“Dante’s Tenth Circle” by Deborah Tennen

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In Ravenna, Italy, archivists recently discovered a lost canto of Dante’s Inferno — what appears to be the tenth circle of Hell. The ninth circle was previously understood to be the lowest point of Hell reached by Dante and his guide Virgil before ascending on their journey toward Paradise. A portion of the 14th-century manuscript, translated into English prose, is reproduced below.
‘Virgil,’ I cried, ‘Those shades–burning, immersed in human excrement, trapped in icy waters. I thought I had witnessed the basest of all sinners. So who are these figures I now see? Do my eyes betray me, or are their heads fully absorbed in the derrières of others? And who are these individuals whose bottoms are swollen due to the immense size of the heads there immersed?’ [. . .]    –Deborah Tennen, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, October 25, 2012

Contributed by Steve Bartus (Bowdoin, ’07)