Go, Went, Gone (2015 novel by Jenny Erpenbeck)

“Would you like to read something while I’m getting lunch ready? Rufu says: Si, volontieri. The only book in Italian that Richard owns is Dante’s Divine Comedy. For years he’d been planning to read it in the original, but at some point the plan slipped his mind. For years, the Italian dictionary has stood beside it on his shelf. Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/mi ritrovai per una selva oscura/ché la diritta via era smarrita. He can still recite the opening lines in Italian from memory. Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, the right road lost. Maybe not such a bad choice after all, he thinks, and hands the refugee — who’s gone a half a world astray — the burgundy-linen bound first volume.” — Jenny Erpenbeck, Go, Went, Gone (2015). Trans. from the German by Susan Bernofsky (New Directions, 2017).

See Adam Kirsch’s review of the novel, a fiction about the impact of the refugee crisis on European and global politics, here.

Contributed by Pete Maiers

Wallace Stegner, Angle of Repose (1971)

Angle-of-Repose-Wallace-Stegner“Mr. Kendall, watching the floor come up, yanked on the bell wire and the skip shuddered and rattled to a halt. The groaning died; there was a lonely sound of dripping water. When they had helped her out onto the uneven floor, Oliver scratched a lucifer match on his seat and lit her candle, Mr. Prager’s, his own. In the enlarged bloom of light she could see for some distance down the timbered drift with its toy rails converging toward a vanishing point that was simultaneous with total blackness. Down this drift, with Kendall walking ahead and the others steering her by the elbows, they made their way. Inevitably she thought of Dante, Virgil, and Beatrice, and up on top Tregoning, Charon of this vertical Styx; but the thought of how silly it would sound to speak that thought made her blot it out. About used up, I should think, Oliver might say.”

Contributed by Pete Maiers

The Dante Trap by Arnaud Delalande (2011)

“Murder follows murder, each more gruesome than the last, and as Viravolta begins to draw the connections between these deaths, and the torments reserved for sinners in each of Dante’s circles of hell, he finds himself embroiled in a terrible game of cat and mouse. As the streets of Venice fill with masked Carnival-goers, and as Anna and Viravolta are once again thrown together, he is drawn further into the inferno, to the heart of a secret sect and a plot to bring about the downfall of the city.” —Orion Books

Contributed by Alessandra Mazzocchi (Florida State University ’19)

Gary Panter, Songy of Paradise (2017)

Gary-Panter-Songy-of-Paradise“The final issue of Jimbo – #7 – chronicles Jimbo’s descent into Hell, represented on the page as an abandoned mall. The comic is a scant 33 pages long, but Fantagraphics decided to make a big deal of it: they repackaged Jimbo #7 as Jimbo’s Inferno, a gigantic, 11×15 hardcover book, and followed it with Jimbo in Purgatory.

“The wider reading public began to notice what Panter was doing: each page corresponded to a canto in Dante’s classic poems. Though the improvisational-looking drawings were of robots or monsters or yokels on tractors, they were all part of a highly complex representational scheme that paid homage to, and made fun of, Dante all at once.

“The last volume in the trilogy ships this month: Songy of Paradise merges Dante’s Paradiso with Milton’s Paradise Regained, and tells the story of Jesus’s temptation in the desert, with a gap-toothed hillbilly named Songy taking the place of Jesus (Panter: ‘I didn’t want to deal with Jesus’).” –Sam Thielman, “Gary Panter: The Cartoonist Who Took a Trip to Hell and Back,” The Guardian, July 18, 2017

See also our previous post on Gary Panter’s 2006 graphic novel Jimbo’s Inferno here.

Marco Santagata, Come donna innamorata (2015)

Dante-Santagata-2015-come-donna-innamorataMarco Santagata’s 2015 novel Come donna innamorata — based on Dante’s biography, on which Santagata has also published — was a finalist for the Premio Strega. See the publisher’s description below:

“Come si può continuare a scrivere quando la morte ti ha sottratto la tua Musa? È questo l’interrogativo che, l’8 giugno 1290, tormenta Dante Alighieri, giovane poeta ancora alla ricerca di una sua voce, davanti alle spoglie di Beatrice Portinari. Da quel momento tutto cambierà: la sua vita come la sua poesia. Percorrendo le strade di Firenze, Dante rievoca le vicissitudini di un amore segnato dal destino, il primo incontro e l’ultimo sguardo, la malìa di una passione in virtù della quale ha avuto ispirazione e fama. È sgomento, il giovane poeta; e smarrito. Ma la sorte gli riserva altri strali. Mentre le trame della politica fiorentina minacciano dapprima i suoi affetti – dal rapporto con la moglie Gemma all’amicizia fraterna con Guido Cavalcanti –e poi la sua stessa vita, Dante Alighieri fa i conti con le tentazioni del potere e la ferita del tradimento, con l’aspirazione al successo e la paura di non riuscire a comporre il suo capolavoro…È un Dante intimo, rivelato anche nella sua fragilità, e nelle sue ambiguità, quello che Marco Santagata mette in scena in un romanzo che restituisce le atmosfere, le parole, le inquietudini di un Medioevo vivido e vicino. Il sommo poeta in tutta la sua umanità: lacerato dall’amore, tormentato dall’ambizione, ardentemente contemporaneo.” — Guanda

See Giuseppe Fantasia’s review in the Italian edition of Huffington Post here.

