Karl Marx, “Das Kapital” (1867)

karl-marx-das-kapital-1867Ending his preface to the first edition of Das Kapital, Marx states the following:

“I welcome every opinion based on scientific criticism. As to the prejudices of so-called public opinion, to which I have never made concessions, now, as ever, my maxim is that of the great Florentine: ‘Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dire le genti.'”    –Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. Ben Fowkes, ed. David Fernbach, Fowkes, and Ernest Mandel (New York: Penguin Classics, 1976), p. 93.

As the editors note, Marx actually altered Dante’s words for his own purposes. The original line, Purgatorio V 13, is as follows: “Vien dietro a me, a lasica dir le genti.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Mezzo Cammin” (1842) and “Divina Commedia” (1867)

henry-wadsworth-longfellow-mezzo-cammin-1842-and-divina-commedia-1867The title, “Mezzo Cammin,” takes its name from the first line of the Inferno. Longfellow, the first American to translate Dante’s Commedia into English, “was 35 when he wrote this poem, halfway through the scriptural lifespan of 70 years.”
Additionally, Longfellow wrote six sonnets, entitled “Divina Commedia,” which were composed during the grief-filled aftermath of his second wife’s death.
“The six sonnets. . .were written during the progress of Mr. Longfellow’s work in translating the Commedia, and were published as poetical fly-leaves to the three parts. The first was written just after he had put the first two cantos of the Inferno into the hands of the printer. This, with the second, prefaced the Inferno. The third and fourth introduced the Purgatorio, and the fifth and sixth the Paradiso.”    —Representative Poetry Online (retrieved on July 7, 2009)

Samuel Beckett, “More Pricks Than Kicks” (1934)

samuel-beckett-more-pricks-than-kicks-1934More Pricks Than Kicks is a collection of short prose by Samuel Beckett, first published in 1934. The stories chart the life of the book’s main character, Belacqua Shuah, from his days as a student to his accidental death. Beckett takes the name Belacqua from a figure in Dante’s Purgatorio, a Florentine lute-maker famed for his laziness. . . The opening story, ‘Dante and the Lobster,’ features Belacqua’s horrified reaction to the discovery that the lobster he has bought for dinner must be boiled alive. ‘It’s a quick death, God help us all’, Belacqua tells himself, before the narrator’s stern interjection to the contrary: ‘It is not.'”    —Wikipedia

Nick Reding, “Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town” (2009)

nick-reding-methland-the-death-and-life-of-an-american-small-town-2009“Think globally, suffer locally. This could be the moral of Methland, Nick Reding’s unnerving investigative account of two gruesome years in the life of Oelwein, Iowa, a railroad and meatpacking town of several thousand whipped by a methamphetamine-laced panic whose origins lie outside the place itself, in forces almost too great to comprehend. . .
In the grisliest passage of Methland, which deserves to be quoted at some length so as to convey its hellish momentum, he invites us to share in the torments of Roland Jarvis, a paranoid small-time meth cook, in the Dante-like interlude after the combustion of his improvised home lab (just one of hundreds in the area).
‘Jarvis looked down and saw what he thought was egg white on his bare arms. It was not egg white; it was the viscous state of his skin now that the water had boiled out of it. Jarvis flung it off himself, and then he saw that where the egg white had been he could now see roasting muscle. His skin was dripping off his body in sheets. . . . He’d have pulled the melting skeins of skin from himself in bigger, more efficient sections but for the fact that his fingers had burned off of his hands. His nose was all but gone now, too, and he ran back and forth among the gathered neighbors, unable to scream, for his esophagus and his voice box had cooked inside his throat.'” [. . .]    –Walter Kirn, The New York Times, July 1, 2009

“Madoff Is Sentenced to 150 Years for Ponzi Scheme”

if-bernie-met-dante“. . .Yes, Bernard L. Madoff went to jail on Thursday after pleading guilty to a gargantuan Ponzi scheme, and yes, he may face the rest of his life in prison when he is sentenced to as much as 150 years on June 16. But if even that dose of clinical justice seems like paltry penance to his many bilked and ruined investors, including charities, they can always turn to literature for a further measure of satisfaction–and to pronounce, perhaps, another kind of final judgment.
Mr. Madoff was 700 years too late to join Dante’s Who’s Who of sinners, but it is easy to imagine where the poet would consign this scam artist, who admitted to stealing as much as $65 billion: to the Pit, the Ninth (and deepest) Circle of Hell. It is where sins of betrayal are punished in a sea of ice fanned frigid by the six batlike wings of the immense, three-faced, fanged and weeping Lucifer. . .
It is fitting, Mr. Pinsky says. Betrayal destroys the trust that binds humanity, and with it, the betrayer himself. Dante was consumed by the sadness and mystery of sin–and what it did to the sinner.” [. . .]    –Ralph Blumenthal, The New York Times, March 14, 2009

