Melbourne is returning to normal, as the vaccination rates go up. It was lovely to be able to have lunch in the garden with friends, and to attend the premiere of Elena Kats Chernin’s tango concept work Take Me Along live at the Athaeneum.

The 3mbs building at 1 St Helier’s Street, Abbotsford is buzzing with activity. We are maintaining some of the cleanliness protocols that would be sensible to avoid flu and other endemic infections, such as changing headphones and microphone socks after each program.

Since our last newsletter, I caught up with Hilary McElwaine, an interesting reader of Dante, who studied Dante at Oxford and became an investment banker for a time. She has written and published a book called Hell Unearthed. An adaptation of the first Canticle of the Divine Comedy in plain language, Dante is still led by Virgil, and some of the most memorable characters, like Ulysses, are retained. Many of the characters are recast. For example, Francesca da Rimini is cast by Lady Diana Spencer. Some of the sins are recast. So instead of suicide, there is the sin of rape told by the victim, the Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi.

The adaptation has had terrific reviews, largely recommending the adaptation as first read, before you take the plunge to the Italian. The front cover of the novel has an arresting photo of David Bowie with an interesting story I will leave you to discover.

The book is available for sale on Amazon and from the usual Australian sellers where it can also be purchased as an e-book.

Today’s Dante Detective is entitled Brunetto Latini and the Green Festoon in which Dante and Virgil meet one of Dante’s old mentors, Brunetto Latini. He took Dante under his wing when Dante’s father died. It is full of pathos and problems, since Brunetto is consigned to the circle of the sodomites and userers with fellow distinguished Florentines. Reference is made to T S Eliot’s use of this episode in his poem Little Gidding.

Lovely Links

Dante as ballet

News from London last week that a ballet called The Dante Project, composed by Thomas Ades and performed by the Royal Ballet, was premiered to great acclaim. The Guardian called it “bold, beautiful and utterly engaging".

A scene from Inferno: Pilgrim, part of The Dante Project. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Dante Alighieri as diplomat in his exile

Brunetto Latini was a diplomat and a notary, and possibly was the one who influenced Dante to offer his services to the Priory in Florence, in which capacity he was sent on his fatal mission to the Pope during which he was exiled. Even as an exile, Dante was called upon to represent parties in disputes between spatting republics. One such place for which he acted is Lunigiana in Liguria, northern Tuscany, where the town proudly displays the document in which he acted as notary.

Dante Detective: Episode 5 Brunetto Latini and the Green Festoon

In Canto 15 Dante meets Brunetto Latini, his old mentor. He is condemned as a sodomite to keep on the move because of the burning sands and the hot rain. Brunetto is the first of the souls throughout Dante’s journey who darkly predicts Dante’s exile on his return. (The journey takes place in 1300 so Dante pilgrim of course would not have known of this, although Dante Poet of course did since the poem was not begun until 1308, 6 years after his exile in 1302.)

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