The lecture focuses on confessional reactions to controversial translations. It deals, in particular, with verses 22–45 of “canto XXVIII” of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, which describe the position and punishment of Muhammad and Ali in hell. Considered by Dante as “seminator di scandalo e di scisma” (sowers of scandal and schism), they are condemned to be perpetually “fessi” (torn asunder). How do Muslims react to the translation of these verses in the languages of predominantly Islamic countries.
This lecture takes on case studies in which the translation of literary texts is controversial, conflictive, or even blasphemous for a religious community. In particular, it deals with Muslim reactions to translation of Dante’s Inferno in the languages of predominantly Muslim communities, such as Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, or Bahasa Indonesia. The well-known verses 22–45 of canto XXVIII of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno describe the position and punishment of Muhammad and Ali in hell. Considered by Dante to be “seminator di scandalo e di scisma”, (sowers of scandal and schism), they are condemned to be perpetually “fessi” (torn asunder). From a theoretical point of view, the lecture analyzes the conflict between two opposing ideologies of meaning: on the one hand, the ideology that heralds the integrity of the literary text in translation as a supreme ideal, especially in the case of such pillars of world culture as Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy; on the other hand, the religious ideology, according to which translation should be censored in order not to harm confessional sensibilities. Is reconciliation between these two ideologies possible?
Massimo Leone is Professor of Semiotics and Cultural Semiotics in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Turin, Italy, and currently IFK_Senior Fellow. His work focuses on the role of religion in modern and contemporary cultures.