The ‘D’ in ‘Dan Brown’ stands for ‘Dante’

IS THIS WRITTEN IN CODE? Dan Brown's signature.

WRITTEN IN CODE? Dan Brown’s signature.

In “The Lost Symbol,” the most recent of Dan Brown’s thrillers featuring symbologist Robert Langdon, there’s a moment when Langdon compares the murky, distant secrets of Europe with those of colonial America.

This nation may not be too old in comparison to the world across the pond, but there’s a rich tradition of secrecy in this country that is exciting and intriguing. That’s what he thinks. Soon after these musings, Langdon sets off on another chase-and-race-against-the-clock that is rooted firmly in red-white-and-blue soil.

In his forthcoming novel, however, Brown — and Langdon — are heading back to Europe. The publisher Doubleday announced today that it will publish a new Dan Brown novel in May. The title, “Inferno,” refers to the one and only Dante Alighieri and his epic poem of medieval Italy, The Divine Comedy.

Here’s Brown, from the news release, on what drew him to the immortal Tuscan:

“Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn’t until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world,” Brown says.

What exactly does “enduring influence” mean?  In Brown’s world, it also points to a familiar theme in his past books: conspiracy. “With this new novel,” Brown adds, “I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm…. a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.”

An exec editor at Doubleday also mentions that “Inferno” includes “a mystery that has global ramifications…” (Hm, I wonder if the Priory of Sion ever traveled to Italy.)

I’m looking forward to May so that I can see what Brown makes of a figure whom I’ve adored for all of my reading life.

My interest in the book isn’t entirely neutral — I have a story of my own involving the poet in the works — but regardless of that, any time that is spent with Dante is time well spent. There’s nothing better than turning off the television and wandering for a few hours with Virgil in Hell or up the slopes of the mountain in Purgatory.

Ciao!

8 responses

  1. How strange. One of my earliest blog posts is the opening quote from the Inferno, asking readers to identify its origin. It didn’t take them long.

    I, too, have a short story that I started sending out late last year that involves The Inferno as a major thematic element. One member of my writers group, a product of a rigorous Jesuit education, told me that I went too far in naming the love interest of one of my characters Beatrice. I did rename her before sending the story out.

    I’ve never read anything by Dan Brown. My father-in-law, an extremely tough critic, dismissed the Da Vinci Code as “just so much hocus pocus,” so I wasn’t inspired to read it. Instead, he said I should read Cloud Atlas, a book that I’ve been meaning to move to the top of my pile. I may have to take a gander at Brown’s other works.

  2. If you ever want feedback on that story, let me know. I’d be glad to help. Mine’s a novel, and hopefully I’ll have some good news to report in the near future.

    I have ‘Cloud Atlas’ in the pile right now too. At some point I’ll let you know what I think!

    I’d stick with that instead of Brown, unless you really enjoy stories with riddles and bits of overlooked history.

    For me, “Da Vinci” is a good book if you treat it as nonfiction instead of a novel. Brown really doesn’t have the novelist’s writing chops (I’m sure some will disagree). I really enjoyed reading him for his research.

    I reviewed him when I was at the Times and my feelings are a bit mixed about the forthcoming Dante book. I feel a bit protective of that exiled Florentine, you know? I don’t like the idea that he’s just the latest subject confronting Robert Langdon, Brown’s main character.

    If you’re producing a character that’s popular and selling lots of books, though, I guess it makes sense to develop a series out of him. On the other hand, he was so wildly successful with “Da Vinci” that he could’ve stopped there and just moved onto something else.

  3. I honestly did my best to read Da Vinci Code, but at some point I had to quit. The dialogues, the descriptions… Brrrr. But people learn, perhaps, his Dante would be a bit more readable )

  4. I know what you’re talking about with the Da Vinci Code (and his other books). I’ve read him more for the information than for anything else. Definitely not Faulkner.

    There’s another book you may know called “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” that’s truly great: a nonfiction study of the same topic that Brown’s novel tackles. One of the author’s is Michel Baigent, and he and his co-author tried suing Brown years back. It’s a book worth checking out.

  5. Yes, I know the book, thank you ) Let’s cross our fingers for Dante. I can’t really think positive when I think about poor Florence flooded by extra hordes of tourists clatching his book and following his trails…

  6. Pingback: ‘I’m still looking for the answers’: An interview with Ross King | Call of the Siren

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