Abe Kōbō, “The Boom in Science Fiction” (1962)

“[. . .] Rediscovering the Vision of Science Fiction. We cannot call everything with a monster in it science fiction, but if we make the presence of a hypothesis our standard, then we are free to widen the field considerably. The evolutionary line of science fiction could include not only Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. [1920] and War with the Newts [1936], but even Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis [1915] and David Garnett’s Lady into Fox [1922]. We could broaden our definition endlessly, going beyond the commonly accepted idea of the ‘science fiction writer’ to include authors like Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson, August Strindberg, Guillaume Apollinaire, Vladmir Mayakovsky, Jules Supervielle, Lu Xun, Sōseki Natsume, Uchida Hyakken, Akutagawa Ryûnosuke, Ishikawa Jun, and so on.

“And we could go even further back, to Swift, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Dante, Apuleius, and Lucian. The pedigree for our literature of hypothesis would eventually trace itself all the way back to the Greeks.

“Viewed in this light, science fiction’s vision is not a narrow branch within literature but part of the mainstream, a literary current far longer and deeper than a movement like Naturalism, for example. Even if this vision does not encompass all of literature, it is a part too important to leave out. And if there is a potential for a boom in science fiction in our country, it will be a great blessing for Japanese literature, afflicted as it is with a shortage of hypotheses. [. . .]”   –Abe Kōbō, “The Boom in Science Fiction” (1962), trans. Christopher Bolton, Science Fiction Studies 88 (November 2002)

Final Chapter of Adam Buenosayres: “A Journey to the Dark City Cacodelphia” (1948)

the-final-chapter-adam-buenosayres“A modernist urban novel in the tradition of James Joyce, Adam Buenosayres is a tour-de-force that does for Buenos Aires what Carlos Fuentes did for Mexico City or José Lezama Lima did for Havana – chronicles a city teeming with life in all its clever and crass, rude and intelligent forms. Employing a range of literary styles and a variety of voices, Leopoldo Marechal parodies and celebrates Argentina’s most brilliant literary and artistic generation, the martinfierristas of the 1920s, among them Jorge Luis Borges. First published in 1948 during the polarizing reign of Juan Perón, the novel was hailed by Julio Cortázar as an extraordinary event in twentieth-century Argentine literature. Set over the course of three break-neck days, Adam Buenosayres follows the protagonist through an apparent metaphysical awakening, a battle for his soul fought by angels and demons, and a descent through a place resembling a comic version of Dante’s hell. Presenting both a breathtaking translation and thorough explanatory notes, Norman Cheadle captures the limitless language of Marechal’s original and guides the reader along an unmatched journey through the culture of Buenos Aires. This first-ever English translation brings to light Marechal’s masterwork with an introduction outlining the novel’s importance in various contexts – Argentine, Latin American, and world literature – and with notes illuminating its literary, cultural, and historical references. A salient feature of the Argentine canon, Adam Buenosayres is both a path-breaking novel and a key text for understanding Argentina’s cultural and political history.” [. . .]    –Amazon, April 1, 2014.

Humanities Magazine’s “What’s the Best Way to Read the Divine Comedy If You Don’t Know Italian?”

humanities-magazine-tour-of-translation-2020-wikimedia“In comparing these two translations, the Sayers version seems to win out in two ways—it matches Dante in form and, to a degree, in content. By starting with ‘Midway this way of life we’re bound upon,’ she remains faithful to the starting point, ‘nel mezzo,’ while Mandelbaum pushes this to the middle of the first line. Sayers adds ‘bound upon’ (not, strictly speaking, in the original), which allows her to make the rhyme in the third line with ‘gone.’ But Mandelbaum is more faithful to the directness of the original, not stretching the meaning or introducing words to make the rhyme. His metered language often seems more natural than Sayers’ and more in keeping with the diction of Dante, which favored solid vocabulary and straight-forward syntax. Mandelbaum, will, in fact, interject rhyme if it’s not forced (as he does with way and stray). In spite of first impressions favoring Sayers, most readers who choose to make the entire journey from inferno to purgatory and finally paradise ultimately find the Mandelbaum translation more satisfying.” [. . .]    –Steve Moyer, Humanities: The Magazine Of The National Endowment For The Humanities, 2017

 

Will Brewbaker on Shane McCrae’s “Sometimes I Never Suffered”

sometimes-i-never-suffered-2020

“This act of holding together both heaven and earth pervades Shane McCrae’s Sometimes I Never Suffered, the prolific poet’s latest collection. Racial injustice, economic inequality, simple human cruelty — McCrae addresses all of these subjects, these facts of the world, head-on — while, like Dante, transposing the literal into the otherworldly.  [. . .]

