Receipient, 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship
Dante’s Vita Nova (circa 1292–1295) depicts the joys and sorrows, the discoveries and conflicts of Dante’s early love for Beatrice—who would achieve later and even greater fame in Commedia—starting with his first sighting of her and culminating in his prevision of Beatrice among the beatified in heaven. Award-winning translator and poet Andrew Frisardi channels the vigor and nuance of Dante’s first masterpiece for a modern audience.
The “little book,” as Dante calls it, consists of thirty-one lyric poems—mostly sonnets—embedded in a prose narrative, which both recounts an apparently autobiographical set of events also evoked in the poems and offers analysis of the poems’ construction in the medieval critical tradition of divisio textus, or division of the text. Dante selected poetry he had written before age twenty-eight or so and wrote the prose to shape it into a story. The poems anthologize Dante’s growth as a poet, from the influence of his earliest mentors to the stylistic and thematic breakthroughs of his poetic coming-of-age.
The interplay of poetry and prose in Vita Nova, along with the further distinction in the latter between autobiography and critical divisioni, presents a particular challenge for any translator. Frisardi faithfully voices the complex meter and rhyme schemes of the poetry while capturing the tone of each of the prose styles. His introduction and in-depth annotations provide additional context for the twenty-first-century reader.