So it's appropriate that among the lustful, Dante's living body becomes an issue again. (This after Statius's long and fascinating lesson in Purgatorio XXV about the meaning of the spectral bodies of the dead, the forms infused into the intellectual soul by the nature they once inhabited and absorbed and refined.) Here are the lustful, and here is a man with a sexual body, not the mere shades who kiss each other turn by turn, in chaste conformity with Paul's rule in Romans, as they do their endless contra-dance. A real body, and the lustful in their counterlustful flames can see him:
feriami il sole in su l'omero destro,
che già, raggiando, tutto l'occidente
mutava in bianco aspetto di cilestro;
e io facea con l'ombra più rovente
parer la fiamma; e pur a tanto indizio
vidi molt'ombre, andando, poner mente.
Questa fu la cagion che diede inizio
loro a parlar di me; e cominciarsi
a dir: «Colui non par corpo fittizio»;
poi verso me, quanto potean farsi,
certi si fero, sempre con riguardo
di non uscir dove non fosser arsi. (XXVI. 4-15)
My shoulder stung by sunshine on the right,
I saw those rays already change the West,
its azure aspect now transformed to white;
my shadow caused strange glowing, for the crest
of flames shone brighter in the shade I cast --
those Shades to this strange sign their minds addressed.
So was it that they spoke to me; first massed
together they said, at this strange sight,
"His body's not fictitious!" From the blast
were certain who approached, as close as might
comport with keeping wholly to the fire:
nor for a moment sought they to take flight.
At the height of Purgatory the difference between allopathic punishment (the correcting "contrapasso" or counter-suffering by which Purgatory purifies you for heaven) and the Inferno's homeopathic punishment (you wanted this? You'll have it in spades, you'll have it to the nth degree), begins to vanish. Heaven, like hell, gives its denizens what they always wanted in the way they wanted it. At the end of Purgatory, the flames of purification and the flames of love become one (as do gay and straight: Dante is very clear about this). And in those flames they burn to know more about Dante, whose real presence (in the theological sense too: "Colui non par corpo fittizio!") is what makes this frankly fictitious word one that matters. It's no wonder that Dante is about to name himself.
The other to all worlds, says Blanchot about literary space. And to that fictional world comes this non-fictitious person, like K. to the bleak world of the Castle ("what but the desire to stay here could have brought me to this desolate place?") and in it, in exile, he can find a home. The love here is the love of the real for the fictional, which when strong enough is self-requiting.
(Of course this will interfere with the theology, so alas Virgil, fictional being and real purveyor of fictions, and who loves him most, is about to disappear, in favor of the Christian Beatrice, in the realm where there are no bodies, fictional or otherwise.)