and Doctors of the Latin Church, including St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas; John Donne, William Blake and other metaphysical poets; the doctrines of Dante’s own initiatory lineage, the Fedeli d’Amore; the modern Eastern Orthodox writers Pavel Florensky and Jean-Claude Larchet; and the writings of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School, including René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Martin Lings, Leo Schaya, and Titus Burckhardt. Other exegetes of Dante have dealt with the overall architecture of the Divine Comedy, its astronomical and numerical symbolisms, its philosophical underpinnings, and its historical context. Jennifer Doane Upton, however—while preserving the narrative flow of the Purgatorio and making many cogent observations about its metaphysics—directs our attention instead to many of its ‘minute particulars,’ unveiling their depth and symbolic resonance. She presents the ascent of the Mountain of Purgatory as a series of timeless steps, each of which must be plumbed to its depths before the next step arrives; in so doing she demonstrates how the center of this journey of purgation is everywhere, and its circumference nowhere. In the words of the author, ‘The soul in its journey must divest itself of extraneous tendencies and desires in order to become the ‘simple’ soul of theology — the soul of one essence, of one will, of one mind. If it can do this it will reach Paradise, its true homeland.'” [. . .]    –Jennifer D. Upton, Angelico Press

Check out the Angelico Press website to read praise for The Ordeal of Mercy.

Review of Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013)

review-murakami-colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-of-pilgrimage-2020“But it’s classical music – another Murakami love – that gives Murakami the title of his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The title comes from Franz Liszt’s three-suite work Anneés de pèlerinage, which translates as ‘Years of Pilgrimage.’

“The eighth part of the first suite – ‘Le mal du pays’ (translation: ‘Homesickness’) – bonds the five main characters (they all play and/or listen to the piece throughout the novel) as they voyage through the “years of pilgrimage” of their mid-30s.

“Murakami’s literary antecedent in writing about one’s mid-30s as a time of a despondent and confusing quest for meaning is, of course, Dante and his Divine Comedy. And the quest of Dante’s protagonist ends happily, as does the quest of Murakami’s protagonist, Tsukuru Tazaki.” [. . .]    –Paul Gleason, Stereo Embers

Humanities Magazine’s “What’s the Best Way to Read the Divine Comedy If You Don’t Know Italian?”

humanities-magazine-tour-of-translation-2020-wikimedia“In comparing these two translations, the Sayers version seems to win out in two ways—it matches Dante in form and, to a degree, in content. By starting with ‘Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,’ she remains faithful to the starting point, ‘nel mezzo,’ while Mandelbaum pushes this to the middle of the first line. Sayers adds ‘bound upon’ (not, strictly speaking, in the original), which allows her to make the rhyme in the third line with ‘gone.’ But Mandelbaum is more faithful to the directness of the original, not stretching the meaning or introducing words to make the rhyme. His metered language often seems more natural than Sayers’ and more in keeping with the diction of Dante, which favored solid vocabulary and straight-forward syntax. Mandelbaum, will, in fact, interject rhyme if it’s not forced (as he does with way and stray). In spite of first impressions favoring Sayers, most readers who choose to make the entire journey from inferno to purgatory and finally paradise ultimately find the Mandelbaum translation more satisfying.” [. . .]    –Steve Moyer, Humanities: The Magazine Of The National Endowment For The Humanities, 2017

 

Will Brewbaker on Shane McCrae’s “Sometimes I Never Suffered”

sometimes-i-never-suffered-2020

“This act of holding together both heaven and earth pervades Shane McCrae’s Sometimes I Never Suffered, the prolific poet’s latest collection. Racial injustice, economic inequality, simple human cruelty — McCrae addresses all of these subjects, these facts of the world, head-on — while, like Dante, transposing the literal into the otherworldly.  [. . .]

“The final two poems in Sometimes I Never Suffered return explicitly to Dantean territory. Famously, the last word in each section of Dante’s Comedy is the Italian word ‘stelle,’ meaning ‘stars.’ In a sly parallel, McCrae makes this Limber’s last word, too. After describing meeting one of those souls who were ‘babies when they died […] [who] walk around in sailor hats with blank / Looks on their faces’ — another ingenious creation — Limber says:

… when I tried to talk to
Him it was like I wasn’t there
So    I peeked    in his mouth

and in his mouth was the whole sky and stars

“Not only does this final line offer a remarkably coherent cosmic scope, but it also serves as a segue into the book’s last movement — a multipage poem that returns to the hastily assembled angel’s story and finds the angel first building, then climbing the ladder to heaven.” [. . .]    —Will Brewbaker, Los Angeles Review of Books, October 13, 2020.

Read more of Brewbaker’s reviews here.