La Vita Nuova (1292–94) has many aspects. Dante’s libello, or “little book,” is most obviously a book about love. In a sequence of thirty-one poems, the author recounts his love of Beatrice from his first sight of her (when he was nine and she eight), through unrequited love and chance encounters, to his profound grief sixteen years later at her sudden and unexpected death. Linked with Dante’s verse are commentaries on the individual poems—their form and meaning—as well as the events and feelings from which they originate. Through these commentaries the poet comes to see romantic love as the first step in a spiritual journey that leads to salvation and the capacity for divine love. He aims to reside with Beatrice among the stars.
gives us a readable and appealing translation of one of the early, defining masterpieces of European literature, animating its verse and prose with a fluid, lively, and engaging idiom and rhythm. His translation makes this first major book of Dante’s stand out as a powerful work of art in its own regard, independent of its “junior” status to La Commedia. In an Introduction, Seth Lerer considers Dante as a poet of civic life. “Beatrice,” he reminds us, “lives as much on city streets and open congregations as she does in bedroom fantasies and dreams.”
The Vita Nuova, Dante’s first major work of certain attribution, is an original and sophisticated creation, too often cast aside as little more than a youthful prologue to the Divine Comedy… This handsome English edition of the Vita Nuova is translated by David R. Slavitt and prefaced by an engaging essay by Seth Lerer… Freed from the customary shackles of academic apparatus, the poetic quality of its lyrics freshly reinstated, the Vita Nuova’s signature hybrid texture is here elegantly conveyed.
Some translators have been too academic, draining the vigor and wonder from this work but Slavitt’s version stays true to the spirit… Considering all the books today about finding one’s center in our crazy, image-driven culture, then, La Vita Nuova—especially in Slavitt’s version—couldn’t be more relevant.
Graceful, readable, and just—David Slavitt’s translation is a delicate and surprising achievement. This is another triumph for Slavitt, and a treat for the rest of us.
- 160 pages
- 4-3/8 x 7-1/8 inches
- Harvard University Press
- Introduction by Seth Lerer
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