“Dante’s Inferno: Navigating the Complexities of Hell in As Above, So Below

These words scrawled across the walls beneath the Paris Catacombs mark the entrance to Hell for the characters in As Above, So Below. They herald in a nightmarish final act. The very same words that mark the gates to Hell in writer Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, the first part of his epic poem of Divine ComedyInferno tells of Dante’s journey through the nine circles of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. Their journey begins on Good Friday, and the pair emerges from Hell early on Easter morning under a starry sky. Though As Above, So Below draws from various mythologies, it’s Dante’s Inferno and its complex rendering of Hell that most closely mirrors protagonist Scarlett Marlowe’s quest, making for an atypical found footage film that offers impressively layered world-building.

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“The only way out is down. That they descend through a well is significant. Scarlett explains the phrase ‘as above, so below’ is the key to all magic. What happens in one reality occurs in another, presenting a bizarre mirror-like symmetry to their voyage. The group begins by climbing down a well, and they end it by going down another well. In Inferno, wells play a part in getting Dante and his guide to the eighth and ninth circles. Later, Dante and Virgil finally reach the center of Hell and begin their escape by continuing downward. Dante is convinced they’re returning to Hell, only to realize gravity has changed, and they’re climbing up to the surface. Dante, half-way through his life, begins his journey spiritually lost. More than just a guide to Hell, Virgil becomes his guide to virtue and mortal. That’s mirrored in Scarlett, reckless and reeling from the loss of her father, and George, the strict rule-abiding ethical anchor. Much of George’s fear for breaking the law stems from spending time in a Turkish prison before the events of the film, which also parallel’s Virgil in that he detailed his personal trip through Hell in his poem Aeneid.”    –Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting, April 10, 2020

See our original post on As Above, So Below here.

Bianca Garavelli, Le Terzine Perdute di Dante (2015)

Bianca Garavelli’s Le terzine perdute di Dante is a historical thriller that follows the affairs of the poet himself, in exile in Paris, and a contemporary scholar who appears to have discovered the poet’s autograph in a manuscript in Milan. The novel was published by BUR Rizzoli in 2015.

“Parigi, 1309. Dante, in esilio, stanco e spaventato, vive nel terrore di essere perseguitato dai suoi numerosi nemici. Una delle sue poche consolazioni è la compagnia di una donna misteriosa, Marguerite Porete, una mistica accusata di eresia della quale Dante diventa il miglior allievo, e che lo conduce nel centro di una guerra spietata fra due ordini che agiscono nell’ombra. In gioco c’è un pericoloso segreto, una profezia di cui l’Alighieri è il depositario prescelto. Ed è il filologo medievale Riccardo Donati a mettersi sulle tracce di quel mistero centinaia di anni dopo, nella Milano dei giorni nostri: mentre esamina un antico manoscritto si imbatte in quella che ha tutta l’aria di essere la firma autografa di Dante. Sarà l’inizio di una vorticosa e inattesa avventura che stravolgerà per sempre la vita di Riccardo, e non solo. Un romanzo sospeso tra passato e presente, tra storia, letteratura e azione, per un thriller storico che si trasforma in una caccia all’uomo frenetica e appassionante.”  —BUR

See more at Bianca Garavelli’s website here.

Patrizia Tamà, La Quarta Cantica (2010)

Patrizia Tamà’s La Quarta Cantica (Mondadori, 2010), the first of a trilogy featuring a protagonist named Beatrice Maureeno, is a historical crime thriller with a Dantesque premise: it pivots on the existence of a previously undiscovered, mysterious fourth canticle.