“The final two poems in Sometimes I Never Suffered return explicitly to Dantean territory. Famously, the last word in each section of Dante’s Comedy is the Italian word ‘stelle,’ meaning ‘stars.’ In a sly parallel, McCrae makes this Limber’s last word, too. After describing meeting one of those souls who were ‘babies when they died […] [who] walk around in sailor hats with blank / Looks on their faces’ — another ingenious creation — Limber says:

… when I tried to talk to
Him it was like I wasn’t there
So    I peeked    in his mouth

and in his mouth was the whole sky and stars

“Not only does this final line offer a remarkably coherent cosmic scope, but it also serves as a segue into the book’s last movement — a multipage poem that returns to the hastily assembled angel’s story and finds the angel first building, then climbing the ladder to heaven.” [. . .]    —Will Brewbaker, Los Angeles Review of Books, October 13, 2020.

Read more of Brewbaker’s reviews here.

The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace: A History of Space from Dante to the Internet

“Cyberspace may seem an unlikely gateway for the soul. But as science commentator Margaret Wertheim argues in this ‘marvelously provocative’ (Kirkus Reviews) book, cyberspace has in recent years become a repository for immense spiritual yearning. Wertheim explores the mapping of spiritual desire onto digitized space and suggests that the modem today has become a metaphysical escape-hatch from a materialism that many people find increasingly dissatisfying. Cyberspace opens up a collective space beyond the laws of physics–a space where mind rather than matter reigns. This strange refuge returns us to an almost medieval dualism between a physical space of body and an immaterial space of mind and psyche.”   —Amazon, 2000

Justin Meckes, Inferno (2020)

Inferno is a novella, a portion of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, in prose rather than the original verse. Inferno finds our protagonist enduring the very same tormenting journey through the rings of hell but in an expanded format.

“The work is retold in its original period, but it has been infused with somewhat less overt references to today’s politics. Thus, this Inferno will maintain a universal appeal and be made available in a Russian Flag edition.

“[. . .] Within this version, multiple Trump associates (e.g., Paul Manafort, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner, etc.) make appearances in the place of their Florentine counterparts.”

Read a short excerpt here.

Teddy Roosevelt and Dante

Portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt seated in garden, circa 1910s. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images).

“Thomas Bailey and Katherine Joslin have recently argued in their book Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life (ForeEdge, 2018) that there is much to be gained in examining Roosevelt through the lens of his prolific writing and voracious reading throughout his life. By focusing our attention on Dante in particular, we can uncover a long-standing relationship that finds voice in particular aspects of Roosevelt’s political convictions and intellectual life.”   –Akash Kumar, Digital Dante, 2018

Check out the Digital Dante site to view the article.

Upcoming Animal Farm Video Game

“Today is the 75th anniversary of the first publication of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, perhaps the most distressing book for a kid to pick from their parents’ shelves when looking for a nice story about horses. In celebration, an official video game adaptation was of Animal Farm has been announced [sic]. News of a beloved work of literature becoming a video game should inspired a wariness (thanks, Dante’s Inferno) but this one does sound promising.”    –Alice O’Connor, Rock Paper Shotgun, August 17, 2020

Final line of C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed

“In the last chapter of A Grief Observed, Lewis admits that grief is, ‘like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.’ If you’ve grieved over someone’s death, you know the image Lewis is casting. Happiness almost feels a little haunted, but time evaporates the wetness from some of the tears, albeit gradual, ‘like the warming of a room or the coming of daylight,’ says Lewis.

[. . .]

The end is akin to the beginning of A Grief Observed, if only in the questions it doesn’t answer and the doubts that are still raised as a result of the horrible occurrences of this world. In the end, Lewis knows that God is more mystery than reason, and his reliance on Him, and the hope in the resurrection of the dead, is wrapped in a faith in a God who can be found.

‘Poi si torno all’ eternal fontana,’ ends the book. It is from Dante. Beatrice turns to the eternal fountain and keeps walking. Lewis doesn’t dismiss his grief, but he is more at peace with God at the end of his notes, and, like Joy’s last words to the chaplain, Lewis is at peace with God.”    –Zach Kincaid, cslewis.com, February 29, 2012

Contributed by Daniel Christian

Epigraph to the Novel Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself within a dark wood where the straight way was lost. Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell what a wild , and rough, and stubborn wood this was, which in my thought renews the fear!”    –David Guterson, Epigraph to Snow Falling on Cedars, September 1994

Check out Snow Falling on Cedars on Amazon here.

Contributed by Daniel Christian.