Final week for registration…London Salons start next week
Inferno by Dante (Mark Musa translation recommended-available at Owl Book shop and Daunt books)
Tuesday Evenings 8-10 PM one space remaining
Thursday Afternoon: 12:30-2:30 PM FULL
Wednesday Evenings 8-10 PM Six spaces remaining
Frankenstein by Mary Shelly (Short Salon—see details below)
Mid-march to be announced
*To register—email me with the Salon and times you would like to participate in and I will send you the opening notes and further details.
Inferno and Midnight’s Children will run for five weeks. If there are a majority of absences on a particular week, we will add an extra meeting. Five week Salons cost 65 pounds which includes all supplementary materials. Participants are not expected to have read the book previously; the reading schedule works out to between 50-70 pages per week of reading.
As I prepare opening notes for Dante’s Inferno, I am reading about the medieval world view and how our idea of the human being has evolved. Dante offers a wonderful road into these deep and dense queries as his Divine Comedy is his attempt to construct an intellectual universe based on the visions of his faith. Several interested participants have wondered how the study of the Inferno might be approached if one is not formally religious. I am finding, as I did in the previous Paris-based study of this work, that the pilgrim’s exploration of his moral and spiritual universe—and the fantastic images that result—provide the reader a map for their own inquiry.
Dante fought the Church—his banishment form his beloved Florence was in part a result of his criticism of Pope Boniface and the political party he supported. His creation of the realms of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise were his attempt to bring his intellect and faith in alignment; a struggle humans have been inspired by since Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. Although I will provide background on the historical moment of Dante’s Florentine world and the political and ecclesiastical struggles that tore at his home, these are background to the very human pursuit: to understand the human soul. Although Dante’s terms are Christian, I do not think this desire is limited to the Christian realm. As always, the Salon conversation is enriched with a variety of perspectives, those who hold a formal faith as well as those who hold a formal questioning, along with those whose inquiry is loose and fluid and lifelong. We have so few spaces to share diverse views in religious ideas or spiritual traditions; I propose the study of a great work that engages a vigorous questioning of a formal belief offers that space.
Can you make the leap from this to Midnight’s Children? But of course: Rushdie is also playing in the world of multiple perspectives on the Truth and modern India, as the seething site of most of the world’s religions, offers a place to smash the icons and practices together and see what remains. For Rushdie, this is done with terrible humor and characters who will remain with the reader long after the final pickles have been jarred.
Both of these texts are enriched with historical notes and some understanding of the philosophies or belief systems that the writer and protagonist are engaging. I will provide some basic and accessible notes and point you towards more through essays and books along the way. For each Salon, I am aware that each of us may have time for only a brush with, say, the ideas of Virgil or Aquinas, or the fundamentals of Hinduism. Often in the Salon there is a participant who can offer more insights; and beyond the time frame of the Salon participants often find themselves continuing to read and explore these ideas. So do not be intimidated: think of the Salon study as opening up these other realms of knowledge.
And then there’s Frankenstein. Starting mid-April, the National Theatre is offering a production of this book that peels back the layers of the block-headed, bolted monster and gets down to Mary Shelly’s original concern: what is the relationship between the created and the creator? Here is a review in the Independent of the upcoming production: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/theatre-dance/features/it-lives-from-mary-shelley-to-danny-boyle-why-wersquore-still-fascinated-by-frankenstein-2203554.html . The recent Salons offered in conjunction with an upcoming dramatic performance have been very popular. One participant offered: “I understood so much more of the performance because of the work we had done before I viewed it…instead of the evening being just entertaining, the vision of the work and the ideas that it raised have stayed in my thoughts…”.
I am proposing a short Salon (the book itself is not long and the writing is quite accessible) to start in early March and run for three sessions. Please let me know if you are interested and if you prefer an afternoon or evening Salon; alternatively, we could do a one night intensive on a Friday or Sunday—please let me know if that is more feasible.