After 700 years, Dante could finally be on his way home to Florence

“Seven centuries after the poet Dante was exiled from Florence, the Tuscan city wants him back – or at least what remains of him.

“The author of The Divine Comedy was banished from Florence for political reasons and eventually died in Ravenna on the Adriatic coast, where his remains are kept in a huge white tomb.

“Now Florence is probing the possibility of bringing him back ‘home’ for the 700th anniversary of his death, to be commemorated in 2021.

“Reclaiming the remains of the poet is potentially big business – around 400,000 people visit his tomb in Ravenna each year. [. . .]

“His remains are held in a tomb next to the Basilica of St Francis and Florence supplies the oil for the lamp that illuminates his resting place, in a perpetual act of penance for having banished him.

“Florence would like to have Dante back, for a limited period rather than permanently, in time for the 2021 commemorations of his death.

“But keenly aware of the intense regional rivalries and jealousy that still exist between Italy’s former city states, it is proceeding diplomatically.” [. . .]  — Nick Squires, The Telegraph, July 31, 2019.

Contributed by Cathy Robison, Clemson University

The Wisdom of the Exile

Opinionator“There are many types of uprooting. The brutal expulsions like those now devastating hundreds of thousands in countries like Iraq and Syria are common in the cycles of politics and war. But it can be more subtly political, too, as was Dante’s banishment from Florence at the hands of the Black Guelphs, or economic, as it was for the immigrants dancing in the Argentine brothels.

“Each person who survives this uprooting and finds himself in exile experiences an existential earthquake of sorts: Everything turns upside down, all certitudes are shattered. The world around you ceases to be that solid, reliable presence in which you used to feel comfortable, and turns into a ruin — cold and foreign. ‘You shall leave everything you love most: this is the arrow that the bow of exile shoots first,’ wrote Dante in Paradiso. [. . .]

“An Argentine poet called the tango ‘un pensamiento triste que se baila’: a sad thought that is danced. I am not sure. The tango is not just something sad — it is sadness itself that is danced. The ultimate sadness that comes from the earthquake of uprooting. If philosophers don’t manage to get them themselves exiled, at least they should take up tango for a while.”    —The New York Times

To read the full article on The New York Times‘ “Opinionator,” click here.