“A Dante-esque Limbo”: Unemployment Claims in the Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic

“With a flood of unemployment claims continuing to overwhelm many state agencies, economists say the job losses may be far worse than government tallies indicate.

“The Labor Department said Thursday that 3.8 million workers filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the six-week total to 30 million. But researchers say that as the economy staggers under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of others have lost jobs but have yet to see benefits.

[. . .]

NYTimes-Coronavirus-Pandemic-Unemployment-Dante-Limbo

Photo by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

“New York has started processing claims from gig workers and freelancers, but one of those, Seth Flicker of Brooklyn, hasn’t had any luck.

“‘Not a phone call nor an email, nothing,’ said Mr. Flicker, 52, who applied in mid-March after his work as a handyman came to a halt. ‘We are stuck with absolutely nowhere to turn,’ he said, calling his situation ‘a Dante-esque limbo.’

“Mr. Flicker was able to delay paying his electric bill without a penalty and sent a check to the phone company, but he is worried about covering May’s rent. ‘I haven’t figured it out yet,’ he said. ‘It’s nerve-racking.'”  –Nelson D. Schwartz, Tiffany Hsu, and Patricia Cohen, “Stymied in Seeking Benefits, Millions of Unemployed Go Uncounted,” The New York Times, April 30, 2020

Contributed by Martin Kavka, Florida State University

“Dante nell’Inferno di Fukushima: Lorenzo Amato intervista Kazumasa Chiba”

On January 22, 2020, the journal Insula europea published Lorenzo Amato’s interview with Japanese visual artist Kazumasa Chiba, who, over the last twenty years, has dedicated his art to translating scenes from the Commedia into contemporary political and moral commentary. “Come su un palcoscenico teatrale,” writes Amato, “Chiba si ‘traveste’ da Dante e si muove in grandi paesaggi allegorici costruiti su elementi culturali ibridi, che derivano dal sincretismo di cultura popolare giapponese e tradizioni classiche occidentali e orientali, antiche e moderne.” In 2012 he was awarded the Toshiko Okamoto Award for his work that interprets the Fukushima earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster as an Inferno in the manner of Dante.

Here’s a brief extract from Amato’s interview with Chiba:

“Dante nomina in modo molto chiaro le persone famose che secondo lui sono colpevoli di qualcosa, anche se sono ancora vive. Diciamo che questo tipo di poesia mi ha mostrato una possibile strada per affrontare con l’arte i problemi del mondo, e quindi anche sfogare la rabbia che a volte provo nei confronti di certe persone, politici o responsabili di avvenimenti importanti, come tutte le persone coinvolte nel disastro di Fukushima. Ogni volta che succedono disastri, o che vengono fatte scelte a livello politico che poi provocano conseguenze negative, provo una forte rabbia. È raro che le persone comuni possano avere un qualche impatto su quelle scelte, e a volte mi verrebbe voglia di mostrare il mio dissenso in forma di protesta anche violenta. In questo senso l’arte è un modo per sfogare questa rabbia, ma anche per lasciare un segno, ovvero per mostrare quello che penso.” — Kazumasa Chiba, in an interview with Lorenzo Amato, Insula europea, January 22, 2020

An exhibit of Chiba’s work, called “A Modern Interpretation of Dante’s Divine Comedy,” was shown at the Mizuma Art Gallery in Tokyo from August 21 to September 21, 2019.