Paul Thigpen, “My Visit to Hell” (2007)

paul-thigpen-my-visit-to-hell-2007“My novel ‘My Visit to Hell‘ (rev. ed, Realms, 2007, originally appeared in 1992 under the title ‘Gehenna’) explicitly borrows the basic story line and what might be called the ‘moral topography of hell’ from Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ but the story begins in 21st-century Atlanta. For an analysis of the book and an author interview, see ‘Eschatology: Paul Thigpen’s ‘My Visit to Hell” (chapter 5) and ‘An Interview With Paul Thigpen’ (Appendix I) in Darren J. N. Middleton, ‘Theology After Reading: Christian Imagination and the Power of Fiction‘ (Baylor University Press, 2008).”    –Paul Thigpen

Contributed by Paul Thigpen

“What the Hell: Dante in Translation and in Dan Brown’s New Novel”

what-the-hell-dante-in-translation-and-in-dan-browns-new-novel“People can’t seem to let go of the Divine Comedy. You’d think that a fourteenth-century allegorical poem on sin and redemption, written in a medieval Italian vernacular and in accord with the Scholastic theology of that period, would have been turned over, long ago, to the scholars in the back carrels. But no. By my count there have been something like a hundred English-language translations, and not just by scholars but by blue-chip poets: in the past half century, John Ciardi, Allen Mandelbaum, Robert Pinsky, W. S. Merwin. Liszt and Tchaikovsky have composed music about the poem; Chaucer, Balzac, and Borges have written about it. In other words, the Divine Comedy is more than a text that professors feel has to be brushed up periodically for students. It’s one of the reasons there are professors and students.” [. . .]    –Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, May 27, 2013

Clifford “Dante” Simak

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A mistaken middle name for “D.” (it is actually Donald).  The translation is from 1970.  The original novel is entitled The Goblin Reservation (1968).

Contributed by Gianni Montanari

Dan Brown, Inferno (2013)

dan-brown-inferno-2013Inferno, Dan Brown’s new book about Dante, is coming out on May 14, 2013 from Doubleday in the U.S., and Transworld Publishers in the UK (a division of Random House). Brown announced that he was writing something new in May 2012. Though Brown had been cryptic about the topic of the book, he has now revealed more information. The book will again feature The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol‘s lead character Robert Langdon. Brown also noted on The Today Show that it ‘will be set in Europe, in the most fascinating place I’ve ever seen’ (we’re guessing Florence, Italy since that’s where Dante wrote, and Florence’s Duomo church features on the cover of the book). Transworld’s press release for the book relates a bit more: the book will revolve around one of ‘history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces’ (we’re assuming Dante’s Divine Comedy, with a focus on the Inferno portion, due to the title of the book).

“The title was announced this morning on The Today Show. Readers were invited to participate in the unveiling of the title by posting on Facebook or tweeting, using the hashtag #DanBrownToday that they were helping unveil the title of Dan Brown’s newest book. These readers’ profile pictures then claimed a tile in a mosaic. After enough readers contributed their title suggestions, the new title was revealed. Even if you’ve never read a Dan Brown book, you can guess that the man really enjoys his puzzles.”    –Zoe Triska, The Huffington Post, January 15, 2013

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See also: Janet Maslin, “On a Scavenger Hunt to Save Most Humans,” The New York Times, May 12, 2013

“Dante’s Tenth Circle” by Deborah Tennen

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In Ravenna, Italy, archivists recently discovered a lost canto of Dante’s Inferno — what appears to be the tenth circle of Hell. The ninth circle was previously understood to be the lowest point of Hell reached by Dante and his guide Virgil before ascending on their journey toward Paradise. A portion of the 14th-century manuscript, translated into English prose, is reproduced below.
‘Virgil,’ I cried, ‘Those shades–burning, immersed in human excrement, trapped in icy waters. I thought I had witnessed the basest of all sinners. So who are these figures I now see? Do my eyes betray me, or are their heads fully absorbed in the derrières of others? And who are these individuals whose bottoms are swollen due to the immense size of the heads there immersed?’ [. . .]    –Deborah Tennen, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, October 25, 2012

Contributed by Steve Bartus (Bowdoin, ’07)

ABC’s Radio Poolside Story: “Star for Sale” (2009)

