“To Hell and Back” Illustrations

To Hell and Back: An Anthology of Dante’s Inferno in English Translation was published a few days ago by John Benjamins (Amsterdam). Edited by  Tim Smith and Marco Sonzogni, the book runs through all 34 cantos of the Inferno twice, from I to XXXIV, and then in reverse order from XXXIV to I, with each of these resultant 68 cantos culled from a different English translation of Dante’s masterpiece, ranging in date from the late eighteenth century to the present: https://benjamins.com/#catalog/books/z.212/main

At the very centre of the book, between the two Canto XXXIVs, are two illustrations by yours truly, illustrating scenes from that final section:

In the last canto of Dante’s Inferno, the Florentine poet arrives at the center of the final circle of Hell, where he lays eyes on Lucifer himself. Here Hell has literally frozen over, and the Devil is described as encased up to his waist in ice. Lucifer has three faces, and in each of his mouths he chews on, but never quite finishes devouring, a notable sinner. The three devourees are Cassius, Brutus and Judas Iscariot, all guilty of the sin of treason towards a benefactor, which, evidently, is the greatest sin of all.

In Dante’s cosmology, Lucifer stands at the very center of the Earth, and for the first drawing I had in mind a conception of him as the gravitational center of all Evil, the point towards which all temptation is ultimately pulling. Or perhaps his mouths could be interpreted as a kind of triple black hole, swallowing up as much of the light of the Universe as they can.

The second drawing, which introduces the “flip” half of the anthology in which the cantos are presented in reverse order, depicts the moment after Dante and his guide Virgil have passed beyond the centre of gravity located at the level of Lucifer’s waist, and have set about climbing the Devil’s legs, which will eventually allow them to emerge from the underworld on the opposite end of the Earth from where the poet first entered it. To Hell and back.


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1 Response to “To Hell and Back” Illustrations

  1. Reblogged this on Life in Rhymes / Vida em Versos and commented:
    Words & images… beautifully combined here.


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