Donna Tartt, The Secret History (1992)

“On page 39, the Inferno is directly mentioned: ‘It’s the meter,’ said Francis, ‘Iambic trimeter. Those really hideous parts of Inferno, for instance, Pier de Medicina with his nose hacked off and talking though a bloody slit in his windpipe–‘ ‘ I can think of worse than that,’ Charles said. ‘So can I. But that passage is lovely and it’s because of the terza rima. The music of it. The trimeter tolls through that speech of Klytemnestra’s like a bell.’

“This was in reference to a quoted piece of the Oresteia in a classics class. The reference to the meter was to connect death and beauty, and ultimately make a statement pertinent to the subject of desire, specifically the desire to live forever. Earlier in the book, the professor teaching the classics class mentioned both Dante and Virgil by name when explaining subjects other than Greek that the students would be studying in his program.”  –Contributor Alex Lee

Contributed by Robert Alex Lee (Florida State University, ’21)

“Re-telling A Classic – Unravelling Archaic Prose for Contemporary Readers”

“Classics endure primarily because their stories explore topics and themes which continue to resonate; think Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Austen. And Dante. But what happens when classics, written in the style and cadence of ancient prose, simply don’t appeal to a contemporary audience thirsty for the story today yet unwilling – or unable – to untangle the archaic language of yesterday?

“Translations can be equally confusing, especially given they are often straight conversions from, in Dante’s case, 14th century Italian prose into 14th century English prose. Yet these classics deserve to live on. They are ripe for rediscovery and should not be abandoned purely because of a reluctance to decode archaic text. Still, it seems, the modern reader is prepared to reject certain bygone classics for that very reason, despite consensus they are considered pivotal pieces of literature; that they are art in themselves.

“So, how then, is today’s bookworm to enjoy classics such as The Divine Comedy without the immediate distraction of deciphering the archaic prose, or constantly referencing a pile of study guides, essays and tutors’ notes? Well, let me tell you…” –Alex L Moretti, Alex L Moretti, 2020

Read the full article here.

See our post on Moretti’s novelization of The Inferno here.