Roll over, Dante: Dan Brown’s Inferno is one hell of a novel

Roll over, Dante: Dan Brown's Inferno is one hell of a novel

Four years after Dan Brown’s fourth novel featuring art symbologist Robert Langdon, The Lost Symbol, became a huge  bestseller, his latest offering, Inferno, based on Dante’s epic poem, The Divine Comedy, is here to set the publishing world ablaze.

Dan Brown’s prose style has been described as being hackneyed, but his short chapters, complex plots, and sometimes wild  conspiracy theories combine to grip his readers’ attention from the first page to the last. 

Dante’s epic poem Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy, has withstood the test of time and holds as much meaning for his modern readers as it did to his original audience when he wrote it in the 13th. century. He was fearless, not afraid to write about controversial subjects like lust and sin, and even to name the names of cardinals and popes who he believed had committed sins heinous enough to warrant their inclusion in hell.

Though Dante’s works and his literary genius have always remained popular, Dan Brown’s Inferno is sure to create a buzz and a renewed interest in the Divine Comedy.

Dan Brown’s book will focus on Dante as well as his Divine Comedy. Dante, a native of Florence, was not only a poet but also a politician. His naming of names, and suggesting that the current pope would also find himself in hell if he continued his sinful acts, earned him a death sentence. If caught and arrested, Dante would have been burnt a the stake for his controversial religious viewpoints.

It will be interesting to see how Dan Brown is greeted by the Dante experts of Florence when he visits there next month to give a talk during a literary festival. Though Brown always researches his novels extensively, many of his critics feel that they are still full of inaccuracies. Whether or not critics will say the same thing about his latest book, Inferno, remains to be seen.

The prologue and first chapter of Inferno are set in Florence, which suggests that much of the rest of the novel will also be set there.  In the prologue, told in the first person, a character called “the Shade” races through the streets of Florence, while being chased by nameless enemies.

We get reintroduced to Harvard professor Robert Langdon in the first chapter. Langdon awakens in a hospital in Florence, with stitches in his head, unaware where he is, thinking that he is in Boston until he is told differently.

A female assassin lurks outside the hospital. She’s armed with a handgun with a silencer, and she seeks to kill him. Why she wants to kill him is only revealed later. Dan Brown likes to build up tension right from the very beginning of his novels, and Inferno is no different in that respect.

Masterpieces of art, religious symbolism, and hidden codes and meanings  are again extremely significant in this latest novel, Inferno, as they are in all of Brown’s books featuring Robert Langdon. He examines, among other controversial theories, the idea that a long-lost masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci is hidden behind a painting by Vasari which is located in Florence’s centuries-old town hall.

The mysterious phrase “Seek and ye shall find” is also significant to the plot of Inferno. Langdon dreams that he hears a woman telling him these words. The same words also appear in an immense battle scene painted by the Renaissance artist Giorgio Vasari. Does the phrase imply that Vasari’s painting hides another, the reputed lost painting  by Leonardo, The Battle of Anghiari; or, is it possibly a reference to the Sermon on the Mount; or, does it apply to both?

Whatever the phrase means, fans of Dan Brown will delight in trying to puzzle out the hidden meanings and  solutions to the meanings of artistic and religious symbols before Robert Langdon does. That, and the controversial topics that any new Dan Brown novel is sure to raise, make the publication of each one a publishing event. Tuesday’s release of Inferno will no doubt be marked by immense sales of this much-anticipated novel.

Will Inferno match or break Dan Brown’s previous sales records? Will it be an homage to Dante that he would have been proud of, or will it be filled with inaccuracies that will make him turn over in his grave? Only time will tell.











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