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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Guest: the Phoenix

From: CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: There, on a branch above his head, a wonderful bird was roosting. I say "roosting" because it seemed almost asleep; perhaps not quite. The tiniest slit of one eye was open. It was larger than an eagle, its breast saffron, its head crested with scarlet, and its tail purple.
"And it just shows," said Digory afterwards when he was telling the story to others, "that you can't be too careful in these magical places. You never know what may be watching you."

350 years before: Poscia a volo s'inalza, e siede in cima
De l'arbore frondosa, e quinci intorno
La selva tutta signoreggia e mira.
__Torquato Tasso, Il Mondo Creato 5: 1358-1360

300 years before: Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life,
The middle Tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a Cormorant . . .
Beneath him with new wonder now he views
To all delight of human sense expos'd
 In narrow room Nature's whole wealth, yea more,
A Heaven on Earth . . .
__John Milton, Paradise Lost 4: 194 ff

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Once again available, at last!

The Italian version of CS Lewis' novel That Hideous Strength, the third episode of his unsurpassed Space Trilogy, has just been reprinted by Adelphi. Gorgeously translated by Germana Cantoni De Rossi, and with a wonderful cover picture taken from a work of art by Richard Oelze. Pages 506, euros 28.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Coup de théâtre (3)

[6: 55] Godfrey replies to Richard

Così disse egli; e 'l capitan turbato
Rispose a quell'intrepido guerrero:
- Non vo' che mostri tu nel campo armato,
Ma ristretto in prigion, se dici il vero;
Ch'assai del sangue nostro hai già versato
Altrove e qui, né questo è il dì primiero.
Qui giudice son io de l'altrui morte,
Né i miei giudìci usurperà la sorte -.

So he spoke. And the Captain, darkening,
Thus replied to that dauntless warrior,
"I don't want you to show you are in the right
While armed in the Camp, but imprisoned,
For you already shed enough of our blood,
Here and elsewhere, already before today.
To judge on homicides is up to me here,
And no chance will usurp my judgments."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fr. Cesare Giraudo passed away

. . .  'n la mente m'è fitta, e or m'accora
La cara e buona imagine paterna
Di voi, quando nel mondo ad ora ad ora
M'insegnavate come l'uom s'etterna.

. . .  in my mind is fixed, and touches now
My heart the dear and good paternal image
Of you, when in the world from hour to hour
You taught me how a man becomes eternal.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Off Topic: When a mangaka shoots

photo by Nivalis70

This is a monument in a place near Lucca, Italy, called Passo di Dante, the Dante Pass, because it is mentioned in the Divine Comedy. The photo was taken by our well-known Nivalis of the Magic Trio, whose captions are so funny and 'significant' that they will be reported even without the pictures they refer to:
- il busto, ridotto davvero maluccio (il naso non ce l'ha proprio)
- [the photo above] vista un pochino più arretrata, in cui si può vedere la targa (più di così non potevo allungarmi, ero sull'orlo di una buca e pure piena di rovi)
- dettaglio della scritta, per quel che serve . . .
- sentiero CAI che passa proprio alle spalle del busto, lato in direzione est (se non sbaglio)
- pregevole vista del palo segnato dal CAI, cioè del versante che dà su Pisa (la città non si vede da lì, mi piaceva giusto il mare là in fondo)
- . . .  poi mi sono ricordata come mai ci vado tanto di rado al Passo di Dante: 18% di pendenza della strada, strettissima e a doppio senso di circolazione (con un po' di abitazioni), una delle peggiori della zona (ma non la peggiore) -___-

Coup de théâtre (2)

[6: 54, Richard speaks]

- Signor, la sua follia Gernando estinse,
Non colpa mia, cheché l'huom pensi o parli;
Me 'l suo furor, me l'honor mio costrinse,
Né quel ch'egli cercò potei negargli.
S'altri poi la menzogna ornando finse,
Né dei tu fede alcuna o speme darli:
Ch'io sosterrò ch'è mentitor fallace
In questo campo ove colui si giace -.

"My Lord, Gernand was killed by his own folly,
By no fault of mine, whatever one may think or say;
His fury as well as my honor did force me,
And I could not deny him what he looked for.
If someone here builds and embellishes lies,
You(*) shouldn't believe him or give him hope,
For I will defend(**) that he is a deceptive liar,
Right here, where that guy already lies dead."

(*) singular: Godfrey
(**) in a duel

N.B. The pun based on the two meanings of "lying" only exists in English.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Guest: Fledge

From: CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: "My dear," said Aslan to the Horse, "would you like to be a winged horse?"
You should have seen how the Horse shook its mane and how its nostrils widened, and the little tap it gave the ground with one back hoof. Clearly it would very much like to be a winged horse. But it only said:
"If you wish, Aslan -- if you really mean -- I don't know why it should be me -- I'm not a very clever horse."
"Be winged. Be the father of all flying horses," roared Aslan in a voice that shook the ground. "Your name is Fledge."

Horse Power: The symbolical meaning of the horse had been shown by Lewis in The Great Divorce, and that of the winged horse in Mere Christianity. But here, quite incredibly, Aslan 'lies,' as we won't see any other flying horse in Narnia.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Coup de théâtre (1)

[6: 53]

Così dicean fra lor, quando comparve
Riccardo in quel magnanimo sembiante;
Però che senza colpa haver gli parve
Il suo medesmo honor difeso avante.
Ogni ardimento al suo apparir disparve
Da' suoi nemici; e 'l cavalier costante
Dicea senza timore e senza duolo,
Tacendo tutti al ragionar d'un solo:
. . .

They were still talking about that, when
Richard appeared, and magnanimously so,
Since he found no fault at all in having
Defended his own honor few minutes ago.
All boldness, at his appearing, disappeared
From his adversaries; and the firm Knight
Said, showing no fear and no sorrow,
While everyone else listened in silence,
. . .

Now one of the greatest novelties in Gerusalemme Conquistata takes place: instead of abandoning the camp after having been advised by Tancred (as Rinaldo did in Gerusalemme Liberata), Richard defies Godfrey face to face. For those who knew/know Tasso's former poem, this move is a narrative 'shock' -- with a noble ancestry, anyway, since it comes from the clash between Achilles and Agamemnon in the Iliad: Homer and Virgil will in fact inspire many brand new episodes in GC. In Il Mondo Creato, written more or less at the same time as he was completing GC, Tasso condemns those who harbor anger after their honor has been injured, waiting for an occasion to take their revenge, but here a part of him, at least, sides with Richard.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Under accusation (6)

[6: 50-51]

The Captain (Godfrey) replies, "Let the most powerful here give examples of obedience to the less powerful! You ill advise, Tancred, and ill evaluate, if you think that I will leave a fault unpunished. What kind of command would this be if I were to command only the lower ranks -- the Captain of the plebs! An all too weak scepter and a shameful power: if it is accepted [by you all] on such conditions, I don't want it.

But it was freely given(*) and it is a venerable role, so let nobody dismiss its honor and awe! I do know how and when one should make provision for different penalties and rewards, or else, preserving equality, make no distinction between the high and the low ranks." So he spoke, nor did Tancred reply, overcome by due respect.

(*) By the main Chiefs taking part in the Crusade, at least in the fictional reconstruction of it made by Tasso; the actual role of the historical Godfrey of Bouillon was a more complex and shaded thing. But, more in depth, Godfrey means that God himself appointed him as the Captain, as it was shown in Canto 1 (an episode not reported in this blog, because we are translating from the manuscript of Gerusalemme Conquistata, in which the whole Canto 1 is missing).

In this section, Tasso seeks a difficult balance between the Renaissance 'Nietzschean' conception of the knight as a 'superman' whose behavior was beyond all rules and all authorities -- see Ariosto's Orlando Furioso -- and the Christian requirements for humbleness and justice, applying to anybody. As we will soon see, in Gerusalemme Conquistata the "clash" between the two attitudes will be tougher than in Gerusalemme Liberata.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Guest: Aslan the Creator

From: CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: The Lion was pacing to and fro about that empty land and singing his new song. It was softer and more lilting than the song by which he had called up the stars and the sun; a gentle, rippling music. And as he walked and sang, the valley grew green with grass. It spread out from the Lion like a pool. It ran up the sides of the little hills like a wave.

Tout se tient: The creation of animals in The Magician's Nephew is based on Milton's descriptions in Paradise Lost, which in their turn are based on Tasso's Il Mondo Creato.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Concretely, an abstract

In this very moment, the announced lecture on Melville is taking place. Here's an abstract.

Many masterpieces of the 19th - early 20th centuries deal with the sea: Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Emilio Salgari (the Italian creator of the noble pirate Sandokan) . . .  but Melville, among the greatest writers, is possibly the one in whom the sea plays the most important role. See his early best-sellers Typee and Omoo, describing Tropical paradises à la Gauguin, then his masterpiece, Moby-Dick -- according to us, but his great failure, according to his contemporary readers.
No problem,” Melville says, “I will rally!” And he publishes Pierre; or, The Ambiguities, that will prove far “worse” both as to its scandalous contents (the destruction of family values, incest, . . . ) and as to its post-modern, de-structive style. Melville will keep writing novels up until 1857 with The Confidence-Man, his final crash, then forever stop with novels. The irony of fate: his last success will be Billy Budd, a sea story that, however, will only be published in 1924, much later than his death. Cf. Tasso’s posthumous glory with his long poem Il Mondo Creato [The Seven Days of Creation], that would even inspire Milton.

The Confidence-Man deserves to be rediscovered as, possibly, Melville’s co-masterpiece together with Moby-Dick. Not many years before, in 1842, Alessandro Manzoni had published the definitive version of I Promessi Sposi [The Betrothed], the Italian novel matching Ivanhoe in English literature. Manzoni’s insights into social evils, politics and psychology have lost nothing of their relevance to the present day, but the world he describes, fictionally set in the 17th century, is gone: country villages with their old customs and their parish priests, and Italy being ruled by Spaniards! Whereas the world Melville describes in The Confidence-Man is exactly ours own: a multi-ethnic society, the Stock Exchange, businessmen cheating common people, the triumph of technology. It makes a strange effect to think that the two novels were written in the same epoch.
The C-M is “based on a true story,” a skilled thief who had been arrested some years earlier. But the greatest “ambiguity” in the novel is that it is not even clear who the C-M is, or how many of them may be out there. (On the other hand, the whole story in set on April 1st.) According to the three main critical hypotheses, there may be (a) one C-M, or (b) a group of them, say three to five, or (c) a lot of them, maybe all the principal personages.
In my opinion, the “leading” C-M is just one, a total shift-changer like the Chameleon, a super-villain in the long list of the enemies of Spider-Man. But who is he? A good critical hypothesis identifies the C-M with the devil, here repeating, again and again, the temptation of Eve by getting the confidence of people and having them give him some money, even small sums, it doesn’t matter. In fact, each time Melville provides us with clues about the C-M’s identity, they often come from Milton’s Paradise Lost. On the other hand, the more the story goes on, the more the protagonist looks bewildered, naive, etc., that does not fit in well with such a satanic role.

So, my hypothesis is that the C-M is ------ Moby-Dick! The Other par excellence in Melville’s mythology. Now on board, no longer underwater. The Whale himself was said to have a human-like intelligence. He has evolved up to the point of being able to turn into a human being, like the White Worm (i.e. serpent, dragon) in Bram Stoker’s last novel. Melville seems to suggest this by giving Ahab-like features to all the men who do not trust the C-M: an artificial leg, a bad temper, a very young daughter, etc. -- the more so as the actual captain of the steamboat is never shown.
Like Moby-Dick, the C-M is simply a mask, the mask hiding the mystery of life, a mystery involving the human need for confidence: the basic sentiment that is, at the same time, the strong point and the weak point of humanity.

Saturday Guest: Aslan the Entertainer

Friday, June 13, 2014

Under accusation (5)

[6: 50-51]

Godfrey's reply to Tancred. An English translation plus comment will be provided next Tuesday.

Risponde il Duce allhor: - Da' più sublimi
L'obedïenza homai s'insegni a' bassi.
Mal consigli, Tancredi, e male estimi
Se vuoi che senza pena il fallo io lassi.
Qual fora imperio il mio, s'a vili et imi
Sol, Duce de la plebe, io comandassi?
Fragile scettro e vergognoso impero;
Se con tal patto ei piace, io già no 'l chero.

Ma libero fu dato, e venerando,
Né l'honor suo né 'l suo timor si scemi:
E so ben io come si deggia, e quando,
Hora diverse impor le pene e i premi,
Hor, la medesima egualità serbando,
Non distinguer dagli infimi i supremi -.
Così dicea; né rispondea colui,
Vinto da riverenza, a' detti sui.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Guest: yeah, CS Lewis!

This summer in Umbria (central Italy, the region including Assisi) the Catholic parish communities are planning Grest activities, i.e. Gruppi Estivi - Summer Groups for kids and youths, whose main theme is "Narnia: The Summer Chronicles." As far as it can be inferred from communication campaigns, they are simply based on the first movie, the Wardrobe one, without a more thorough knowledge of Lewis' theology. Anyway . . .   good!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Under accusation (4)

[6: 49]

Soggiunge all'hor Tancredi: - Hor ti sovegna,
Alto signor, chi sia Riccardo e quale,
Qual per se stesso honor a lui convegna
E de l'opere sue gloria immortale;
E qual per tutti noi. Non dee chi regna
A tutti i falli dar la pena eguale.
Vario è l'istesso error ne' gradi vari,
E sol la paritate è giusta a' pari -.

Tancred then adds, "Noble Lord [Godfrey], please remember who and what Richard is, both the honor that is due to him in himself, with the immortal glory of his deeds, and the honor due to him for the sake of us all. Rulers should not punish any fault in the same way. The same error is different when made by people different in degree; parity is fair only among peers."

