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Friday, April 25, 2014

The Satanic Verses (4)

The 'Viking' warrior Gernand is -- translating Tasso's verses as literally as possible -- psychologically "abducted and moved, instead of his own spirit," by a devil. To be sure, he doesn't look like a possessed man: he doesn't scream, drool, etc. In fact, Tasso says something more than this. He says that the devil is now operating not "on" but "instead" of Gernand's own soul. That reminds us of some verses by Dante, Inferno 33: 129 ff:
"Know that as soon as any soul betrays
As I have done, his body by a demon
Is taken from him, who thereafter rules it,
Until his time has wholly been revolved.
. . .
In moat above," said he, "of Malebranche,
There where is boiling the tenacious pitch,
As yet had Michel Zanche not arrived,
When this one left a devil in his stead
In his own body . . . "
Dante says that betrayal / treason is such a monstrous sin that, as soon as one commits it, the soul is immediately damned, though the body apparently keeps living on earth, moved by a devil. But even this is not enough; in working out this theological novelty, Dante had surely a widespread medieval lore in his mind, namely vampires, undead people inwardly maneuvered by (d)evil entities. Non that Tasso maintains that Gernand is a vampire, but he constantly enriches historical situations by projecting them onto the fantasy-verse, all the more so in Gerusalemme Conquistata.

More about Dante and vampirism: