JFK’s Favorite Quote: “The hottest places in Hell…”

“One of President Kennedy’s favorite quotations was based upon an interpretation of Dante’s Inferno. As Robert Kennedy explained in 1964, ‘President Kennedy’s favorite quote was really from Dante, “The hottest places in Hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”‘ This supposed quotation is not actually in Dante’s work, but is based upon a similar one. In the Inferno, Dante and his guide Virgil, on their way to Hell, pass by a group of dead souls outside the entrance to Hell. These individuals, when alive, remained neutral at a time of great moral decision. Virgil explains to Dante that these souls cannot enter either Heaven or Hell because they did not choose one side or another. They are therefore worse than the greatest sinners in Hell because they are repugnant to both God and Satan alike, and have been left to mourn their fate as insignificant beings neither hailed nor cursed in life or death, endlessly travailing below Heaven but outside of Hell.”   –“John F. Kennedy’s Favorite Quotations: Dante’s Inferno,” from the JFK Library

For more, see Deborah Parker’s essay “The Historical Presidency: JFK’s Dante,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 48.2 (June 2018): 357-372.

The frequently misattributed quotation was also cited by Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1967 address on the Vietnam War (see here).

Martin Luther King, Jr., on Nonviolence (March 31, 1968)

“It is no longer a choice, my friends, between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. And the alternative to disarmament, the alternative to a greater suspension of nuclear tests, the alternative to strengthening the United Nations and thereby disarming the whole world, may well be a civilization plunged into the abyss of annihilation, and our earthly habitat would be transformed into an inferno that even the mind of Dante could not imagine.   Martin Luther King, Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” Address delivered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. (March 31, 1968)

Read the full transcript at the website of the King Institute, Stanford University.

The image above comes from here, courtesy of the DC Public Library.

Inferno Pop-up Book by Massimo Missiroli, with Paolo Rambelli (2020)

La Divina Commedia, composta da Dante Alighieri nei primi vent’anni del XIV secolo, è universalmente ritenuta una delle più grandi opere della letteratura di tutti i tempi. Le illustrazioni per la Commedia di Gustave Dorè sono divenute un riferimento iconografico imprescindibile non solo per i lettori successivi di Dante ma per tutti coloro che hanno cercato di trasporlo sul grande schermo.

“Per la prima volta Dante e Dorè diventano ora protagonisti di un libro pop-up – cioè di ciò che è più vicino alla dinamicità del cinema pur conservando la forma base del libro – grazie all’opera di uno dei più apprezzati paper engineer a livello internazionale: Massimo Missiroli. Il cartotecnico italiano, già vincitore del Premio Andersen nel 2001 e candidato al premio Meggendorfer nel 2004, ha infatti realizzato, in collaborazione con Paolo Rambelli dell’Università di Bologna per la parte testuale, una straordinaria versione pop-up dell’Inferno Dantesco, sfruttando per ogni illustrazione una diversa tecnica di sviluppo verticale delle figure, così da rinnovare ad ogni pagina lo stupore per la capacità evocativa del capolavoro dedicato da Dorè al capolavoro di Dante.

“Un’opera unica ed originale che i collezionisti di pop-up, così come gli amanti di Dante e di Dorè non possono non possedere.”  — Project Website

See a prototype of the pop-up book on YouTube (last accessed May 24, 2020).

To help fund the project, visit the Kickstarter page (expires June 21, 2020).

“Celebrate Dante and Help Fight the Coronavirus”

 

“Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz has a heart for God. It’s evident in his works, such as ‘Homeless Jesus,’ his popular portrayal of Jesus sleeping on a park bench, and more recently, ‘Angels Unawares,’ Schmalz’ three-ton sculpture based on Hebrews 13:2. That latter sculpture, which depicts a boat carrying 140 migrants and refugees from periods of stress throughout recorded history, was unveiled by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square in September 2019.

“In Italy, March 25 [2020] was the first official ‘Dante Day’ — a day dedicated by the Italian government to celebrate the accomplishments of the Florentine poet who penned the long narrative poem titled The Divine Comedy. On that day, Schmalz introduced a new set of sculptures through an online book which will include a series of 100 sculptures, representing all 100 cantos in the Divine Comedy. Modern readers have found the existing translations of the Divine Comedy from the original Italian, including one translation by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, somewhat cumbersome — so Schmalz is partnering with translator Daniel Fitzpatrick, who is working to produce an easy-to-read version that will appeal to a wide audience.

[. . .]

“Schmalz had originally intended for the book’s initial release to be in hardcover March 25, 2021, when the nation of Italy will celebrate the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. That plan changed, however, when Schmalz became aware of the scope of the tragedy emerging in Italy due to the novel coronavirus. ‘As I was coming to my studio early last Friday,’ Schmalz told the Register, ‘I was listening to the news about the horrors and the tragedy that’s happening in Italy. I thought, “Isn’t it ironic? Here I am, creating this greatest hero of Italy, while Italy is going through such a horrible situation!” Then I put the two things together: I could use the book to help Italy!’

“Daniel Fitzpatrick, the translator, agreed, and plans were made to release the book of poetry and art in a series format, and to donate all proceeds from sales of the e-book to help the hospitals of Italy better care for their critically ill patients. For a donation of just $5, readers can sign up to receive two cantos each week — one on Wednesday and the second on Sunday — beginning with Dante’s first vision of the Inferno, and culminating in the Paradiso, in time for Italy’s 700th anniversary celebration.”    –Kathy Schiffer, National Catholic Register, March 30, 2020

See our original post about Timothy Schmalz here.

Dante 700 by Timothy Schmalz

“In September 2019, Timothy Schmalz’s ‘Angels Unawares,’ a life-size bronze sculpture commemorating the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, was installed in St. Peter’s Square in Rome. Pope Francis celebrated a special Mass for the occasion.

Timothy is currently working on a new project to honor the 700th anniversary of Dante Alighieri in 2021. ‘I believe Dante is one of the greatest writers of all time. So, I thought I would do what has never been done before. I think this is an amazing opportunity to celebrate not only Dante, but Italian and European culture.’ He plans to sculpt each of Dante’s 300 cantos. The ‘Dante 700’ sculpture project will memorialize this significant anniversary with sculptures of each of the 100 cantos in the Divine Comedy. Very few artists ever represent more than the Inferno in their paintings and sculptures. This is a rare project that will show individual sculptures of all the cantos, including Purgatory and Paradise.

The project will include the cantos and a principal sculpture of Dante. Installed together and cast in bronze, the work will be dynamically represented in order to inspire people to actually read Dante. This sculpture project will also be used to create a new illustrated book of Dante in collaboration with a new translation, which will be finished for the anniversary year in 2021.”    —La Gazzetta Italiana, April 2020

“Dante’s Inferno: Navigating the Complexities of Hell in As Above, So Below

These words scrawled across the walls beneath the Paris Catacombs mark the entrance to Hell for the characters in As Above, So Below. They herald in a nightmarish final act. The very same words that mark the gates to Hell in writer Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first part of his epic poem of Divine ComedyInferno tells of Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. Their journey begins on Good Friday, and the pair emerges from Hell early on Easter morning under a starry sky. Though As Above, So Below draws from various mythologies, it’s Dante’s Inferno and its complex rendering of Hell that most closely mirrors protagonist Scarlett Marlowe’s quest, making for an atypical found footage film that offers impressively layered world-building.

[. . .]

The only way out is down. That they descend through a well is significant. Scarlett explains the phrase “as above, so below” is the key to all magic. What happens in one reality occurs in another, presenting a bizarre mirror-like symmetry to their voyage. The group begins by climbing down a well, and they end it by going down another well. In Inferno, wells play a part in getting Dante and his guide to the eighth and ninth circles. Later, Dante and Virgil finally reach the center of Hell and begin their escape by continuing downward. Dante is convinced they’re returning to Hell, only to realize gravity has changed, and they’re climbing up to the surface. Dante, half-way through his life, begins his journey spiritually lost. More than just a guide to Hell, Virgil becomes his guide to virtue and mortal. That’s mirrored in Scarlett, reckless and reeling from the loss of her father, and George, the strict rule-abiding ethical anchor. Much of George’s fear for breaking the law stems from spending time in a Turkish prison before the events of the film, which also parallel’s Virgil in that he detailed his personal trip through Hell in his poem Aeneid. ”    –Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting, April 10, 2020

See our original post on As Above, So Below here.

