Yann Martel, “Life of Pi” (2003)

yann-martel-life-of-pi-2003“I read a great new book called Life of Pi by Yann Martel that draws from the Commedia. It deals with religion and a pilgrimage of sorts. Also, the narrator/author specifically states a desire to tell his story in exactly 100 chapters (which he does). Are there parallels between Virgil and Pi’s tiger? It’s tough to say-I guess you could find some loose similarities between the two figures. The tiger acts as a guide for Pi in the realm of animal survival, helping him to overcome his civilized taboos and do whatever it takes to live. Also, training the tiger and getting enough food to keep it healthy gives Pi a purpose, and keeps him from being overcome by the immensity of his predicament. Pi professes love and admiration for the tiger on many occasions. The book is a really clever religious allegory, and it challenges you to read it on all four levels of interpretation Dante discusses in his letter to Can Grande. It’s a Commedia for the disillusioned 21st century cynic.”    –Chris Moxhay

Contributed by Chris Moxhay (Bowdoin, ’03)

Matthew Pearl, “The Dante Club” (2003)

matthew-pearl-the-dante-club-2003“1865 Boston, a small group of literary geniuses puts the finishing touches on America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and prepares to unveil the remarkable visions of Dante to the New World. The powerful old guard of Harvard College wants to keep Dante out–believing that the infiltration of such foreign superstitions onto our bookshelves would prove as corrupting as the foreign immigrants invading Boston harbor. The members of the Dante Club–poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell and publisher J. T. Fields –endure the intimidation of their fellow Boston Brahmins for a sacred literary cause, an endeavor that has sustained Longfellow in the hellish aftermath of his wife’s tragic death by fire.”    —Matthew Pearl

Nick Tosches, “In the Hand of Dante” (2002)

nick-tosches-in-the-hand-of-dante-2002“Deftly blending the sacred and the profane, Tosches boldly casts himself as the protagonist in his latest novel, an outrageously ambitious book in which he procures a purloined version of the original manuscript of ‘The Divine Comedy’ while tracing Dante’s journey as Dante struggled to complete his penultimate work. The initial chapters find Tosches looking back and questioning the results of his fascinating life and career, with a brief but devastating aside about the decline of publishing. But Tosches suddenly emerges from his morbid nostalgia when a former character named Louie (a gangster from Tosches’s Cut Numbers) gets his hands on a stolen copy of Dante’s manuscript and asks Tosches to authenticate it. That sends the author on a whirlwind tour to Arizona, Chicago, Paris and then London as he tries to verify the work and then determine its worth on the open market.” [. . .]    –Publishers Weekly, Amazon

Jane Langton, “The Dante Game: A Homer Kelly Mystery” (1992)

jane-langton-the-dante-game-a-homer-kelly-mystery-1992“The latest Homer Kelly mystery unfolds in Italy, where he joins the faculty of the newly formed American School of Florentine Studies. As students and professors read their way through Dante’s Divine Comedy , they and the author draw parallels to modern-day Florence, where a bank official (and secret heroin smuggler) plots to assassinate the anti-drug-crusading Pope, using a Beatrice-like student as hostage. After three murders at the school, Homer and a friend investigate. The novel’s strolling pace accelerates only near the very end, but there is adequate amusement for Langton or Dante fans, or both.”    –Library Journal, Amazon

Sarah Lovett, “Dantes’ Inferno: A Dr. Sylvia Strange Novel” (2002)

sarah-lovett-dantes-inferno-a-dr-sylvia-strange-novel-2002“The author of the critically acclaimed novels Dangerous Attachments and Acquired Motives is back with another spellbindingly original thriller featuring forensic psychiatrist Sylvia Strange. Now, in Dantes’ Inferno, Sylvia is called to Los Angeles from her New Mexico home when a massive explosion blasts through the J. Paul Getty Museum, endangering children on a field trip and claiming two lives. The police peg notorious bomber John Dantes as the mastermind, even though he’s in a maximum-security prison, serving a life sentence for another bombing he claims he didn’t commit.” [. . .]    —Amazon

