Dante in Love by A. N. Wilson

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For William Butler Yeats, Dante Alighieri was "the chief imagination of Christendom." For T. S. Eliot, he was of supreme importance, both as poet and philosopher. Coleridge championed his introduction to an English readership. Tennyson based his poem "Ulysses" on lines from the Inferno. Byron chastised an "Ungrateful Florence" for exiling Dante. The Divine Comedy resonates across five hundred years of our literary canon.

In Dante in Love, A. N. Wilson presents a glittering study of an artist and his world, arguing that without an understanding of medieval Florence, it is impossible to grasp the meaning of Dante's great poem. He explains how the Italian states were at that time locked into violent feuds, mirrored in the ferocious competition between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy. He shows how Dante's preoccupations with classical mythology, numerology, and the great Christian philosophers inform every line of the Comedy.

Dante in Love also explores the enigma of the man who never wrote about the mother of his children, yet immortalized the mysterious Beatrice whom he barely knew. With a biographer's eye for detail and a novelist's comprehension of the creative process, A. N. Wilson paints a masterful portrait of Dante Alighieri and unlocks one of the seminal works of literature for a new generation of readers.


About A. N. Wilson

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A. N. Wilson is an award-winning biographer and a celebrated novelist. He lives in North London.
Published October 25, 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 400 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Dante in Love

Kirkus Reviews

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"In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight way was lost." So begins Dante's Divine Comedy; for many modern readers, this trip through the afterlife never gets any straighter. Biographer, novelist and critic Wilson (Our Times: The Age of Elizabeth II...

Oct 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

The Guardian

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While these efforts don't exactly backfire – Dante's relationship with Beatrice is easily the best-known part of his story, and a handsome book is a handsome book – they don't solve the anxiety that Wilson seems to feel about his project.

Jun 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

The Guardian

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The title, I must warn you, is misleading: this is less a book about Dante in love than an excuse for AN Wilson to vent his own ideological hatreds.

Jul 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

Publishers Weekly

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Prolific culture critic and novelist Wilson (The Victorians) tackles one of the central literary and spiritual figures of Western civilization in this crowded and uneven study.

Jul 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

The Telegraph

So, for example, he notes that Dante’s ambivalent attitude to the powerful Donati family, into which he married, “was celebrated in the Comedy by the fact that one great Donati is sent to Hell, another is met in Purgatory, and a third is in Heaven.” As for the famous encounter betw...

Jun 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

The Telegraph

Having begun by offering a book for Dante novices, and having, in the interim, so readably delivered it, he concludes a survey of Dante’s readers in the 19th and 20th centuries by speculating on how future readers will regard him.

Jun 06 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

Washington Independent Review of Books

Over the course of the book we see Dante’s notion of love change from the sacred to the courtly to the sensual, until a series of political disappointments, beginning with his banishment from Florence, compel Dante to distill all three forms of love into his epic Divine Comedy, the love poem as a...

Oct 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Wilson's new book on Dante is inspired partly by love -- he's read Dante over the past fifty years or so -- and partly by the notion that people are scared away from reading Dante at all.

Nov 10 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love


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Yet one need only read the second part of Dante’s poem, the Purgatorio – with its often comic nuances of dialogue – to realise how profoundly, for Dante, life depends upon talk.

Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love


But Wilson's heavy hardback (386 pages with colour templates) should come with a heavy hardback warning for those hesitant around the theme of erotic love and the nature of obsession.

Dec 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love


is comparatively easy to master,” and also calling Jean de Meun, the 13th century poet of “Le Roman de la Rose,” “obviously a gay misogynist,” whereas de Meun was an equal-opportunity satirist of all sexual expression.

Oct 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love


"The little girl in a red frock" was to become the means by which Dante understood the operation of divine grace, says Wilson, and remains the greatest of all literary love affairs.

Jun 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

The New Zealand Herald

Wilson says that in his own pursuit of Dante he was always looking for a book that would provide this background but never found it and so has produced his own version to fill the gap for other readers trying to discover why this writer from the Middle Ages has such a reputation and why he is wor...

Aug 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love

Literary Review

Painting a picture of a neo-Platonic Dante, Dante in Love follows the poet from erotic ribaldry and obsession, through the conventions of courtly love, the machinations of secular love in community, philosophy and friendship (and politics, once again), upwards to the highest love of the soul for ...

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Sep 12 2011 | Read Full Review of Dante in Love


Wilson gives a charming account of Gladstone's lifelong study of Dante and is particularly amusing on the great Victorian's ingenious attempts, only half in jest, to prove that Dante had sojourned in Oxford.

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