October 28, 2009

Doing the Dante test

And going public with my results in the interest of literature

The Dante's Inferno test by 4degreez.com is slightly different from the usual personality test: you answer questions about your sins and are told your fate (slightly similar, too, actually). Here's where I'll end up for eternity, and how I stacked up overall:

“Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis! You approach Satan's wretched city where you behold a wide plain surrounded by iron walls. Burning tombs are littered about the landscape. Inside these flaming sepulchers suffer the heretics. You will join the wicked that lie here, and will be offered no respite.”

Level Score
Purgatory (Repenting Believers) Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers) Low
Level 2 (Lustful) Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous) Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious) Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy) Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics) Very High
Level 7 (Violent) Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers) High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous) Moderate

If I’d just scored a bit higher in lust, I would have ended up in the second circle, fierce winds driving me about in darkness together with the great queens Dido, Cleopatra, and Helen of Troy. As it is, I will be in the company of Farinata degli Uberti, the Ghibelline commander who rises up out of his fiery tomb “as if he had great scorn for hell” to talk to Dante when he hears his Tuscan accent. When I asked my husband, who is Florentine -- baptised in fact in the same beautiful Baptistery where Dante was baptised  -- who his favourite Dante character was, I  expected he’d  have to think, or have half-a-dozen, but he chose Farinata right off, reciting a few of his lines.

Did anyone notice how the village plumber, bricklayer, real-estate agent etc. who appears at some point, quoting Dante, in all the Anglo-Saxon-goes-to-live-in-old-farmhouse-in-Italy memoirs, has now advanced to title position with Bill Buford’s Anglo-Saxon-goes-to-Italy-to-learn-culinary-elementals variant, Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany.

I haven’t read the book, but it’s very good according to “a passionate foodie” on Amazon, which I misread as “a passionate noodle” while casting a quick eye over the reviews to see if anyone remarked on just what parts of Dante the butcher quoted. They hadn't, but I’m thinking maybe the seventh circle, where Virgil says to Dante “Behold, the river of blood approaches” or words to that effect.

What these people don’t seem to realise is that everyone in Italy quotes Dante, for two reasons. First of all, Italians start studying Dante in intermediate school and continue throughout their entire school career. Second but just as important, the Divine Comedy is such a great story. All those unforgettable images, like Count Ugolino chewing on the head of the man who locked him up to die of hunger, pausing in mid-gnaw to look up at Dante as he passes, and the power of that poetry with which Dante compresses entire, terrible stories into a bare handful of lines.

"Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia;
Siena mi fé, disfecemi Maremma.”

Remember me, I am Pia,
Siena made me, Maremma undid me.

Pia de' Tolomei by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

This is the shade of beautiful Pia de’ Tolomei speaking. From a noble family of Siena, she was married off to a Lord from the Maremma region who murdered her after his cousin falsely accused her of infidelity because she wouldn't be seduced by him. It's one of the two Dante verses I can recite, well, three, if you count "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here". (I'd also like to steal the line which the TLS reported some editor had posted above her door: "Abandon all hopefullys, ye who enter here").

Roberto Benigni, who quoted Dante when he won his Oscar and has been touring the US this year with a one-man “TuttoDante” show, said it perfectly in an interview in The New York Times:

"Really this is the most daring, bold poetry ever. In 2,000 years of Christian poetry they never surpassed this. They never produced such a scandal of beauty. Never, never, nobody.”

Guy P. Raffa is a professor at the University of Texas who thinks that if Dante were alive today, and had a Mac, “perhaps” he would have designed a website to tell his allegorical tale. Since he isn’t, Prof. Raffa has done it for him. The result is Danteworlds, an ”integrated multimedia journey combining artistic images, textual commentary, and audio recordings”. It’s won all kinds of prizes and is worth visiting.

I wonder if Prof. Raffa knows the song my father used to sing:

Some folks live in Texas
Some folks live in hell
If I had my choice between 'em
I'd go down below to dwell.


Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

And get the fantastic Everyman's edition of The divine comedy, translated by Allen Mandelbaum, with an introduction by another great Italian poet, Eugenio Montale, illustrated with drawings by Botticelli, at the library.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 04:30
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