“Sin’s Entertainment: On Dante’s Inferno”

“Dante’s descriptions of his imagined underworld creep right into that part of the mind which simply cannot shake off the willies. Children know that the scariest things are those we dream up in response to a few well-placed hints—and Dante is nothing if not a master of the beautifully dropped, deeply unnerving suggestion.
“Dante’s Inferno is far better known to most American readers than Purgatorio and Paradiso, the other two canticles of his immense Commedia Divina or Divine Comedy. And for good reason: sin’s more entertaining than grace. L’Inferno has been widely and variously translated into English, and weighing in on the results has become, over the years, a kind of literary sport. Fierce admirers and equally fierce detractors of John Ciardi, C.S. Singleton, and Robert Pinsky (among others) have tossed the football of judgment up and down the field; no one wins the game, but it’s lively and fun to watch.”   –Martha Cooley, AWP, 2009

Read the full article here.

“Sending Trump to Hell,” by Ariel Dorfman

“My name, sir, is Dante Alighieri. Among the innumerable dead that inhabit these shores, I have been chosen to speak to you because an expert on the afterlife was needed to describe what awaits your soul when it passes, as all souls must, into this land of shadows. I was chosen, whether as an honor or not, to imagine your fate once you wind your way toward us.

“Having accepted this task, I was tempted, sir, as I watched your every act in that life before death, to make this easier for myself and simply conjure up the circles of Hell I had already described in my terza rima. I would then have guided you down my cascade of verses, step by step, into the depths of darkness I had designed for others.

“Were you not the selfish embodiment of so many sins I dealt with in my Commedia? Lust and adultery, yes! Gluttony, yes; greed and avarice, oh yes; wrath and fury, certainly; violence, fraud, and usury, yes again! Divisiveness and treachery, even heresy — you who did not believe in God and yet used the Bible as a prop — yes, one more time!”   –Ariel Dorfman, “Sending Trump to Hell,” Nation of Change (October 22, 2020)

Contributed by Justin Meckes