“Così nasce una lingua, l’intervista a Giovanna Frosini su come Dante inventò l’italiano”

giovanna-frosini-interview-2021“La figura di Dante come forgiatore e fabbro della lingua è veramente affascinante. Ci sono parole molto colte e dotte, per esempio, in apertura del Paradiso, trasumanare, cioè superare i limiti della condizione umana, proprio come Dante stava sperimentando in quel momento. C’è, poi, una serie di composizioni. Faccio due esempi, a partire dello stesso meccanismo, che ora descrivo: si parte da un sostantivo, si fa un verbo e, eventualmente, ci si aggiunge un prefisso. Questo meccanismo è lo stesso che usiamo anche noi oggi: cliccare deriva dal sostantivo (onomatopeico) clicchattare dal sostantivo chat, e così via. È uno di quei meccanismi che nella nostra lingua funzionano nella formazione delle parole, aldilà del tempo. Nell’Inferno, quando si parla dei diavoli che prendono coi loro uncini i barattieri, Dante adopera una serie di verbi, il più strepitoso dei quali è forse arruncigliare, che viene da runciglio, ossia uncino. Il bello di parole come queste è che sintetizzano, in una sola formazione verbale, il senso di un’immagine. Questa è la forza del poeta, che sa concentrare nelle parole un intero concetto e un’intera immagine.” [. . .]    –Giovanna Frosini, Frederico Pani, January 9, 2021.

 

Anthony Valerio, Dante in Love (2017)

Dante in Love is a modern re-telling of the immortal love story of Dante and Beatrice. The power and beauty of their original story of unrequited love shines through with new insights and accessible prose.”    —Amazon

See Anthony Valerio’s website for more information

“How the Passion of Hannibal Lecter Inspired a New Opera About Dante”

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“When you hear the name Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a few things spring to mind—and none of them are likely to involve Italian poet Dante Alighieri or opera. Of course there’s good reason for this, with Lecter’s exotic cooking ingredients superseding his gentler affectations. But even so, when author Thomas Harris first imagined how the character might move in the wild for the novel Hannibal, it was with baroque glee he unleashed the doctor in Florence: Italy’s Renaissance city and Dante’s medieval stomping grounds.

“Director Ridley Scott similarly understood that secret recipe. His film version of Hannibal relishes every Italian colonnade Anthony Hopkins walks under, or the way the shadow of the statue of David casts darkness on its star’s face, often as he stands in the same spot where men were hanged or immolated centuries ago. In its better moments, Scott’s movie savors that this is a story about a devil who covets the divine; it delights in playing like an opera.

“Hence for the picture’s best sequence, the filmmakers commissioned a new ‘mini-opera,’ one that would for the first time put music to verses that Dante wrote more than 700 years ago. And in the decades since the movie’s release, those fleeting  minutes of music have blossomed into a real, full-fledged opera about to have its world premiere. Once again the doctor’s distinct tastes and influences appear singular within the realm of movie monsters.” [. . .]    –David Crow, Den of Geek, February 17, 2021.

“Radio Dante,” from the Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Tirana

“I versi di Dante Alighieri, tratti dalle Rime e dalla Vita Nuova, compongono i ventuno episodi del progetto Radio Dante, un podcast sperimentale ideato da Francesca Fini su commissione dell’Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Tirana e RadioMi, per celebrare i settecento anni dalla morte del poeta fiorentino. [. . .] Le voci degli attori si muovono in un paesaggio sonoro ricchissimo di suggestioni e per certi versi spiazzante, sceneggiato da Francesca Fini e sviluppato nello spazio tridimensionale dal sound-designer Boris Riccardo D’Agostino. Un paesaggio sonoro avvolgente, che sembra raccontare un road-movie ambientato nella contemporaneità, trascinando l’universo dantesco nel nostro presente.”   –Radio Dante: “Il Progetto e le Persone

Listen to the Radio Dante podcast streaming on Radiomi from February 15, 2021. You can also listen to the podcast episodes here.

John Took, Why Dante Matters: An Intelligent Person’s Guide (2020)

“The year 2021 marks the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri, a poet who, as T. S. Eliot put it, ‘divides the world with Shakespeare, there being no third.’ His, like ours, was a world of moral uncertainty and political violence, all of which made not only for the agony of exile but for an ever deeper meditation on the nature of human happiness.

