DANTE: THE STORY OF HIS LIFE
Harvard University Press (Footprint) $77 hb, 494 pp, 9780674504868
This sumptuous volume by Marco Santagata, professor of Italian Literature at the University of Pisa, offers the reader a richly documented and often gripping account of the development, peregrinations, and shifting fortunes of the celebrated poet Durante (Dante) Alighieri. Comprising ten chapters, the volume has an internal division in two parts, with the first covering Dante's life in Florence and the second exploring the remaining period of Dante's political exile (under pain of death if he re-entered Florence) and the poet's activity until his untimely death in Ravenna in 1321. By means of Richard Dixon's fluid and sparkling translation of the original volume (published in 2012 as Dante: Il romanzo della sua vita), English-speaking readers can enjoy Santagata's evocation of the tensions, complex alliances, betrayals, class struggles, and internecine strife taking place not only in a 'divided' Florence (la città partita, Inf. VI, 61) and elsewhere throughout the peninsula, but also in the violent and treacherous landscape of imperial and ecclesiastical allegiances beyond Italian borders, with all parties vying for dominion and bent on the wholesale destruction of their mutual enemies.