Read The System of Dante's Hell by Amiri Baraka LeRoi Jones Online


"Much of the novel is an expression of the intellectual and moral lost motion of the age . . . the special agony of the American Negro."—The New York Times Book ReviewThis 1965 novel is structured on the themes of Dante's Inferno: violence, incontinence, fraud, treachery. With a poet's skill Baraka creates the atmosphere of hell, and with dramatic power he reconstructs the"Much of the novel is an expression of the intellectual and moral lost motion of the age . . . the special agony of the American Negro."—The New York Times Book ReviewThis 1965 novel is structured on the themes of Dante's Inferno: violence, incontinence, fraud, treachery. With a poet's skill Baraka creates the atmosphere of hell, and with dramatic power he reconstructs the brutality of the black slums of Newark, a small Southern town, and New York City.Amiri Baraka (1934–2014) was the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. He was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey by the New Jersey Commission on Humanities, from 2002 to 2004. His short story collection Tales of the Out & the Gone (Akashic Books) was a New York Times Editors' Choice and won a 2008 PEN Beyond Margins Award....

Title : The System of Dante's Hell
Author :
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ISBN : 9780394171104
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 154 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The System of Dante's Hell Reviews

  • J Beckett
    2019-04-05 15:40

    Perhaps, one of the best books I had ever re-read. My initial exposure was as a gregarious teenager looking for answers to questions no one wanted to address. Amiri did. Relevant. Enlightening. Explosive!

  • Baiocco
    2019-04-15 09:30

    Amiri Baraka published [book; The System of Dante's Hell] in 1965, but it was written about the previous few years which proved very turbulent for writer and America at large. He was still going by his birth name, LeRoi Jones, but he was beginning to sever ties with the Beat Poets (he had set up Totem Press, and published Kerouac and Ginsberg, who were both influential on his emerging writing style), about to divorce his first wife and leave thier two children, Malcom X killed, and he began carousing with the Black Nationalists.I came to System through the poem collection, "Preface To A Twenty Volume Suicide Note", and though Jones' true calling may be that of a poet, [book; The System of Dante's Hell]'s free-form prose style is powerful, captivating and satisfying even though it is only 154 pages. Towards the end of the book, Jones claims his Hell was the inferno of his frustrations stemming from a lack of the compassion and understanding he would weep for from the world. The isolation is not to be understated, for Jones was not just commenting on being a black man in a white world (his words, not min), but his personal interests, education, and sexual proclivities alienated him to the point where he was not at home with blacks or whites, gays or straights. The burden of always being the object (the black man in the room) while yearning to be the subject (a particular black man whom people could engage) hangs over Jones' writing, while the Hell hell he portrays is personal, stark and maddening, the diary of a man certain that he will not be understood by the society around him.I don't want to give away the ending, but the last 30 pages are so controversial for the time they were composed, had Jones been a more mainstream writer they would've sparked riots. They were written by someone who has obviously travelled to the deepest circle of Dante's hell, and, unphased, continued to dig deeper.

  • Jeff
    2019-04-05 07:54

    Written in an unconventional, poetic prose that-if to be converted to music- would sound like an experimental, chaotic jazz piece composed by the legendary Sun Ra, a seminal piece of art in Amiri Baraka's -then Leroi Jones- body of work. The book chronicles the life of an unnamed protagonist- whom may or may not have been inspired by Baraka himself or a person whom he intimately knows- as under Jim Crow oppression in both the rural south and the urban north. With it's visual and descriptive writing, one can smell cluttered, littered Northern ghettoes as well as the fresh scent of Southern "poplar trees" that of course bore "Strange Fruit". In penning this work, Baraka was inspired by concepts of Dantes Inferno,alluding to dimensions of hell , applying those to the black experience where one is both an "invisible and hypervisible object" , marginalized by the overall society on the basis of human rights yet tokenized while in white dominated spaces. Amiri painted a vivid picture of Black- then Negro- Life in America , that while readers who aren't of African descendants may not readily resonate with, those of us who are will, as it will reflect our current conditions or read like an older relative reflecting on old times. I enjoyed this very much, a wild but all too familiar ride into the dark life of the black man.

  • K.T. Katzmann
    2019-03-30 15:34

    I can't decipher this. The writing is definitely expressive, but I can't get a solid impression. If I heard it as spoken beat poetry, maybe I can put together a picture. I'm not leaving a rating; I don't feel like I have the standing to. Baraka's done SOMETHING, and many people have recognized the value. I can tell it's inside, but can't unbox it. Maybe I'll try again one day.

