Eco:" We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore,Eco:" We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die". Interview in Der Spiegel, November 11, 2009
Stultus! Whom do I talk to? Miserable you are! What do I try? I tell about my pain, To the foolish seaside, To the speechless stone, To the deaf wind, Ai, and nobody answers, But the murmuring of waves. [my translation]
(Giovan Battista Marino)
I just started reading it and it looks so fine.
Photo-phobic Roberto de La Grive survived the wreckage of his ship Amarilli, a fluyt (in dutch) or, as the English said, a Flyboat.
It's year 1643, ...moribund Roberto, on a piece of wood , is all alone in the ocean until he hits another Flyboat: the Daphne. He gets on board, soon to conclude the ship has been deserted.
He finds enough food, ...writes love letters (to "she", the "sun of his shadow") , "proud of his humiliation". Where is he? And what about that Island he envisions, though seemingly unreachable, because he doesn't know how to swim...
"Sun of my shadows, light of my darkness. Why did Heaven not unmake me in that tempest it had so savagely provoked Why save from the all devouring sea this body of mine, only to wreck my soul so horribly in such mean and even more ill-starred solitude! ... My Lady, I write you as if to offer, unworthy tribute, the withered rose of my disheartenment. And yet I take pride withal in my humiliation, and as I am to this privilege condemned, almost I find joy in an abhorrent salvation; I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast upon a deserted ship".
Roberto dislikes the daylight, yet, to him, the moonlight is beautiful; nights are meant to find new constellations ...
Roberto starts the exploration of the ship. Luckily, he finds water…and fruits. But he’s suspicious: there’s the sensation of the insidious; he’d heard strange sounds; plus, he’s deciphered some Latin words in the captain’s log: “quase dicitur Bubonica pestis”. The pest he had had when 13.
Now he’s got a gun, and sword and a knife. As day breaks, he seeks refuge. From the island he recognized a diversity of birds' sounds: swallows, parrots….; even crickets’.
Roberto now remembers his life in Milano; the days at Casale; the Pozzo family; 16 years before 1640; his childhood rearing. He was a loner, having had a preceptor who taught him French.
Roberto thrived on imagination, fed by his reading of poetry and romances.
"He discovered some rough fruits that he would not have dared touch, if one of them, falling to the ground and splitting open in its ripeness, had not revealed a garnet interior. He ventured to taste others, and judged them more with the tongue that speaks than with the tongue that tastes, since he defines one as a bag of honey, manna congealed in the fertility of its stem, an emerald jewel brimming with tiny rubies. Now, reading between the lines, I would venture to suggest he had discovered something very like a fig".
Though priest Emanuel, back in Italy, convinced him about the Ferrante’s (his doppelgänger?) inexistence, Roberto, while on board the Daphne, cannot help conjecturing: he’s not alone, there’s someone else onboard.
Emanuel was a priest and philosopher, a follower of Democritus and Epicurus.
Roberto tries to concentrate on his survival: he’s got food for weeks, but not for months. He’s got to reach the island. Maybe there, he’ll eat of the fruit of the Tree of Oblivion; and forget about it all; and find peace. He likens Daphne to a theater of memory.
He's spotted the South Crux constellation.
In his memories, Roberto recalls the city under siege, his first love with the peasant, red-hair Ana Novarese, the one who had the courage to hold a gun and got hit; his letters to her, but also his losses: his father, his friend Saint Savin. Due to the plague ,he’ll get sick too and will lose sick Novarese. Yet he'll recover.
Mines are exploding in the besieged city; vast conjectures on the power of the machines take over. Roberto gets the advice from his master Salazar and La Saletta. When the war gets over, he returns to his village, takes care of mother till her death and a new chapter opens up in his life: Paris.
On board the Daphne Roberto dreams about the dented wheels; and finds a room full of clocks, of many types. What for? Someone must be taking care of them, because they’re working. Roberto takes a decision: to catch his malignant alter ego: the Ferrante; yet, due to the booze found, he looks like a fool.
Back in Paris: recollections of palaces, the nobility, his studies on “crepuscules” and “sympathy powders” eliciting healing. And the lady he meets: Lilia. But all would end, because he gets arrested under charges of conspiracy.
Cardinal Mazarino will offer Roberto a way out: he’s got an offer: a mission. Roberto accepts it. He’ll have to embark in the Dutch Amarilli ship, under the command of an English captain: Doctor Byrd.
