Alberto Manguel, “Dante’s Dogs”

CuriosityIn an article for the New York Review of Books, Alberto Manguel investigates the significance of dogs, especially in the context of insults, in Dante’s Inferno. What does it mean to be dubbed a dog by Dante?

The article, “Dante’s Dogs”, is adapted from a part of Manguel’s recent book, Curiosity (2015).

“Angry, greedy, savage, mad, cruel: these are the qualities that Dante seems to see in dogs and applies to the inhabitants of Hell. To call a person a ‘dog’ is a common and uninspired insult in almost every language, including, of course, the Italian spoken in Dante’s thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Tuscany. But mere commonplaces are absent in Dante: when he uses an ordinary expression, it no longer reads as ordinary. The dogs in the Commedia carry connotations other than the merely insulting, but overriding them all is the suggestion of something infamous and despicable. This relentlessness demands a question.”    —The New York Review of Books

Contributed by Pamela Montanaro