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).

Seventh Circle Hot Sauces

seventh-circle-hot-sauce-2019“Seventh Circle is a boutique hot sauce brand focused on unique flavor combinations, natural ingredients, and small batch production. The name is derived from Dante’s Inferno. In this story, the seventh circle of hell is reserved for those who have committed violence. Hot sauce fiends could be seen as committing violence upon themselves. Through texture, color, and imagery I wanted to create a cohesive brand that represents it’s namesake and would be attractive to hot sauce aficionados. The first step in creating the brand was constructing a logo. The logo is the vehicle that drives a brand, and is part of all touch points. In exploring the logo, I wanted to create a mark that was easily recognizable and conveyed the brand’s messaging in a simple but clever way. The phrase ‘You reap what you sow’ stuck out in my mind, as the seventh circle of hell is for those who have committed violence, and in this case on themselves. I went with the scythe, and illustrated it to be in the shape of the number seven.” [. . .]    —Jake Neece Design and Illustrations, 2019.

Bob Dylan, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” (1963)

 

“I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’…”  A reference to Pier delle Vigne, Inf. 13?

Contributed by Lorenzo Hess (Bowdoin, ’23)

Ocean Vuong, “Seventh Circle of Earth” (2016)

“I wrote ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ [from Vuong’s 2016 collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds] shortly after hearing the news of two gay men being murdered by immolation in Dallas, TX. I originally wrote the poem in tercets, echoing Dante’s terza rima format. In the Inferno, the stanzas work as a network of rooms the speaker moves through as he descends through the circles of hell. In ‘Seventh Circle of Earth,’ however, this grouping felt off, even fraudulent, to me. A persona poem at its core, it takes on the voice of one of the men speaking to his partner. And in the midst of that fraught position, a poem in tercets, or, in other words, a ‘traditional’ poem, felt like a diluted, forced recasting of a horrific event. I ultimately abandoned the poem.

“It was not until three years later, while reading a critical work on violence and scholarship, did I see, more clearly, the footnotes on the bottom of the page. I found myself slipping right to the notes as I progressed, reading them first. They possessed, in that reading, an urgency that began to stitch itself into a fabric of broken utterances fused together by parataxis. It was, in a way, found poetry. That gave me the idea to re-work ‘Seventh Circle of Earth’ into a piece written entirely in the footnote. This time, the vast and utter emptiness one confronts on the page felt more faithful to the violent erasure of the two murdered men. It felt right to begin the poem with its own vanishing.” [. . .]  — Ocean Vuong on “Seventh Circle of Earth” for Poetry School

Read the rest of Vuong’s comments and the poem at poetryschool.com.

Contributed by Su Ertekin-Taner (The Bolles School ’22)

“The Seven Circles of Dishwashing Hell”

“I don’t want to be dramatic or anything, but sometimes, even the most mundane of chores becomes epic to me. Dante Alighieri may have been writing about Hell in his Inferno, but it seems just like dishwashing to me.

Every night after dinner, it goes something like this:

Limbo – Some people think dinner is over. Some people just finally sat down to eat 30 seconds ago. No one is actively clearing the table, but some dishes are in the sink.

[. . .]

Gluttony – So I ate the brownies and ice cream. And it became like the mud Virgil (Dante’s guide in the underworld, you’ll recall) fed to the three mouths of Cerberus.

[. . .]

Violence – A river of blood (how my hands feel right now) is where Dante finds those who are violent to their neighbor. Gnarled thorny trees (how my hands feel) are those who are violent to themselves. The great plain of burning sand (does anyone have any Bag Balm? I think the skin on my hands needs revitalizing!) is what awaits those who are violent toward God.

[. . .]

The absolute center of hell – Like Lucifer, half submerged in the ice lake, one last thing remains in the sink: the soggy, stubborn end of an onion, carelessly tossed in the there and causing a slow drain. I pluck it out and head literally to the TV room, but metaphorically into the River of Lethe, or forgetfulness. Otherwise, why would I do this again tomorrow night?”    –Beth McConnell, A Madison Mom, September 10, 2016

The 9 Layers of Thanksgiving Hell

–Rae, Peas and Cougars, November 22, 2011

“The Hellish Descent of the Central African Republic”

“The death records of the Bangui morgue in the Central African Republic read like a chapter out of Dante’s Inferno: page after page of people killed by machetes, torture, lynchings, shootings, explosions and burning. The overwhelming stench makes it impossible to stay there for long. On really bad days only the number of dead is recorded – not their names nor the causes of death – before the bodies are buried in mass graves

“The morgue is a terrible symbol of the toll of communal violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), which has raged for months and claimed tens of thousands of lives, displacing even more. Recently, the Séléka, a predominantly Muslim group of fighters that seized Bangui, the capital, and toppled the CAR’s government in early 2013, have lost some ground – although they continue to terrorise wherever possible. In response Christian forces known as anti-balaka (balaka means ‘machete’ in Sango, the local language) have stepped up attacks against Muslim civilians in places where the Séléka no longer holds the sway it did a few months ago. ” [. . .]    –Peter Bouckaert, The Telegraph, February 19, 2014.

Thinking Against Violence

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Images projected in Lyon, France, as tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks. Credit Robert Pratta/Reuters

This is an interview with Brad Evans, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Bristol in England. He is the founder and director of the Histories of Violence project, a global research initiative on the meaning of mass violence in the 21st century.

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[…] “But let’s consider for a moment what the thinker [the sculpture by Rodin] is actually contemplating. Sat alone on his plinth, the thinker could in fact be thinking about anything in particular. We just hope it is something serious. Such ambiguity was not however as Rodin intended. In the original 1880 sculpture, the thinker actually appears kneeling before the Gates of Hell. We might read this as significant for a whole number of reasons. First, it is the “scene of violence,” which gives specific context to Rodin’s thinker. Thought begins for the thinker in the presence of the raw realities of violence and suffering. The thinker in fact is being forced to suffer into truth.

“Second, there is an interesting tension in terms of the thinker’s relationship to violence. Sat before the gates, the thinker appears to be turning away from the intolerable scene behind. This we could argue is a tendency unfortunately all too common when thinking about violence today. Turning away into abstraction or some scientifically neutralizing position of “objectivity.” And yet, according to one purposeful reading, the figure in this commission is actually Dante, who is contemplating the circles of hell as narrated in The Divine Comedy. This is significant. Rather than looking away, might it be that the figure is now actually staring directing into the abyss below? Hence raising the fundamental ethical question of what it means to be forced witness to violence?” […]   –Natasha Lennard and Brad Evans, The New York Times, December 16, 2015

Google+ and McSweeney

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Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, August 1, 2011

Contributed by Steve Bartus (Bowdoin, ’08)