by Catriona Mills

Dante's Inferno: The Book of the Game of the Book

Posted 17 January 2010 in by Catriona

You know, I don’t often use this blog as a response to things I’ve read on the Internet: it’s generally much more solipsistic than that.

But, do you remember, once upon a time, when I linked to the news about Dante’s Inferno becoming a video game?

And then I linked to the news about the rebranding of Wuthering Heights in line with Twilight?

Well, this post is something of a meeting of those two: meet the official tie-in version of Dante’s Inferno.

Bear in mind, though Kotaku are calling this the “novelisation” of the game, it’s not: it’s the original poem, in a nineteenth-century translation, in that cover.

Yes, that’s a half-naked man with a cross painted on his chest.

Yes, he’s holding a scythe made out of vertebrae.

Yes, it does say that it “includes an exclusive 16-page full-colour insert and a special introduction from [noted Dante scholar] the game’s executive producer.”

Yes, it is translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which means many people who buy this on the basis of the cover are going to be awfully disappointed when they open it up and find the poem inside.

Yes, it is tagged “the literary classic that inspired the epic video game from Electronic Arts.”

And, no: this is not a joke: here’s the Amazon page.

I shall leave the last word, as always, to Penny Arcade.

(But, just secretly? I almost think this would be worth having on my shelf just to boggle at occasionally. After all, I don’t have the Longfellow translation . . .)

Share your thoughts [4]

1

Drew wrote at Jan 17, 09:11 PM

I don’t have the Longfellow translation either. I could see myself buying this just to have it; I know I’m going to be buying the game for the same reason. I’m still kinda impressed at how the designers of this game have completely reversed the storyline, like someone stealing the crown jewels in broad daylight, you have to be impressed by the audacity of their actions.

2

Catriona wrote at Jan 17, 10:01 PM

I wonder if the designers just think there’s going to be absolutely no crossover between “people who have read the Divine Comedy” and “people who want to smash the damned in the face with a crucifix.”

That would then make their manipulation of the storyline less audacious, because they’re simply not expecting anyone to know or care.

(And it’s not just the reversal of the storyline: have you seen how else they’ve manipulated it? With the sexual violence? And nudity? And the Crusades? Well, okay: the original had nudity.)

Of course, if they anticipate (basically) zero crossover between readers of the text and players of the game, then this tie-in edition makes even less sense.

If that’s even possible.

3

Drew wrote at Jan 18, 06:51 AM

Yet, when you consider how I came to the Divine Comedy, then maybe it doesn’t matter. It was an X-Men Annual that saw Nightcrawler’s soul thrown into Hell and the rest of the team, alone with Dr. Strange, journing there to save him. Turns out he wasn’t really in Hell but a magically constructed illusion of Dante’s Inferno instead. It was a great story and it lead me to the original. It’s possible that the designers hope for the same, although if they do, I think that a modern translation might make more sense.

4

Catriona wrote at Jan 18, 07:25 AM

I would like to think that the designers actually want people to read the poem, but I am unconvinced. I suspect they’re using the Longfellow translation because it’s out of copyright, which suggests this is just another way to make money off the back of the game.

I posted this on Facebook, too, and someone commented there that it reminded them of the novelisation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (the Kenneth Branagh film), which was neither by Mary Shelley nor (particularly) Frankenstein. I said then that I’d seen the same thing with the novelisation of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula: a novelisation that wasn’t actually Dracula.

I find that well weird: novelising a film based on a novel, instead of just republishing the novel with a film tie-in cover.

And yet, oddly, I find this even weirder, because, as I say, I’m not sure the crossover market would be that large. A novelisation would actually make more sense to me in this case, especially since the game seems to have adopted Dante’s basic geographical construct of Hell, and thrown out everything else.

That said, it really isn’t important how people come to the Divine Comedy. Or, in fact, to any text. I would never argue that there is a “pure” or “right” way to come to a text.

I do, however, think this cover is seriously, seriously funny.

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