Celebrating Dante
A competition with The Flying Whale, 700 years on.
Celebrating Dante
A competition with The Flying Whale, 700 years on.
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About The Contest

In celebration of Dante Alighieri, we at The Decameron Project are partnering with The Flying Whale to host a writing contest this April.  We want you to consider the following passage –– from when Dante encounters Ulysses (Odysseus) in The Inferno –– and let it inspire your writing.  Stories will be judged by a panel that includes Brian Selznick, who wrote The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Daniel Mendelsohn, the Editor-at-Large of The New York Review of Books, and Maaza Mengiste, who’s novel The Shadow King was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  They will choose which stories receive prizes and they will also read the best stories aloud. As always, all work will be published right here on our website.

  • 1st will receive $500
  • 2nd a $150 certificate with Shakespeare & Co.
  • 3rd a $50 certificate with Shakespeare & Co.

When Dante encounters Ulysses, the hero of Homer’s Odyssey, his soul is damned; he has been condemned to hell because he led his men foolishly beyond the boundaries of the known world – beyond the boundaries of human knowledge. 

Ulysses’ guilt in causing the damnation of his own men is the driving force behind this passage. In this speech to the crew, Ulysses shares his view that humans are defined by their desire for knowledge. Yet his own pursuit of that knowledge condemns him to an eternal hell. Write a story about the consequences of the pursuit of nagging curiosity, be they positive or negative.


Three winning stories were selected –– the best of what America’s young storytellers had to offer. In addition to publication and commendation here, handsome prizes were offered and delivered to all three winners. Read the stories below! 


Every last entry we received was commendable –– and while not every submission could be a winner, they’re all worthy of publication and readership. Check out some of our non-winning entries below.