Roberto’s mission is to know more about this secret: “the fixed point” or, in other words: the answer to the longitude problem. He’ll fake insomnia and ignorance, as well as photo-phobia; he’s now a spy for France. Even red-haired Byrd is faking, not revealing the real purpose of his travel to the Pacific Ocean. He’d been collecting flowers specimens, along the voyage.
Now there's real action, because conjecture abounds so far. Roberto has found out the intruder on board: a man, a priest, called Gaspar. The priest urges Roberto to learn to swim. Roberto tries and tries again. Gaspar tries his own way to reach the Island, inside a Campanula; and disappears.
All alone again, Roberto is back on his memories of Lilia and Ferrante. This one seems very real; he too had organized a voyage in search of the previously referred point. Ferrante wanted to subtract Lilia from Roberto.
As for conjectures, they verse on the vacuum and infinity, the plurality of worlds, the inhabitants of the moon, and the Orange Dove. Nevertheless, Roberto is not a philosopher, rather: an unhappy lover.
Roberto in his diving gets hurt by the stone-fish; it produces fever and sleep; and visits to Vessalia; a hell where God doesn’t exist.
He still thinks and dreams about his rival Ferrante.
Especially this dream gives the whole sense to the title of the book. The case is that Ferrante had a mutiny on his voyage; his body was thrown into an island, above 25 degrees of latitude. Lilia too, was thrown to the sea, “navigating” on piece of wood. But all is a nightmare of Roberto: Ferrante being killed; Ferrante facing Judas whose punishment is to live forever on Holy Friday.
Roberto is remorse-ridden by not having attained to the Island; he might have saved Lilia.
The last words of the book are conjectures, still; on who might have had access to Roberto’s papers? Maybe Tasman…maybe Captain Blight in 1798…, maybe….
This is a well accomplished book into the Philosophy of 17th/18th centuries; Philosophy of science. Worthwhile, the reading; a way into thinking and reflection. Even rocks don’t escape conjecture: how do they think? Roberto pondered on that too.
For a while I've read,...under Bocage*'s eye.
* from Wiki: Manuel Maria Barbosa du Bocage (15 September 1765 – 21 December 1805) was a Portuguese Neoclassic poet, writing at the beginning of his career under the pen name Elmano Sadino....more
Eco:" We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die".
"It was a strange time. Mussolini was very charismatic, and like every Italian schoolchild at that time, I was enrolled in the Fascist youth movement. We were all obliged to wear military-style uniforms and attend rallies on Saturday, and we felt happy to do so. Today it would be like dressing up an American boy as a marine—he’d think it was amusing. The whole movement for us as children was something natural, like snow in the winter and heat in the summer. We couldn’t imagine that there was another way of living. I remember that period with the same tenderness with which anyone remembers childhood. I even remember the bombings, and the nights we spent in the shelter, with tenderness. When it all ended in 1943, with the first collapse of Fascism, I discovered in the democratic newspapers the existence of different political parties and views. To escape the bombings from September 1943 to April 1945—the most traumatic years in our nation’s history—my mother, my sister, and I went to live in the countryside, up in Monferrato, a Piedmontese village that was at the epicenter of the resistance."
Interview in The Paris Review*
No, this is not a story of annihilation: from number one to number zero, as the picture of the Duce might imply: he was a famous leader once, then executed.
Numero Zero, is about the media; and more specifically about a publication that’s being prepared to show up for the first time as issue number zero . It’s a newspaper in the making; but never to come out, you’ll get to know.
50 year-old Colonna has a job proposal made by Simei, to act like this: he would join the paper-in-the-making, some editorial work, but at the same time would work as a “ghost” writer for the book of Simei. Simei knows the paper would never be published; he wants to get his millions from the book;... just like Colonna. A sort of scam in the making, you might conclude.
A team has been gathered and assignments/reportages in several areas of the publication have been arranged: horoscopes, necrology, politics, and much more are the topics they discuss while gathering.
The paper is meant to be called The Tomorrow, to mark the difference; you know the “Daily Mail, “Corriere della Sera”…; this shall be a different sort of paper.
Colonna starts a sort of affair with much younger pink-papers worker Maia. Though he‘s reluctant on her, fearing to start thinking like she does, the romance evolves.