“In Why Dante Matters, John Took offers by way of three in particular of Dante’s works – the Vita Nova as the great work of his youth, the Convivio as the great work of his middle years and the Commedia as the great work of his maturity – an account, not merely of Dante’s development as a poet and philosopher, but of his continuing presence to us as a guide to man’s wellbeing as man.

“Committed as he was to the welfare not only of his contemporaries but of those ‘who will deem this time ancient,’ Dante’s is in this sense a discourse overarching the centuries, a discourse confirming him in his status, not merely as a cultural icon, but as a fellow traveller.”   —Bloomsbury

See also the Virtual book launch event held at UCL’s Institute for Advanced Study, November 24, 2020.

Tedua, Vita Vera Mixtape (2020)

Italian rapper Tedua’s 2020 album Vita Vera Mixtape features a Doré-inspired cover. The track “Mare Mosso” (featuring Bresh, produced by Garelli) opens with a reference the first canto:

“Mi ritrovai in una selva oscura, scura
E non sapevo più nulla, nulla
Perdonerai chi in amore ti trascura, scusa
Ma infondo già lo sai
Restar da solo può fare più paura
Vorrei prendermi del tempo per me
Vorrei metterti nel letto perché
Vorrei chiederti se ancora provi le emozioni
Di quei giorni e come autori
Mi racconti le tue storie o vuoi tenerle per te?”

In an interview in Corriere della Sera, Tedua had this to say about his relationship to Dante: “Il concetto sarà chiaro con l’album, il terzo della mia carriera. Questo è uno spoiler per tenere alta l’attenzione del pubblico. Non sarà però una tesina su Dante: non ho la competenza culturale dei classicisti, sarà il mio racconto.” Il Sommo Poeta sarà la terza incarnazione del rapper, nei panni di DanTedua. “Amo metafore e allegorie: aiutano molto a dare una linea a tutto il progetto.”

[. . .]

“Con Dante affronterò il percorso all’interno della società borghese per analizzarne pregi e difetti, ipocrisie e contraddizioni. L’artista quando diventa famoso entra in contatto con i borghesi ma per non perdersi nella selva oscura e tornare a vedere le stelle deve rimanere se stesso, purezza e verità.”   –Tedua with Andrea Laffranchi, “Tedua, rap vincente: «Musica di strada pensando a Dante»,” Corriere della sera (June 25, 2020)

Contributed by Alex Basili (MA, Florida State University ’22)

“Dante, Near and Far”

“There is much strange in La Vita Nuova, the libello or ‘little book’ that Dante composed fifteen or so years before starting in on the Divine Comedy. Take, for starters, the form of the book, an alternation of prose and poetry that produces effects as dizzying as any in Williams’s Spring and All. Or take the central narrative, which describes a love—young Dante’s, for the slightly younger Beatrice—so intense that it causes the poet to faint in public and forces him, poor lad, to write lying love poems to the donne dello schermo, the ‘screen ladies’ he uses to hide the real object of his affection. Take even Beatrice herself, who begins the book as a girl in a girdled dress only to reveal herself not long after as a miracle made flesh.

[. . .]

That night Dante has a dream, and—perhaps predictably, dreams being dreams—this is where things get weird. In his sleep the poet sees uno segnore di pauroso aspetto emerge from a fiery cloud. Despite his fearful aspect the lord is happy, very possibly because he is carrying in his arms a naked woman asleep beneath a crimson drape. After Dante realizes that the woman is Beatrice, the lord holds up a burning object and tells the dreaming poet, in Latin, Behold your heart. At that moment the lord wakes Beatrice and starts to force-feed her Dante’s flaming heart. With understandable reluctance, Beatrice eats the thing until the lord’s happiness mysteriously turns to grief and he carries her away, presumably to heaven.

[. . .]

