“The Ninth Circle of Hell – Dante and the DMV”

“Dante once wrote that Hell had nine circles within its depths. Dante’s Inferno is an amazing literary work that describes in great detail the horror of a place where no person wishes to go. Dante must have been inspired by a trip to the local DMV.

“You see, I recently journeyed into an inferno of abandoned hope, discomfort, and pain when I was forced to visit the Queens DMV. Like Dante, I encountered the nine circles of Hell, though not necessarily in the same order. But first, some backstory . . .”   –Jason Greene, The Good Men Project, 2012

Read the full article here.

“Into the Dark Woods”

into-the-dark-wood-sojourners-2012

“This year I was drawn to Mark’s ‘certain young man’—the one who flees naked from the violence in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives (14:51-52), leaving behind his linen cloth. Scholars vehemently disagree about who this young man was. Many deduce that it’s the writer of Mark’s gospel inserting himself into the story. Others say he is reminiscent of King David fleeing from Absalom on the the Mount of Olives. Or that he foreshadows the ‘young man’ in a white robe who will meet the women at Jesus’ tomb. Whoever he was, in the midst of an encounter with violence, this “certain young man” lost what thin protection he had and fled into the night, into the selva oscura, as Dante calls it, those ‘dark woods.’ Toward what, we do not know. As the human soul matures, we are confronted with moments that force us to let go of yet another thin veil of self-delusion. The “right road,” the moral high ground, sinks into a thicket of gray.” [. . .]    –Rose Marie Berger, SOJOURNERS, May, 2012.

Dante Alighieri: A Suite Of Thirty-Four Lithographs

“The enduring power of Dante’s imagination in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy has inspired artists from the Middle Ages to the present. On reading this literary epic, the artist Liam Ó Broin began three years ago the daunting challenge to create 34 coloured lithographs in response to each canto of Inferno. Although faithful to Dante’s text, Ó Broin through his powerful imagery brings his personal perspective to bear on the central themes and contemporises Dante’s voyeuristic passage through the realms of Hell by portraying the Inferno of our time.  As Ó Broin states  ‘the one which can be created by ourselves and for others, in the here and now.’ These lithographs not only deepen our appreciation of the richness of the epic’s poetic language, but also seek to examine the multi-layered meanings of the text – universal themes of life after death, divine justice and punishment, man’s immoral actions and crimes to mankind.” [. . .]    —Liam Ó Broin

The Inferno lithographs were exhibited at Graphic Studio (Dublin) in 2012.

Selected prints from Liam Ó Broin’s Inferno series, including a limited edition box set (now sold out), were available for purchase here.

Elena Ferrante, Storia del nuovo cognome (2012)

“Ma adesso, a Ischia, aveva incontrato Lila e avevo capito che lei era stata fin dall’infanzia—e sarebbe stata sempre in futuro—il suo vero unico amore. Eh sì, era andata di sicuro a questo modo. E come rimproverarlo? Dov’era la colpa? C’era, nella loro storia, qualcosa d’intenso, di sublime, affinità elettive. Evocai versi e romanzi come tranquillanti. Forse, pensai, aver studiato mi serve solo a questo: a calmarmi. Lei gli aveva acceso la fiamma in petto, lui per anni l’aveva custodita senza accorgersene: ora che quella fiamma era divampata. Cos’altro poteva fare se non amarla. Anche se lei non l’amava. Anche se era sposata e quindi inaccessibile, vietata: un matrimonio dura per sempre, oltre la morte. A meno che non lo si infranga condannandosi alla bufera infernale fino giorno del Giudizio.”   –Elena Ferrante, Storia del nuovo cognome (p. 237)

“I’m not Dante, and you’re not Vergilius” – Resident Evil: Revelations

“You said yourself, ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here.’ But I’m not Dante, and you’re not Vergilius.”

Learn more about Capcom’s 2012 video game Resident Evil: Revelations here.

Sherman Irby’s Inferno

“Hell’s never sounded as suave and soulful as it does on Sherman Irby’s Inferno by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) with Wynton Marsalis. Irby, the lead alto saxophonist for the JLCO, cleverly interprets Dante Alighieri’s epic poem from The Divine Comedy to create a sweeping work that takes listeners on a lyrically swinging tour of the underworld’s nine circles.

“The epic composition, recorded live in 2012, lets the JLCO’s all-star improvisers give life to the colorful denizens of hell and casts the late, legendary baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley as the voice of Dante. Irby’s Inferno both stands alone as an irresistible musical narrative and sheds new light on Dante’s classic; this unique exploration of the epic poem captures its timeless quality and ingeniously places it in conversation with the jazz canon.”   —wyntonmarsalis.org

You can download the album or access it through various streaming services here.

Recorded May 19, 2012.

Released January 17, 2020.

