The Divine Comedy
Dante Alighieri Northwestern University Press, 2010 Library of Congress PQ4315.R28 2010 | Dewey Decimal 851.1
The Divine Comedy marked nothing less than the arrival of vernacular Italian as a literary language—and Dante’s book is still considered Italy’s greatest literary achievement. Its highly idiomatic verse, however, has long bedeviled English-language translators. Burton Raffel, whose translation of Don Quixote is acclaimed for making Cervantes more accessible to the modern generation, in this new translation for Northwestern World Classics, shows exciting new directions, preserving both the lyricism of the original and its incisive meaning. First-time readers and longtime fans of “the supreme poet” alike will cherish this clear and lyrical rendering of one of world literature’s masterpieces.
The Divine Comedy depicts the journey of Dante the pilgrim, guided by the poet Virgil and the love of his life, Beatrice, as he moves through the stages of his life and world. Raffel’s single-volume translation of Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso follows the complete journey of a spiritual pilgrim who struggles from the depths of the inferno to the heights of paradise. In the former Dante meets many of his political enemies, suffering the punishments that match their crimes in life. And in the ninth circle of Hell, Lucifer—the ultimate traitor—is shown chewing on Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot, three others who committed horrendous acts of treason in the classical and early Jewish worlds. Dante’s evocative description of Heaven is a sort of homecoming for the exiled poet. Dante’s epic poem challenged the political and religious hierarchy of his time and remains a powerful and universal expression of human desires, strivings, and shortcomings.
La Vita Nuova
Dante Alighieri Harvard University Press, 2010 Library of Congress PQ4315.58.S63 2010 | Dewey Decimal 851.1
Dante Alighieri, translated by Andrew Frisardi Northwestern University Press, 2012 Library of Congress PQ4315.58.F75 2012 | Dewey Decimal 851.1
Recepient, 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.