Sunday, September 25, 2011

Book Review: Dante in Love

Yeats said no face was more familiar to Western civilisation than Dante's, apart from that of Christ. Dante Alighieri is the greatest poet of Italy and he is also the one figure of the late medieval-renaissance period who bears comparison with the greatest visual artists: Giotto, Michelangelo and Titian.

Though there is only one Dante: Petrarch, the great sonnetier, and Boccacio of The Decameron fame make up the triad but are footnotes to him. Dante, born in Florence in 1265, belongs only with Homer and Shakespeare.

In 1300, according to legend, he had the experience that is recorded in his great three-part poem The Divine Comedy: he found himself in Hell, then Purgatory, then Heaven. The opening lines are inscribed in the DNA of our culture: "Nel mezzo del cammin de nostra vita /mi rotrovai per una selva oscura, /Che la diritta via era smarrita". ("In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost".)

Click here to read this review from The Australian