patrick-holland-star-for-sale-abc-radio-poolside-story-2009I followed the crowd down Fernberg Road onto Boys St where men in suits and shining shoes were selling stars. At first I did not know that was what they were doing. One suited man stood on a soapbox. The others sat behind a row of telescopes and their index fingers directed eyes about the firmament. I thought they were an astronomy club. But people were writing cheques; and a great celestial map clipped to an escritoire had pins and pen-marks all over it. Then I realised the man on the soapbox was conducting an auction.
I saw the weakest star of the Cross go for $100 000; someone whispered to the effect that he had bought the four major ones and was not greatly attached to this last only he needed it to complete the piece.
‘What would the Cross be without it?’ said the auctioneer to encourage the man through the bidding. The man intended the famed constellation for a light-feature in his garden. I felt a little sad for the ghosts of Cook and Magellan, lost upon dark waters below a bewildering sky.
In the background a ruckus was being subdued by the agency. Two men and an agent were fighting. It seemed the first star Dante saw when he emerged from the Inferno had been sold in a previous lot and there was a dispute over its authenticity. The agent was trying to reassure the man that though Florence was indeed in the Northern hemisphere, Dante had walked down through the Earth and emerged on the other side. The man’s companion was showing the agent Canto XXXIV and the line where Dante mysteriously turns back in space and for a while believes he is going deeper into the pit.
. . .so the night proceeded and all the stars were sold. One by one.
The final lot was a small fleck of a star, barely visible and only now toward three o’clock in winter. By this time there was little money or interest left in the auction. The auctioneer began the lot sheepishly at a thousand dollars. I put up my hand amidst the scattering, disinterested crowd and said ‘Ten’. The auctioneer laughed. He looked around the dispersing crowd and laughed again, but his confidence was gone.
‘It’s a star, you realize?’
‘I know,’ I said, stepping closer to the soapbox. ‘It’s worth much more, but ten is all I have.’
The auctioneer scowled:
‘I’d buy it myself if I had anywhere to put it.’
Reluctantly he re-started the auction. He called ‘Ten dollars’ three drawn out times and disgustedly brought the hammer down.
‘I expect you can arrange finance.’
I handed him the ten-dollar note.
‘Now, where do you want it delivered?’
‘I don’t. Leave it where it is.’
‘But it’s your star. You’ve bought it!’ He held a contract up to my face as proof.
‘I know. Only, leave it where it is. I like it there.’
I signed the contract and the auctioneer walked away shaking his head.
An energetic few had already set about taking down their new possessions. The Cross was gone to the rich man’s garden. The man who bought Dante’s star had it on the pavement, looking at it suspiciously where it burned as hot as a con. He was threatening to default on the deposit.
I always liked the smallest stars, anyway, I told myself: the ones that show the reality of the dark as well as the possibility of light. Perhaps tomorrow I would stay up late again and see my star rise alone in the east.”    –Patrick Holland, ABC Pool, 2009

Paul Auster, “Invisible” (2009)

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Begins with a reference to Bertran de Born. One of the protagonists has the last name Born, and Bertran comes up a few times: both as Dante depicted him and as the poet himself. The narrator also translates one of Bertran’s poems from Occitan into English (Auster includes the whole poem).

Contributed by Elizabeth Ann Coggeshall

NY Times Review of Beha’s “What Happened to Sophie Wilder” (2012)

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“. . .His first novel, What Happened to Sophie Wilder, is about many things — the New York publishing world, the growing pains of post-collegiate life, the rigors of Roman Catholicism — but at its center it’s a moving meditation on why and for whom we write.
‘When we are inspired,’ the British psychologist Adam Phillips has observed, ‘rather like when we are in love, we can feel both unintelligible to ourselves and most truly ourselves.’ Just ask Dante. Or Charlie Blakeman, Beha’s 28-year-old novelist narrator. When first met, Charlie is renting a room from the uncle of a college acquaintance in a town house on Washington Square. He has published a novel that almost nobody noticed and the future of his writing career looks bleak. Enter — or make that re-enter — Sophie Wilder, the wise (Sophie), wild (Wilder) love of his life, whom he first encountered almost a decade earlier in a freshman writing workshop.” [. . .]    –Sarah Towers, The New York Times, June 29, 2012

Dale E. Basye, “Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go” Series

dale-e-basye-heck-where-the-bad-kids-go-seriesHeck: Where Bad Kids Go is a series of books that seems to have drawn heavy inspiration from Dante’s Inferno. After the first installment in the series, each subsequent book is focused on a specific “circle of Heck.” The characters’ names seem to draw inspiration from different sources of “infernal” literature – more specifically, Dante, Milton, and Goethe: Virgil, Milton, and Fauster, for example. At one point in the series, the protagonists have to cross “the great tunnel of dung-the River Styx, the final, fecal resting place of all the world’s sewage.”

Contributed by Gianluca P., 4th grade

A Review of Steven Boyett’s “Morality Bridge” (2011)

steven-boyett-morality-bridge-2011“. . . Boyett’s Hell is steeped in mysticism and antiquity, borrowing freely from the Greeks, and Dante, and Bosch. Each turn in the underworld gives Boyett a fresh excuse to unlimber new grotesque phrases, stomach-churning descriptions of tortures too horrific to contemplate (though Boyett forcefully insists upon it).
Meanwhile, Niko’s race through Hell is one of the greatest supernatural adventure stories of recent memory, surpassing Niven and Pournelle’s classic Inferno (itself a very good novel on a similar premise, even if it does turn on the power of Hell to redeem one of history’s great monsters). It is not a mere allegory about sin and redemption, cowardice and nobility: it’s also a damned good story, which sets it apart from almost all existential allegories.” [. . .]    –Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, November 8, 2011

Contributed by Patrick Molloy