La Vita Nuova

Published: 10th April 2007

Dante's La Vita Nuova — in common with the vast, vast majority of everything that's been written, sung, painted or said about love — is not really about love at all; it's about infatuation.

The author ‘falls in love’ with a woman whom he never even properly meets. He spends decades of his life watching her from afar, reading meaning into random glances and momentary public eye-contact, never speaking to her in person, or ever directly expressing his desires. His only outlet for this obsession is writing poetry, which is published where others can read it.

His verses are intricate and obscure, deliberately designed to speak his heart while, somehow, not speaking it at all; he writes in riddles and subtexts, in mystery and half-truth. And because he was part of an elite — those who had the education and social standing to obtain a publishing outlet for their work in pre-renaissance Italy — he was speaking to a limited audience, most of whom had no idea what he was really talking about (which of course, was exactly the point). His reach — and the reach of his peers — was extremely limited, and much of what they produced turned to dust long ago.

But the internet is not like that; everything we put on the internet is out there for everyone, forever; it could come back and haunt us at any time. And we don't live in the same kind of society anymore, or speak in those kinds of riddles — we say exactly and specifically what we mean far more than the poets of Dante's era.

So when it comes to the limits of personal blogging, and the question of how much of our personal lives is it right, or safe, to write about online, I'm wondering whether the right answer, for me, is none at all.


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