Martha Beck, The Way of Integrity (2021)

“In The Way of Integrity, Beck presents a four-stage process that anyone can use to find integrity, and with it, a sense of purpose, emotional healing, and a life free of mental suffering. Much of what plagues us—people pleasing, staying in stale relationships, negative habits—all point to what happens when we are out of touch with what truly makes us feel whole.

“Inspired by The Divine Comedy, Beck uses Dante’s classic hero’s journey as a framework to break down the process of attaining personal integrity into small, manageable steps. She shows how to read our internal signals that lead us towards our true path, and to recognize what we actually yearn for versus what our culture sells us.

“With techniques tested on hundreds of her clients, Beck brings her expertise as a social scientist, life coach and human being to help readers to uncover what integrity looks like in their own lives. She takes us on a spiritual adventure that not only will change the direction of our lives, but bring us to a place of genuine happiness.”   —

Ned Denny, B (After Dante) (2021)

“Gustave Doré’s Beatrice is disappointingly bland, a strapping damsel in a nightgown, not that fierce beauty whose name the poet can barely utter. His angels, however, are sublime. It was important to me that we have an uplifting image on the cover, Dante being so associated with the infernal regions and the austere features of his face (which the large B was originally to have overlaid). A comedy is, of course, a story that ends well, and what better end could there be than coming face to face with ‘eternal light’? Such is, moreover, the ‘joy that man is meant for.’

[. . .]

B was supposed to have come out in 2020, seven hundred years after the original’s probable 1320 completion (this latter number inscribing itself, miraculously, into the actual structure of the poem). Yet, happily perhaps, and due only to a delay in the editing process, it is instead appearing on the 700th anniversary of not only Dante’s death but the last Cathar’s prophecy – spoken from the flames – that ‘in seven hundred years the laurel will grow green again.’ It is also May, month of the Virgin, with the sun having just entered Gemini (Dante’s natal star and mine).”   —Ned Denny for Carcanet Press, describing B (After Dante), his 2021 translation/adaptation of Dante’s Divine Comedy

“Published to coincide with the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, Ned Denny’s baroque, line-by-line reimagining – the follow-up to his Seamus Heaney Prize-winning collection Unearthly Toys – shapes the Divine Comedy into nine hundred 144-syllable stanzas. Audacious, provocative and eminently readable, tender and brutal by turns, rooted in sacred doctrine yet with one eye on the profane modern world, this poet’s version – in the interpretative tradition of Chapman, Dryden and Pope – is a living, breathing Dante for our times. Hell has never seemed so savage, nor heaven so sublime.”   —Carcanet Press

Purchase B (After Dante) from Carcanet Press here.

Read Denny’s full blogpost here.

Adam Roberts, Purgatory Mount (2021)

“An interstellar craft is decelerating after its century-long voyage. Its destination is V538 Aurigae, a now-empty planet dominated by one gigantic megastructure, a conical mountain of such height that its summit is high above the atmosphere. The ship’s crew of five hope to discover how the long-departed builders made such a colossal thing, and why: a space elevator? a temple? a work of art? Its resemblance to the mountain of purgatory lead the crew to call this world Dante.

“In our near future, the United States is falling apart. A neurotoxin has interfered with the memory function of many of the population, leaving them reliant on their phones as makeshift memory prostheses. But life goes on. For Ottoline Barragão, a regular kid juggling school and her friends and her beehives in the back garden, things are about to get very dangerous, chased across the north-east by competing groups, each willing to do whatever it takes to get inside Ottoline’s private network and recover the secret inside.

“Purgatory Mount, Adam Roberts’s first SF novel for three years, combines wry space opera and a fast-paced thriller in equal measure. It is a novel about memory and atonement, about exploration and passion, and like all of Roberts’s novels it’s not quite like anything else.”    —Amazon

Jews in Dante

“This year, commemorations of the 700th anniversary of the death of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, have scarcely addressed the subject of how Dante wrote about Jews.

“Dante places a number of Old Testament Jews, including Abraham, Sarah, Rachel and Joshua in Paradise. Because some of the limited space is left empty there for Christians, the complement of Jews who prefigure the New Testament is full; so there are, at least temporarily, more Jews in Dante’s Paradise than Christians.

“Dante’s Purgatory includes the story of Mordecai and Haman to decry the sin of anger, whereas Daniel is praised for his temperance. In his Paradise, Dante likewise lauds Joshua and Judas Maccabeus as combatants for righteousness, while King David and Hezekiah from the Second Book of Kings and Second Book of Chronicles are exalted as just monarchs.” […].   –Benjamin Ivry, The Forward, July 18, 2021

See the rest of this essay for many more references to Jews in Dante’s works, and Jews who have cited Dante as inspiration for their work and thought.  It is debatable, however, that there are no Jews in Inferno.

Seth Steinzor, In Dante’s Wake (3 volumes)

In Dante’s Wake is a journey in poetry through the moral universe, from blinkered evil to heaven’s networks by way of the muddled-up places in between.

“Once Was Lost, the third and final volume of the trilogy, finds heaven on a North Atlantic beach, beginning with a breakfast of fried claims at sunrise, moving through encounters with people whose lives have been a blessing to humanity, and ending in a series of visions of psychedelic strangeness and power.”   —Seth Steinzor’s Website

Fomite Press published Steinzor’s Once Was Lost on June 18, 2021. Each of the three volumes of In Dante’s Wake revisits one canticle of Dante’s CommediaTo Join the Lost (Hell), Among the Lost (Purgatory), and Once Was Lost (Paradise). See our previous post of Steinzor’s To Join the Lost here.