“Una giovane donna si aggira in stato confusionale per la stazione di Firenze. Non ricorda più nulla: chi è, come si chiama, perché è lì. Eppure non è una vagabonda qualsiasi. Lo intuisce il misterioso clochard che la soccorre. E se ne rendono subito conto i medici dell’Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, dove viene ricoverata. Grazie alle cure di un medico che pareva aspettarla come un dono, comincerà presto a dissolversi la nebbia che le riempie la mente e lei vedrà a poco a poco riemergere se stessa, l’identità che credeva perduta. Scoprirà così di essere una studiosa di materie dantesche, inglese ma di origini italiane, giunta a Firenze sulle tracce di un segreto antico, che da settecento anni scorre nell’ombra come un fiume sotterraneo. Ricorderà di chiamarsi Beatrice. Ma le sue sono ricerche pericolose, conducono in Germania, in Turchia, e possono costare la vita, perché non è la sola a dare la caccia a una verità dirompente. [. . .] Davvero il Sommo Dante concepì una Quarta Cantica? E di che cosa si tratta? Davvero la occultò perché fosse consegnata ai posteri in un’epoca finalmente pronta alle sue rivelazioni?” — Google Books

For more, see the review on the blog Il sussurro delle Muse.

James Becker, The Dante Conspiracy (2018)

The Dante Conspiracy was written by James Becker and published by Canelo Adventure (May 28th, 2018).

“When the body of a poetry professor is found tortured in a deserted barn outside Florence, Inspector Perini is assigned to the case.

“No murder of passion, it is clearly a professional job. When, hours later, thieves break into Dante’s cenotaph, it seems the two crimes may be connected by some missing verses from the Divine Comedy.

“They could contain a code so valuable someone is willing to murder for it. But who? And why? As the bodies pile up, Perini is in a deadly race to find the secret before the killers. The truth will prove more shocking than he could have possibly imagined…” [. . .]    —Amazon

Review: Matthew Pearl’s “The Dante Chamber”

“In The Dante Chamber, Matthew Pearl’s new thriller — a sequel of sorts to his 2003 bestseller The Dante Club — murder takes a literary turn. Sparked by Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the crimes are solved by a crack team of poets and painters: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his sister Christina Rossetti, Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson and the American doctor-poet-essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes (not to be confused with his son and namesake, the great Supreme Court justice).

“The murders take place in London in 1870. In the first murder, a member of Parliament is killed in a London park; a massive stone has inexplicably been tied around his neck and broken it. Soon thereafter an attractive woman dies on a London street; her eyelids have been sewn shut.

“Gabriel Rossetti, who was in the park during the first murder, disappears. His sister and friends fear for his safety, even as the police suspect he was the killer. Gabriel is fond of opiates and given to erratic behavior. When his wife died he impulsively had all his unpublished poems buried with her. Later, to the horror of many, he had them dug up.” […]    –Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post, June 1, 2018

Francesco Fioretti, La Selva Oscura (2015)

La Selva Oscura is Italian author and Dante scholar Francesco Fioretti‘s latestLa Selva Oscura book, published in January 2015. The thriller is a reinterpretation of the Inferno in modern Italian. Fioretti has already begun a novel based on Purgatorio, and intends to have published novels corresponding to each of the three canticles by 2021, the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. Fioretti is also the author of Il Libro Segreto di Dante (2011) and La Profezia Perduta di Dante (2013).

“Scopo dichiarato dell’autore è offrire ‘anche al lettore non specialista la preziosa opportunità, (in Italia data di solito solo agli addetti ai lavori), di leggere la prima cantica del poema dantesco dall’inizio alla fine, come un romanzo contemporaneo’, proprio come avviene in altri paesi dove è possibile leggere La Commedia in traduzione , nelle rispettive lingue moderne.”    —Repubblica.it, “Come un thriller l’Inferno di Dante in italiano moderno”

Click here to read an interview with Fioretti about his novel.

Giulio Leoni, Dante Novels

leoni-medusaFirst in a series of historical thrillers featuring Dante Alighieri as investigator of crimes in 14th century Florence, the other novels are I delitti del mosaico; I delitti della luce; and La crociata delle tenebre.

See Internet Bookshop for more information.

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Contributed by Piergiorio Niccolazzini, PNLA Literary Agency

Dan Brown, Inferno (2013)

dan-brown-inferno-2013Inferno, Dan Brown’s new book about Dante, is coming out on May 14, 2013 from Doubleday in the U.S., and Transworld Publishers in the UK (a division of Random House). Brown announced that he was writing something new in May 2012. Though Brown had been cryptic about the topic of the book, he has now revealed more information. The book will again feature The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and The Lost Symbol‘s lead character Robert Langdon. Brown also noted on The Today Show that it ‘will be set in Europe, in the most fascinating place I’ve ever seen’ (we’re guessing Florence, Italy since that’s where Dante wrote, and Florence’s Duomo church features on the cover of the book). Transworld’s press release for the book relates a bit more: the book will revolve around one of ‘history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces’ (we’re assuming Dante’s Divine Comedy, with a focus on the Inferno portion, due to the title of the book).

