In Dante’s Footsteps: The Writer’s Mission (21/34)

“Scribe of God”, that’s how he walks. He approaches his task as a vocation and as a mission. The poet explains this by writing to Lord Cangrande della Scala, detailing the project of his Divine Comedy : “The whole work has for subject: the man according to whether by the merits or the demerits of his life, being endowed with free will, he goes before the Justice which rewards and which chastises. “ It specifies its purpose: “To remove the living in this life from the state of misery and lead them to the state of bliss. “

→ FILE. Dante Alighieri: our dossier on this Italian poet

Dante intends to show realities, not concepts. He means bliss as a tangible, conceivable evidence. Likewise, he wants to expose the springs and fetters of his changing earthly world. Wars, lack of charity, blasphemies, betrayals, the plague of corruption and profit, pride and power that plague Europe, from Austria to Scotland, from England to Bohemia …“Dark forest” is the world in which he lives; “Dark forest” is also his own sinful heart. This heart, he wants to put it whole in his project, to bear witness to it.

Language and poetry are his tools

Its mission is a journey, a journey of writing. “Like a pilgrim who goes on a road where he has never been, who takes any house from afar for his relay, and, realizing that it is not, takes another one in the same way, and so from house to house, until you find the right one ”, he writes. “Thus our soul, as soon as it sets out on the new and never traveled path of this life, turns its eyes towards its supreme good, and, for this reason, whatever it sees that it seems to care whatever good, takes it for himself. “ (Banq, 4, 12)

The role of the writer is to “To open up to the Truth from top to bottom”, wrote Georges Bernanos to his spiritual director as he began writing Under Satan’s sun. To another correspondent, he advises later: If the good Lord really wants a testimony from you, you must expect to suffer a lot, to doubt yourself ceaselessly, in success as in failure. Because taken in this way, the profession of writer is no longer a profession, it is an adventure, and first of all a spiritual adventure. “

“What I have to tell now, no voice, no ink has done it yet, never imagined mentally”, vivifies the poet (By XIX, 7-9). Language and poetry are his tools, so he begs God’s help to make may my language be eloquent enough so that a scarcely spark of your glory to future peoples it can leave; because to look back on my memory, to make my verses resonate somewhat, we will conceive of your victory all the more. ” (By XXXIII 70-75)

Sure of his literary design and destiny

“In his impatience to hear this ultimate sentence, he projects his earthly environment onto the furrows of infinity, and creates the Dantesque world sub specie aeternitatis – with the firm conviction of being only an agent, an announcer, a vessel of god, writes the philologist Erich Auerbach.

→ STORY. In the footsteps of Dante: a beatific vision (20/34)

The poet shows insolent assurance. He is sure of his literary design and destiny. “The security, the tranquility, the pride of Dante the author as a guide for his reader – in contrast with the status of astonished, hesitant, emotional disciple that he gives himself as a character in his work – is made up of several layers., notes Jacqueline Risset. One, the most surprising for us, is the properly prophetic certainty which animates it; another is linked to the intensity of the poetic state which never abandons it and which could be described as a sort of continuous trance in the language.

Next episode Wednesday August 11: inspiration from seniors

All the bibliographic sources for this story are available at the bottom of the article.

→ PLAY! Writing competition: in Dante’s footsteps


Bibliography on which this story is based:

* Works by Dante Alighieri:

The Divine Comedy (Enfer, Purgatoire et Paradis), translated from Italian, presented and annotated by Danièle Robert (Actes Sud, large bilingual format or Babel pocket); translated from Italian, presented and annotated by Jacqueline Risset (Flammarion, large format or pocket GF); translated and annotated by Joachim-Joseph Berthier (Desclée de Brouwer).

Vita Nova, translated from Italian, annotated and presented by Louis-Paul Guignes (Poésie / Gallimard); translated from Italian, annotated and presented by René de Ceccatty (Points / Seuil)

Feast, translated from Italian, annotated and presented by René de Ceccatty (Seuil)

Rhymes, translated from Italian, presented and annotated by Jacqueline Risset (Flammarion, large format or pocket GF)

Eloquence in vulgar, translated from Latin and commented under the supervision of Irène Rosier-Catach (Fayard)

The monarchy, translated from Latin by Michèle Gally (Belin)

Complete Works (New life, Rhymes, Banquet, vulgar eloquence, Monarchy, Epistles, Eclogues, Water and earth quarrel, Divine Comedy), translated from Italian and Latin, presented and commented by André Pézard (La Pléiade).

* Biographies of Dante Alighieri:

– Boccaccio, Life of Dante Alighieri: Florentine poet (Via Valeriano editions)

– Elisa Brilli and Giuliano Milani, Dante, new lives (Fayard)

– Enrico Malato, Dante, translated from Italian by Marilène Raiola (Les Belles Lettres)

– Jacqueline Risset, Dante, a life (Flammarion)

* Tests:

– Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Garden, translated from Italian by Joël Gayraud (Rivages)

– Erich Auerbach, Writings on Dante, translated from German and English and presented by Diane Meur (Macula)

– Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, the representation of reality in Western literature, translated from German by Cornelius Heim (Tel Gallimard)

– Yves Bonnefoy, Preface to Hell translated from Italian by Lamennais (Rivages)

– Hans Urs von Balthasar, Glory and the Cross – the aesthetic aspects of Revelation II, Styles. From Irenaeus to Dante, translated from German by Robert Givord and Hélène Bourboulon (Cerf)

– Samuel Beckett, Band and saraband, translated from English and presented by Edith Fournier (Midnight)

– Jorge Luis Borges, Nine essays on Dante, translated from Spanish (Argentina) by Françoise Rosset (Gallimard)

– Paul Claudel, Jubilee Ode for the Six-Hundredth Anniversary of Dante’s Death (New French Revue)

– Paul Claudel, Introduction to a poem about Dante (in Complete works, Gallimard)

– Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, translated from Italian by Jean-Paul Manganaro (Seuil)

– Étienne Gilson, Dante and philosophy (Vrin)

– Étienne Gilson, Dante and Beatrice (Vrin)

– Romano Guardini, Dante, visionary of eternity (Threshold)

– Jacques Le Goff, The Birth of Purgatory (Gallimard)

– Ossip Mandelstam, Interview on Dante, translated from Russian by Jean-Claude Schneider (La Dogana)

– Victoria Ocampo, From Francesca to Béatrice (Rue d’Ulm editions)

– Carlo Ossola, Introduction to the Divine Comedy, translated from Italian by Nadine Le Lirzin and Pierre Musitelli (Le Félin)

– Didier Ottaviani, Dante, the pilgrim spirit (Wisdom Points)

– Jacqueline Risset, Dante writer or the Intelletto d’amore (Threshold)

– Jean-Baptiste Sèbe, Christ, the writer and the world – Theology and literary works in Hans Urs von Balthasar (Stag)

– Philippe Sollers, Towards Paradise (DDB / Collège des Bernardins)

– Philippe Sollers, Scripture and the Limit Experience (Threshold)

– Frances A. Yates, The art of memory, translated from English by Daniel Arasse (Gallimard)


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