Dante and the Wizard of Oz

Comic book: Canto, Vol 1: If I Only Had a Heart by David Booher, Drew Zucker, Vittorio Astone, Deron Bennett (2020)

Canto, IDW’s dark fantasy tale, is a combination of The Wizard of Oz and Dante’s Inferno, in more ways than one. … Canto is very much like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Canto, the titular tin-man of the story, comes from a race of tin-men, all small and without hearts, who are enslaved and expected to work until they stop. Their hearts have been replaced with clocks, but allegedly, their hearts still exist somewhere, beating and alive. He sets out on a journey to find his beloved’s before the time on her clock runs out, knowing that the quest may be futile. Eventually, he learns he must find the Shrouded Man of the City of Dis, who resides in an Emerald Tower. To reach his destination, Canto follows a yellow brick road. […]    —CBR.com   See also this and this.

Tappeto Volante’s Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso

The theater troupe Tappeto Volante has staged multiple immersive, ambulatory performances of Dante’s canticles in different locations in the province of Salerno. The first, Inferno, was staged in the Grotte di Pertosa-Auletta (also the backdrop for the 2020 musical Inferno, by the Grieco Brothers) and has been running continuously in the Cave of Castelcivita since 2012. They continued with a performance of Purgatorio at the Certosa di Pedula. They return to Salerno for their Paradiso, staged in the Castello di Arechi (promotional poster, right).

The troupe has also performed their Inferno in the Museo del Sottosuolo, and their Purgatorio in the Real Casa Santa dell’Annunziata, both in Naples.

See the Tappeto Volante website for details and reservations.

The Grieco Brothers’ Inferno, the Musical (2020)

The Grieco Brothers‘ new musical, Inferno, is staged in the Caves at Pertosa-Auletta, in the province of Salerno. Of the brothers’ interest in representing the Inferno, Massimo Grieco says, “Nietzsche diceva che se si guarda per un tempo sufficiente nell’abisso, l’abisso guarderà dentro te. L’inferno è, per me, la migliore rappresentazione dei fantasmi che albergano dentro di noi. È il nostro abisso. Ed in questo senso, esaminare l’inferno è un viaggio di andata e ritorno dentro di sé. Se si è abbastanza equilibrati ed onesti, si accettano i propri abissi e si gestiscono. Solo così possiamo, ogni mattina, riaprire gli occhi, riuscire a riveder le stelle, considerato i giorni che stiamo attualmente vivendo.”  –Massimo Grieco, in an interview with Lorenzo Calafiore, “Da Itaca all’Inferno. Lorenzo Calafiore dialoga con i Grieco Brothers,” Insula europea (25 March 2020)

The Grotte di Pertosa-Auletta have also served as the backdrop to immersive, ambulatory performances by the troupe Tappeto Volante, directed by Domenico M. Corrado (see post here).

John Wick: Chapter Three — Parabellum (2019 film)

John-Wick-Three-Parabellum-Library“Near the start of the film, John Wick: Chapter Three – Parabellum (2019), the eponymous hitman (played by Keanu Reeves) is at the New York Public Library when he is surprised by another assassin, Ernest (a cameo by Boban Marjanovic), who makes his introduction by reading a tercet from Ulysses’ speech in Inferno 26, and then mentioning Dante by name: ‘Consider your origins: / you were not made to live as brutes, / but to follow virtue and knowledge’ (Inf. 26. 118-120).”  –Contributor Devin Fernandez

The Philadelphia Enquirer describes the fight scene between Reeves’s character and basketball-star-and-acting-newcomer Marjanovic as follows: “In the scene, Boban’s character is the first of what will be a hundred or so assassins who try to kill Wick, so it’s a small role but with a prominent position in the film. Reeves is the star, of course, and the outcome of the scene is never in doubt. Even so, [director Chad] Stahelski finds some (wait for it) novel ways to administer the final blow. The phrase ‘eat your words’ comes to mind.

“’He a super-nice guy. Very humble, and I remember he paid a lot of attention to detail. He really practiced his lines, and he got a lot of coaching from Keanu. This is like his first movie gig, and he’s quoting Dante’s Inferno, so it was a lot to ask. I give him credit, because that was a long day, and he really held up well and contributed.’”  — Gary Thompson, “‘John Wick 3’ director talks about pairing Keanu Reeves with Sixers center Boban Marjanovic for a major fight scene,” Philadelphia Enquirer, May 10, 2019

Contributed by Carlos Devin Fernandez (University of Texas at Austin, PhD Candidate)