  • Robert Devine
    2019-03-30 14:48

    An experimental work of free writing; lyrical, fragmentary riffs on race, class, sexuality, and Dante's structure of hell

  • Natalie
    2019-03-24 09:43

    I'd read Dante's "The Inferno" (in English) a couple of times and was very much looking forward to reading this book. Baraka wrote it in 1963 when he was still LeRoi Jones; Woodie King Jr., producer and director of the writer's plays points out in his introduction this was a time when "America had not yet witnessed the Watts Riots, Malcolm had not been assassinated, the the Black Arts Movement was not in ascendance..." Though I'd heard of Baraka's last play, "The Most Dangerous Man in America," about WEB DuBois, I haven't seen it, nor did I know the writer's name — unfortunately a big gap in my education.Knowing that this experimental work had for its writer an intense connection with Dante's gave me a place to start. The language and imagery of "The System of Dante's Hell" are powerful and vivid, and forcefully push forward even an uninformed reader. It is both poetry and novel, free-form, yet it corresponds with the structure of Hell in Dante's work.There is freedom, however, and there is freedom. Baraka’s form of writing can be called free in that it is not in accordance with any classically European poetic form like that with which Dante wrote. Even without such a rigorous set of rules to constrain his expression, however, his words and meaning are imbued with imprisonment, the imprisonment of his life.Dante used a constraining form of writing to express imprisonment in the tortures of Hell for eternity as the consequences of choices made in life. Baraka, whose time, place and conventions of writing are different, makes what choices he can. Terrifyingly, for a black person in America, those choices are made in a life that is already Hell.I have to confess that there is a lot that I don’t understand in this book. If I have misread it, please forgive me; know that I am moved and impressed by what I have read, and no disrespect is intended.

  • Kara
    2019-04-06 09:34

    Amiri Baraka's The System of Dante's Hell is a brilliant little book I am grateful to have discovered. I had previously read Baraka's criticism (e.g. Blues People, published under the name LeRoi Jones) and was generally familiar with his reputation as a poet. To my knowledge, this is Baraka's only novel (originally published ca. 1965) and one of only two of this prolific writer's published works in the fiction category.The newly published small paperback volume of just 160 pages belies the depth of the novel's thematic content as well as the complexity of its form. Baraka riffs on the structure of hell originally set forth by Dante to outline his perspective on humanity's faults, which is set forth in an unorthodox, stream-of-consciousness style. In addition to a pretty fascinating formal presentation, Baraka's work features ideas that command the reader's attention due to their particular boldness and poignancy. I highly recommend this work to prior readers of Baraka, those interested in exploring his work's particular political and social themes (at this time in his career or generally), as well as to any lover of bold ideas in brilliant literary form. Baraka's prose always punches through to strike the audience with his meaning, as it were, and yet it also rewards close scrutiny of its textual nuances by readers so inclined.Thank you for reading my thoughts. I hope they can be useful as you evaluate this prospective read. Note: It was my great good fortune to win a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.

  • and
    2019-04-01 13:35

    Written right before he changed his name, this text engenders a metamorphosis for Baraka, occurring 'mezzo del camin' of his literary career. The text describes black life in American ghettos & the moral turpitude concomitant with social death- "the torture of being the unseen object, & the constantly observed subject". This dichotomy forms a fault line that runs through the center of the text. How an African American artist cultivates a distinct voice, rejecting the overwhelming influence of Pound, Eliot, & the rest of his white modernist literary predecessors. An example of this tension can be felt in the prosody, which is awkward, & reads like someone trying to escape their own skin– imagine Charles Olson revising his theory of projective verse after being choked. The breathing would be constricted, the narrative consequentially sped up. The task Baraka set out for himself is that of literary heresy. Baraka puts heresy at the deepest depths of his hell, altering Dante's structure. The basest evil for Baraka is “running in terror from one's deepest responses & insights”. The text goes on to describe the formation of Baraka's identity as an African American in a country where black subordination is the necessary prerequisite for the flourishing of society. For Dante, expulsion from society was one of the worst punishments imaginable; for African Americans it is the norm. This is what Baraka means when he writes “Dante's hell is heaven”. It is from the point of black invisibility & namelessness that Baraka sets forth.

  • Lee Robbins
    2019-04-09 09:40

    "An empty fight against the sogginess that had already crept in thru his eyes. A bare bulb on a cluttered room. A dirty floor full of food particles and roaches. Lower middle-class poverty. In ten years merely to lose one's footing on a social scale. Everything else, that seriousness, past, passed. Almost forgotten." - Amiri Baraka

  • Jolee Davis
    2019-03-29 10:40

    best book ever written