Inferno: A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles (2010)

Eileen-Myles-Reading-Inferno“I was completely stupefied by Inferno in the best of ways. In fact, I think I must feel kind of like Dante felt after seeing the face of God. My descriptive capacity just fails, gives way completely. But I can tell you that Eileen Myles made me understand something I didn’t before. And really, what more can you ask of a novel, or a poet’s novel, or a poem, or a memoir, or whatever the hell this shimmering document is? Just read it.” — Alison Bechdel

“From its beginning — ‘My English professor’s ass was so beautiful.’ — to its end — ‘You can actually learn to have grace. And that’s heaven.’ — poet, essayist and performer Eileen Myles’ chronicle transmits an energy and vividness that will not soon leave its readers. Her story of a young female writer, discovering both her sexuality and her own creative drive in the meditative and raucous environment that was New York City in its punk and indie heyday, is engrossing, poignant, and funny. This is a voice from the underground that redefines the meaning of the word.” — OR Books

Read an excerpt here, or listen to Myles read an excerpt here.

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (2012)

gone-girl-movie-still-abandon-all-hopeIn both the book and the movie Gone Girl the main character, Amy, says about marriage: “Marriage is compromise and hard work, and then more hard work and communication and compromise. And then work. Abandon all hope, ye who enter.”

For the 2012 book by Gillian Flynn, see the Gone Girl page on Flynn’s website.

For the 2014 film directed by David Fincher, see the film’s official website.

Contributed by Autumn Friesen (University of Texas ’16)

Carl L. Harshman and Ryan D. Harshman, “Dante’s Cubicle: Paving the Road from Hell in Corporate America” (2015)

Untitled“This is a business fiction, but . . . the stories are based on real life events. Michael, a young, enthusiastic engineer in his first full-time job, narrates life with this “worker bee” colleagues in the world of cubicles. The colleagues are a diverse group of individuals one is likely to find in such a setting. Early in the book a mysterious character appears to engage Michael in dialogues about what is going on in the Archangel Corporation. This mysterious individual provides perspective and occasional advice to Michael on what he is experiencing and how he might engage it going forward. Everyone who has worked in an American corporation can identify with Michael’s and the group’s experiences and gain some perspective on the alternatives during the journey.”    —Amazon

Dimitry Elias Léger, God Loves Haiti (2015)

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Does God love my damaged country? This novel’s central question is a Dante paraphrase, and Dimitry Elias Léger’s central character, artist Natasha Robert, is “a self-proclaimed Caribbean-born daughter of Dante.” The Divine Comedy inspires her faith and her art, which features crucifixes, “Dante’s circles of hell,” “a forgiving, Haitian-looking Jesus.”  When the 2010 earthquake strikes Port-au-Prince, she is at the airport with her new husband, Haiti’s President, about to board a plane that will take them into exile in Italy.

Post-quake, in a world of white dust and broken bodies, Natasha’s first response is to pick a fight with Dante: “Dante was wrong, she thought. This is what hell is like. In hell, you’re alive but everyone and everything that you love is dead and destroyed, and you don’t know what to do or say. Dante didn’t get it. You had to die or receive this kind of news to truly glimpse hell.” The President, meanwhile, lies flat on the tarmac, trying out a near-death vision of his political predecessors arguing with Saint Peter over their place in eternity. Natasha’s lover, Alain Destiné, waits out most of the novel in refugee camp purgatory, posing variations on the question “God, how could You?”

If you are looking for The Divine Comedy in God Loves Haiti, imagine what Dante’s three-story structure might look like after an earthquake. In Léger’s narrative landscape, Inferno, Purgatario, Paradiso are collapsed onto each other in a heap of dust and rubble. There’s room to regret past choices; there’s no clear route to paradise. Yet in the hellish expanses of destruction Léger manages to uncover shards of redemptive beauty and even a medieval plot twist: his eventual solution to the love triangle is far more Beatrice than Beyoncé.    –Julia Boss

 

Nathaniel Rich, Odds Against Tomorrow (2013)

Odds Against TomorrowMitchell Zukor, the protagonist of Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, suffers from panic attacks and often uses phrases like “going to a deeper circle in hell.”

Rich’s website describes the novel:

“New York City, the near future: Mitchell Zukor, a gifted young mathematician, is hired by a mysterious new financial consulting firm, FutureWorld. The business operates out of an empty office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two. [. . .]

“As Mitchell immerses himself in the mathematics of catastrophe–ecological collapse, war games, natural disasters–he becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears. [. . .]

“Then, just as Mitchell’s predictions reach a nightmarish crescendo, an actual worst-case scenario overtakes Manhattan. [. . .]

“At once an all-too plausible literary thriller, an unexpected love story, and a philosophically searching inquiry into the nature of fear, Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow poses the ultimate questions of imagination and civilization. The future is not quite what it used to be.”    —Nathaniel Rich’s Website

 

Contributed by Thomas Jonkergouw, Universiteit Utrecht