“As I mulled over the treatment he deserved for the havoc he continues to wreak on the lives of countless others here in the United States and across the globe, I turned almost automatically to the work of Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet whose Divina Commedia minutely recreated in the verse form terza rima what awaited the readers of his time once they died. Dante (1265–1321) laid out his otherworldly landscape in three volumes—Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso —that have rightly been considered among the towering and influential literary achievements of humanity.
“There was nothing abstract about the Hell he created. Dante pictured himself personally taking a voyage into the hereafter to meet men and women, both of his time and from the past, who were being rewarded for their virtue or eternally castigated for their offenses. Of that journey through purgatorial fires and heavenly wonders, guided by his dead childhood sweetheart, Beatrice, it was the Florentine writer’s descent into the saturated circles of Hell that most fascinated and enthralled readers throughout the centuries. We listen to stories of the wicked as they express their remorse and experience the excruciatingly sophisticated torments he dreamt up as suitable reprisals for the damage they did during their earthly existence.
“Witnessing the infernal realities President Trump has unleashed on America, I can’t help wondering where Dante would have placed our miscreant in chief in his afterlife of horror. In the end, perhaps not surprisingly, I realized one obvious thing: The 45th president has such a multitude of transgressions to his name that he fits almost every category and canto that Dante invented for the sinners of his age.” —Ariel Dorfman, “What Would Hell Be Like for Donald Trump?,” The Nation, October 23, 2020 (retrieved February 6, 2024)