“To read a stack of new and reissued books about Mr. Trump, as well as a bunch of his own works, is to be plunged into a kind of Bizarro World version of Dante’s Inferno, where arrogance, acquisitiveness and the sowing of discord are not sins, but attributes of leadership; a place where lies, contradictions and outrageous remarks spring up in such thickets that the sort of moral exhaustion associated with bad soap operas quickly threatens to ensue.” — Michiko Kakutani, “In Books on Donald Trump, Consistent Portraits of a High-Decibel Narcissist,” The New York Times (August 25, 2016)
Marco Santagata’s 2015 novel Come donna innamorata — based on Dante’s biography, on which Santagata has also published — was a finalist for the Premio Strega. See the publisher’s description below:
“Come si può continuare a scrivere quando la morte ti ha sottratto la tua Musa? È questo l’interrogativo che, l’8 giugno 1290, tormenta Dante Alighieri, giovane poeta ancora alla ricerca di una sua voce, davanti alle spoglie di Beatrice Portinari. Da quel momento tutto cambierà: la sua vita come la sua poesia. Percorrendo le strade di Firenze, Dante rievoca le vicissitudini di un amore segnato dal destino, il primo incontro e l’ultimo sguardo, la malìa di una passione in virtù della quale ha avuto ispirazione e fama. È sgomento, il giovane poeta; e smarrito. Ma la sorte gli riserva altri strali. Mentre le trame della politica fiorentina minacciano dapprima i suoi affetti – dal rapporto con la moglie Gemma all’amicizia fraterna con Guido Cavalcanti –e poi la sua stessa vita, Dante Alighieri fa i conti con le tentazioni del potere e la ferita del tradimento, con l’aspirazione al successo e la paura di non riuscire a comporre il suo capolavoro…È un Dante intimo, rivelato anche nella sua fragilità, e nelle sue ambiguità, quello che Marco Santagata mette in scena in un romanzo che restituisce le atmosfere, le parole, le inquietudini di un Medioevo vivido e vicino. Il sommo poeta in tutta la sua umanità: lacerato dall’amore, tormentato dall’ambizione, ardentemente contemporaneo.” — Guanda
See Giuseppe Fantasia’s review in the Italian edition of Huffington Post here.
In an essay entitled “Crises of the Spirit: Dante and Bellow,” Gregory Bellow, oldest son of Saul Bellow and author of Saul Bellow’s Heart: A Son’s Memoir, compares three of his father’s novels to Dante’s three canticles. “Crises of the Spirit” parallels the pilgrim’s psycho-spiritual crisis and recovery with those of Bellow’s characters, and with the novelist’s own biography. Using private anecdotes and personal recollections, Gregory Bellow traces his father’s mid-life “crisis of spirit” through the Dantean themes of evil, spiritual cleansing, and love.
A PDF copy of the essay is available here, with permission of the author.
“Unlike Shakespeare, whose corpus one searches in vain for insight into the author’s selfhood, we have abundant access to Dante’s psyche, thanks to the self-editorializing drive in all his major works, from the Vita Nuova to the Convivio to The Divine Comedy. Dante funneled everything—history, truth, cosmos, salvation—through his first-person singular, the famous “I” who finds himself “in the middle of our life’s way” as the poem opens. Yet despite his bold self-exposure, the writing of the Comedy remains a mystery. How did the vision come to him, and how much of it did he have inside his mind when he began writing?
“Marco Santagata, a professor of Italian literature at the University of Pisa, has written an impressive new biography that takes into consideration every bit of reliable and semireliable information available to us about Dante’s life, from his birth in Florence in 1265 to his death in Ravenna in 1321, yet you reach the end of its 485 pages without getting one step closer to understanding how an electrician joined the ranks of Einstein and Fermi. That is because little in Dante’s life story helps us understand how he conceived, composed, and completed the Comedy, this despite the fact that much of what was going on around him at the time found its way into his poem.” — Robert Pogue Harrison, “Dante: He Went Mad in His Hell. Review of Marco Santagata, Dante: The Story of His Life,” New York Review of Books, Oct. 27, 2016
Contributed by Pamela Montanaro
“Dante is considered the greatest of all European poets–yet his most famous work, The Divine Comedy, remains widely unread.
Fueled by a lifetime’s obsession with Dante Alighieri and his work, the distinguished historian A. N. Wilson tells the remarkable story of the poet’s life and passions during the extraordinary political turbulence of thirteenth-century Europe. An impoverished aristocrat born in Florence, then the wealthiest city in Europe, Dante was the most observant and articulate of writers and was as profoundly absorbed in his ambition to be a great poet as he was with the central political and social issues of his time. The emergence of independent nation-states, the establishment of a modern banking system and currency, and the rise of Arabic teachings and Greek philosophy were all momentous events that Dante lived through. Amid this shifting political terrain, Wilson sets Dante in context with his great contemporaries–Giotto, Aquinas, and Pope Boniface VIII–and explains the significance of Beatrice and the part she has played in all our Western attitudes toward love and sex.” —Powells