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‘There is no greater sorrow then to recall our times of joy in wretchedness.’
Considered one of the greatest medieval poems written in the common vernacular of the time, Dante’s Inferno begins on Good Friday in the year 1300. As he wanders through a dark forest, Dante loses his way and stumbles across the ghost of the poet Virgil. Virgil promises to lead him back to the top of the mountain, but to do so, they must pass through Hell, encountering all manner of shocking horrors, sins and evil torments along the way, evoking questions about God’s justice, human behaviour and Christianity.
Bang has done for Dante's most famous poem something akin to what Baz Luhrmann did for Shakespeare in his 1996 film of Romeo and Juliet: updated the presentation of a classic for a contemporary sensibility without sacrificing its timelessness. Bang (The Bride of E) has preserved the feel and tempo of the original and the many English translations that readers will be familiar with: "Stopped mid-motion in the middle/ Of what we call our life, I looked up and saw no sky / Only a dense cage of leaf, tree, and twig. I was lost," she begins. She has, however, modernized the metaphors; where Dante looked to the politics and culture of his contemporary Italy for allusions to illustrate his sense of faith and morality, Bang mines American pop and high culture. Yes, traditionalists and scholars may shriek upon seeing Eric Cartman (of South Park fame), sculptures by Rodin, John Wayne Gacy, and many others make anachronistic cameos in Bang's version of Hell, but this is still very much Dante's underworld, updated so it pops on today's page. The result is an epic both fresh and historical, scholarly and irreverent: " Pope Satan, Pope Satan, Alley Oop!' " begins Canto VII with a line in which Bang mines various previous translations of Dante and the roots of the phrase "Alley Oop" in French gymnastics and a newspaper comic about "a Stone Age traveling salesman from the kingdom of Moo who rode a dinosaur named Dinny," according to Bang's comprehensive notes. This will be the Dante for the next generation. Includes illustrations by artist Henrik Drescher.