cover image Hell and Damnation

Hell and Damnation

Marq de Villiers. Univ. of Regina, $19.99 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-0-88977-584-8

Novelist de Villiers (Water) eloquently discusses a number of questions about hell in this fun book. He begins by exploring an eclectic selection of sources—the canonical Dante and Milton stand alongside Gilgamesh, Buddha’s disciple Maudgalyayana, and Robin Williams—that will unsettle many readers’ assumptions about the nature, location, staffing, and operations of hell. A story in which the Buddha helps a man save his mother from hell and discussion of which came first, Hades or Satan, are highlights. Though readers won’t be surprised by de Villiers’s conclusion that ideas about punishment in the afterlife reflect changing views of sin and modes of social control, the book delights with its affecting discussion of issues that prefigure questions of punishment in the afterlife: Does the soul even exist after death? If so, to what end? De Villiers concludes that “the Enlightenment took some sting out of Satan” and in recent years philosophical-theological arguments around free will and the existence of God have largely taken the place of serious discussion of hell. By illuminating contemporary culture’s own unexamined beliefs about what happens after death, de Villiers details the long, strange history of how hell has been imagined in this delightful book. [em](Mar.) [/em]