Interview with Dante Alighieri

January 13, 2016

dante alighieriHe is regarded as the founder, or rather, the father of the Italian language and Italian literature. His works and poems are still today studied in the major schools and universities all over the world. I am speaking about Dante Alighieri, the famous poet and Italian writer born in the Middle Age and well known for writing the poem titled La Divina Commedia
(The Divine Comedy ). That is a work consisting of three volumes, each one titled with the several names of the otherwordly places of the hereafter, namely Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. Dante wrote his most famous poem when he was banished from Florence, his hometown. Today, even though in an imaginary interview, he is along with us and with global readers, to tell about himself and his unique and extraordinary work. I wish you enjoy this interview very much, to learn more about Italian literature and its supreme authors.


Rosalba: Mr. Dante Alighieri, thank you so much for accepting this interview.

Dante Alighieri: Thank you so much to you for this great opportunity. To tell the truth, I am a little embarrassed to speak in English.

Rosalba: I know and understand your unease. Moreover, you are the father of the Italian language, his first and main creator and founder.

Dante Alighieri: Beware! I am not a god or a divine being. I was only a writer and perhaps a failed politician.

Rosalba: If you allow, in this interview I would like to talk about the Italian politics, beside Italian literature and writing.

Dante Alighieri: Ok, I’ll accept any question from you!

Rosalba: Why you defined yourself as a failed politician?

Dante Alighieri: During my life, because of the political choices of my father, who was eternally loyal to the Guelphs, I accustomed to follow this party. Later, I became a White Guelph and in addition to fight against the Ghibellins, I fought also against the Black Guelphs, who backed the Pope, while the White ones wanted more freedom from Rome. This choice caused me to get a heavy fine and the following eternal banishment from Florence, my loved city. Here is because I believe to be a failed politician.

Rosalba: I hope you also don’t believe to be a failed writer. You are too famous to believe this.

Dante Alighieri: I don’t care about this matter. In my epoch, the idea of being a famous writer not even existed.

Rosalba: And Why?

Dante Alighieri: Money and Art are modern conceptions, in my time, Art was only to convey a message of deliverance and freedom, sometimes of accusation against injustice and corruption and the human decadence.

Rosalba: A bit as it is today!

Dante Alighieri: Sorry, I live in the heaven today, but I am fairly clever to know your world very well. Today, writing, literature and art are embroiled in a sort of twisted business where the most of authors want only to sell and publishers only to earn. Yes, a book can accuse and blame someone or something, but exploring the bottom of the matter, the final purpose is always to make money.

Rosalba: And do you think this is a mistake?

Dante Alighieri: I don’t think this is a mistake, but surely a serious problem for those who want to be successful as writers.

Rosalba: And hence, do you feel to be a successful writer?

Dante Alighieri: If you mean successful in your modern terms, I am not a successful author, but in accordance with my terms, yes, I would say I am a successful writer.

Rosalba: To keep your writing, have you ever done another job?

Dante Alighieri: In the Middle Age it was very important to have a social role. Artists were often regarded as jesters to amuse the nobles. Since I was engaged with politics for my family’s origins, It was somewhat very important to get a profitable job. I was a pharmacist! But I never practiced this craft because I aimed for a political career.

Rosalba: But where did you get your passion for writing, then?

Dante Alighieri: I studied Tuscan poetry and admired poet Guido Guinizzelli very much. Furthermore, a Sicilian cultural group arrived in Florence by promoting poetry and I was very fascinated by their verses.

Rosalba: Why did you leave Latin in favor of your dialect?

Dante Alighieri: I never abandoned Latin, but just because I studied Tuscan poetry, I wanted to use this language also to reach the poorest readers who couldn’t learn Latin. Indeed, one of the my famous poems about love is in the Tuscan dialect, the language that later became Italian. I am talking about Vita nuova ( The New Life) that I dedicated to the woman I loved: Beatrice Portinari, that I also mentioned in the Divine Comedy. My latin works are De Monarchia and De Vulgary Eloquentia, addressed to more educated people.

Rosalba: Do you think the Italian readers can still be interested to your poems?

Dante Alighieri: If they quit chatting on smartphones and social networks for a while, I believe they’ll like the Divine Comedy. In the Middle Age, a poem was called comedy not because it was a fun tale, but for its belief in an ordered universe and its deep theological meaning.

Rosalba: Hence, we Italians are speaking your dialect?

Dante Alighieri: When I wrote the Divine Comedy, I used a bit of my Tuscan dialect and other Italian vernacular languages gained from some Latin variations. Then, I merged these languages in a unique idiom which is the one you call Italian. The sound of this language was so beautiful that many people have called Italian “the bella lingua”, namely the beautiful language.

Rosalba: Thanks Mr Alighieri for this very interesting Italian lesson, but I forget to ask you about the Italian politics. How do you judge Italian politics today?

Dante Aligheri: Unfortunately, I realized that Italian politics has worsened more and more, but unlike my epoch, when two different parties fought until to the end to affirm their bad or good point of views, today no party cares to improve really Italy. Today there is only hypocrisy, pretense, love for money. I endured a hard exile during my life, cruel and unjust, but I hoped my remembrance could serve to make good politics in the future. Instead…

Rosalba: Instead, Italian politics is slow, unmovable, always made of unfinished works…

Dante Alighieri: You are right! Just think that the city council of Florence passed a motion to erase the verdict about my banishment from Florence only in 2008! While I died in 1321! No wonder if Italian people are still prevented to drive on the Salerno- Reggio Calabria. The eternal unfinished Italian highway! I wish Italians change and improve their life because, as I wrote In my Divine Comedy: E’ l’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle”. “ It is love which moves the sun and the others stars!

Rosalba: Thank you Supreme Poet for this marvelous words. I really hope they help Italians to face their demons!


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