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Anyone who has read Dante's legendary "Divine Comedy" will know of his passion for a woman named Beatrice, who was his tour guide through heaven.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg, as "La Vita Nuova (The New Life)" shows in detail. This exquisite little book describes Dante's passion for Beatrice, and the emotional rollercoaster he went through as a result. This is Dante's unsung, more intimate masterpiece.

"La Vita Nuova" is a series of poems and anecdotes centering around the life-changing love of Dante for a young woman named Beatrice. The two first met when they were young children, of about eight. Dante instantly fell in love with her, but didn't really interact with her for several years.

Over the years, Dante's almost supernatural love only increased in intensity, and he poured out his feelings (grief, adoration, fear) into several poems and sonnets. During an illness, he has a vision about mortality, himself, and his beloved Beatrice ("One day, inevitably, even your most gracious Beatrice must die"). Beatrice died at the age of twenty-four, and Dante committed himself to the memory of his muse.

It would be a hard task to find another book overflowing with such incredible love and passion as "La Vita Nuova"; it's probably the most romantic book I have ever seen. Dante's feelings might seem a bit odd by modern standards, because Dante and Beatrice were never romantically involved. In fact, both of them married other people. But at the time, courtly love was considered the best, purest kind there is, and Dante's emotions are a perfect example of this.

But Dante's love for Beatrice shows itself to be more than infatuation or crush, because it never wanes -- in fact, it grows even stronger, including Love manifested as a nobleman in one of Dante's dreams. There is no element of physicality to the passion in "La Vita Nuova"; Dante talks about how beautiful Beatrice is, but that's only a sidenote. (We don't hear of any real details about her)

And Dante's grief-stricken state when Beatrice dies (of what, we're never told) leads him to deep changes in his soul, and eventually peace. And though Beatrice died, because of Dante's love for her and her placement in the "Comedia," she has achieved a kind of immortality.

One of the noticeable things about this book is that whenever something significant happens to Dante (good, bad, or neither), he immediately writes a poem about it. Some readers may be tempted to skip over the carefully constructed poems, but they shouldn't. Even if these intrude on the story, they show what Dante was feeling more clearly than his prose.

It's impossible to read this book and come out of it jaded about love or passion. Not the sort of stuff in trashy romance novels, but love and passion that come straight from the heart and soul. A true-life romance of the purest kind.
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on 2 January 2001
'Vita Nuova' (which means 'new life') is one of Dante's earliest major works. This prose translation by Professor Mark Musa is easy to read, yet accurate and not lacking any rigour. The poet (Dante) describes how he falls in love with this most charming lady, Beatrice, and how he finally gets over her death. The introduction at the beginning of the book illustrates how Dante has meticulously planned the structure of 'Vita Nuovo', and the importance of the number nine and its sole root, three, which is the number of the Christian holy Trinity. Contrary to troubadour love, Dante convincingly reconciles love for a woman and love for God. Read this if you find 'The Divine Comedy' too long to start with, but you'll soon discover that you'll need to purchase the latter, available at Amazon.co.uk, too! It is no wonder that Dante (or more accurately, his works) has been termed the 'fifth Gospel'. A must-read for all, Christians and non-Christians alike.
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on 19 August 2012
The Vita Nuova is an inspiring little book of poetry inspired by love. Eloquently written in a beautiful prose style, this collection of poems describes love as something spiritual, noble and elevated. Hugely enjoyed reading it!
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on 30 August 2014
Being an ardent fan of Dante's time in Hell I felt I had to read Vita Nuova if only to round off my appreciation of the great man... I wish I hadn't.
This is the book about his love for Beatrice. Dante describes how he met her, yearned for her and then how, when she died, raised his love onto a higher plane. I was genuinely surprised to find that it is a combination of prose and poetry. Dante describes certain events and then tells of the poems that these events inspired and then gives us the poems. These bits I enjoyed but then, in a very monotonous format, the poems are "analysed" so that we can appreciate them more fully. I have to say that this really got boring after a bit:
"This sonnet has three parts. In the first part I tell how I encountered Love and how he looked;" (I know! I've just read your description of how you came about to write it and then read the poem!) "in the second I relate what he told me..." and so on!
The Great Dante reveals himself as a pedantic teacher who has to totally spoil our appreciation of the experience by going over his repetitive breakdowns of each poem in the most painful and most obvious way again and again and again. Another painful example will sum it all up:
"At the end of this fifth part I say, 'dear ladies', to make it understood that it is to ladies that I speak." I think even Homer Simpson would have got THAT one!
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on 6 October 2014
Perfect. Many thanks.
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on 6 October 2015
Dante is the man
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on 27 November 2014
Excellent read
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on 15 March 2015
grt
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