Camp Fire in Paradise, CA (2018)

california-2018-paradise-fire“The burned-out wrecks of abandoned cars lining the roads out of this once-picturesque mountain town bear silent witness to residents’ frantic efforts escape the hellish advance of the raging Camp Fire.

“Tires melted down to their steel belts. Windows blown out. Paint evaporated. Rims liquefied and then solidified after running down the pavement. Fire leaping across the road.

‘It just looked like Dante’s Inferno,’ said evacuee John Yates, 65. ‘Black and red was all you could see.'” — Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY, November 10, 2018

Read more about the fire here.

“‘Dante’s Inferno’ in Chile: All-Time National Heat Record Smashed by 6°F”

Dantes-Inferno-in-Chile“The first all-time national heat record of 2017 was set in spectacular fashion on Thursday in Chile, where at least twelve different stations recorded a temperature in excess of the nation’s previous all-time heat record—a 41.6°C (106.9°F) reading at Los Angeles on February 9, 1944. According to international weather records researcher Maximiliano Herrera, the hottest station on Thursday was Cauquenes, which hit 45.0°C (113°F). The margin by which the old record national heat record was smashed: 3.6°C (6.1°F), was extraordinary, and was the second largest such difference Herrera has cataloged (the largest: a 3.8°C margin in New Zealand in 1973, from 38.6°C to 42.4°C.) Herrera cautioned, though, that the extraordinary high temperatures on Thursday in Chile could have been due, in part, to the effects of the severe wildfires burning near the hottest areas, and the new record will need to be verified by the weather service of Chile.” — Jeff Masters, “‘Dante’s Inferno’ in Chile: All-Time National Heat Record Smashed by 6°F” for wundergroundblog.com

Wildfire in Santa Olga, Chile (2017)

Guardian-Wildfire-Chile-Dantes-Inferno“An entire town has been consumed by flames in Chile as unusually hot, dry weather undermined efforts to combat the worst forest fires in the country’s recent history.

[. . .]

“‘Nobody can imagine what happened in Santa Olga. What we have experienced here is literally like Dante’s Inferno,’ said Carlos Valenzuela, the mayor of the encompassing municipality Constitución. ‘We were recovering after the last earthquake, but this tragedy has messed up everything.'” — Jonathan Watts, “Deadly wildfire razes entire town in Chile: ‘Literally like Dante’s Inferno’,” The Guardian (January 26, 2017)

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

 

David Eggers, Zeitoun (2009)

zeitoun-dave-eggers-2009“Imagine Charles Dickens, his sentimentality in check but his journalistic eyes wide open, roaming New Orleans after it was buried by Hurricane Katrina. He would find anger and pathos. A dark fable, perhaps. His villains would be evil and incompetent, even without Heckuva-Job-Brownie. In the end, though, he would not be able to constrain himself; his outrage might overwhelm the tale. . .
But within a week, the sense of menace and edgy despair becomes overwhelming. Now Zeitoun’s days are like a watery version of Dante’s Inferno, with flood and disease and tough moral choices around every bend: rescue or paddle on?” [. . .]    —
Timothy Egan, The New York Times, August 13, 2009