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Sending Trump to Hell

Roundup
tags: literature, authoritarianism, Donald Trump, Dante, Inferno



Ariel Dorfman, a is the author of Death and the Maiden. His most recent books are Cautivos, a novel about Cervantes in jail, and The Rabbits Rebellion, a story for adults and children. He lives with his wife Angélica in Chile and in Durham, North Carolina, where he is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Literature at Duke University.

For some time now, I’ve wanted to send Donald Trump to Hell. I mean this literally, not as a figure of speech. I want him to inhabit the palpable, sensory Hell that religions have long conjured up with scenes of sulfur, damnation, and screams of perpetual pain from those who once caused grievous harm to their fellow humans.

The more Trump has abused his power and position in this world and the more he’s escaped any retribution for his crimes, the more obsessed I’ve become with visualizing ways for him to pay in some version of the afterlife.

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 a verse called terza rima what awaited the readers of his time once they died. Dante (1265-1321) laid out his otherworldly landscape in three volumes -- InfernoPurgatorio, 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.

 

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