And yet, one character stands out: journalist Braggadocio. He’s the fool conspiracy theorist, ...most refined. He sees complots in several instances: but the greatest of all is this Duce issue. To Braggadocio the one executed was not the real one. He believes the real Duce managed to escape to Argentina after 1943, with the help of the Vatican.
His theories are well supported; he even ventures on more recent developments of the international politics: “the stay –behind” policy, aiming at containing the rise of communism in Europe; names of Italian politicians abound; the Aldo Moro case is mentioned; the CIA; and much, much more. Duce's triumphal return to Italy, namely.
And then he gets killed.
The paper gets dissolved and Colonna starts wondering about how right his work mate was. He just watched with Maia a BBC reportage on TV on the “stay-behind”.
Now that the police starts investigating the shut- paper, Colonna goes into hiding; with Maia. They wonder what’s next: travel abroad, to South America? To the South Seas isle? They’ve got the money. Colonna decides to stay in Italy.
You get the idea Italy is becoming more and more like other corrupted South America states. The book is a way to approach Italy’s history, and contemporary Italy. The book-diary results in a sort of criticism on the media and the manufacturing of the news; on this aspect it's just spectacular, Eco's expertise. Eco, the one, who, in fact, it's been years, writes for Italian papers.
[bombs may be good....]
But to me (I’m back on the Paris review interview) I could not resist getting to the interpretation level and saying I’ve found the pages on Braggadocio’s theories too much informed and too much“personal”. I could dimly hear an Italian voice throughout those pages (sometimes many, dedicated to the events of wartime): Eco’s…as a child. Echoes of Eco’s childhood [!!]. That’s why I’ve found the book so “personal”.
One hundred and sixty pages, ….plus; in the Portuguese text. One year to write down, said Eco. While all the other novels took six years, but Foucault's Pendulum (eight).
Short, but immense, at the same time. Many years on Italy’s contemporary History can be compressed in this tiny book.
It’s an alternative view; Braggadoccio’s;… Eco’s as child.
This is the sequence Petrarch gave to his book The Great Triumphs:
TRIUMPH OF LOVE (Jacopo Del Sellaio:Triumph of Love, inspired by Triumphs by PetrarcThis is the sequence Petrarch gave to his book The Great Triumphs:
TRIUMPH OF LOVE (Jacopo Del Sellaio:Triumph of Love, inspired by Triumphs by Petrarch 1304-74)
TRIUMPH OF CHASTITY
TRIUMPH OF DEATH TRIUMPH OF FAME TRIUMPH OF TIME TRIUMPH OF ETERNITY
(Jacopo Del Sellaio:Triumph of Eternity, inspired by Triumphs by Petrarch 1304-74)
Some sparse notes I collected from the thoughts of Julia Butinya* and Roxana Recio**.
JB thinks Petrarch, Dante and Boccacio form a grand trio. They shared the spirit of their time. The Triumphs’ “tercetos”; they are in form like Dante’s. But, the narrative form (allegorical) through dream marks a difference, as well as a “more humanized hell”.
RR points to the fact that there are 3 Triumphs in Barcelona, and 3 Triumphs in Paris. Roxana notices a “love for introspection” …not present in Dante. She thinks The Triumphs characters are less “bobos” (clown-like/sort of stupid), as they are in the sentimental novel. An “emancipation of feelings” has occurred. The pain suffered is worth, is virtuous. It’s the humanism: the entire human person; the creative man as center. The human emancipated from the divine.
The Catalan humanism (more political) is approached by these Spaniard scholars, it is deemed different from the Aragon court’s.
On a biographical note it’s recalled that: Petrarch was born in the 14th century, in Toscana; a time when the Aragon kingdom fought against the Naples kingdom. Petrarch’s father a notary, belonging to the Guelph party, had to leave for Avignon. So, Petrarch had studies in the humanities; developed a passion for classic literature: namely Cicero; but preserved the Christian values (Saint Francis is important). So the Triumphs are a “large, Christian, narrative poem.”
* L'Humanisme a la Corona d'Arago. ** Petrarca en la Península Ibérica
It is said that his father was an “aggressive atheist”. Some joke about Papini’s “conversion” (to Catholicism) calling it “perversion” (protestants
It is said that his father was an “aggressive atheist”. Some joke about Papini’s “conversion” (to Catholicism) calling it “perversion” (protestants say). But he was, definitely, an important literary figure in the beginning of the 20th century Italy. You cannot escape him when approaching Italian Futurism.
