Daniel Berrigan, The Discipline of the Mountain: Dante’s Purgatorio in a Nuclear World (1979)

“In The Discipline of the Mountain Daniel Berrigan offers ‘ways of imagining our plight’ through the poetic vision of Dante’s Purgatorio. There can be found ‘a faithful vision, an alternative, a truthful image of God, of ourselves, of history.’ Berrigan employs free, poetic adaptation of the original–its themes, moods, discourses, encounters–with a prose commentary relating the text to political-moral issues of the present day. With its themes of lust and hatred, religious strife and ecclesiastical corruption, military power and oppression, the Purgatorio is an apt allegory of modern society. Thirteenth-century kings and princes shade into twentieth-century colonels and shahs and juntas.”   —Description from Wipf and Stock Publishers

In a review published in the magazine Sojourners, Lionel Basney writes, “Berrigan writes that he went to the Purgatorio in search of “ways of imagining our plight.” Looking for new vision in an old work is a familiar activity; but when it means reforging that work to make a new vision, it becomes complicated for both writer and reader. Unlike translation, an ‘imitation’ does not replace the original text. Instead it offers a new work through which the old text is still visible; to read it is to read two texts. Its author writes in the confidence, or hope, that the vision of the older text is still valid, assuming that for his readers as for himself the vision’s fundamental values remain true and compelling.

“But are we close enough to Dante to make this complicated process work? That depends on what we need from him. Berrigan needs terms in which to grasp the barrenness and violence of a way of life that constantly threatens war. Wanting Christian terms for this, terms powerful to Christian consciences, he naturally turns to Dante as the great poet of the Christian vision. And certainly Dante’s world was no less violent than ours.”   –Lionel Basney, “Berrigan’s Reawakening of Vision” (Review), Sojourners, August 1980

Carlos Martínez Moreno, El Infierno (1981)

“This last novel by Uruguayan writer and defense attorney Martínez Moreno, who died in exile in 1986, depicts the revolt of Uruguay’s Tupamaro urban guerillas and their suppression by the military in the early 1970s. Using true accounts of kidnapping, torture and murder from political detainees whom he defended while living in Uruguay, Martínez Moreno fashions a dreamlike yet brutally realistic story of a police state. His book borrows chiefly from The Inferno in Dante’s Divine Comedy. In this modern-day hell, wealthy Uruguayan bankers and prosecutors are kidnapped by the Tupamaros; army colonels and police officers learn more effective ways to torture political prisoners from the ‘cold, calculating’ North American ‘adviser.'”   —Publishers Weekly, 1988

For more on the novel and its relationship to Dante’s poem, see Efraín Kristal’s “What Is, Is Not: Dante in Tomas Eloy Martínez’s Purgatorio,” Bulletin of Latin American Research 31.4 (2012): 473-484 (accessible here).

Tomás Eloy Martínez, Purgatorio (2008)

“It should be noted from the outset that unlike Dante’s Purgatorio, which explores the painful processes of self‐examination of those who sinned, repented before they died, and are preparing themselves to enter Paradise’s realm of bliss, Martínez’s Purgatorio is a meditation on a state of suffering by the innocent victims of Argentina’s dictatorial regimes of the 1970s. The notion of a ‘purgatory’ for repentant sinners in Dante, therefore, is creatively transformed in Martinez’s Purgatorio to suggest a shameful period of Argentina’s history plagued by repression and violence, but most importantly, by the pain it generated for decades to come in those who were affected by it.”   –Efrain Kristal, “What Is, Is Not: Dante in Tomás Eloy Martínez’s Purgatorio,” Bulletin of Latin American Research, 2012 (abstract publicly available; full text behind paywall)

The novel, originally published in Spanish in 2008, was translated into English by Frank Wynne (Bloomsbury, 2011).

DeseretNews, “We are living in Dante’s Inferno: Here’s Our Way Out”

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“Many of us who face the start of 2021 are experiencing political and personal crises analogous to what Dante confronted seven centuries earlier. Families are split according to political alliances. Homes are being lost to foreclosures. More walls are going up than doors are being opened. Pride leads us to blame others rather than accept any personal responsibility. We prefer to react rather than act in ways that lead to positive, forward motion. Dante’s epic, if read to the end, teaches that there is a better and more hopeful way.

“To follow Dante’s example, we must read widely and be open to more than one news source or a single viewpoint. We must recognize how breaking the law, whether God’s or man’s, easily leads to corruption, no matter how smart or rich the person is. We must take responsibility for our own actions, acknowledge when we are wrong, and engage in honest efforts to make amends. We must adopt long-term views and prioritize what matters most. Dante would argue that only then can one find the wisdom and the fortitude to endure to the end.” [. . .]    –Madison Sowell, DeseretNews, January 18, 2021.

 

“Dante’s Descendant Seeks to Overturn Poet’s 1302 Corruption Conviction”

guardian-dantes-descendant-tries-to-overturn-conviction-2021“”There were two sentences inflicted on Dante. The first was exile, the second was death and it will be interesting to understand whether in the light of the Florentine statutes of the time and the current legal principles the two judgments could be subject to revision,’ said Traversi.

