Some of the images that have circulated over the course of the Covid 19 pandemic to illustrate the importance of face coverings are reminiscent of a scene in the 25th canto of Dante’s Hell, where a human sinner is transformed into a serpent (and vice versa) by a cloud of smoke it emits. Here is my rendition of the scene in Gehenna: a novel of Hell and Earth.Continue reading “Germs from Hell”
Seven-hundred years on, the first part of the Divine Comedy continues to express a very human sense of justice.
Imagine Hell were real, and you were condemned to suffer eternity there. Just for the sake of argument, where exactly do you think you would end up? We’ll assume you haven’t done anything truly monstrous. Not yet. So would you join the lustful? The gluttonous? If you feel strongly about the non-existence of Hell and turn out to be badly mistaken, maybe you’ll burn with the other heretics. Or is it something worse than that? Are you capable of complicity in unspeakable horrors? Could you betray a sacred trust?…Continue reading “Taking Dante’s Hell seriously”
Zoe looked anxiously into her cupboard. There was one more tin of hot dogs. That was it. And then? Then she would just have to do without. The authorities regretted it if current restrictions made it difficult to obtain food, but food was hardly a priority in a time of crisis. According to some who were more strident in their beliefs, this was an opportunity for Zoe and others like her to ‘evolve’, to grow out of their primitive belief that they could not live without food. They would have to recognise the supremacy of the spiritual life, even if it led to a deterioration in their ‘physical health’. Continue reading “The last hot dogs”
When Alexander was married to Laura, he had been untroubled by demons. Looking back now, he remembered those years as an altogether simpler and more innocent time. But really he knew that was an illusion, or at least an exaggeration, and one he could sustain only by blocking out certain memories – and in particular the memory of the night he had stumbled on something very much closer to the truth. Continue reading “Alexander’s hat: a cautionary tale”
You don’t fall in love with ‘the girl on the bus.’ It just isn’t done. Maybe you look at her chest, maybe you chat her up even. But to fall deeply and silently in love with a stranger who just happens to be a regular on the same bus: that would just be sad. And there is nothing worse than being sad, right?
Steph was never sad. He never took the bus either. Steph’s and Alexander’s schoolboy friendship had been consolidated during the time the two had spent in uniform together as police recruits. Steph’s indestructible cheeriness seemed to complement Alexander’s own dour demeanour. Alexander used to call him the laughing policeman, and in return Steph called Alexander ‘Taggart,’ after the dour TV detective, which only served to flatter his considerable ambition. Steph’s ambition was rather more modest, as is generally the case with happy people. Continue reading “A comedy of Eros”