Dan Brown’s Inferno prologue – re-edited

Not quite sure why I have done this, but I have. After reading the beginning of Inferno a few days ago, with its strange language and weird mixture of fussy details and descriptive imprecision, I thought there was the kernel of something decent. The chase itself has potential, but Brown drowns it in crenellated towers and lampredotto and chthonic monsters and some nonsense about the Apennine Mountains. So I have given it an edit. I haven’t strictly rewritten it. Mostly added in bits of detail, where needed, and edited out unnecessary description, where it isn’t. I’ve tried to play up the chase aspect and tone down the language, without completely eradicating the effect.

I’ve cut out a lot of extraneous stuff: the whole section that reads – Beneath me, dizzyingly far beneath me, the red tile roofs spread out like a sea of fire on the countryside, illuminating the fair land upon which giants once roamed . . . Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Botticelli. – has been hacked and a small part has been taken and placed elsewhere in the narrative.

Anyway, I could get into what I have cut and why, but as this is meant to be a bit of fun with an hour of my time, I’m not about to get all Dan Brown on you and drown you with details.

Let me know which version you prefer. And if you prefer Dan’s original, don’t worry I won’t take it personally. It’s just a bit of harmless fun with my lunch hour (so it is bound to have mistakes in it). Enjoy!

The original is linked as a PDF here: Inferno_Prologue_KDD

I am the Shade.

I scramble, breathless, through the city, along the banks of the river Arno. Suddenly I turn and make my way north, beneath shadows of the Uffizi.

And still they pursue me.

I hear their footsteps getting louder. For years they have chased me, drawing ever closer. Their persistence has kept me underground… forced me to live in purgatory… laboring in the shade.

Now, I am the Shade.

I pass behind the palazzo and snake my way through the early-morning vendors that clutter the path. Then I cut west toward the spire of the Badia and slam against the gate at the base of the stairs. Without hesitating, I turn the handle and step into the passage. There will be no return. This is my final destination.

Although my legs feel like lead, I force myself up the spiral staircase.

Voices come from below. Pleading. Closing in.

They do not understand what is coming… nor what I have done for them.

As I climb, the visions come. I see lustful bodies writhing in fiery rain, the souls of gluttons floating in excrement, the treacherous villains frozen in Satan’s icy grasp.

Arriving at the top, I stagger into the damp morning air and make my way to the high wall. Peering through the slits, I see the city where I have made my sanctuary. Red tile roofs spread out into the distance. From here they look like a sea of fire.

Voices call out behind me. “What you’ve done is madness!”

Madness breeds madness.

“For the love of God,” they shout, “tell us where you’ve hidden it!”

And for precisely that reason, I will not.

I turn and face them. They stare deep into my eyes, and their expressions darken.

“We can force you to tell us. You know we have our methods.”

And that is the reason I have climbed these stairs – to avoid their methods though they do not know it yet. Although I am cornered, with my back against the cold stone, there is another way out. Without warning, I turn, reach for the ledge and pull myself up, until I am standing unsteadily at the edge.

They rush forward, wanting to grab my feet, but fear they will upset my balance and knock me off. I hear them beg, their voices desperate, but I know what I must do.

I inch my toes to the edge.

“Come down!” they shout. “It’s not too late!”

Can’t they see the future? Don’t they grasp the splendor of my creation? The necessity?

I will gladly make this ultimate sacrifice… and with it I will extinguish their final hope of finding what they seek.

They will never locate it in time.

How I long for more time… but even with my vast fortune, time is one commodity I cannot afford.

In these final seconds, I gaze down at the piazza, hundreds of feet below, and behold a sight that startles me.

I see your face.

You gaze at me from the shadows. I sense that you are mournful, yet understand what I have accomplished. You understand I have no choice. For the love of Mankind, I must protect my masterpiece.

Even now it grows… it simmers… beneath the bloodred waters of the lagoon.

And so, I look away from your face and contemplate the horizon. Ready to make my final prayer.

Dearest God, I pray the world remembers my name not as a monstrous sinner, but as the glorious savior you know I truly am. I pray Mankind will understand the gift I leave behind.

My gift is the future.

My gift is salvation.

My gift is Inferno.

And with that, I whisper amen… and take my final step, into the abyss.

Interesting article on Guardian website


That old chestnut about whether literary fiction is better than genre fiction has raised its ugly head again.

There’s good writing and bad writing and in some ways that’s all there is to say about it. If anybody is foolish enough to roll out that old chestnut that the best prose writers are all literary, then that person has never reader any Raymond Chandler. Chandler turned out some of the most beautifully honed sentences in English in the 20th century, and his facility with metaphor is almost without equal. Dashiell Hammett’s output was as influential on modern prose as the output of Hemingway – both men seemed to throw off the shackles of 19th century prose at almost the same time. And Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad worked within genre, but nobody would say they were constrained by their ‘limitations’. And in France, try telling anybody that George’s Simenon’s ‘Maigret’ books aren’t literature and they will probably laugh in your face.

Using Larsson and Brown as a point-of-reference for the basis of an article is almost pointless. Everybody knows that Brown can’t write a decent sentence, and it’s fairly common knowledge that the Millennium translations aren’t very good. The fact that nobody picks on Walter Mosley or John Le Carre and tries to suggest that their work is inferior to literary fiction, just shows that the genre’s best and brightest are a match for anybody on their day and that any argument like Docx’s can be blown out of the water.

Anyway, I’m glad to live in a world where I can read Don Delillo’s ‘Libra’ one day and James Ellroy’s ‘American Tabloid’ the next, where John Updike and James Crumley share shelf space, where John Hawkes and John Le Carre are just as likely to be picked up and read.