“A frustrated poet, he turned to prose in his 30s to pay his bills—and shone. Many of his novels may seem facile, packed with talky introspection and postpubescent brooding, but in fact are densely layered tales, with scores of narrators, soaked in erudition and mordant social comment. A ferocious reader, Bolaño wrote with Cervantes, Dante, and Homer looking over his shoulder.” –Mac Margolis, Newsweek, April 16, 2012
All That Man Is (2017) by David Szalay
David Szalay’s All That Man Is, published in 2017 by Vintage, tells the stories of nine different men at varying stages of life, and explores the issues and psych of the 21st century man. The book was a finalist for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, and the winner of the 2016 Paris Review Plimpton Prize for Fiction. The fourth story of the novel cites the first three lines of the Inferno, as the story’s protagonist, a medieval scholar in crisis, drives into a pine forest.
“Pine forests on hillsides start to envelop them on the east side of the Main. And fog.
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
Ché la diritta via era smarrita
“Well, here it is. Dark pine forests, hemming the motorway. Shapes of fog throw themselves at the windscreen.” [. . .] –David Szalay, All That Man Is (p. 146).
You can purchase Szalay’s book here.
Reviewed: Dante’s Divine Comedy by Ian Thomson
“Ian Thomson’s eclectic and erudite romp through the work of Dante Alighieri – born in Florence in 1265, died in Ravenna in 1321 – features sharp observations and piquant elucidations concerning Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) and its author.
“Thomson sets the tone from the off, beginning with an amusing epigraph which ran in Private Eye in December 2017, a `Very Late News’ about how the 14th century Italian poet Dante Alighieri and how he would be glad to see the back of that year, saying ‘Phew, I’ve been trapped in this circle of hell for so long, I can’t wait to get out of it.’
“As for the matter in hand, this welcome book – whose subtitle is A Journey Without End – is no skit, despite the Private Eye reference. Dorothy L Sayers offers a more relevant reflection on the work of the great Florentine in another epigraph to the work. ‘To understand Dante is not, of course, necessary to believe what he believed, but it is, I think, necessary to understand what he believed.’
“There have been myriad translations in English of Divina Commedia including a recent offering from Clive James, which appears to have won some and lost some fans – a quote from Ciaran Carson’s version is favoured instead for the back cover.” […] –Paddy Kehoe, RTE, January 14, 2019
For more, consult the reviews of Thomson’s work in The Guardian, The Spectator, and Church Times.
A Profound Meditation on Hell
“When I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray …’
“So opens the 14th-century poem Divina Comedia (The Divine Comedy) by Dante Alighieri.
“Fusing practical advice about how to live one’s Christian vocation with a piece of high art from the Middle Ages is not an easy thing to do. Father Pearson carries it off superbly, and while doing so, he gives the reader a fresh appreciation of Divina Comedia.
“The structure of the book is a straightforward journey through the 34 cantos that make up the first part of the poem, namely, Inferno (hell). For anyone unfamiliar with Divina Comedia, this epic poem recounts how Dante, accompanied by the pagan poet Virgil, journeys through the many circles of hell, purgatory and then heaven.” […] –K.V. Turley, National Catholic Register, June 8, 2019
Tina Turner: By the Book
“What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?
‘In 2017, my kidneys were failing and I went through a prolonged period of dialysis. Every time I went to the clinic, I brought the same three books with me: The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra, The Divine Comedy, by Dante, and a book of photography by the extraordinary Horst P. Horst. I needed something for the spirit, something for the intellect and something for the senses, and the ritual of studying the same books while I was undergoing treatment was comforting to me because it imposed order on a situation I couldn’t otherwise control.’
“You’re hosting a literary dinner party. Which three writers are invited?
‘I like a dinner party to be a lively mixture of different kinds of people — young, old and everything in between. So my first choice would be Dante — after all my years of studying The Divine Comedy, I need to ask him a lot of questions! I could be his Beatrice! Since I can’t choose between Anne Rice and Stephen King, I’d set places for both of them. Their books have kept me awake for many a night because there’s nothing I enjoy more than a good scare! And I’d definitely serve Thai food, because I like things spicy.’ ” […] –Jillian Tamaki, The New York Times, October 18, 2018
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