“Dante and The Divine Comedy: He took us on a tour of Hell”

“Literary ambition seems to have been with Dante, born in 1265, from early in life when he wished to become a pharmacist. In late 13th Century Florence, books were sold in apothecaries, a testament to the common notion that words on paper or parchment could affect minds with their ideas as much as any drug.

“And what an addiction The Divine Comedy inspired: a literary work endlessly adapted, pinched from, referenced and remixed, inspiring painters and sculptors for centuries. More than the authors of the Bible itself, Dante provided us with the vision of Hell that remains with us and has been painted by Botticelli and Blake, Delacroix and Dalí, turned into sculpture by Rodin – whose The Kiss depicts Dante’s damned lovers Paolo and Francesca – and illustrated in the pages of X-Men comics by John Romita. Jorge Luis Borges said The Divine Comedy is ‘the best book literature has ever achieved’, while TS Eliot summed up its influence thus: ‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.’ Perhaps the epigraph to The Divine Comedy itself should be ‘Gather inspiration all ye who enter here.’

“But it’s not just as a fountainhead of inspiration for writers and visual artists that The Divine Comedy reigns supreme – this is the work that enshrined what we think of as the Italian language and advanced the idea of the author as a singular creative voice with a vision powerful enough to stand alongside Holy Scripture, a notion that paved the way for the Renaissance, for the Reformation after that and finally for the secular humanism that dominates intellectual discourse today. You may have never read a single line of The Divine Comedy, and yet you’ve been influenced by it.”   –Christian Blauvelt, BBC, 2018

Read the full article here.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Inferno Translation

Nineteenth century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow translates Inferno, featured in this 2013 book. More information about this translation can be found here.

“Un correttore molto scrupoloso: Capitini lettore di Dante (e di Contini)”

un-correttore-molto-scrupoloso-capitini-lettore-di-dante-2021“Risale all’autunno del 1935 nella città di Perugia, la nascita dell’amicizia tra il filosofo  Aldo Capitini e il filologo Gianfranco Contini. Quest’ultimo era approdato nel capoluogo umbro come titolare della cattedra di lettere al liceo classico ‘Annibale Mariotti’. Nel corso della loro frequentazione, protrattasi lungo l’anno scolastico 1936-37, molti saranno stati gli argomenti di conversazione tra i due, non ultimo Dante Alighieri.

“Al sommo poeta Capitini aveva dedicato nel 1927 la tesina intitolata Sulla Vita Nuova di Dante nell’Ottocento in Italia,  e l’anno successivo un capitolo della tesi di laurea Realismo e serenità in alcuni poeti italiani (Iacopone, Dante, Poliziano, Foscolo, Leopardi). Primo abbozzo, sotto la guida di Attilio Momigliano, presso l’Ateneo di Pisa; mentre Contini, da parte sua, si avviava a pubblicare il primo fondamentale contributo agli studi danteschi con l’edizione delle Rime.” [. . .]    –Carlo Pulsoni, European Insula, January 21, 2021.

 

The Florentine, “Best Dante Books: A Deep Dive Into The Medieval Poet”

best-dante-books-a-deep-dive-into-the-medieval-poet-2021“T.S. Eliot famously said, ‘Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.’ While Dante is still rigorously read in Italian schools, most English-speaking countries limit themselves to a bit of the Inferno in Western literature courses, if at all. Approaching Dante for the first time can be daunting, especially since some knowledge about his life and times is essential for understanding the poem. Fortunately, there is no shortage of excellent books on the subject to help make the journey easier and more enjoyable.” [. . .]    –Alexandra Lawrence, The Florentine, March 5, 2021.

Victoria Ocampo, Autobiografía II: La rama de Salzburgo (1980)

“Victoria utilizará también una serie de referentes literarios, teniendo siempre como principal a la pareja Francesca y Paolo, dos amantes que aparecen en la Divina Comedia en el Canto V del Infierno. Dante habla con ellos y siente gran compasión por su amor, de modo que entabla un diálogo con ellos – algo que el autor no hace con casi nadie de los personajes en los tres libros. Asimismo, habla de Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Emily Brönte, entre otros.”   –Review on El buen librero (August 8, 2014)

Ocampo also published De Francesca à Beatrice, a commentary on Dante’s Divine Comedy, in 1923.

Carlos Martínez 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).

Kat Mustatea, Voidopolis (2020)

@kmustatea on Instagram (January 30, 2021)

Voidopolis is a digital performance about loss and memory that is currently unfolding over 45 posts on my Instagram feed (@kmustatea). Started July 1, 2020, it is a loose retelling of Dante’s Inferno, informed by the grim experience of wandering through NYC during a pandemic. Instead of the poet Virgil, my guide is a caustic hobo named Nikita.”   –Kat Mustatea

Featuring a Dantesque cast of characters ranging from the Virgilian Nikita to a mohawked Minos, a gruff ferryman named Kim and a withdrawn George Perec, Mustatea’s Voidopolis weaves through the pandemic-deserted streets of Manhattan, a posthuman landscape of absence and loss, bearing witness to its vanishings. Voidopolis won the 2020 Arts & Letters “Unclassifiable” Prize for Literature, and received a Literature grant from the Cafe Royal Cultural Foundation.

To read more about both the process of the piece and its influences, including Dante, see the interview with Mustatea featured in Dovetail Magazine (2020).

 

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)

Carolyn Wolfenzon, Nuevos fantasmas recorren México (2020)

“In eight chapters, Wolfenzon focuses on different ghosts that haunt the pages of each of the novels. In her essay about Sada’s Porque parece mentira la verdad nunca se sabe (Because it Seems Like a Lie, The Truth is Never Known), for example, his ‘ghost is someone like you and me who works in a maquiladora,’ Wolfenzon said, referring to the factories prevalent along the US–Mexico border.

“‘The characters are only doing one thing in the entire novel,’ she continued. ‘They are like the dead but they are alive, in this setting, this space that doesn’t belong to anybody. It is the border between Mexico and the US, and it has the atmosphere of a new kind of hell.’

“Indeed, Wolfenzon was struck by how often the authors she examined describe new kinds of horrifying hells. She saw correlations with the Inferno, and in 2016, audited Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Arielle Saiber’s class on Dante.

“‘I felt it was important to carefully revisit the Divina Comedia (The Divine Comedy),’ Wolfenzon said. ‘Arielle’s class was very inspirational to me, even though it was in Italian!'”   –Rebecca Goldfine, “Carolyn Wolfenzon’s New Book Illuminates a Ghoulish Theme in Modern Mexican Literature,” Bowdoin News, December 14, 2020

REVIEWED: Dante’s Inferno: A Verse Translation by Sean O’Brien

“At least 50 English translations of The Inferno — the first volume of Dante’s three-part epic — have appeared in the 20th century alone. And now we have another, by the Yorkshire-born poet Sean O’Brien. O’Brien’s is a brave undertaking, given the scores of august literary figures who have attempted the task in previous centuries, often obscuring Dante’s brilliance in the process.

“O’Brien’s Inferno is touted by the publishers as ‘the most fluent, grippingly readable English version of Dante yet’.”   –Ian Thomson, The Spectator, 2006

Read the full review here.