Author(s): Barbara Reynolds
Dante is one of the towering figures of medieval European literature. Yet many riddles and questions about him persist. By re-reading Dante with an open mind, Barbara Reynolds made remarkable discoveries and unlocked previously hidden secrets about this greatest of Florentine poets. A fundamental enigma has tantalised readers of the 'Commedia' for seven centuries. Who was the leader prophesied by Virgil and Beatrice to bring peace to the world? Many attempts have been made to identify him, but none has seemed conclusive - until now. As well as proposing a solution to the famous prophecies, this lively, engaging and elegantly-written biography contains a provocative new idea in virtually every chapter. Dr Reynolds' research indicates that Dante smoked cannabis to reach new heights of creativity. That Beatrice, Dante's great love, was not who most scholars think she was. That Dante was a talented public speaker, who created a quite new form of poetic art, holding audiences spellbound. Above all, Reynolds views Dante as one of the greatest spin-doctors of Western civilization. His aim was not to preach an interesting parable about punishments for sin and rewards for virtue.
It was to use poetry to change the politics of the age, and unite Europe around the secular authority of an Emperor. To promote this idea, which dominated his writings from his exile onwards, Dante combined it with a dramatic presentation of the Christian belief in Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. Vividly told in the first person, with a colour and immediacy derived from the pop art of street narrators - now made to seem respectable by its use of classical predecessors like Virgil - this extraordinary journey through the three realms was always profoundly political in intent. Dante here comes alive as never before: irate, opinionated, settling scores - a man of multifaceted gifts and extraordinary genius, whose role as an interpreter of world history makes him more than ever relevant to the new millennium.
'I cannot remember when I last read a book which taught me more' A.N. Wilson, The Daily Telegraph 'This wonderful biography' The Financial Times 'In the beg-steal-or-borrow class, indispensable' The Spectator 'A remarkable book' The Sunday Times
Barbara Reynolds is one of the world's best known Dante scholars. She completed the Penguin translation of Paradiso after the death of Dorothy L Sayers. She also translated Dante's early work 'La Vita Nuova' and Ariosto's 'Orlando Furioso'. In addition, she has written a biography of Dorothy L Sayers and edited 'The Cambridge Italian Dictionary'.
List of Illustrations Acknowledgements Introduction 1. The Early Years 2. Dante and Guido Cavalcanti 3. Disaster 4. The First Years of Exile 5. Language and Poetry 6. Invitation to a Banquet 7. Main Dishes and Trenchers 8. The True Definition of Nobility 9. Injustice and Avarice 10. Dante the Showman 11. The Return of Beatrice 12. The Story Begins 13. Limbo 14. Francesca da Rimini 15. Dante in Danger 16. Dante the Taxonomist 17. Creation of Character. 18. Down into the Depths 19. 'Him of Alagna' 20. Virgil and Sorcery 21. Devil-Play 22. A Den of Thieves 23. Tongues of Fire 24. The Severed Head 25. The Valley of Disease 26. Towering Giants 27. The Frozen Lake 28. Lucifer 29. The Tragedy of Henry VII 30. Better Waters 31. The Morning Sun 32. From Humour to Invective 33. Close of Day and a New Dawn 34. Pride and Humility 35. Evil and the Freedom of the Will 36. Love, Natural and Rational 37. The Mountain Trembles 38. Dante and Forese Donati 39. Body and Soul 40. The Christian Sibyl 41. Who is Matilda? 42. Dante and hisPatrons 43. Prelude to Paradiso 44. Beatrice in Heaven 45. Propaganda in Paradiso 46. The City Walls 47. Justice Unfathomed 48. Dante and Monasticism 49. The Theme's Great Weight 50. Faith, Hope and Love 51. Hatred in Heaven 52. The Creation 53. The Departure of Beatrice 54. Approach to the Final Vision 55. The Vision of the Trinity Epilogue Appendices Chronology of Dante's Life and Works Guelfs and Ghibellines List of Popes in Dante's Lifetime Holy Roman Emperors Referred to by Dante The Canzone Notes Select Index