This contemporary retread of Dante Alighieri’s famous work offers a clear message of love and respect for all creation.
The year 2020 will mark the 700th anniversary of a great work of world literature: The Divine Comedy. Dante’s masterpiece gives readers a tour of the Christian afterlife in three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso—set in hell, purgatory, and heaven, respectively. In this book, d’Oro (Back to Eden, 2015, etc.) provides a modern update of the first and most famous installment. In some ways, his text is scrupulously faithful to the original. As Dante did, d’Oro himself appears as the protagonist in a tale that follows the author on a descending tour through an underworld. His version of hell, like Dante’s, is peopled with real-life, infamous characters. The original Inferno is not only religious, but also political; Dante put many of his real-life enemies (and some of his friends) into the fiery abyss. D’Oro’s work similarly offers a panoply of well-known characters: Donald Trump and Barack Obama, Donald Rumsfeld and National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre, and celebrities Jon Stewart and Gilda Radner, just to name a few. But there are crucial differences from Dante’s work, too. Prime among them is the fact that, for d’Oro, hell is simply Earth—and, more specifically, a surreal, alternate version of Los Angeles. Further distinguishing himself from the devout Dante, d’Oro writes, “Hell is a man-made place, / Not a God-made prison to punish sinners.” In this tale, humans are their own worst enemies, but mankind has other victims, too, and d’Oro sees the degradation of the natural world as high up on its list of sins. This is a welcome expansion of Dante’s original project, and it gives d’Oro’s crafty, entrancing book real ethical weight. The author also borrows the rough contours of his style from medieval Italian, adopting the latter’s famed poetic form of terza rima. He does well not to adopt all the rhymes that the form requires, however—a task that bedevils even the most skillful English-language translators of the original Divine Comedy.
A diabolically clever return to a world classic.