This, the third instalment of my latest series about authors, is dedicated to two more bizarre author deaths. I chose this rather macabre subject matter, in part, because death is one of the themes in my second novel, Necropolis, a humorous work of dark fiction, due for release early next year (date to be confirmed shortly).
Notable works: The Divine Comedy, Convivio, The Vita Nuova.
Florence born Dante’s defining work, The Divine Comedy, is widely regarded to this day, as the greatest piece of literature ever composed in Italian. The description of Dante’s fictional journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Paradise (Paradiso), was to prove an important milestone in the development of Italian as an established literary language.
Italy’s sommo poeta (supreme poet) is remembered not only for his remarkable achievements, but also for the bizarre circumstances surrounding his death. Dante died of malaria in Ravenna in 1321, which was not unusual in itself during this era. However posthumous events took a bizarre turn when Florence, the city of Dante’s birth, demanded the return of their famous son.
Church officials in Ravenna secretly hid Dante’s body in a wall to prevent it from being stolen and returned to Florence. It lay forgotten until being unearthed during church renovations in 1863, when it was discovered that parts of the body had been taken at the time of the burial. In 1878 a repentant former town clerk, Pasquale Miccoli, returned a box of bones he had stolen.
Julien Offray de la Mettrie
Notable works: Man a Machine, The Natural History of the Soul.
French philosopher and physician, de la Mettrie, was one of the first materialists of the Enlightenment era. He was widely viewed as a scandalous figure during his lifetime and beyond, due to the highly controversial nature of his writings. Considering himself a mechanist materialistic, de la Mettrie held a number of beliefs, which were in stark contrast to church teachings, including his assertion that the body causes mental processes. Though many of his theories have since been disproved by science, the defiant writer is today regarded as having influenced psychology, particularly behaviourism.
Regarded as a rampant hedonist, de la Mettrie was to meet his demise as a direct result of his excess. Invited to a banquet, hosted by the French ambassador to Prussia, de la Mettrie, either as an attempt to show off his powers of gluttony, or his strong constitution, devoured an enormous quantity of pâté de fait aux truffes (pâte made from truffles). The resulting gastric illness culminated in a slow and painful death for the controversial writer.
Click here to read Bizarre Author Deaths II