Contributed by Seth Steinzor

Garry Wills, “The Bishops Are Wrong About Biden—and Abortion” (June 27, 2021)

“What is the worst crime a society can commit? Some people (I among them) would say the Holocaust, the cold methodical murder of six million people just for being Jews.

“But some Catholics and evangelicals say they know of an even greater crime — the deliberate killing of untold millions of unborn babies by abortion. They have determined that a fetus is a person and abortion is therefore murder. This is a crime of such magnitude that some Catholic bishops are trying to deny the reception of Holy Communion by the president of the United States for not working to prevent it.

“No one told Dante that this was the worst crime, or he would have put abortionists, not Judas, in the deepest frozen depths of his Inferno. But in fact he does not put abortionists anywhere in the eight fiery tiers above the deepest one of his Hell.” [. . .]   –Garry Wills, “The Bishops Are Wrong About Biden—and Abortion,” New York Times (June 27, 2021)

Read the rest of Wills’s opinion piece at the New York Times.

See also this response to Wills’s essay in The National Review, which includes an extended discussion of Dante and his era.

Contributed by Hilary Barnes (Widener University)

Stefano Jossa, “Dante e Pinocchio, Fratelli d’Italia” (June 5, 2021)

“Quando una democrazia è debole ricorre ai simboli che unificano: simboli spossessati di qualsiasi rapporto con la realtà e funzionali alla rappresentazione di una comunità ideale. Servono, questi simboli, a eliminare i conflitti e favorire l’armonia: che è fittizia, naturalmente, perché una società moderna, democratica e funzionante si dovrebbe fondare sulla differenza anziché sull’omologazione, tranne nei casi in cui l’uniformità venga costruita a forza, com’è avvenuto storicamente, ahinoi, con i regimi totalitari. Nel caso italiano il simbolo unificante per eccellenza è Dante, cui è stato ora dedicato un giorno memoriale, il Dantedì, che si è celebrato il 25 marzo con grande clamore di iniziative, pagine giornalistiche, invenzioni figurative, riedizioni, letture e video: basta aprire i siti dei principali quotidiani italiani per trovare interviste ai discendenti di Dante, viaggi nell’Italia di Dante, sproloqui sul padre della patria e il padre della lingua, inviti alla coerenza e all’impegno, ecc. ecc.

“Dante onnipresente, vera e propria icona pop, che va dalle canzoni di Gianna Nannini su Pia de’ Tolomei e Caparezza su Filippo Argenti fino agli oli di Guy Denning e i graffiti di Kobra: un Dante dappertutto, sorprendentemente simile a quel Dante monumento che segnò la topografia italiana tra il Risorgimento e il Fascismo, quando sorsero piazze Dante, con monumenti a Dante, in tutta Italia, col culmine simbolico in quella piazza Dante a Napoli che segna l’identità tra Dante e l’Italia nelle parole di chi la promosse, spostandone definitivamente la ricezione dall’universo letterario a quello patriottico: se «Dante a Firenze è un grand’uomo», «Dante a Napoli raffigura l’ingegno, il sapere, le sventure, le glorie, le fatiche, le speranze e tutta la vita dell’intero Popolo Italiano».” [. . .]   –Stefano Jossa, “Dante e Pinocchio, fratelli d’Italia,” Doppio Zero (June 5, 2021)

“Defascistizzare Dante”

“[. . .] Per questo motivo, la storia di come nel nuovo millennio la poesia di Dante si possa trovare ad adornare uno studio medico di Roma Nord fianco a fianco a due manifesti di propaganda fascista è anche un po’ la storia irrisolta dell’Italia fascista e della sua defascistizzazione mancata. Il presente articolo, scritto nel settecentenario della morte del poeta e a quasi un secolo dalla marcia su Roma, racconta questa storia. È proprio in occasione dei festeggiamenti nazionali del centenario e del Dantedì, istituito per decreto e celebrato con retorica nazionalista che Antonio Montefusco ha analizzato sulle pagine di Jacobin Italia, che occorre riflettere sull’uso che si è fatto della figura di Dante, più che della sua poesia, nella storia d’Italia; e su come questo uso e questa storia siano ancora oggi intimamente compromessi col fascismo.” [. . .]   –Nicolò Crisafi, “Defascistizzare Dante,” Jacobin Italia, June 2, 2021

Guide to Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell

“Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy is considered an epic masterpiece and a foundational work of the Western canon. We offer this short guide to the nine circles of Hell, as described in Dante’s Inferno.

“First Circle: Limbo
The first circle is home to the unbaptized and virtuous pagans. It’s not Heaven, but as far as Hell goes, it isn’t too bad: It’s the retirement community of the afterlife. Hippocrates and Aristotle will be your neighbors, so any attempt at small talk will probably turn into Big Talk in a hurry. You’ll have television, but all of the channels will be set to CSPAN.” [. . .]    –Matt Staggs, Penguin Random House

Trump and his Enablers belong in Dante’s 9th Circle of Hell

each-betrayal-begins-with-trust-martin-luther“If Dante’s deepest circle of Hell did exist, it would be reserved for Trump and his enablers. It would be reserved for those who betrayed our country and this beautiful blue world for profit. It would be reserved for those who allowed a pandemic to take tens of thousands of lives and affect millions. It would be reserved for those who are silent about the bounties placed on our active duty troops’ heads, who disparage our military, intelligence agencies, our scientists, and health care professionals. It would be reserved for those who place all that we love in danger.

“It would be reserved for those who supposedly care for us, but expect silence about their support of Trump or of those who support him.

“The list of betrayals in my life is long and old.” []    –Onomastic, Daily Kos, September 15, 2020