By Enza Ferreri
In 2021, the year about to end, we celebrated the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. There were conferences and festivals.
Dante Alighieri died during the night between September 13 and 14, 1321, in Ravenna, far from his city, Florence, from which he had been banished in 1302. He will spend the last twenty years of his life in exile.
Dante Death Anniversary World Events
Over 500 events around the world were organized to commemorate the seventh centenary of Dante’s demise.
In China alone, more than 50 activities remembered and celebrated the death anniversary of Dante Alighieri. On October 15, 2021, in China began the 21st Week of the Italian Language in the World, dedicated to Dante and the Italian language. On that occasion a new translation of The Divine Comedy , which is Dante’s greatest work and the most important poetic work in world literature, in Chinese language has been presented.
The first full translation of the Divine Comedy into Mandarin, the standard Chinese language, was by Fu Donghua in 1939, but this version was not a direct translation of Dante’s text, but of its translations in other languages, like English and French. In 1997 Tian Dewang published the first Chinese prose translation of the Divine Comedy based entirely on the text in its original language.
Dante is not just the father of the Italian language but even the father of Italy.
Supreme poet, the greatest poet that has ever existed in any time and place. What Dante did for Italian, he did for all vulgar (non-Latin) languages, raising them to a literary level that they did not have before, since only Latin had it.
Catholic theology is at the base of Dante’s greatest work, the complex poem Divine Comedy.
Two are the key aspects of Dante’s thought: Catholicism and national identity/language. He was not only a poet but a philosopher.
Many Italian writers and historians (from Indro Montanelli to Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, from Aldo Cazzullo to Marcello Veneziani) have pointed out that Italy was not made by kings or captains, but it was the creature of a supreme poet: Dante.
Veneziani, who celebrated Dante death anniversary with the book Dante Our Father: The Visionary Thinker Who Founded Italy (original Italian Dante nostro padre: Il pensatore visionario che fondò l’Italia) in which he calls Dante “noble father” and the “founder” of Italy, in an interview put it this way:
In my opinion, it is not Garibaldi, Cavour [the Italian Bismarck] or the Savoias [royal dynasty] who founded Italy, but Dante. Because ours is a cultural nation before being a political one; Italy was born from art and language, from literature and poetic geography before wars, kingdoms and constitutions. This is why I have spoken of “Italian identity”. Dante conceived Italy as a cultural and linguistic unity, a civilization before a nation, and a nation before a state, the daughter of Christianity and Romanity.
Dante Alighieri is not “an” Italian poet, but “the” universal poet. He managed to summarize in a great book the entire culture, the very essence of an era wrongly considered “dark” and he transmitted it to posterity, up to our generations. [Emphasis added]
That Italy is a country in which culture reigns supreme and has a role like in no other can be seen from a simple statistic: there are 58 UNESCO sites in Italy, more than in any other country in the world, and China, which is second with 56 UNESCO sites, with an area of 9,597,000 km² is 31.84 times the size of Italy, which has an area of 301,340 km².
Moreover, many of Italy’s UNESCO sites are very large and include not just a monument but entire city centers of places like Venice, Siena and other cities.
But there is also a political element: Italy was also born as a united political entity in 1861 thanks to a real “Dantemania” that inflamed the minds and souls of so many young people between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as to make Dante Italy’s true Father of the Fatherland, even in a political sense.
Fortunes of Dante Today
Not only Italians have a great appreciation for Dante.
Rod Dreher, author of the book How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History’s Greatest Poem , writes in his work that the Divine Comedy is “perhaps the greatest poem ever written”.
We can’t talk about Dante without the use of superlatives, it seems.
However, Dante, like so many other great men, hasn’t escaped the “cancel culture” of our self-destructive times.
An association, self-described as a “human rights committee”, of which I don’t wish to give the name not to give them publicity, and which I suspect is not active any more since its website was last updated in 2016, a few years ago was clamoring for the ban of Dante from school texts because “Islamophobe”.
And in March 2021 the news appeared that in the new Dutch version of Dante’s Inferno, which had recently been published by Blossom Books and intended for younger readers, the name of Muhammad, whom Dante famously lists among the damned of Malebolge, had been omitted.
Interestingly, Dante, a devout Catholic, put many popes of his time in hell. So, this goes to show that people eager to pursue “cancel culture” often don’t really understand the historical figures that they, blindly and ideologically driven, not just criticize but in fact attack and try to destroy.
Dante is in fact liked by just about everybody: traditional Catholics, modernist Catholics of the period after the Vatican II Council of 1962 – 1965, non-Catholic Christians, non-Christians, even the socialists if we look at this eulogy of the Guardian newspaper.
Only the very intolerant who cannot accept a different viewpoint want him banned because “Islamophobe” or other politically correct (namely Cultural Marxist) made-up epithets/insults.
Writer and journalist Antonio Socci sums it up this way:
Dante was not only the greatest of poets, but – being truly Christian – he was a free man. And for that reason uncomfortable.
For the 750th anniversary of Dante death, Paolo Peluffo, Vice President of the Dante Alighieri Society, said that it is programmed to “complete Lamberto Lambertini’s great film-journey to Italy with the third canticle [Paradise], the most difficult, at the world summit of philosophical poetry.”