“The title was announced this morning on The Today Show. Readers were invited to participate in the unveiling of the title by posting on Facebook or tweeting, using the hashtag #DanBrownToday that they were helping unveil the title of Dan Brown’s newest book. These readers’ profile pictures then claimed a tile in a mosaic. After enough readers contributed their title suggestions, the new title was revealed. Even if you’ve never read a Dan Brown book, you can guess that the man really enjoys his puzzles.”    –Zoe Triska, The Huffington Post, January 15, 2013

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See also: Janet Maslin, “On a Scavenger Hunt to Save Most Humans,” The New York Times, May 12, 2013

Craig Johnson, “Hell is Empty” (2011)

craig-johnson-hell-is-empty-2011“. . . And then there is this: ‘Hell Is Empty’ is a homage to Dante’s Inferno. Johnson has taken images and allusions from that great work about hell, written in the 14th century, and plugged them into his narrative, weaving added meaning into the book and an extra challenge for those readers wishing to search them out.
Early on, readers see that Longmire’s deputy, Santiago ‘Sancho’ Saizarbitoria, is carrying with him a copy of Dante’s Inferno. Johnson mentions it several times – pointing to its hidden role in the book – and Walt later takes a look into Sancho’s copy and stumbles across the opening:
‘At one point midway on our path in life, I found myself searching through a dark wood, the right way blurred and lost.’
Walt’s response? ‘Boy howdy.’
Boy howdy, indeed. And so it begins, Walt’s plunge into his own personal hell – both literally and figuratively – filled with allusions to Inferno. Just a few: Walt travels up a mountain – as did Dante. He walks across a frozen lake – as did Dante. He is greeted by a lion – yes, it’s a mountain lion, but so what? And Walt nearly is consumed in a fire.
There are many others. It will be interesting to see Johnson’s fans put together lists and post them on the Internet.
I can tell you that ‘Hell’ sent me scuttling to my bookshelf for a copy of Inferno to see what I could reference. (I also spent a weekend reviewing a SparksNotes synopsis of the great poem in preparation for this review. Please don’t tell my high school English teacher.)
Perhaps the greatest allusion, and another level of the book, is pointed to by Walt’s guide, a Crow Indian named Virgil who first appeared in Johnson’s fourth novel, ‘Another Man’s Moccasins.’
It is no coincidence that the guide’s name is Virgil – Dante was led through hell by the Roman poet of that name. But what comes in doubt as ‘Hell Is Empty’ proceeds is whether Virgil really exists at all. Is he alive? A dream figure? A hallucination? A ghost? The reader must decide that for him or herself – as does Walt.
But Virgil is not just a mountain guide. He also becomes a spiritual guide for Longmire. This book is about a lot more than just a chase in the mountains. Rather, it digs deep into questions of life and death and afterlife. No small task for a 320-page thriller.” [. . .]    –D. Reed Eckhardt, Wyoming News, 26 June 2011

Taxi Driver

taxi-driver“‘Taxi Driver’ was a groundbreaking hybrid of the grind house (with its urban vigilante plot borrowed from Michael Winner’s 1974 ‘Death Wish’) and the art house (with quotations from Godard, Bresson and perhaps, in some of Travis’s more abstract nocturnal wanderings, the unfocused subjectivity of Stan Brakhage’s avant-garde films). The movie draws on contemporary fears of urban decay and social collapse, but is as timeless as Dante, with its descent into an East Village hell followed, in the extraordinary coda, by a glimpse of a West Village paradise where Travis is miraculously reunited with his corn-fed Beatrice (Cybill Shepherd), a sequence of teasingly ambiguous reality. ” [. . .]    –Dave Kehr, The New York Times, April 8, 2011