Kimberly Heuston, “Dante’s Daughter” (2004)

kimberly-heuston-dantes-daughter-2004“When political upheaval forces her family to flee and separate, Antonia takes her brother’s advice to heart as she journeys through Italy and France with her father, the poet Dante Alighieri. She becomes a pilgrim who also embraces interior journeys: she struggles with her difficult, inattentive father; with her heart’s desire to paint as her father writes; and with her first tastes of young love. All the while Antonia harbors dreams that others tell her women are not entitles to dream. Dante’s Daughter portrays a life in full, one that beautifully answers Antonia’s own questions: “Had my journey made me wise? Had my secret griefs made me strong?” This highly imagined story–based on the few known facts of Antonia’s life–is set against the dramatic background of pre-Renaissance Europe, rendered in rich detail by storyteller and historian Kimberley Heuston.”    —Amazon

Janet Jensen, “Dante’s Equation” (2006)

janet-jensen-dantes-equation-2006“Science and sci-fi go hand in hand in this ambitious, if not entirely successful, thriller by Jensen (Millennium Rising), which incorporates elements of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) as well as theoretical physics. During WWII, physicist and mystic Rabbi Yosef Kobinski vanished from Auschwitz in a blinding flash of light. Kobinski left behind at the camp his Kabbalist masterpiece, The Book of Torment, to be buried for safekeeping. Half a century later, a Jerusalem rabbi and an American journalist are trying to find it.”    –Publishers Weekly, Amazon

Anthony Maulucci, “Dear Dante” (2006)

anthony-maulucci-dear-dante-2006“With echoes of The Name of the Rose, comes this thought-provoking novel about an attempted murder and its mystical consequences. Part mystery, part psychological drama about love, part depiction of the duality of human nature, of good and evil, of heterosexuality and bisexuality, part exploration of the making of a Christian mystic, Dear Dante simply defies easy categorization. Anthony Maulucci has compressed many layers into his well-wrought narrative and finely tuned characterizations. The main narrator of Dear Dante is an English-born Italian named John, a professor of Renaissance studies living in Tuscany and writing a book about Dante. A bi-sexual father in the midst of a marital and spiritual crisis, John has visions of Dante and Beatrice while listening to his former student’s story of a redemptive journey through a personal hell — the attempt to murder his lover’s husband and his struggle to choose between the two women in his life — that reawaken his creative energies and help bring about his spiritual renewal.”    —Amazon

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell, “Inferno” (1976)

larry-niven-and-jerry-pournell-inferno-1976“After being thrown out the window of his luxury apartment, science fiction writer Allen Carpentier wakes to find himself at the gates of hell. Feeling he’s landed in a great opportunity for a book, he attempts to follow Dante’s road map. Determined to meet Satan himself, Carpentier treks through the Nine Layers of Hell led by Benito Mussolini, and encounters countless mental and physical tortures. As he struggles to escape, he’s taken through new, puzzling, and outlandish versions of sin–recast for the present day.”    —Amazon

 

LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, “The System of Dante’s Hell” (1965)

“[T]he function of writing about Dante and the control over access to the part of the tradition that Dante inhabits can liberate the black writer. At least it liberates LeRoi Jones, turning him into a new man with a new name, Amiri Baraka, whose experimental literary project culminates in The System of Dante’s Hell in 1965. Dante’s poem (specifically in the Sinclair translation) provides a grid for the narrative of Baraka’s autobiographical novel, and at the same time the Italian poet’s description of hell functions for Baraka like a gloss on many of his own experiences. [. . .] Baraka uses Dante first to measure the growing distance between himself and European literature, then, paradoxically, to separate himself totally from it. His Dante is a marker of separation rather than integration.” — Dennis Looney, Freedom Readers: The African-American Reception of Dante Alighieri and the Divine Comedy (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2011), pp. 105-106