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Dante: A Life (Penguin Lives)

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  17 reviews
An insightful biography of Florence?s famous son

Acclaimed biog rap her R.W.B. Lewis traces the life and complex development? emotional, artistic, philosophical?of this supreme poet-historian. Here we meet the boy who first encounters the mythic Beatrice, the lyric poet obsessed with love and death, the grand master of dramatic narrative and allegory, and his monumental se
Paperback, 205 pages
Published November 24th 2009 by Penguin Books (first published 2001)
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Dante: A Life is an informative little biography whose focus is on the historic events surrounding Dante's life and their impact on his literary work (with an emphasis on the Divine Comedy). As a result, this works much better as a companion work to understanding references made in the Divine Comedy then a proper biography. Not much is blatantly shown about Dante the person, and the only sense we have of him as such is mostly through his reactions to events, past and contemporary.

This is import
Evan Hays
Jay Jacoby, a man whose literary tastes I greatly value and a medievalist no less, told me to read this before I tried reading the Divine Comedy. I am very glad that I started here. The author has a knack for being concise yet also packing in a lot of good information. What became clear through reading this book is that Dante was an incredibly well read man, who poured years of study and thought into the comedy. So beyond the poetic beauty of the work, there are references upon references to und ...more
I would have liked this book better if I hadn't expected it to just be a biography.

This is part biography, part history, and part commentary on the Divine Comedy.

There were repetitive aspects to the commentary that I didn't think added to the biography. The history was a bit convoluted as people were mentioned and then immediately explained for a ways before going back to the original point of the section. This would have been fine, except that the people didn't really matter that much when firs
This book called attention when I saw it in the library shelf. My brothers and friends suggested Dante's "Devine Comendy". So I decided to read the bio before I read Devine Comedy.

I just finished reading it yesterday. It very interesting but also pretty long & boring. The story of Dante's life in this book mostly reflect on his excile. Not so much in his for early beginnings from birth,childhood and love seemed.

I must admit that some of the inspiration of Dante Alighieri was express in
Just wonderful. A great mix of analysis of Dante's work and the surrounding personal and political context. Late medieval Italian politics is insanely complex, but this book did a good job of making it just understandable enough. I wish I had found it before my last re-reading of the Divine Comedy because now I have to read it again!
Brenda Clough
Biographies of writers are always fun for writers -- not sure how useful they are for the rest of humanity. Dante is particularly difficult because there is so relatively little known about him -- nothing exists in his own hand, for instance. This is an excellent work to begin on, covering most of what is known about the poet and avoiding all the jungles of speculation (of which there are many, I am reliably informed).

I read this for research purposes, and am almost more interested in what is NO
A workman like biography without any surprise revelations. But what does come through, at least to me, is that Dante profited creatively from his exile and I wonder that if he was able to remain in Florence whether his involvement with daily life and politics would have eroded his creativity. In addition, we learn that banishment was a popular punishment and that many citizens of various Italian cities were banished. Most famously Shakespeare's account of Romeo & Juliet.
Margaret Heller
This was a gentle literary biography of Dante. I've been trying to get up to speed on medieval European literature (oddly enough that's part of my job), and this helped me understand Dante's context and writing. There were parts that were repetitive-- reminders that didn't need to be there, but in general a pleasant way to find out more about Dante. Also same narrator as the BOT Name of the Rose, so made total auditory sense.
A concise and wise biography. While there are a lot of Italian names to remember, Lewis tells a compelling story weaving together Dante's life with his major works. Good to get a review of the Commedia and read just a bit about both the theological influences on Dante and his widespread literary influence. I also appreciated the brief quotations from Dante's works in both Italian and English translation.
Malcolm Yarnell
A flowing introduction to the life, context, and thought of Italy's greatest poet. For the theologian, Dante is a great introduction to medieval Catholicism. The Divine Comedy presents a comprehensive and compelling narrative for reality, and Lewis packages that narrative well.
Stacy Bearse
More information on Dante's opus, The Divine Comedy, than on the man himself. Still, this is a meticulously researched work with strong academic appeal.
Spends too much time writing about Dante's influence of other writers (who I don't care about).
I'm being generous when I say this book totally sucks.
Light, basic, nothing new or special here.
Jun 20, 2013 Ramzi is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Book #21 in the shelf experiment
Interesting book on Dante's life and how his development from child to adult greatly impacted his warped view of life. Had a lot of good lines from some of Dante's most famous books.
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