Dante's Inferno is the story of a man who finds himself lost in a dark wood. His only hope of escape is a journey down through Hell and out to the edge of the universe. To this audaciously ground-breaking story Dante added a delicate web of symbolism which has captivated his readers for centuries. This was Dante's intention: alongside the gripping tale Dante hoped to give his audience an insight into the true nature of the universe.
Dante did not start life as the great story-teller of the universe. In his youth he was more like a love-sick poet, writing intellectual verse Beatrice, the girl he had loved since they were both children. As Florence descended into civil war, he seemed to take no interest. Fate had to work very hard to turn him into the author of the Divine Comedy. It required him to go through his own journey of bereavement, loss, exile and condemnation to death.
It was only when he saw his world on the brink of chaos and destruction that he began his great work. Finally Dante mastered the mysterious interplay between symbols and narrative which gives fiction its ability to enchant and fascinate. Only then did he realise that, in the right hands, a story could have the power to lead us out of the dark wood.