Here, too, we get the chance to meet Dante at his most queasily familiar: not as a prodigy reveling in the warm validation of his peers, but as a callow poetaster hearing harsh words from a poet he respects. It’s probably too easy to admire da Maiano’s sonnet for its precocious snark, but I appreciate his poem even more for the rare gift it affords: the chance for once to meet Dante outside the glare of his own genius.”    –Robert P. Baird, The Best American Poetry, January 9, 2012

“Dante’s Vita Nova

“Frisardi has chosen to present his Vita Nuova as Dante’s readers encountered it—as a single book in a single language. In 1861, Dante Gabriel Rossetti made the same monolingual choice, but subsequent translations have usually been bilingual ones (or ones that gave the prose in English but the poems in both Italian and English). Frisardi wishes to offer us the Vita Nuova (which he calls, borrowing Dante’s introductory Latin, Vita Nova) in “contemporary American English”: we sink or swim in an American text. (An appendix reproduces the poems in their original Italian, with literal prose translations.) The monolingual page is the outcome of an understandable decision: few American readers would be much helped by a facing page in thirteenth-century Italian. And, after all, most foreign authors are offered to us in “straight English”—Herodotus, Cervantes, Pascal.

[. . .]

Poems such as those in the Vita Nuova (whatever the continuing efforts to translate their sentiments) entirely lose their function as poems when their constituting sound-chains, their word-notes, are made to disappear. The Vita Nuova has left many rhetorical and thematic legacies to Western poetry—the disturbances and vacillations of possessive love, the eye as the erotic organ par excellence,the refinement of the mixed genre of prose and poetry, the symmetry of the arrangement of the poetic sequence, the drama of direct address to a beloved, the power of simplicity in language in poems of complex interiority—and for all these bequests the Vita Nuova will continue to be remembered and debated. In their original Italian, the poems will be memorized, pondered, and loved. Andrew Frisardi—through his translation, introduction, and generous annotation—enables us to revisit this decisive step in the invention of the Western psyche, and reminds us, by the very difficulties of his attempt at rendering Dante’s verse in English rhyme, of the existence of one peculiar but fundamental species of poetry—ear-fixated, insistent, repetitive, hypnotic—that is resistant even to paraphrase, and, in the end, fatally insusceptible to translation.”    –Helen Vendler, The New Republic, October 5, 2012

Check out Andrew Frisardi’s translation, Vita Nova, on Amazon.

“Vita Nova,” Louise Glück (1999)

louise-gluck-vita-nova-1999From Louise Glück’s collection Vita Nova, published in 1999:

“You saved me, you should remember me.

The spring of the year; young men buying tickets for the ferry boats.
Laughter, because the air is full of apple blossoms.

When I woke up, I realized I was capable of the same feeling.

I remember sounds like that from my childhood,
laughter for no cause, simply because the world is beautiful,
something like that.

Lugano. Tables under the apple trees.
Deckhands raising and lowering the colored flags.
And by the lake’s edge, a young man throws his hat into the water;
perhaps his sweetheart has accepted him.

Crucial
sounds or gestures like
a track laid down before the larger themes

and then unused, buried.

Islands in the distance. My mother
holding out a plate of little cakes—

as far as I remember, changed
in no detail, the moment
vivid, intact, having never been
exposed to light, so that I woke elated, at my age
hungry for life, utterly confident—

By the tables, patches of new grass, the pale green
pierced into the dark existing ground.

Surely spring has been returned to me, this time
not as a lover but a messenger of death, yet
it is still spring, it is still meant tenderly.”

See “Vita Nova” and other poems by Glück at The Poetry Foundation.

Hannibal TV series, “Antipasto” (S03E01)

Hannibal-Antipasto-Dante-Vita-Nuova-TumblrIn the first episode of the third season of the TV series Hannibal (2015), “Dr. Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) recites a sonnet by Dante Alighieri, the first poem of Vita Nova, a collection of compositions published in 1295.

A ciascun’alma presa e gentil core is the description of a dream Dante had after meeting his beloved Beatrice for the second time. In the dream, the poet sees Amore (personification of love) holding Beatrice, asleep and wrapped in a cloth, in his arms. Amore holds the poet’s heart in one hand; after waking the woman up, he feeds her with the heart, which she doubtfully eats. After this, joy turns into pain and the poet sees Amore crying, disappearing in the sky with Beatrice in his arms.

“The poet Guido Cavalcanti interpreted Dante’s dream by writing the sonnet  Vedeste, al mio parere, onne valore.

“The reference to the symbolical act of cannibalism in the poem sounds ironic in Hannibal’s mouth.” — Cinematic Literature on tumblr, August 31, 2015

See also the animated GIFs posted by fringeofmadness on tumblr.

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