The young Dante was a love-sick poet who composed rarefied, intellectual verse about Beatrice, the girl he had loved since they were both children.
As mediaeval Florence descended into turmoil that bordered on civil war, he seemed entirely uninterested by anything other than her.
Fate had to work very hard to make him write his greatest work, the Divine Comedy.
This is the story of how it did so. As the factional power-struggles that dominated Florentine life became increasingly violent, Dante finally found himself plunged headlong into a world of feuds, corruption and betrayal.
Eventually exiled and forbidden to return on pain of death, he could no longer ignore the real world.
The scope of his vision broadened by his painful personal experiences, he devoted the rest of his life to writing the epic three-part fantasy which has ensured his enduring fame.
Interweaving the imaginary Dante's journey through the cosmos in the Divine Comedy with the story of the real Dante's life, James Burge reveals how a love-struck Florentine teenager became il Sommo Poeta (the Supreme Poet).