Leonard Kress, “That Day We Read No More” (2019)

A vengeful sheering Great Lakes wind,
uprooting trees, flinging roof shingles—
split stumps and flayed branches. A whole dangle
of modifiers. Infinitives finding
syntax amid the wreckage. I can almost
make out the spoken scrawl, part malignant rant,
and part avowal, part warning and part advance
directive. Yet what I hear most is boast

when winds subside: Love led me to betray,
and the agony that betrayal once begot
afflicts me now, like you, who’ll stay
to hear my tale. You, like me, who sought
to authorize illicit love—you’re doomed
like some obsessive-compulsive, forever caught

in the act of betrayal. Forever damned.
Give me details, I demand, hoping
our stories do not match. There’s no stopping,
she says—Francesca, mother, who charmed
Paolo with her quizzing glance. I asked
my would-be lover to admit out loud
with certain sighs he wanted me. He held
his breath long as he could. And then, unmasked,

indifference and restraint abandoned, distance
obliterated—we agreed to read
together the tale of Lancelot’s romance
with his King’s wife Guinevere, and the bed
in which they found delight. That pleasure is
now pain—in inverse proportion to the deed.

Leonard Kress’s poem “That Day We Read No More,” a rewriting of Inferno 5, was published in The Orpheus Complex by Main Street Rag Press in 2009. It is available for purchase on the Main Street Rag website. The poem was featured in NonBinary Review #19, a 2019 collection of poems dedicated to Dante’s Inferno, available from Zoetic Press. Many thanks to the author for permission to publish the poem on Dante Today.

«Noi leggiavamo. . .»: Visual re-mediations of Canto 5 in the journal Arabeschi

In honor of Dantedì (March 25) 2021, the journal Arabeschi published a special issue dedicated to the visual re-mediations of the figures of Paolo and Francesca in Inferno 5. With an introduction by Gaetano Lalomia and Giovanna Rizzarelli, and featuring essays and virtual exhibits by Marcello Ciccuto, Laura Pasquini, and others, the special issue covers in depth the rich history of iconographic reception, across various visual media, of the story of Dante’s star-crossed lovers in the 20th and 21st centuries. At right is a screenshot of selected contributions to the issue.

Read the full issue (with image gallery) here.

Read the introduction by Lalomia and Rizzarelli here.

Noma Hiroshi, Waga tō wa soko ni tatsu (1961)

In 1961, noted Japanese postwar novelist Noma Hiroshi (1915-1991) published the semi-autobiographical novel Waga tō wa soko ni tatsu (There Stands My Pagoda) which gives an account of several days in the life of Kaizuka Sōichi, a student at Kyoto University in the 1930s. Kaizuka, who is increasingly interested in Marxism, engages in a debate with an unnamed character on the nature of hell. While his antagonist cites Genshin’s Ōjōyōshū, Kaizuka replies by citing passages from Dante’s Inferno.

On the comparison, see James Raeside’s 1997 article in Japan Forum: “Since, as I have said, Kaizuka’s opponent is a projection of his own psyche, we cannot doubt that there is some truth in his accusation of a lubricious interest in the Paolo and Francesca passage; this is directly confirmed in a later passage of the book where Kaizuka, looking over another passage from The Inferno, wonders if it is not, after all, true that he is like those who read the work as a kind of pornographic text:

“‘Aren’t I doing the same kind of thing, re-reading The Inferno just searching for the suggestive passages? The places I re-read are already fixed, they’re the only parts that are blackened and grubby.’ (Waga tō: 146)”   –Cited from James Raeside, “This is not hell, nor am I out of it: Noma Hiroshi’s Waga tō wa soko ni tatsu,” Japan Forum 9.2 (1997): 195-215; citation p. 201.

Victoria Ocampo, Autobiografía II: La rama de Salzburgo (1980)

“Victoria utilizará también una serie de referentes literarios, teniendo siempre como principal a la pareja Francesca y Paolo, dos amantes que aparecen en la Divina Comedia en el Canto V del Infierno. Dante habla con ellos y siente gran compasión por su amor, de modo que entabla un diálogo con ellos – algo que el autor no hace con casi nadie de los personajes en los tres libros. Asimismo, habla de Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, Emily Brönte, entre otros.”   –Review on El buen librero (August 8, 2014)

Ocampo also published De Francesca à Beatrice, a commentary on Dante’s Divine Comedy, in 1923.

“Speciale San Valentino: innamoratevi a Gradara rileggendo la storia di Paolo e Francesca”

valentines-day-special-fall-in-love-in-gradara-2021

“San Valentino è un’occasione speciale e eccezionalmente per le coppie di innamorati che verranno a pranzo qui abbiamo elaborato un menù a base di pesce – dice Andrea Chiarion (Ristorante Il Bacio di Gradara) – ma per tutti gli innamorati, ogni sabato abbiamo preparato la proposta “Smart box,” ovvero una cena per due da asporto, con vino e dolce dedicati a chi si ama.

