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Premiere: Dante's 'Inferno' Canto 10 by Hugo The Poet

17 Nov 2016 spotlight words by Terence Ill

 

The second installment of our Hugo The Poet feature. Read on as Hugo explains his probably most challenging project to date.


Hugo: "This week, we've got something even more challenging for people. I've been taking on 'Inferno' by Dante Alighieri, which is up there with the most epic poems of all time, and is certainly one of the pieces of art that has had the most profound and lasting effect on the world... but it's also not read much outside of Italy, and so I'm translating it into rap - bit by bit.

I've gotten to the tenth canto and it has already taken me about four years to get to this point. It is so enormous; it feels like it's taking me longer to translate it than it took Dante to write it.

Before you watch canto 10, you might want to try and watch the other nine and just lock in to this epic story. Get up to speed, or just jump in to this canto here. But either way give it a shot, even if it seems weird, because this is an amazing piece of work, one of the crowning achievements of medieval European culture, and definitely worth having some familiarity with.

Anyway, just a quick summary of where we're at in the story: Dante is walking through Hell to get to Heaven. He's being guided by a long-dead hero of his, Virgil. They've just reached the circle of the Heretics, who are kept stacked together in burning graves. Dante ends up in conversation with a general of an army that massacred Dante's ancestors. Which is always awkward...

Overall, I'm doing this, because I think that this poem either represents on its own, or it's a good signal of the psychological baggage that we have as a European civilisation. Some of the reasons that we have gone out into the world and behaved the way we have, is due to the religious dogma that's expressed in pieces like Inferno. It expresses the belief in an afterlife, the belief in a divine justice, that doesn't just affect those who believe in it, but according to them, affects everyone on the planet. And therefore, they have a divine right to go out and conquer people and try to convert them to this belief system.

It truly is one of the greatest pieces of literature and also one of the most disturbing. It's an incredibly powerful insight into the pathology of the European psyche, which is still with us.

Dante wrote this seven hundred years ago and I wanted to go into it and bring it to the modern consciousness. For medieval European people seven hundred years ago, this was their Marvel movie, their mainstream entertainment. And check it out! Look how amazing they were. And look how fucked up they were. This project is easily one of the most difficult things that I do, but also one of the most satisfying. So I hope people will explore this epic work with me. Find out why T.S. Elliott said 'Shakespeare and Dante divide the world between them. There is no third.'"

And if you want to support my work on Inferno and other projects, hit me up on Patreon! www.patreon.com/hugothepoet"


 

You can check out Cantos I - IX here: