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Serendipity: Dante’s Inferno Circa 2015

Gustave Doré Engraving from Dante’s Inferno

The following paragraph comes from John Banville’s excellent novel The Blue Guitar (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015). It expresses perfectly the vision of Dante translated into the godless world of the 21st Century.

When I consider the possibility—or perhaps I should say the prospect—of eternal damnation, I envisage my suffering soul not plunged in a burning lake or sunk to the oxters in a limitless plain of permafrost. No, my inferno will be a blamelessly commonplace affair, fitted out with the commonplace accoutrements of life: streets, houses, people going about their usual doings, birds swooping, dogs barking, mice gnawing the wainscot. Despite the quotidian look of everything, however, there is a great mystery here, one that only I am aware of, and that involves me alone. For although my presence goes unremarked, and I seem to be known to all who encounter me, I know no one, recognize nothing, have no knowledge of nwhere I am or how I came to be here. It’s not that I have lost my memory, or that I am undergoing some trauma of displacement and alienation. I’m as ordinary as everyone and everything else, and it’s precisely for this reason that it’s incumbent on me to maintain a blandly untroubled aspect and seem to fit smoothly in. But I do not fit in, not at all. I’m a stranger in this place where I’m trapped, always will be a stranger, although perfectly familiar to everyone, everyone, that is, except myself. And this is how it is to be for eternity: a living, if I can call it living, hell.

 

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