“Gradara è il luogo dell’amore celebrato e proibito. Ogni anno la rocca è meta di tantissimi visitatori. Cambiano magari i partner, ma a quella magia non si rinuncia. La ProLoco organizza eventi, momenti e occasioni per le coppie nella rassegna “Gradara d’Amare.”  E anche se il Covid ha scombinato le regole, il borgo si colora di rosso passione anche in questo anno difficile con gli itinerari guidati (su prenotazione)in cui partecipare a una “passeggiata raccontata” nel borgo, in compagnia di dame, cavalieri e di un simpatico giullare, poi ristoranti, negozi, bar aperti. Passato e presente si incontrano in questo borgo, tra questi scorci, a testimoniare che l’amore non ha mai fine.” [. . .]    —

“Carnevale: la storia di Paolo e Francesca in dialetto fanese”

carnival-the-story-of-paolo-and-francesca-in-the-fano-dialect-2021La settimana Grassa del Carnevale di Fano 2021 continua con un appuntamento dedicato all’amore, anche se in questo caso un po’ tormentato, come quello di Paolo e Francesca. Direttamente dalla loro stanza all’interno del Castello di Gradara, i protagonisti prenderanno vita grazie agli attori Emilia Claudi ed Enrico Spelta che si esibiranno nel V Canto dell’Inferno. L’opera sarà tradotta in dialetto fanese da Paola Magi e Maurizio Misuriello, con la partecipazione anche della presidente dell’Ente Carnevalesca Maria Flora Giammarioli. Un ringraziamento speciale al Comune e alla Proloco di Gradara che hanno messo a disposizione location e attrezzatura.” [. . .]    —Vivere Fano, February14, 2021.

View the Vivere Fano Facebook page here.

“Dante (Quinto Canto),” Painting by Mihail Ivanov

“This is the fifth song in the Divine Comedy, where Dante Alighieri ventures through the circles of hell, a lonely soul separates itself from the others and presents herself to the author, telling him her sad life story.”   —SAATCHI ART

Elena Ferrante, Storia del nuovo cognome (2012)

“Ma adesso, a Ischia, aveva incontrato Lila e avevo capito che lei era stata fin dall’infanzia—e sarebbe stata sempre in futuro—il suo vero unico amore. Eh sì, era andata di sicuro a questo modo. E come rimproverarlo? Dov’era la colpa? C’era, nella loro storia, qualcosa d’intenso, di sublime, affinità elettive. Evocai versi e romanzi come tranquillanti. Forse, pensai, aver studiato mi serve solo a questo: a calmarmi. Lei gli aveva acceso la fiamma in petto, lui per anni l’aveva custodita senza accorgersene: ora che quella fiamma era divampata. Cos’altro poteva fare se non amarla. Anche se lei non l’amava. Anche se era sposata e quindi inaccessibile, vietata: un matrimonio dura per sempre, oltre la morte. A meno che non lo si infranga condannandosi alla bufera infernale fino giorno del Giudizio.”   –Elena Ferrante, Storia del nuovo cognome (p. 237)

“Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” by Henry Nicholls

“I was at a conference, standing in the queue for coffee during a break between sessions, and the woman in front of me went down. As she fell, she resembled a push puppet, one of those little elasticated toys that collapses when you press the button on the base. It all happened very quickly, but if it had been possible to slow down the motion, I would have seen her head drop first, chin onto chest, her shoulders relax, arms flop to her sides, and legs buckle.

[. . .]

“This is cataplexy, a condition in which emotions can cause the body’s muscles to fail; it affects many people with narcolepsy. Nathaniel Kleitman understood the difference between narcolepsy (the sleep) and cataplexy (the collapsing fits) only too well. ‘Boredom and monotony favor narcolepsy; gaiety and excitement, cataplexy,’ he wrote in Sleep and Wakefulness.

[. . .]

“Giuseppe Plazzi, head of the sleep lab at the University of Bologna, has argued that Dante Alighieri might have suffered from narcolepsy with cataplexy all the way back in the 14th century, as his autobiographical masterpiece The Divine Comedy features most of the symptoms, including cataplexy. In the middle of his journey through Hell, for instance, Dante hears the tragic love story of two lost spirits and collapses. ‘I fainted out of pity, and, as if l were dying, fell, as a dead body falls.’

“The idea that Dante suffered from narcolepsy is certainly intriguing, but most sleep specialists—including Plazzi—date the first unequivocal description of cataplexy to 1877, when German psychiatrist Karl Westphal presented a case at a meeting of the Berlin Medical and Psychological Society. [. . .]”   –Henry Nicholls, “Did Dante Alighieri Suffer From a Sleep Disorder?” LitHub (September 7, 2018)

The passage is an excerpt from Nicholls’s 2018 book Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of A Good Night’s Rest.

See also the related discussion from The Guardian, posted here.

Natsume Sōseki, The Wayfarer (Kojin) (1912)

“[I]t gradually becomes clear that marriages good and bad, arranged and romantic are constants in this narrative. Suffering from a kind of existential crisis, Ichiro’s marriage to Nao is in trouble. Ichiro even suspects that his feckless younger brother Jiro has been carrying on with Nao, and voices despairing references to Paolo and Francesca from Dante’s Inferno. The third part of the book covers the period after they all return to Tokyo from their travels. As Ichiro and Nao’s marriage continues to deteriorate, Nao is tight-lipped, refusing to argue or complain, while Ichiro seems close to a nervous breakdown.”   –B. Morrison, “The Wayfarer (Kojin), by Natsume Sōseki” (March 22, 2010)

See also our post on Sōseki’s 1908 novel The Miner.