“The plans to clear Dante’s name will begin with a conference in May, with participants including historians, linguists, lawyers – and Antoine de Gabrielli, the descendant of Cante de Gabrielli da Gubbio, the Florentine official who convicted Dante. They will be investigating if Dante’s sentences were just, said Traversi, or “the poisoned fruit of politics that used justice to attack an opponent”.

“‘Not everyone is convinced of the need for rehabilitation. Writing in the same paper, journalist Aldo Cazzullo said that Dante “is the one who invented the word ‘belpaese’ [beautiful country]’. ‘What could a late acquittal add, however necessary?’ he asked.”  [. . .]    –Alison Flood, The Guardian, February 1, 2021.

The Dual Observer: “Hamilton Dems Register Damned Souls in NY-22”

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“After crossing Acheron, the river of woe, Aligheri led the Dems through the nine circles of eternal suffering in search of spirits willing to switch their voter registration to Clinton. The group had a productive afternoon getting networking advice from their parents’ deceased coworkers and handing registration forms to any vaguely American-looking ghost able to pull its head above the lake of fire. ‘I want to make sure that the Hamilton locals have the best public officials I can pick for them,’ Aligheri said after securing an application from a heretic buried in a flaming tomb. ‘I just love the Uvula area and I want to give back. Like back home in Connecticut when I go down to McDonald’s and give the poors unsolicited investment advice.'” [. . .]    –Mr. Nelson, The Dual Observer, October 9, 2020.

“Dante’s Inferno and Governor Good Hair”

“Dante wrote his famous work in a day when pundits could not openly attack the powers that be in columns such as this for fear of their lives.  Well thanks to the First Amendment of the Constitution I’m somewhat protected in what I can say about our contemporary politicians.  I’m somewhat limited because I cannot defame or slander anyone; I can, however, make fun of them as I describe their foibles and fumblings.

“Anyway, I digress.  Dante wrote his very descriptive poem describing Hell (The Inferno) as being constructed of many layers.  The lower you descended the worse the conditions were.  The sinner who passed away was assigned to the specific layer reserved for those with similar sins and the worse the sins the lower the level.

“Interestingly enough Dante placed politicians in the lowest levels where those who lied, committed treachery, fraud and treason against the state.  I couldn’t figure where Governor Good Hair exactly belonged because he has been guilty of so many infractions.  So, I stuck him in both levels.”   —Mary Mata, News Taco, 2014

Read the full article here.

Carlton Fletcher: “Finding the proper circle in Dante’s hell for the deserving”

fletcher sig.jpg“In the classic poem The Divine Comedy, finished in 1320 by Italian poet Dante Alighieri, Dante made note of the nine circles of hell that he visited during what had to have been a fever dream.

“In doing so, Dante left the perfect vehicle for we mere mortals centuries later to assign the likes of those with whom we’re at odds or others whose abhorrent behavior we find particularly egregious. So, as we close out this most contentious of years — a year we might dump as a whole into the first circle of Dante’s hell — here are a few nominees for various levels of the poet’s underworld.”   –Carlton Fletcher, “Finding the Proper Circle in Dante’s Hell for the Deserving,” Albany Herald, 2020
See the full article here.

“Dante Alighieri racconta la politica”

See the whole “Dante Alighieri racconta la politica” Facebook page here (last accessed January 13, 2021).

Lawrence M. Ludlow, “Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Divine Origins of the Free Market”

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“We already are familiar with the Marxian social gospel that is so popular among many current theologians and their followers. In the verses I will cite, Dante himself voices an understanding of the marketplace that shares this erroneous communitarian view of economics. In particular, he describes his adherence to what is known among libertarians as the fallacy of zero-sum economics. Those who hold the zero-sum view claim that in a free marketplace, the gains of one participant are exactly balanced by the losses of another. If the total of the gains and losses are added up, the sum will be zero. In other words, if the sum total of all wealth were embodied in a single chocolate cake, one person’s share of cake would be another’s loss. Furthermore, the addition of each new market participant requires the slicing of thinner and thinner pieces of this cake. We libertarians, of course, despise this theory. If it were correct, the seven billion inhabitants of planet Earth would now be sharing and dividing infinitesimally small pieces of the very same chocolate cake that was first made available in the mists of Mexican pre-history. If such were true, I frankly wonder if there would be so much as a single calorie available to any of us – and very stale calories at that. Furthermore, the current spectacle of American obesity appears to belie this interpretation without my assistance.

“But as soon as Dante expresses his zero-sum analysis of marketplace economics, Virgil – who acts as Dante’s divinely appointed guide throughout his journey down into the Inferno and during his wonderful ascent of the Purgatorio – immediately upbraids him and provides the correct alternative, an unabashed free-market perspective. In Dante’s poem, this perspective is a reflection of the divine perspective of God. Let’s now examine the text itself.” [. . .]    –Lawrence M. Ludlow, Strike The Root, May 14, 2013.