For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Saturday, 28 September 2013

In the Inferno (A Shopping Trip)

A brief note on Hell.

I was forced - not by my spouse, but by my own necessity - to go into a shopping centre to buy a pair of shoes today. It was one of those oblong "malls", I think they are called, with storeys of shops built around a central covered courtyard. There are no windows into the blessed outdoors, as all the shops open towards the central cavern: indeed, the few doors are off down side alleys, and are distressingly difficult to find. One travels up and down between the floors in a glass lift (if one has a buggy), so that one can writhe in discomfort at the hideous panorama.

As I was nearing the exit door in some relief, the tide of vicious anger that always takes me in these places already beginning to abate in anticipation, I stopped for a moment beside a chemist's shop. It was horribly, artificially bright, like as if some kind of pale pink lightening was perpetually and unblinkingly discharged within. There was a female singer reaching a fake emotional crescendo over the loudspeakers, the words so wretchedly sentimental they would make one squirm. There were lots of shiny pink and metal booths scattered about with no particular path through them, women all dressed the same with the same make-up moving aimlessly around beneath the same advertisements with pictures of models who looked the same advertising the same kind of products. I turned to my wife - who lagged behind dangerously like Lot's wife - and made some remark about this place resembling the Infernal Regions, then hastily generalised the remark to the whole place.

Then I realised something. All of those diagrams and explanations in helpful little Prefaces and Introductions to Dante's Inferno, difficult to get one's head around - there is need for them no longer. Simply introduce La Divina Commedia with the sentence: "To understand Hell, imagine a modern shopping centre". Circles under circles, each with their own selection of wearingly similar punishments as you descend from one circle to another with weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As I write, a satire presents itself to me: a modern Inferno set in a nine storey shopping centre that descends from the ground floor downwards, with only one entrance. A well-stocked Waterstones at ground level (yes, that's limbo), Floor -1 with an Ann Summers shop, Floor -2 containing Burger King and MacDonalds, etc. It's waiting to be written.

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