Book club took a break because, after years of doing this column, I ran out of books to review. Turns out I can only read so many books between homework and projects. Book club is back now and ready to go with some classic literature fanfiction. No, not Fifty Shades of Grey. Twilight does not count as classic literature. I’m talking about The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
This is one of the most important books in European history because it is a cleverly woven critique of the church during the 1300s. It is also one of the first books published in Italian instead of Latin which opened up the world of literature to the common people of the time. It is also a weird case of art changing the material it was based on, since most descriptions of hell today draw heavily from Inferno, the first book of the story, and not the Bible.
The story follows Dante himself on a walk through the woods when he gets lost. While trying to find his way he meets Virgil who acts as a guide for Dante for the rest of the book. Dante and Virgil then set off on a journey through the many circles of hell then up the mountain of purgatory and finally the layers of heaven.
Inferno is the most well-known section of The Divine Comedy since it is the most explicitly political portion of the book. Dante places many political figures for his time in different circles of hell to critique their actions. For example, figures from the church are described as being trapped in the circle of fraud for selling religious privileges and politicians are trapped for selling political favors. After Inferno, Dante and Virgil travel through purgatory and heaven where much less happens. The most interesting portion of these sections is Dante meeting Adam. I’m going to be honest, my first question for the original human would not be “what language did you speak?” I’m just saying Dante could work on his interview skills.
The Divine Comedy is one of the most important works in human history and is worth reading to see how it has influenced society from rewriting Christian doctrine to inspiring many modern works like video games and movies. It is not a brilliantly written story but it is an important part of history.