Marco Santagata, Dante: The Story of His Life (2016)

“Unlike Shakespeare, whose corpus one searches in vain for insight into the author’s selfhood, we have abundant access to Dante’s psyche, thanks to the self-editorializing drive in all his major works, from the Vita Nuova to the Convivio to The Divine Comedy. Dante funneled everything—history, truth, cosmos, salvation—through his first-person singular, the famous “I” who finds himself “in the middle of our life’s way” as the poem opens. Yet despite his bold self-exposure, the writing of the Comedy remains a mystery. How did the vision come to him, and how much of it did he have inside his mind when he began writing?

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“Marco Santagata, a professor of Italian literature at the University of Pisa, has written an impressive new biography that takes into consideration every bit of reliable and semireliable information available to us about Dante’s life, from his birth in Florence in 1265 to his death in Ravenna in 1321, yet you reach the end of its 485 pages without getting one step closer to understanding how an electrician joined the ranks of Einstein and Fermi. That is because little in Dante’s life story helps us understand how he conceived, composed, and completed the Comedy, this despite the fact that much of what was going on around him at the time found its way into his poem.” — Robert Pogue Harrison, “Dante: He Went Mad in His Hell. Review of Marco Santagata, Dante: The Story of His Life,” New York Review of Books, Oct. 27, 2016

Contributed by Pamela Montanaro

Kevin Lincoln, “The Death of the Bargain Bin” (2014)

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“. . .We, as in the public, are beholden to these people to some extent, because like Dante descending into hell, we need a Virgil to guide us through the terrors that are YouTube and worse (on the Internet, there’s always worse). There has been a severe hamstringing of our agency not only as consumers of art, but also as patrons. What we’ve made up for in efficiency, we’ve lost in potential, and that loss of potential — the feeling that boundaries exist on the artistic world — is immensely dissatisfying. We are becoming increasingly tethered to these algorithms and these influencers, and for a reason: What we’ve created, with the advent of almost unlimited access, is as close as the human race has ever come to the elimination of scarcity. There is still a cap on the amount of movies and TV and music out there waiting for us. But like the edges of space, it is something we’re never going to see.” [. . .]    –Kevin Lincoln, The New York Times, March 14, 2014

Edmund White, Inside a Pearl (2014)

inside-a-pearl-edmund-white-2014Jay Parini describes Marie-Claude de Brunhoff, a main character in Edmund White’s memoir Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris, as “a kind of fragile Virgil to White’s dewy-eyed Dante, leading him with gusto into the labyrinth of Parisian life.”    –Jay Parini, The New York Times, February 7, 2014

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, Promise Land (2014)

promise-land-jessica-lamb-shapiro-2014“It’s ingrained in human nature to look at ourselves with a weary awareness of all that’s wrong within, and the optimism that someone, somewhere can tell us how to fix it. As Jessica Lamb-Shapiro points out in her ambitious if unfulfilling new memoir-cum-odyssey, Promise Land, we’ve been gobbling up self-help advice for nearly as long as the written word has existed, devouring it in the ancient Egyptian Sebayt writings and the Book of Proverbs. But our contemporary mania for the wisdom of Dr. Phil is different from what generations past gleaned from Epictetus or even Dale Carnegie, and Lamb-Shapiro aims to explain how. Along the way, she’s on a quest to fix herself. Lamb-Shapiro, who has written for The Believer and McSweeney’s, is a witty and enjoyably self-aware writer. She’s certainly a far more entertaining guide through hellish terrain — like a preshow interrogation by a ‘Dr. Oz’ producer — than Dante was given.” [. . .]    –Mary Elizabeth Williams, The New York Times, January 3, 2014

Enrico Cerni, “Dante per i manager” (2010)

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This how-to book, published in 2010, was written as a guide for managers and entrepreneurs to navigating the business world. Through the sections Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, Enrico Cerni creates a book-long metaphor using the famous characters and sites from Dante’s Divine Comedy. 

See Dante for Life for more information.

