lebanon as beatrice


Just after dawn, on the morning of April 13, 1300, Dante enters the Earthly Paradise at the top of Mt. Purgatory. There, amid an angelic procession, a prophet sings a line from the Song of Solomon, “Come with me from Lebanon and be crowned.” Beatrice then appears and speaks to Dante. The poet is overcome with her presence; he weeps and stammers. Of this impossible but sublime meeting in the 64th line of the 64th canto of The Divine Comedy, Jorge Luis Borges wrote, “Beatrice existed infinitely for Dante; Dante existed very little, perhaps not at all, for Beatrice.” Borges ruefully concludes, “To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god.” Walid Raad, founder of the semi-fictitious Atlas Group, a collective that archives ephemera from Lebanon’s civil war, shares both Borges’s proclivity for elaborate fiction laced with apparent fact and Dante’s rhetoric of exile. Raad transforms his native Lebanon into a kind of Beatrice, or lost love.

more from Salz at the Village Voice here.