This 1948 book is a compilation of those encounters and marking experiences since early childhood. It was published under the title Passato remoto [Remote past] .
I will refer some of those encounters.
(1) Papini says when a boy he had blue eyes and a blond, curly hair. For his time and birthplace (Florence) he looked foreigner. Once mother took him for a walk and he recalls two foreigners upon seeing him; one of them with a big moustache got close and “caressed” Papini’s curly hair. Years later in a portrait the writer recognized that man: F. Nietzsche. So the phrase: “And still today I am certain that the future writer of the history of Christ was caressed in a clear sunset of Autumn by the hand that wrote the Antichrist”.
(2) As a (“rebellious”) child he had a passion for circus and ferocious animals; those, “stirred his fantasy”. It was a great joy as a boy seeing those “exotic tribes from Asia (Ceylon, India) visiting his city Florence: “men ridding elephants …eyes with pupils of diamond black”. Or when Buffalo Bill and the “red skins” ….brought a “far west breath” to Florence. A “change of air”, as he liked.
(3) When 11 years old, he met a Darwinian priest called Trezza. The priest left his faith due to Darwin’s books; Papini was allowed to get in the library of Trezza; he recalls seeing “pictures of monkeys”; he was told “remember-Adam and Eve- it’s a legend”; a superstition.
(4) Politically-forming was his own father’s experience, who dressed the “red shirt and the red beret… and got injured and jailed”; once Papini saw a parade of Garibaldi’s people; he almost cried.
(5) One day he was walking with his father; a carriage approached; two ladies inside; one clearly older than the other. Father complimented them and told Papini about: the older one was the queen of England, Queen Victoria, an old lady who used to spend winter months in Florence. But this is how Papini reacted: “she looked a moribund and mean lady”. “I understood that day that power and wealth don’t give happiness”.
(6) His mother was very important because she noticed early on his “writing attempts”; but it was his father who introduced him to a famous British writer: Louise de La Ramée, some considering her the best disciple of Dickens. Father took him to her place in Italy, when she was already 60 years old. She told him: “writing is the most beautiful and pleasant discovery of man but it requires vocation”.
(Marie Louise de la Ramée)
Papini wrote a book entitled “The story of Christ” in a very realistic language: “Jesus was born in a stable, a real [smelly] stable… the abode of cattle”.
In another book (“The memoirs of God”) he impersonated God. “It is I, I in person who speaks face to face with man, all men without scribes, without in-betweens”.
Eco:" We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore,Eco:" We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That's why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It's a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don't want to die".
Eco in an interview of 2011, said he had "put in his [Simone Simonini] mouth a lot of abominous ideas [anti-Semitic,racism]...a repugnant character [Simone Simonini] ...not to be taken seriously".
"If not a comic, I am a grotesque writer"
Heavy historical novel. Very European context.
March 1897,piazza Maubert,near Paris,...by the Bièvre,an affluent of the La Seine river. Paris is not what it used to be, now with this pencil-sharpener called Eiffel Tower...so thinks sixty-seven-year-old Simone Simonini.
He wonders about his identity: "who am I"?.He defines himself by reference to others' defects.He bashes rudely at other races and peoples. He repels, grossly, the Germans: their repugnant sweat smell, their language...their addiction to beer...no interesting art; even great composers are depreciated under Simonini:"ordinary" Beethoven, "noisy" Wagner and "no-harmony" in Bach. The Germans took seriously that glutinous monk called Luther.
The French, are also criticized: they are lazy and mean ("Ils grognent toujours").Italians as well.And yet,Simone's father was Italian and his mother a French woman.
Simonini became French because he could not stand being Italian: Italians are "liars" and "vile" and "traitors".He says (like with plants-crossing), if you cross a French with a Hebrew you have the present Republic III.
Nevertheless, he's got "nothing against" the Hebrew people; his grandfather (captain Simonini) taught him: they are the atheist people 'par excellence'.Simone Simonini recalls eighteen centuries of hate, though.
But the worst of all are the Jesuits...and the Freemasons. Jesuits are "Masons dressed as women".
Thus,he considers himself to be a chaste man since he doesn't like women.He loves food and drink.
