Sunday, May 19, 2013

Inferno, by Dan Brown, Entry 3

          So far I've enjoyed the novel, though I have a feeling that the plot -- don't worry, I won't guess on this blog, so no need for a spoiler alert, yet -- is going to be a bit disappointing after all. But I want to talk about what seems to be the main connection to Dante...
          The crowded visions of hell, "So many, I had not thought death had undone so many"[both in Dante's Inferno and The Wasteland] is matched by a Malthusian vision of overpopulation and attendant violence etc... The above line is stated by Dante when Virgil shows them the souls of those who have neither done great evil or great good; these are those who have led conformist lives of quiet desperation. There is also a possible reference in this section of the Inferno to Pope Celestine(I think V) who gave up the papacy -- he is referred to as "he who made the great refusal". The notion that hell, and the Earth, is clogged with do-nothings is not a pleasant thought, but then again I'm a do-nothing with occasional gastric trouble, so...
            The question I'm posing to myself now is: "Why was I so enamored of Dante?" I mean, for a good number of years my love of Dante bordered on the obsessional -- it's interesting that in Brown's novel, Botticelli is said to have been so obsessed that he became deranged. One thing that's so fascinating about The Divine Comedy is how complete a view it provides of a world so different from the modern world, and in a single work. And, it being a summation of the medieval world, and written in the vernacular, it prepares the way for the Renaissance.
              Another thing I suspect about it is it provides a vantage point from which modernity, and postmodernity[note, I was impressed that Brown mentions Saul Kripke ], appears very hubristic, capitalism seems evil and technology a distraction from the existential human condition that would cause Pascal to shake his head. There is something alluring about this vantage point, as though one is taking a trip into the darkness on Dante's Geryon, awaiting the punishments of the fraudulent. Mind you, it's a very judgmental position, but that's, you know, what The Inferno is about. It provokes some kind of emotional state I think. It puts my failures in perspective  -- I guess that's pretty good for a 700 year old poem.

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