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“. . . Burt Ross, who lost $5 million in the fraud, cited Dante’s The Divine Comedy, in which the poet defined fraud as ‘the worst of sin’ and expressed the hope that, when Mr. Madoff dies — ‘virtually unmourned’ — he would find himself in the lowest circle of hell.” [. . .]    –Diana B. Henriques, The New York Times, June 29, 2009

 

“A Guy From Green Bay Plays the Other Football”

a-guy-from-green-bay-plays-the-other-football“. . . Beasley was soon headed to Europe, and [Jay] DeMerit would even beat him there, but Beasley’s career was flying first class while DeMerit’s was stowed in baggage. He had a gnawing feeling that he could be a professional, but while Beasley ended up first at PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands in 2004, DeMerit alighted in 2003 at Southall, a semiprofessional team outside of London. If Dante had a seventh circle of soccer hell, this was it.” [. . .]    –Jere’ Longman, The New York Times, June 27, 2009

Cover of “The New Yorker,” April 21, 1997

cover-of-the-new-yorker-april-21-1997
Seen in the Edward Sorel illustration are three tiers of political sinners: “Politicians Who Promised to Cut Taxes,” “Politicians Who Promised to Balance the Budget,” and finally (and most egregiously) “Politicians Who Promised to Cut Taxes and  Balance the Budget” (detail shown below).

cover-of-the-new-yorker-april-21-1997

“Hell in Crisis”

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“Think things are grim for Wall Streeters in the here and now? Envision the scene in hell, where the Devil is talking bonus cuts, the Pit of Remorse is packed with frustrated financiers, and trophy wives are weeping over the eternal torment of their broke husbands’ company. Related: A gallery of Edward Sorel’s rogues.”    –Edward Sorel and Richard Lingeman, Vanity Fair, June 2009

Contributed by Patrick Molloy

Dante on Twitter

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“You’re not really dead until you’re tweeting on Tweeji. Tweeji is the original dead celebrity’s [sic] website. We’ve brought together some of the most intriguing personalities from Twitter so you can follow the latest ‘from beyond,’ all in one place. You can even sign in to your Twitter account right here and reply, re-tweet and follow the dead without leaving Tweeji.”    —Tweeji

See Dante’s Tweeji page.

Contributed by Jess Esch

“Where Have All the Muses Gone?”

where-have-all-the-muses-gone

Carl Wilhelm Friederich Oesterly’s portrait of Alighieri Dante and his muse Beatrice Portinari.

“Whatever happened to the Muse? She was once the female figure — deity, Platonic ideal, mistress, lover, wife — whom poets and painters called upon for inspiration. Thus Homer in the Odyssey, the West’s first great work of literary art: ‘Sing to me of the man, Muse, of twists and turns driven time and again off course.’ For hundreds of years, in one form or another, the Muse’s blessing and support were often essential to the creation of art. . .
Yet for sheer chutzpah, you cannot beat Dante Alighieri’s invocation, in the Paradiso — the last part of his Divine Comedy — not just to the nine muses, but also to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, and Apollo, god of poetry and music and the muses’ boss, as it were.
Dante’s Divine Comedy, completed in the early 14th century, is a turning point for musedom. By the end of his massive poem, the muses have been left behind by the heavenly Christian music of the spheres, ‘a song,’ writes Dante, ‘that excels our muses.’ The pagan nine had been replaced by the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost. That, in turn, freed artistic inspiration to go seek more earthly sources.
Dante’s source was an actual person, a young girl named Beatrice Portinari whom Dante claims he first saw on the street in Florence when they were both nine. He fell in love with her, but she died in her early 20s. Dante paid tribute to Beatrice first in a breathtaking volume of sonnets and prose poems he called La Vita NuovaThe New Life — and then made Beatrice a central figure in The Divine Comedy, where she is cast in the roles of teacher, guide and sacred ideal.
Beatrice symbolized both earthly love and Christian truth — the poet’s lust became ‘sublimated,’ as we would say, into spiritual longing.” [. . .]    –Lee Siegel, The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2009

Contributed by Aisha Woodward (Bowdoin, ’08)