The Vita Nuova
Large Print Edition
By Dante Alighieri
University of Michigan Library, 2009 196 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - February 9, 2010
"Educated people," say scholars, especially classical scholars who devote themselves to classical literature, "must read classics." Vita Nuova, one of Dante's earliest works, is such a classic. Yet while reading the classics clearly improves the reader's mind, no scholar would argue that reader must agree with what the author writes. Plato and Aristotle, the two great philosophers, are an example. The two have diametrically opposed worldviews and it is impossible to agree with both of them, except when a reader selects ideas from each; in which case these philosophers would say that the reader accepts the view of neither of them.
Dante, like all people, is searching for meaning in his life. He finds "all my bliss in Beatrice." He tells how his meeting with the metaphorical Beatrice, who later reappears in his Divine Comedy as his guide, and the Lord of Love changed his life. "Whatever happened before his 'new life,'" writes the translator in his introduction, "is of no importance here."
This Dante notion is reminiscent of people who convert religions or who are "born again." But is this true? Should we accept the author's and translator's view? Does the past have no impact upon future life and thinking when a person converts? Or, do the past and new notions exist side by side, with the past exerting itself continually, creating a constant struggle. This is a question for readers to address while they read this fine book.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.