Author: Simon Chater

Simon Chater is a writer, editor and translator based near Buckfastleigh, in Devon. He is the founding director of Green Ink, a science communication company (www.greenink.co.uk). Simon has written and/or edited many publications, mostly on agriculture and natural resources in the developing world.

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 18 – what is love?

Simon Chater

Virgil’s great exposition on love is centrally placed in the Comedy, occupying Cantos 17 and 18 of Purgatorio. With this, Dante signals that love, and the understanding of love, are at the heart of his poetic matter. Doctrinally, the ideas Dante attributes to Virgil are standard-issue medieval philosophy, derived from the teachings of Aristotle and […]

Street democracy – a message from Tavistock for Geoffrey Cox MP

Simon Chater

Tavistock looked at its best this morning, its streets and buildings washed clean by overnight rain and gleaming under late November sun. Appearances are deceptive, though: a local told me the town was in decline, with shops closing and people increasingly resorting to food banks. In this it surely mirrors the fate of once prosperous […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 17 – better together

Simon Chater

Life’s not a zero-sum game, say the souls on the Terrace of Envy, so don’t live it that way. Dante doesn’t ‘get it’ at first, but Virgil explains. We have just met Guido del Duca, scion of one of the leading families of Romagna, the region next-door to Tuscany, where Dante comes from. Like all […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 16 – enlightening grace

Simon Chater

The Divine Comedy is primarily a vision. It is the story of how one man, through grace, becomes pure in heart and hence able to see God. During his first night on the mountain, Dante’s damaged inner sight is cleansed and healed in preparation for the work of penitence that awaits him in purgatory proper. […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 14 – a dewy facial

Simon Chater

The first canto of Purgatorio celebrates our release from the pain and grief of hell. Virgil washes Dante’s face in the morning dew. Dante begins by announcing the change of mood: Boats and ships feature strongly in the Comedy, as symbols of the soul’s journey towards the divine. Here Dante is at the helm, his […]

Flash protest in Totnes and some food for thought

Simon Chater

On Friday I joined a small group of Devon for Europe supporters at a “flash protest” in Totnes. Anthea Simmons, our campaign manager, delivered a letter to MP Anthony Mangnall demanding his support for a general election. We also ran a “democracymeter”, asking passers by to answer questions about the state of our nation by […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 13 – the hidden passage

Simon Chater

We are out of hell, but still close to the centre of the earth and it is still dark. Through the blackness, Dante can hear the trickling of a stream: The hidden passage that connects Inferno and Purgatorio is one of Dante’s masterstrokes, entirely his own invention. It conveys the idea that there is, after […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 9 – What, are YOU here?

Simon Chater

On burning sands, under a soft rain of flames, Dante meets his former mentor, Brunetto Latini. His “sin” is homosexuality, according to the dictates of formal religion. But what does Dante think? We are in the circle of the violent against God, nature and art. The naked souls here, whose baked features are caked with […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 8 – the wood of the suicides

Simon Chater

Suicide is the ultimate form of self-harm. In Inferno 13, Dante invents a new language of pain and despair to evoke the tortured minds of those who choose this ending. At the start of the canto we return to the landscape of the poem’s prologue, finding ourselves, again, in a pathless wood – not coincidentally, […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 7 – seduction by literature

Simon Chater
Rodin's 'The Kiss'

Among the carnal sinners in the second circle of hell, we meet Paolo and Francesca. Of all the stories in the Inferno, theirs is perhaps the one that most invites our empathy: the seventh of Simon Chater’s dips into Dante. Dante’s scene-setting is a powerful example of contrapasso ­– the idea that the punishment should […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 5 – the gate of hell

Simon Chater
gateway to Hell

Led by Virgil, Dante sets out on his journey. At the entrance to hell he sees these words inscribed over a dark gateway: The famous line here is the last, wryly quoted today in many a workplace and home. The absence of hope is the defining feature of hell, as anyone stuck in a dead-end […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 4

Simon Chater
Dante's Inferno colour plate from early edition

Enter Virgil, voice of reason Continuing his series of dips into Dante, Simon Chater begins the descent into hell and finds some interesting parallels between Dante’s Florence and the world in 2022. Reason, sweet reason! How we – or some of us, at least – long for you in the age of Brexit, Trumpism and […]

Rewilding comes to a Devon valley

Simon Chater

Local environmental charities are working to increase Devon’s tree populations. Simon Chater was delighted to take part. For nearly 40 years I’ve lived in an old farmhouse in one of the loveliest spots in the South West – the valley of the Holy Brook, a tributary of the Dart. A livestock farmer sold me the […]

Dante’s Divine Comedy: tasting notes 1 – the dark wood

Simon Chater

1. The Dark Wood Dante is at once the most influential and the most neglected of Europe’s poets. Since the early 14th century, when he wrote, he has inspired countless other writers in almost every European language, yet today he has few readers outside academia and Italy. In this series of commentaries written to mark […]

Hooray! We are taking back control…of GM

Simon Chater

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. There are precious few upsides to Brexit, but here’s one. We’re coming out of the EU’s dysfunctional system for regulating genetically modified (GM) crops! What do we know? It’s a quarter of a century since the first GM crop, a tomato modified to prolong its […]

“Brexit and Fascism: heed the warning signs while you still can, Mr Mangnall” – a constituent writes to his MP

Simon Chater

Anthony Mangnall M.P. House of Commons London SW1A 0AA                                                                  26 October 2020 Dear Mr Mangnall I’m writing this open letter to you in reply to yours of 27 July 2020, which reprimands me for calling Brexit out as a “resurgence of the disease of fascism”.   Be in no doubt: that’s exactly what Brexit is. […]