Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man

Barbara Reynolds, Author . Shoemaker & Hoard $35 (466p) ISBN 978-1-59376-124-0

The poet Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) is a most difficult subject for a biography as nearly every factual assertion about him is disputed. He may have had five children, perhaps six, maybe seven or even just three. Who was Beatrice, his poetic inspiration? Was she the daughter of Folco Portinari, or did she exist solely in Dante's imagination? Reynolds (Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul ), a retired Italianist at Cambridge University, has her work cut out for her. She succeeds, however, in marshaling all the known facts of Dante's life, and slots them into perspective by explaining his era's tumultuous events and issues. Reynolds demolishes previous theories that Dante was an aloof genius concerned only with creating beautiful parables, and instead highlights the personal, public and very political agenda of the Commedia and other works. Along the way, she raises a few intriguing possibilities: that Dante's magnificent religious visions in Paradiso were induced by psychedelic drugs, for instance. Readers should be warned that this is neither a straightforward biography nor a light read for the airplane. Though provocative and fascinating in many places, it requires a solid grounding in the master's works to fully comprehend its sweep. Illus. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/07/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
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FORMATS
Paperback - 466 pages - 978-1-78076-726-0
Paperback - 466 pages - 978-1-84511-554-8
Hardcover - 466 pages - 978-1-84511-161-8
Hardcover - 480 pages - 978-0-85772-203-4
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