“So the biographer must ultimately choose: Either hew to the evidence and ferret out whatever rare nugget about Dante’s life remains uncovered, or surrender to the genius of the work he called his Comedìa and try to broker a fragile peace between literary interpretation and life writing.
“In a new biography timed (in its original Italian publication) to the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death in 1321 and translated fluidly by Allan Cameron, the Italian historian and novelist Alessandro Barbero chooses the first option. His vita, or life, of Dante, revisits some of the perennial riddles in Dante studies: Did the poet make it to Paris during his exile? (Barbero believes yes, contrary to most.) What was Dante’s socioeconomic class? (In Barbero’s view, higher than many think.) While still in Florence before his exile, did Dante conceive the project that would later become his Comedy? (Perhaps so, Barbero argues, once again against the grain.)
“We can be grateful to Barbero for this richly informative biography of a man who can seem so reticent and aloof that at times it feels as if he’s hiding behind the 14,233 verses of “The Divine Comedy” rather than revealing himself. But for those who are looking to learn more about the Dante in us, a biography has to do more than deliver the plausible facts. And so the quest for a vita of Dante in English will likely lead us right back to where Emerson suggested: the poetry from Dante’s own hand.” [. . .] — Joseph Luzzi, The New York Times, January 4, 2022 (retrieved January 17, 2022)
See our other post relating to Barbero and the 700th Anniversary here.