Monday, June 17, 2013

Dan Brown's Inferno and Florence

Dan Brown (above right) was in Florence recently to participate in a forum
dedicated to the topic "Our Need for Mystery."  While this subject never came up during an interview conducted by Vittorio Zucconi of Repubblica and translated by a simultaneous interpreter (left), a number of interesting things were said on either side.  While you are reading this post, keep in mind that your faithful Beautiful Florence blogger has never read a single word of Dan Brown's works.  He writes fiction, which, Brown said on this occasion, "is life with the boring parts taken out."

(N.B. Today, June 30, a reader of Beautiful Florence sent me a message to say that in the above quote Dan Brown paraphrased Alfred Hitchcock, who said the same thing many years ago, 
referring to movies instead of fiction).

Brown's latest best seller is Inferno, influenced by Dante's last book in his Divine Comedy trilogy.  It is Brown's belief that "Dante invented the modern vision of hell."
Looking at Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes,
 it would be difficult not to agree.

When Zucconi pointed out that Dante wrote in volgare, vulgate that became the Italian language and supplanted Latin, and that Brown's books could be categorized as popular reading, the author responded, "Language is not show, it must be transparent.  I write a book the way I would like to read it."  He also noted that, for those writing a novel,
"if you start without an ending, you're in trouble."

Brown also commented that Tom Hanks was also in trouble during the filming
of Angels and Demons on location in Italy.  "Tom had to stay fit during the shooting, so that meant
no pasta and no indulging in
Italian food in general until the end," he said.

 What turned out to be a question and answer session took place in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio during the Republic of Ideas festival, organized by La Repubblica, an Italian daily.  The initiative was designed as a gathering of thinkers, journalists, scientists, writers and musicians, offering discussions, interviews and events throughout the city.  This large "R," in the Repubblica typeface or font, proudly stood in piazza Signoria as a sort of "X" marks the spot, "this is where the program takes place."

Rita Kungel and I gave details on the festival for Magenta Publishing's English language column "Day" on Repubblica's Florence website,, and she wanted to hear what Dan Brown had to say despite the fact that she, too, had never read his bestsellers.  When I asked for press accreditation, I was requested to send an email to the L'Espresso, Repubblica's publisher in Rome,
which sent a two word reply:"Va bene" (OK).

Armed with a photocopy of the message, Rita and I hurried up the stairs to Palazzo Vecchio's Salone dei Cinquecento just before the door closed on the overflow crowd waiting to enter the room.
I could have auctioned this piece of paper to the highest bidder.
Once inside, we sat in the back, except for when Rita walked up front to take the picture which appears at the beginning of this post.

Back to Brown.  During the encounter, he said, "creative people are driven by passion, which often comes from oppression.  I am lucky to live in a country where I can write about religion and share it with the world without danger."
He also invited Roberto Benigni, the Tuscan actor/director and Oscar winner for
Life is Beautiful to accept a part in the movie version of Inferno.
On his part, Benigni, who has never met Brown, invited the author to his public readings of Dante's
Inferno, scheduled in Florence's piazza Santa Croce from July 20 - August 6.

Brown's parting words were clear, yet cryptic.
"There is an unfinished pyramid on the dollar bill--it is a Masonic symbol meaning there is work to finish.  There is stuff left to do--never stop trying."

Between Zucconi's complicated questions, each lasting five minutes, and Brown's concise, to the point answers, the winner was the interpreter, who didn't miss a comma, and the audience.
Although "Our Need for Mystery" remained a mystery, whatever Brown's intentions were in writing his books and whether they will ever end up on mandatory reading lists of a future generation,
there was no mistaking one thing:
his authentic passion for Dante and the city of Florence.
Reporting live from Beautiful Florence -- Rosanna 

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