Italian Commuting

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“Mr. Parks lives in Milan, where he runs a postgraduate translation program at Istituto Universitario di Lingue Moderne. Living here saves him from the hellish predawn 100-mile commute from Verona, a Dante-esque daily journey that he writes about at the outset of Italian Ways.”    –Rachel Donadio, The New York Times, June 7, 2013

See Tim Parks’ book, Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (NY: W. W. Norton, 2013)

Deborah Parker and Mark Parker, Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown (2013)

Deborah Parker and Mark Parker, Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown (2013)“Using Dan Brown’s book as a jumping off point, Inferno Revealed will provide readers of Brown’s Inferno with an engaging introduction to Dante and his world. Much like the books on Leonardo that followed the release of the Da Vinci Code, this book will provide readers with more information about the ever-intriguing Dante. Specifically, Inferno Revealed explores how Dante made himself the protagonist of The Divine Comedy, something no other epic poet has done, a move for which the ramifications have not yet been fully explored. The mysteries and puzzles that arise from Dante’s choice to personalize the epic, along with his affinity for his local surroundings and how that affects his depiction of the places, Church, and politics in the poem are considered–along with what this reveals about Brown’s own usage of the work.
The authors will focus on and analyze how Dan Brown has repurposed Inferno in his newest book–noting what he gets right and what errors are made when he does not. Of course, Dan Brown is not the first author to base his work on Dante. The Comedy has elicited many adaptations from major canonical writers such as Milton and Keats to popular adaptations like David Fincher’s Se7en and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice– all of which will be discussed in detail within Inferno Revealed.”    —Amazon

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“In this sneak peek into Inferno, Dan Brown’s brand new novel, Interpreting Dan Brown’s Inferno will provide readers with an engaging introduction to Dante and his world—and the ways in which Brown has repurposed Dante’s famous work in his newest Robert Langdon novel. This teaser explores the Prologue and first chapter of Inferno and details to the reader what important facts—and mistakes—they should be aware of while beginning Brown’s book. The connection between the Prologue’s narrator, aptly named “the Shade,” and Langdon is exposed, and the characters are even further illuminated by their relationship to Dante’s poem.  The reader will come away with an understanding of what Dante’s poem can reveal about these characters and the mystifying city of Florence—and perhaps, where the rest of the book may lead.”    —Amazon

William John Meegan, “The Sistine Chapel: A Study in Celestial Cartography” (2012)

william-john-meegan-the-sistine-chapel-a-study-in-celestial-cartography“Through a comprehensive comparative analysis of the symbolic and esoteric patterns codified to the Judeao Christian Scriptures, the landscape of Jerusalem, Chartres Cathedral (stone and glass), Dante Alighieri’s La Divina Commedia (pen and ink), the Sistine Chapel (mosaics, paint and wet plaster) and Saint Peter’s Basilica (marble) the reader can determine for him or herself the efficacy of the esoteric science, which hails from the dawn of the time/space continuum as a direct missive from God.
The author discovered a relatively simple and yet extremely sophisticated mathematical and grammatical system of thought in ancient literature: the integration of the Seven Liberal Arts.” [. . .]    –William John Meegan’s website

See other Dante-related books by William John Meegan:

  • “The Secrets & the Mysteries of Genesis: Antiquity’s Hall of Records,” published by Trafford Publishers, 2003. Chapter 7 discusses Dante mathematics.
  • “The Conquest of Genesis: A Study in Universal Creation Mathematics,” published by the Edwin Mellen Press, 1997. This study analyzes the Commedia’s compositional structure and its sophisticated mathematical system.

NY Times Review of Lanzmann’s “The Patagonian Hare”

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“The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached Claude Lanzmann in 1973 and suggested that, with Israel’s backing, he make a documentary film about the murder of the European Jews. Lanzmann was and is a French journalist, and his qualifications for undertaking such a project were obvious at a glance. He had spent many years producing copy for the glossy French magazine Elle and, then again, for mass-readership newspapers. He sat on the editorial committee of Jean-Paul Sartre’s magazine Les Temps Modernes. He was handy with a film camera. Also, he had displayed an acute sympathy for the plight of the Israelis — a less-than-­universal trait even in those days. . .Even now Lanzmann remains the editor of Les Temps Modernes, which makes him Sartre’s heir, institutionally speaking. Here is the torment of the assimilated Jewish left — a giant theme, which cries out for its Virgil or its Dante.” [. . .]    –Paul Berman, The New York Times, August 10, 2012

“Dante to Dead Man Walking: One Reader’s Journey Through the Christian Classics” (2002)

dante-to-dead-man-walking-one-readers-journey-through-the-christian-classics-2002“What do the book of Genesis, the Second Inaugural Address, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X all have in common? According to author Raymond Schroth, they are all works worthy of being called classics of Christian literature. In Dante to Dead Man Walking, Schroth discusses fifty works–from books of the Old Testament to contemporary works of fiction and nonfiction–that challenge the social conscience and raise moral or religious issues in a provocative way.”    —Amazon, May 13, 2012