The pidgin Inferno
Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) was a radical in his time. He would have to be, seeing as he was exiled from his beloved city of Florence where his family had set down roots 200 years earlier. Locally, we would say, “Dante was hard-head.” Dante was certainly principled in his politics and his art, and wrote the Inferno, not in Latin as was expected of the high literature of the time, but in the common language (lingua vulgare) of Tuscany, which would eventually become the Italian language.
In addition, Dante wrote La Divina Commedia (of which Inferno is the first part) after he was exiled from Florence. I, too, can be said to have written The pidgin Inferno during a time of exile: The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021.
My only motivation in writing The pidgin Inferno was a wish to see the Inferno in pidgin, the lingua vulgare of my beloved Hawai‘i. But I could not find such a work. Now, for better or worse, there is.
Early in the process, I had a choice to make. Do I write a straight pidgin “translation” preserving all the learned allusions and references to historical persona? Or do I double down on the vulgare nature of my effort and make substitutions more familiar to a local audience? Being a simple local boy, I went vulgar.
Where I felt it was appropriate, I kept some of the ancient history, literary allusions, and historical figures from the original Inferno. Nearly everything else–literary allusions, metaphors, people, histories, and even literature–was substituted to inform and entertain a more local sensibility.
So, now in 2021, on the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, there is yet another retelling of his revered classic.
Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.
— T.S. Eliot
Get Dante. Get Shakespeare. Pau.
— J.J. Higa
Currently, The pidgin Inferno is out at publishers being considered for publication. As that process may take years, below are the individual cantos (there are 33 cantos total) that have been published either in print or online.
Okay gangy, The pidgin Inferno not one book yet, cool your jets. Might take for days, so meanwhile I going post some stuffs up here when get time. This buggah get t'irty t'ree cantos, so no worry, beef curry, going get some entertaining kine stuffs. Try wait.
Canto 2 – The Hawai'i Review of Books (video)
or on my channel on YouTube
Dante and his guide meet their heavenly inspiration
Canto 27 – The Hawai'i Review of Books
Dante recounts an important local history with an infamous evil counselor
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