Carlos Martinez Moreno, El Infierno (1981)

“This last novel by Uruguayan writer and defense attorney Martínez Moreno, who died in exile in 1986, depicts the revolt of Uruguay’s Tupamaro urban guerillas and their suppression by the military in the early 1970s. Using true accounts of kidnapping, torture and murder from political detainees whom he defended while living in Uruguay, Martínez Moreno fashions a dreamlike yet brutally realistic story of a police state. His book borrows chiefly from The Inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy. In this modern-day hell, wealthy Uruguayan bankers and prosecutors are kidnapped by the Tupamaros; army colonels and police officers learn more effective ways to torture political prisoners from the ‘cold, calculating’ North American ‘adviser.'”   —Publishers Weekly, 1988

For more on the novel and its relationship to Dante’s poem, see Efraín Kristal’s “What Is, Is Not: Dante in Tomas Eloy Martínez’s Purgatorio,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 31.4 (2012): 473-484 (accessible here).

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)

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)

A.J. Hackwith, The Library of the Unwritten (2019)

A Library of the Unwritten by A. J. Hackwith tells the story of a librarian and her assistant from the ‘Unfinished Book’ wing of the library of Hell tracking down escaped characters from the books, attempting to meet their authors or change their stories. Towards the beginning of the story, as they are about to depart the library of hell for Earth so they can track down an escaped character, a figure appears and quotes most of the inscription which is written on the gate of Hell in Dante’s Inferno.”   –Contributor Robert Alex Lee

Here is the synopsis of the 2019 novel, from Penguin Random House: “In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

“Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing—a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

“But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.”   —Penguin Random House

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

Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano (1947)

the-malcolm-lowry-project-under-the-volcano-1947Chapter 3. 65.6: “In Canto XIII of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil enter a pathless wood full of withered trees. Hearing a mournful wailing but seeing no one, the poet stops and is advised by Virgil to break off a twig from one of the trees. Dante does so; the tree becomes dark with blood and begins to cry: ‘Perché mi scerpi? / non hai tu spirto di pietade alcuno?’ (‘Why do you tear me? / Have you no spirit of pity?’). The trees are the suicides, those who have wantonly destroyed their lives and poisoned their souls and are therefore fixed for eternity in barren sterility. [. . .]”

Chapter 3. 65.7: “In Mexico, figures of Christ or the Virgin Mary are common features of house or garden walls as reminders of the suffering Christ assumed on behalf of all. The words also evoke the suffering figure of Faustus: the earlier ‘Regard’ recalls his hellish fall, but the emphasis here, as with the echoes of Eliot and Dante above, is on blood and sorrow and compassion. Faustus, in distress and anguish, cannot look up to heaven for the mercy that is there; one drop of Christ’s blood would save his soul, but he cannot avoid despair. Like Faustus, the Consul is unable to ask for relief, even though it is so immediately at hand. In an early draft [UBC 29-8, 1] Lowry was more explicit: ‘You have always secretly longed, like Christ, even like your own brother, to die.'” [. . .]    — The Malcolm Lowry Project: Under The Volcano, June 2012.

See these and many more Dante-related annotations to Under the Volcano at the hypertext resource the Malcolm Lowry Project, sponsored by University of Otago (NZ).

 

Abe Kōbō, “The Boom in Science Fiction” (1962)

“[. . .] Rediscovering the Vision of Science Fiction. We cannot call everything with a monster in it science fiction, but if we make the presence of a hypothesis our standard, then we are free to widen the field considerably. The evolutionary line of science fiction could include not only Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. [1920] and War with the Newts [1936], but even Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis [1915] and David Garnett’s Lady into Fox [1922]. We could broaden our definition endlessly, going beyond the commonly accepted idea of the ‘science fiction writer’ to include authors like Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, August Strindberg, Guillaume Apollinaire, Vladmir Mayakovsky, Jules Supervielle, Lu Xun, Sōseki Natsume, Uchida Hyakken, Akutagawa Ryûnosuke, Ishikawa Jun, and so on.

“And we could go even further back, to Swift, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Dante, Apuleius, and Lucian. The pedigree for our literature of hypothesis would eventually trace itself all the way back to the Greeks.

“Viewed in this light, science fiction’s vision is not a narrow branch within literature but part of the mainstream, a literary current far longer and deeper than a movement like Naturalism, for example. Even if this vision does not encompass all of literature, it is a part too important to leave out. And if there is a potential for a boom in science fiction in our country, it will be a great blessing for Japanese literature, afflicted as it is with a shortage of hypotheses. [. . .]”   –Abe Kōbō, “The Boom in Science Fiction” (1962), trans. Christopher Bolton, Science Fiction Studies 88 (November 2002)

Review of Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (2013)

review-murakami-colorless-tsukuru-tazaki-and-his-years-of-pilgrimage-2020“But it’s classical music – another Murakami love – that gives Murakami the title of his latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The title comes from Franz Liszt’s three-suite work Anneés de pèlerinage, which translates as ‘Years of Pilgrimage.’

“The eighth part of the first suite – ‘Le mal du pays’ (translation: ‘Homesickness’) – bonds the five main characters (they all play and/or listen to the piece throughout the novel) as they voyage through the “years of pilgrimage” of their mid-30s.

“Murakami’s literary antecedent in writing about one’s mid-30s as a time of a despondent and confusing quest for meaning is, of course, Dante and his Divine Comedy. And the quest of Dante’s protagonist ends happily, as does the quest of Murakami’s protagonist, Tsukuru Tazaki.” [. . .]    –Paul Gleason, Stereo Embers

Justin Meckes, Inferno (2020)

Inferno is a novella, a portion of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, in prose rather than the original verse. Inferno finds our protagonist enduring the very same tormenting journey through the rings of hell but in an expanded format.

“The work is retold in its original period, but it has been infused with somewhat less overt references to today’s politics. Thus, this Inferno will maintain a universal appeal and be made available in a Russian Flag edition.

“[. . .] Within this version, multiple Trump associates (e.g., Paul Manafort, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, etc.) make appearances in the place of their Florentine counterparts.”

Read a short excerpt here.

“What Happens When a Writer Hates the Heroine of Her New Book?” Excerpt from Nisha Susan’s The Women Who Forgot to Invent Facebook and Other Stories

“In her second week at the library, she was choked. Somewhere in this building, she had been told, is an actual manuscript of the Divine Comedy. Dante Alighieri had not sat around in the 1300s writing coy shit. Somewhere near here, Arun Kolatkar had written Jejuri and the Kala Ghoda poems. Somewhere near here, Kolatkar had died. Where in her writing was the blood, the grime, the puking on the streets and the deep stuff?”    –Nisha Susan, excerpt from The Women Who Forgot to Invent Facebook and Other Stories, Huffington Post, August 10, 2020

Natsume Sōseki, The Wayfarer (Kojin) (1912)

“[I]t gradually becomes clear that marriages good and bad, arranged and romantic are constants in this narrative. Suffering from a kind of existential crisis, Ichiro’s marriage to Nao is in trouble. Ichiro even suspects that his feckless younger brother Jiro has been carrying on with Nao, and voices despairing references to Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s Inferno. The third part of the book covers the period after they all return to Tokyo from their travels. As Ichiro and Nao’s marriage continues to deteriorate, Nao is tight-lipped, refusing to argue or complain, while Ichiro seems close to a nervous breakdown.”   –B. Morrison, “The Wayfarer (Kojin), by Natsume Sōseki” (March 22, 2010)

See also our post on Sōseki’s 1908 novel The Miner.