Posts Tagged ‘Dante’
March 10, 2014 | by Alexander Aciman
Dante: I’ve never seen anything like it. The moment we entered the domain of the diviners, I knew right away something was very wrong. Some sick bastard went to town on them. Their bodies were contorted, their heads were twisted back 180 degrees so their tears fell down their asses. It’s the sort of thing nobody should see once. You spend the rest of your career trying to avoid anything like it again. I was almost ruined after that. But Virgil, he was fascinated.
* * *
Virgil: A man in hell surprises even himself. You go down there waiting to get hit with a rush of pity, but it never arrives. No. The first thing that hits you is the great irony of divination. You wonder, are these sinners being punished for lying—for creating the illusion that somehow they were graced with the power of premonition? Or maybe they’re down there because they saw something and decided to reveal whatever improbable truth nobody was supposed to know about until it actually happened? If that’s the case, then they already know what’s going to happen to them. You see, an ordinary sinner holds out in ignorance, thinking that something might change ten, one hundred years down the line. But the diviners know that they can’t leave hell. Is that why they’re weeping? Wouldn’t you weep if suddenly you felt the silence of God and knew He wasn’t going to return?
* * *
Dante: I can’t remember whom we spoke to first. There were a few Thebans, but none of them had anything useful to say. One old man, Amphiaraus, kept giving us some line about how he was sucked down into the earth and dragged to hell when he tried to delay his own death. We figured out pretty quickly that these Thebans were all part of the same cult of seers, led by a blind man named Tiresias.
* * *
Virgil: Tiresias was a distraction, you see. That wasn’t the real story. You hear a big name like Tiresias, and you assume it’s going to tie back to him, but then we found a woman named Manto. Read More »
March 3, 2014 | by Alexander Aciman
By now, you have seen excerpts from last night’s episode of Mr. Alighieri’s The Inferno, Canto 19, in which Dante visits the ditch that punishes simony. We have filed a defamation suit and sent a cease and desist to Dante’s attorney, but there will undoubtedly be a public reaction. Rest assured: our lawyers are going to crucify this guy.
For those of you who are not aware, the segment focuses on Dante and Virgil’s descent through the eighth circle of hell, where Dante enters the realm of simony—which, more or less, covers any form of buying or selling powers or positions in the Church. At this point, we feel it is important to remind you all that any rumors of simony were supposed to have been snuffed out for good this last quarter. It has come to our attention that Dante must be getting his information from within our offices. At this time, any higher-ranking members of the church who happen to be White Guelphs are our prime suspects. We’ve launched an internal investigation, but please be at high alert and keep all information on a need-to-know basis until we have resolved this problem.
As the canto goes on, Dante sees a bunch of feet in the air—sinners buried head-first in the ground, the soles of their feet covered in fire as they are slowly ingested by hell. As he approaches, one buried sinner, Pope Nicholas III, mistakes Dante for another pope, Boniface VIII. Dante then listens to Nicholas confess to simony and describe the way he lined his pockets. Clearly Dante is not our most subtle critic, but we cannot stand idly by as he implies that all our popes are simonists. It’s bad for business. Short of having a pope curse in public, nothing could be more damning. Read More »
February 24, 2014 | by Alexander Aciman
Canto 18 is perhaps the unsung workhorse of the Inferno—at only 136 lines, it is filled to the brim with political commentary, mythology, personal attacks, and feces. There’s a distinct energy in the way this canto is written; even the obligatory geographical descriptions feel alive, and Dante, when he sets the scene, uses the word new: new suffering, “new torments,” “new scourgers.” In short, this is a sort of broad-spectrum dis track that deals with two different kinds of sinners: the panderers/seducers and the flatterers.
After Dante and Virgil get off Geryon’s back, they end up in the eighth circle of hell. (The seventh really dragged on, didn’t it?) This is Malebolge, where sinners are made to run through a series of ditches; if they slow down, demons descend to flog them. As grim as this might sound—running naked through a ditch in hell, being whipped by demons—Dante uses the occasion to showcase his wit. “How they made them pick their heels up / at the first stroke! You may be certain no one waited for a second or a third.”
Dante meets Venedico of Bologna—a sinner, and as such, not exactly a model human being. (He sold off his sister.) Venedico identifies himself and his fellow Bolognese as those who use the word sipa to mean yes in their dialect. (Dante frequently uses this sort of indirect revelation, especially when it comes to hometowns. Francesca, for example, doesn’t say she is from Rimini, but she says she is from where the river Po slows down. Using a linguistic idiosyncrasy as a form of ID is classic Dante.) Venedico’s words suggest this is precisely the sort of thing one can expect from a Bolognese: “I’m not the only Bolognese here … this place is so crammed with them,” he says. Read More »
February 17, 2014 | by Alexander Aciman
A transcript from the Dante’s Inferno writers’ room.
Executive Producer: Did everyone get the canto 17 draft Dante sent around?
Writer One: Oh, where do I even start? It’s pretentious, it’s dry, it’s incomprehensible. When it opens, we’re in the third ring of the seventh circle. There’s a serpentine monster the guys meet, but instead of checking it out or slaying it or whatever, Dante forges ahead and talks to some usurer guy who’s wearing a giant bag under his chin. He’s not too chatty, so then the focus turns back to the monster—
Executive Producer: Does the monster have a name?
Writer Two: Geryon.
Executive Producer (mulling this over): That’s a good name.
Writer One: Yeah, but then it gets ridiculous. Virgil and Dante ride on the monster’s back like they’re in Disney World.
Writer Two: Well, they’re in hell. Pretty close. Maybe we can get marketing to pitch a Geryon ride somewhere. Read More »
February 10, 2014 | by Alexander Aciman
Part I: Multiple Choice
1. Dante is
(a) The poet’s first name
(b) The poet’s last name
(c) The poet’s performance alias, à la Madonna or Ginuwine
(d) The owner of the peak in the 1997 Pierce Brosnan vehicle, Dante’s Peak
2. In canto 1, Dante encounters a Lonza, a beast best described as
(a) A leopard-lion hybrid
(b) Probably completely made up
(c) An allegorical stand-in for Dante’s enemies in the City of Florence
(d) All of the above
3. In canto 5, Francesca tells Dante that she was unfaithful to her husband after reading a love story. What story was it?
(a) The story of Dido and Aeneas
(b) The story of Lancelot
(c) Ars Erotica, Ovid’s bodice ripper
(d) Irrelevant. The story she was reading was merely a vehicle for the affair, not the cause of it
4. A Dantista is
(a) The Italian word for dentist
(b) A Dante scholar
(c) A female Dante scholar with attitude
(d) A superlative used to describe Dante’s best work
Read More »
February 3, 2014 | by Alexander Aciman
At this point in The Inferno, as Dante continues to test, stretch, and deplete Virgil’s patience, let us imagine for a moment what Virgil might say given the opportunity to write a performance review for the pilgrim.
Pilgrim name: Dante Alighieri
Occupation: Poet/expert stalker/political commentator (fascist?)
Age: Roughly halfway through the journey of his life
Dante has done well on this divine quest so far, especially considering the fact that I found him lost in a forest not long ago. When we reached the end of this most recent section of Hell, Dante confessed that he’d intended to use a belt to fight off the leopard I saved him from—it’s safe to say that he has made considerable progress since he first came on.
I still worry about him, however. He seems to listen to me almost blindly—I’m fairly certain that if I told him to jump off a bridge, he might actually do it. He can’t think for himself, and he’s not exactly a self-starter; he has middle management written all over him. He’d make a great lifelong employee, though I recommend putting him through purgatory before sending him up high. He still has a lot to learn. Read More »