Monday, July 6, 2015

La Vita Nuova

Cover image for La Vita Nuova by Dante Alighieri, translated by David R Slavitt, 144 pages

La Vita Nuova ("The New Life") is a collection of 31 sonnets written by Dante between the ages of 18 and 30, with prose introductions and explications by the poet.  The result is the story of how, at the age of 9, Dante's life began anew with his first sight of Beatrice, and how that love lasted throughout her life, and even stretched beyond death, into the eternal.

Slavitt translates the whole in a plain style, taking considerable liberties with the text.  The danger of a translation that aims to be "relatable", especially of a work distant in time and place, is that it will destroy what makes the work worth reading in the first place.  Slavitt clips Dante's wings and brings him down to earth.  The mutilated poet is easier to approach, but less interesting when reached.

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