Marcel Möring, In a Dark Wood (2008)

“‘Forget the Purgatorio,’ says a character in Marcel Möring’s new novel, ‘leave the Paradiso unread. Hell and nothing but that. That is the world.’ In this intelligent, literate narrative, the forest that skirts the Dutch town of Assen becomes the dark wood of Dante’s Inferno, while the town itself is depicted as a desolate place of sin and suffering.

[…]

“Homer, Dante, Joyce, Greek myth, Arthurian romance – Möring’s debts are unmistakable, but there’s no sense of a sneaking or slavish dependency on these sources; his unapologetic literary borrowings are a form of celebration. His exuberance sometimes seems hyperactive, but its general effect is compelling. His approach is perhaps best understood through analogy with another art form: at one point he invokes the spirit of Miles Davis, describing the great jazzman ‘going into the studio with a handful of notes and chords and in a hallucinatory session recording Kind of Blue, carrying everyone along with him, with complete confidence in his leadership and the expectation that he will bring them to the place where they have to be.’ Threading the novel’s intricate byways, enjoying the journey for its own sake, we do indeed finish up where we have to be – perhaps registering that, as the Jew of Assen remarks, the crooked path is often the only way to the end.” —Jem Poster, The Guardian, February 13, 2009

The novel, originally published in Dutch under the title Dis, was awarded the Ferdinand Bordewijk Prize for the best Dutch novel in 2007. See the author’s page here.

Amanda Craig, In a Dark Wood (2000)

“The dark wood in the title of British writer Amanda Craig’s third novel (her first to be published in the U.S.) is the same one a certain Florentine poet got lost in 700 years ago. Benedick Hunter is halfway through the journey of our life and, like Dante, discovers that he’s wandered into a murky and threatening place, metaphorically speaking.

“A London actor whose career is idling and whose novelist wife, with her ‘air of terrifying competence,’ has left him for her prosperous publisher, Benedick slinks off to bunk in the attic of a family friend’s house, where he can hide from his overbearing father. (‘He is a columnist, so judging others comes naturally to him,’ explains Benedick with false nonchalance.) […]” —Laura Miller, Review of In a Dark Wood by Amanda Craig, Salon.com, Feb. 21, 2002

See the author’s page here.

Marco Santagata, Come donna innamorata (2015)

Dante-Santagata-2015-come-donna-innamorataMarco Santagata’s 2015 novel Come donna innamorata — based on Dante’s biography, on which Santagata has also published — was a finalist for the Premio Strega. See the publisher’s description below:

“Come si può continuare a scrivere quando la morte ti ha sottratto la tua Musa? È questo l’interrogativo che, l’8 giugno 1290, tormenta Dante Alighieri, giovane poeta ancora alla ricerca di una sua voce, davanti alle spoglie di Beatrice Portinari. Da quel momento tutto cambierà: la sua vita come la sua poesia. Percorrendo le strade di Firenze, Dante rievoca le vicissitudini di un amore segnato dal destino, il primo incontro e l’ultimo sguardo, la malìa di una passione in virtù della quale ha avuto ispirazione e fama. È sgomento, il giovane poeta; e smarrito. Ma la sorte gli riserva altri strali. Mentre le trame della politica fiorentina minacciano dapprima i suoi affetti – dal rapporto con la moglie Gemma all’amicizia fraterna con Guido Cavalcanti –e poi la sua stessa vita, Dante Alighieri fa i conti con le tentazioni del potere e la ferita del tradimento, con l’aspirazione al successo e la paura di non riuscire a comporre il suo capolavoro…È un Dante intimo, rivelato anche nella sua fragilità, e nelle sue ambiguità, quello che Marco Santagata mette in scena in un romanzo che restituisce le atmosfere, le parole, le inquietudini di un Medioevo vivido e vicino. Il sommo poeta in tutta la sua umanità: lacerato dall’amore, tormentato dall’ambizione, ardentemente contemporaneo.” — Guanda

See Giuseppe Fantasia’s review in the Italian edition of Huffington Post here.

Meredith Miller, Little Wrecks (2017)

Little Wrecks is set in Long Island in 1979 and features three young women’s journey through sexual trauma to transcendence.  Two characters discuss the Divine Comedy in the opening sequence and this discussion is revisited towards the close.  The novel is structured in three sections/canticles, titled “Resistance,”  “Reality” and “Resurrection.”  Each of these ends with the word stars. It features a character named Virgil (Mackie) who appears and exits mysteriously and is perhaps not entirely corporeal.  Virgil Mackie acts as a kind of guide for one of the central characters.  Virgil and Ruth have, early on, something like that conversation in which Virgil points out that the poet’s body stops the light and we note that Virgil’s does not. The final passage of the novel echoes language found towards the close of both Purgatorio and Paradiso – the santissima onda, etc. It’s final sentence is “There is a place for her, between the sun and the other stars” so that it ends with Dante’s words.    –Meredith Miller

