Book on Divine Comedy does Dante differently
What's a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey whose first language was Yiddish doing writing a book about history's greatest Catholic poet, Dante?
Perhaps trying to convince the world that his epic poem, the Divine Comedy, is not just for Ivy League intellectuals but for the common man and woman on life's journey.
Harriet Rubin's "Dante in Love," published by Simon and Schuster, may not become required reading in the hallowed halls of Oxbridge academia. But that's just fine with her.
"This book is aimed at people in hell," said Rubin. "And how do you get out of hell if there is no exit sign anywhere? The book is aimed at people who are in some kind of quandary. People with passion."
Quandary? Passion? Dante ate them for breakfast.
Banned from returning to his beloved Florence in 1302, Dante roamed from city to city in Italy and France, from noble court to grubby back streets until he died in Ravenna in 1321.
Through the exile, the wandering and the angst, he created The Divine Comedy —— divided into Hell, Purgatory and Paradise —— a poem many consider the greatest ever written.
Rubin, the daughter of a window cleaner and housewife from New Jersey, already had experience in writing about an Italian luminary from centuries past.
She is author of the highly provocative and acclaimed 1998 book "The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women," in which she discusses how to become powerful without becoming like a man.
Now she is doing Dante differently from many previous works on the poet considered to be the father of the Italian language.
It is by no means a "Divine Comedy for Idiots."
But in its own way it does take Dante off the pedestal of poetic sanctity and explain as simply as possible the immense tapestry of religion, art, architecture, cosmology, theology and history that provided the backdrop for the work.