Simonini is a forgerer of documents and an antiques dealer.Strangely,he's got memory problems; even personality issues: it seems, he cannot distinguish himself from Abbot Dalla Piccola, who happens to live in the same building. There's a corridor connecting the two homes, and one day Simonini finds a wig:... his? Abbot's?... or of one and single person? And this was Chapter Two of Eco's book.
Chapter Three deals with acquaintances of the forgerer at the famous restaurant "Magny". 'Chez Magny' he meets a medical doctor,an Austrian Jew called Fröid,[any bell rang??]...thirty years old, studying with Charcot the hysteria phenomenon.Simonini sees Fröid as a "liar"...who studies and uses cocaine for his own sake,...and who suffers from "black billis".
Interesting references are made to the study of hysteria, the use of magnetism by some and hypnosis by others for the treatment of the psychiatric condition. Again, the antiques dealer digresses about the Hebrews, their smell...the "fector judaica"...and concludes "they're all communists!";he's got no Hebrew friends.
The case of Diana is introduced: two personalities in the same body; and different memories of the acts perpetrated by these two radically different personalities.
Chapter Four: grandfather’s times. Simonini recalls childhood in Turim,…he managed to speak the purest Grenoble French…not the Paris ‘babil’. Grandfather told him about the madness of the Revolution,….and the worldwide complot of the Knights Templar against Christianity.Also about his connections to Augustin de Barruel (1741-1820):a conspiracy theorist. Simone discloses his pleasure wearing the vests of priest Bergamaschi,how he felt superior...and about chocolate and coffee delights.
Amazing Chapter Five: because it's penned by Abbot Dalla Piccola. He knows more about Simonini than the other way around. He reveals that Simonini was an active "Mason" (that he belonged to the Carbonaria). A Simonini that in the previous chapter was so critical about Masonnery aims:"Lilia pedibus destrue" (destroy and step on the Fleur-de-Lis of France).The Freemasons wanted to destroy both "altar and throne".
And chapter Six? -Here, Simone severely decries about the Abbot: you know too much about me! Simonini envisions the Jesuits meeting at the Jewish cemetery in Prague;... them, conspiring under the moon, to help Napoleon III. Interestingly, Bergamaschi was a counselor to the monarch.
The forgerer prides himself of his first masterpiece of forgery; and later, gets his first ("spy") mission: to join writer Alexandre Dumas in his ship Emma;of course, Dumas had joined the liberators, under Garibaldi. A detail: on his mission, the captain cannot avoid taking with him the vests of priest Bergamaschi.
Simone is now in Sicily. Through his eyes we see Garibaldi; the leader is not the “Apollo”, as Dumas saw him. He describes him as “of modest stature, blondish but not blond, with short legs…and affected by rheumatism”, he noticed when the leader had to be helped while riding horses.
Simonini distrusts heroes….and doesn't wear the Red Shirt of the liberators, but the ecclesiastic vests of priest B.
Garibaldi has received from the British Masonry 3 million French Francs (in golden Turkish piastras). ...
So you think I would go on till chapter Twenty Seven?... No,I won't.
Just a few words of closure for this review.
(1) The book has marvelous 19th century illustrations (from the author’s archive) that help a lot understanding the plot… or the story, if you will.
(2) Due to Simone’s likings the book is truly a cookeries compendium; menus abound.
(Protocols´, 1912 edition)
(3) It’s really historically thick the plot ahead; Simone will visit many places; will kill Abbot Piccola;…many adventures ahead, even with protestant Diana. But the core of the book may lie in the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ; in fact, according to several sources they are a “lie”; Eco refers 1925 Hitler’s book Mein Kampf; and the London Times of 1921; both indicating a “forgery”.
(The Times, August 17, 1921)
(4) Finally, Eco says: all book characters were real persons, …but Simone.
PS About Simone's name.In the book it is indicated why the main character got that name; someone in the family told Simone:"...in memory of Saint Simonino,a martyr kid of Trento,kidnapped by the Jews...that used his blood in their rites". That explains a lot.
From wiki: Simon of Trent (German: Simon Unverdorben; Italian: Simonino di Trento); also known as Simeon; (1472 – March 21, 1475) was a boy from the city of Trento, Italy whose disappearance was blamed on the leaders of the city's Jewish community based on their confessions under torture,causing a major blood libel in Europe.
(Dec 21st 2011)For fans of Eco:he's been recently interviewed by GR; some of his words may be elucidating about this and other of his books.And,within two months he'll be eighty years old.Nice....more