HarperCollins
Amazon

Inferno: A Poet’s Novel by Eileen Myles (2010)

Eileen-Myles-Reading-Inferno“I was completely stupefied by Inferno in the best of ways. In fact, I think I must feel kind of like Dante felt after seeing the face of God. My descriptive capacity just fails, gives way completely. But I can tell you that Eileen Myles made me understand something I didn’t before. And really, what more can you ask of a novel, or a poet’s novel, or a poem, or a memoir, or whatever the hell this shimmering document is? Just read it.” — Alison Bechdel

“From its beginning — ‘My English professor’s ass was so beautiful.’ — to its end — ‘You can actually learn to have grace. And that’s heaven.’ — poet, essayist and performer Eileen Myles’ chronicle transmits an energy and vividness that will not soon leave its readers. Her story of a young female writer, discovering both her sexuality and her own creative drive in the meditative and raucous environment that was New York City in its punk and indie heyday, is engrossing, poignant, and funny. This is a voice from the underground that redefines the meaning of the word.” — OR Books

Read an excerpt here, or listen to Myles read an excerpt here.

“Encore Dante” (2016 – ), A modern day adaptation of Dante’s Inferno

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“In her youth, the author labored as an au pair for a Parisian family. Like most life-altering experiences, the work was brief but intense. Now, after decades of therapy, the author descends again to the depths of hell to describe for readers what awaits there.”

Anticipated schedule for posting chapters of Encore Dante:

  • Prologue: Posted
  • Chapter 1: Week of February 6, 2017
  • Chapter 2: Week of February 20, 2017
  • Chapter 3: Week of March 6, 2017
  • Chapter 4: Week of March 20, 2017
  • Chapter 5: Week of April 3, 2017
  • Chapter 6: Week of April 17, 2017
  • Chapter 7: Week of May 1, 2017
  • Chapter 8: Week of May 15, 2017
  • Chapter 9: Week of May 29, 2017
  • Chapter 10: Week of June 12, 2017
  • Epilogue: Week of June 26, 2017

Gregory Bellow, “Crises of the Spirit: Dante and Bellow”

Greg-Bellow-Crises-of-the-Spirit-Dante-Saul-Bellow

In an essay entitled “Crises of the Spirit: Dante and Bellow,” Gregory Bellow, oldest son of Saul Bellow and author of Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir, compares three of his father’s novels to Dante’s three canticles. “Crises of the Spirit” parallels the pilgrim’s psycho-spiritual crisis and recovery with those of Bellow’s characters, and with the novelist’s own biography. Using private anecdotes and personal recollections, Gregory Bellow traces his father’s mid-life “crisis of spirit” through the Dantean themes of evil, spiritual cleansing, and love.

A PDF copy of the essay is available here, with permission of the author.

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (2012)

gone-girl-movie-still-abandon-all-hopeIn both the book and the movie Gone Girl the main character, Amy, says about marriage: “Marriage is compromise and hard work, and then more hard work and communication and compromise. And then work. Abandon all hope, ye who enter.”

For the 2012 book by Gillian Flynn, see the Gone Girl page on Flynn’s website.

For the 2014 film directed by David Fincher, see the film’s official website.

Contributed by Autumn Friesen (University of Texas ’16)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818, 1831)

Frontispiece_to_Frankenstein_1831-Chapter-5-Dante

“Oh! No mortal could support the horror of that countenance. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.” — Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (Chapter 5)

Contributed by Kate Geraghty (Bowdoin, ’07) and Megan Alvarado (University of Texas at Austin, ’18)

Nathaniel Rich, Odds Against Tomorrow (2013)

Odds Against TomorrowMitchell Zukor, the protagonist of Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow, suffers from panic attacks and often uses phrases like “going to a deeper circle in hell.”

Rich’s website describes the novel:

“New York City, the near future: Mitchell Zukor, a gifted young mathematician, is hired by a mysterious new financial consulting firm, FutureWorld. The business operates out of an empty office in the Empire State Building; Mitchell is employee number two. [. . .]

“As Mitchell immerses himself in the mathematics of catastrophe–ecological collapse, war games, natural disasters–he becomes obsessed by a culture’s fears. [. . .]

“Then, just as Mitchell’s predictions reach a nightmarish crescendo, an actual worst-case scenario overtakes Manhattan. [. . .]

“At once an all-too plausible literary thriller, an unexpected love story, and a philosophically searching inquiry into the nature of fear, Nathaniel Rich’s Odds Against Tomorrow poses the ultimate questions of imagination and civilization. The future is not quite what it used to be.”    —Nathaniel Rich’s Website

 

Contributed by Thomas Jonkergouw, Universiteit Utrecht