Sherman Irby discussed his work on Inferno, his circuitous path to Dante (starting with a Divine Comedy anime!), and his plans to set all three canticles to music at the webinar “African American Interpretations of Dante’s Divine Comedy” (Oct 4, 2020).

See our previous posts on Irby’s Inferno here and here.

Final line of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed

“In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, ‘like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, ‘like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,’ says Lewis.

[. . .]

The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.

‘Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,’ ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.”    –Zach Kincaid, cslewis.com, February 29, 2012

Contributed by Daniel Christian

“Dante, Near and Far”

“There is much strange in La Vita Nuova, the libello or ‘little book’ that Dante composed fifteen or so years before starting in on the Divine Comedy. Take, for starters, the form of the book, an alternation of prose and poetry that produces effects as dizzying as any in Williams’s Spring and All. Or take the central narrative, which describes a love—young Dante’s, for the slightly younger Beatrice—so intense that it causes the poet to faint in public and forces him, poor lad, to write lying love poems to the donne dello schermo, the ‘screen ladies’ he uses to hide the real object of his affection. Take even Beatrice herself, who begins the book as a girl in a girdled dress only to reveal herself not long after as a miracle made flesh.

[. . .]

That night Dante has a dream, and—perhaps predictably, dreams being dreams—this is where things get weird. In his sleep the poet sees uno segnore di pauroso aspetto emerge from a fiery cloud. Despite his fearful aspect the lord is happy, very possibly because he is carrying in his arms a naked woman asleep beneath a crimson drape. After Dante realizes that the woman is Beatrice, the lord holds up a burning object and tells the dreaming poet, in Latin, Behold your heart. At that moment the lord wakes Beatrice and starts to force-feed her Dante’s flaming heart. With understandable reluctance, Beatrice eats the thing until the lord’s happiness mysteriously turns to grief and he carries her away, presumably to heaven.

[. . .]

Here, too, we get the chance to meet Dante at his most queasily familiar: not as a prodigy reveling in the warm validation of his peers, but as a callow poetaster hearing harsh words from a poet he respects. It’s probably too easy to admire da Maiano’s sonnet for its precocious snark, but I appreciate his poem even more for the rare gift it affords: the chance for once to meet Dante outside the glare of his own genius.”    –Robert P. Baird, The Best American Poetry, January 9, 2012

“Dante’s Vita Nova

“Frisardi has chosen to present his Vita Nuova as Dante’s readers encountered it—as a single book in a single language. In 1861, Dante Gabriel Rossetti made the same monolingual choice, but subsequent translations have usually been bilingual ones (or ones that gave the prose in English but the poems in both Italian and English). Frisardi wishes to offer us the Vita Nuova (which he calls, borrowing Dante’s introductory Latin, Vita Nova) in “contemporary American English”: we sink or swim in an American text. (An appendix reproduces the poems in their original Italian, with literal prose translations.) The monolingual page is the outcome of an understandable decision: few American readers would be much helped by a facing page in thirteenth-century Italian. And, after all, most foreign authors are offered to us in “straight English”—Herodotus, Cervantes, Pascal.

[. . .]

Poems such as those in the Vita Nuova (whatever the continuing efforts to translate their sentiments) entirely lose their function as poems when their constituting sound-chains, their word-notes, are made to disappear. The Vita Nuova has left many rhetorical and thematic legacies to Western poetry—the disturbances and vacillations of possessive love, the eye as the erotic organ par excellence,the refinement of the mixed genre of prose and poetry, the symmetry of the arrangement of the poetic sequence, the drama of direct address to a beloved, the power of simplicity in language in poems of complex interiority—and for all these bequests the Vita Nuova will continue to be remembered and debated. In their original Italian, the poems will be memorized, pondered, and loved. Andrew Frisardi—through his translation, introduction, and generous annotation—enables us to revisit this decisive step in the invention of the Western psyche, and reminds us, by the very difficulties of his attempt at rendering Dante’s verse in English rhyme, of the existence of one peculiar but fundamental species of poetry—ear-fixated, insistent, repetitive, hypnotic—that is resistant even to paraphrase, and, in the end, fatally insusceptible to translation.”    –Helen Vendler, The New Republic, October 5, 2012

Check out Andrew Frisardi’s translation, Vita Nova, on Amazon.

Tappeto Volante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso

The theater troupe Tappeto Volante has staged multiple immersive, ambulatory performances of Dante’s canticles in different locations in the province of Salerno. The first, Inferno, was staged in the Grotte di Pertosa-Auletta (also the backdrop for the 2020 musical Inferno, by the Grieco Brothers) and has been running continuously in the Cave of Castelcivita since 2012. They continued with a performance of Purgatorio at the Certosa di Pedula. They return to Salerno for their Paradiso, staged in the Castello di Arechi (promotional poster, right).

The troupe has also performed their Inferno in the Museo del Sottosuolo, and their Purgatorio in the Real Casa Santa dell’Annunziata, both in Naples.

See the Tappeto Volante website for details and reservations.