Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374), one of the greatest of Italian poets, was also the leading spirit in the Renaissance movement to revive literary Latin, the language of the Roman Empire, and Greco-Roman culture in general. My Secret Book (Secretum) records “the private conflict of my thoughts,” in the form of a dialogue between Franciscus and Augustinus in the presence of a beautiful woman, Truth personified. The discussion reveals remarkable self-awareness as Petrarca probes and evaluates the springs of his own morally dubious addictions to Fame and Love.
As a work of autobiography—or, rather, of literary self-fashioning—Petrarch’s Secretum evokes many comparisons but admits few equals…Nicholas Mann is to be applauded for having produced a volume that at last does full justice both to the elegance of Petrarch’s prose and to the sophistication of his thought…There can be no doubt that Mann’s volume is a jewel in the crown of Petrarchan scholarship. It deserves to be cherished by readers for generations to come.
It’s the careful, hard-working crew at Harvard University’s I Tatti Renaissance Library who produced the best translation of 2016 with this meticulously-rendered and marvelously sensitive scholarly edition of Petrarch’s most quietly astonishing work, a work of plaintive and rigorous self-examination cast in the form of a dialogue with St. Augustine. The I Tatti Library has been uniformly excellent, but even so, this volume stands out.
- 304 pages
- 5-1/4 x 8 inches
- Harvard University Press
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