Recipient of 2013 Guggenheim Fellowship
Dante's Vita Nova (circa 1292–1295) depicts the joys and sorrows, the discoveries and conflicts of Dante's early love for Beatrice—who would achieve later and even greater fame in Commedia—starting with his first sighting of her and culminating in his prevision of Beatrice among the beatified in heaven. Award-winning translator and poet Andrew Frisardi channels the vigor and nuance of Dante's first masterpiece for a modern audience.
The "little book," as Dante calls it, consists of thirty-one lyric poems—mostly sonnets—embedded in a prose narrative, which both recounts an apparently autobiographical set of events also evoked in the poems and offers analysis of the poems’ construction in the medieval critical tradition of divisio textus, or division of the text. Dante selected poetry he had written before age twenty-eight or so and wrote the prose to shape it into a story. The poems anthologize Dante’s growth as a poet, from the influence of his earliest mentors to the stylistic and thematic breakthroughs of his poetic coming-of-age.
The interplay of poetry and prose in Vita Nova, along with the further distinction in the latter between autobiography and critical divisioni, presents a particular challenge for any translator. Frisardi faithfully voices the complex meter and rhyme schemes of the poetry while capturing the tone of each of the prose styles. His introduction and in-depth annotations provide additional context for the twenty-first-century reader.
"This elegant new verse translation of Dante’s Vita Nova from Andrew Frisardi, an outstanding poet-translator, is the first since Reynolds to give us the poems in verse. I recommend it not only for the verve and accuracy of the translation but also for the excellent and thorough introduction and notes." —Teodolinda Barolini, Columbia University, author of Dante and the Origins of Italian Literary Culture
"With over 200 pages of notes . . . Frisardi’s edition [makes] much expert commentary available in English for the first time." —Paul Howard, Times Literary Supplement
"Andrew Frisardi’s splendid new edition of Vita Nova combines his compelling translation of Dante’s original work with a rich and fascinating scholarly commentary. At last Dante’s innovative and influential masterpiece is available in a contemporary version that captures both its beauty and complexity." —Dana Gioia, former chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and author of Can Poetry Matter?
"Frisardi’s superb translation of the Vita Nova succeeds wonderfully in arraying a renowned medieval love story in modern attire. Eminently readable, the text retains the contours of Dante’s prose syntax without ever sacrificing the clarity and coherence of the original. In the end, Dante’s voice has the ring of a contemporary poet. Moreover, the accompanying introduction and notes are unsurpassed in English. A splendid achievement." —Richard H. Lansing, Brandeis University, editor of Dante Studies and The Dante Encyclopedia
"To read Frisardi’s translation of the Vita Nova, the New Life, together with his generous, clear-eyed, necessary notations and introduction is to walk with Dante through the streets of late thirteenth-century Florence, rather as Dante walked beside his own master, Virgil. If you who love poetry are looking for a guide into how the greatest of our poets began, this book is for you." —Paul Mariani, Boston College, author of Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life and Deaths and Transfigurations: Poems
"Andrew Frisardi’s Vita Nova is a monument of gracious, respectful translation and loving scholarship. His metrical versions of Dante’s poems balance vernacular freshness with a delicate illusion of archaism so that the lyrics appear to belong both to Dante’s time and to ours. The richly informative introduction and notes grant entry to this rarefied world of metaphysical eros." —Rosanna Warren, Boston University, author of Ghost in a Red Hat: Poems and Fables of the Self: Studies in Lyric Poetry