Richard's second great defender is Tancred, the male co-protagonist of the poem, based on a historical personage. His key-role in both Jerusalem-poems had been summarized here. In these lines, Tancred expresses the chivalric/Renaissance scale of values, essentially opposite to the Christian one; this "transvaluation of values," clearly evident in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, will be retrieved by Friedrich Nietzsche (who was no Nazi at all, incidentally).

Monday, June 9, 2014

Off Topic: The Golden Age of Hard SF

Arthur C. Clarke, Incontro con Rama, transl. Beata della Frattina, coll. “Classici Urania” 262, Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1999 [orig.: Rendez-vous with Rama, 1973] 

A super-classic of hard science fiction, both conveying typical Clarkean atmospheres – cf. the “superhuman silence” in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but even better than that – and paying tribute to the masters of the genre, such as Jules Verne, HG Wells, HP Lovecraft, plus Odysseus' voyages and possibly, the Medieval “reports” from fabulous lands. This Italian version is a very good one, just falling into minor mistakes on some rare occasions, e.g. “dramatic, transcendental” being rendered as drammatica, trascendentale. The most 'shocking' characteristics are to be found in the cover image, showing a spaceship that has nothing to do with Rama, and in the back cover, that, in its turn, describes the alien vehicle as a “huge sphere”! While wonderful pictures on this novel had been made by the great English SF artist Jim Burns.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Guest: Queen Jadis

From: CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: The Queen . . .  drew herself up to her full height and stood rigid. Then she said something which they couldn't understand  (but it sounded horrid) and made an action as if she were throwing something towards the doors. And those high and heavy doors trembled for a second as if they were made of silk and then crumbled away till there was nothing left but a heap of dust on the threshold.

Who's that girl: Nominally, the Queen Jadis of The Magician's Nephew (the first episode in the Narnia saga, but the sixth Lewis wrote) is the same personage as the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (second episode, but the first written). On closer inspection, however, the two have many more differences than similarities. The White Witch is called, or rather, signs herself "Jadis" only once in the whole novel. All in all, she is a Disneyan character like Maleficent. Queen Jadis, on the other hand, is a more fascinating and disturbing entity, a witch as well as a queen coming from a lost universe, and even a super-heroine or super-villain with exceptional physical strength. The blend between witchery and science fiction reminds us of Lovecraft, though Lewis adds a further element, that is humor. Moreover, Jadis also implies sexual impulses that were / will be lacking in the White Witch. Last but not least, here's a link and a distinction, at the same time: the White Witch is only theoretically identified with Lilith, while Jadis does actually play that role.

SF trends: After inventing the "good aliens," even New-Age-like ones, back in the 1930s (cf. much later, movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Cameron's Avatar, etc.), against the then prevailing HG-Wells warlike trend, here Lewis goes back to creating an "evil alien" who wants to conquer the Earth. Cf. also the alien invaders in the cartoons and comic books by Go Nagai, whose heyday was in the 1970s.

Lost in Translation: The Italian version of The Magician's Nephew (Il nipote del mago, by C. B., "updated" by G. L.) unfortunately is of uneven quality, sometimes accurate and lively, sometimes quite bad, i.e. either with mistakes or trivializing the text so that its deepest meanings are lost.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Off Topic: Summer Suggestions

based on a drawing by Luca

A Perugia tra una settimana: "Tutti al mare con Herman Melville!", conferenza organizzata dalla cooperativa sociale BorgoRete nell'ambito delle iniziative per il rilancio del centro storico della città. Appuntamento il 14 giugno a palazzo Oddi, in via dei Priori, alle ore 18.30. Una rivisitazione dei capolavori del grande scrittore americano, a partire ovviamente da Moby-Dick ma con un occhio particolare al sottovalutato e sorprendente The Confidence-Man. Dopodiché, tutti sotto l'ombrellone, ma attenti ai predatori in maschera! O all'indefinibile Predatore, sempre lui, sotto o sopra il pelo dell'acqua, gigantesco o invisibile, bestia così intelligente ed evoluta da poter addirittura . . .

June 14 in Perugia: "Let's go to the seaside with Herman Melville!" Lecturing on his masterpieces, obviously starting from Moby-Dick but paying special attention to The Confidence-Man. After that, have a nice summer! But beware of masked predators, or maybe the one and only elusive Predator, either under or above water, either huge or invisible, such an intelligent and evolved beast that it/he can even . . .

Friday, June 6, 2014

Under accusation (3)

In GC 6: 48, in the manuscript version, a not-better-specified soldier called Anselm (Anselmo in the Italian text) defends Richard. In the final printed version of the poem, this name will be replaced by a much more telling one: Rupert (Ruperto in Italian).
Just a first hint, because readers will discover the truth only much later, in the final section of Gerusalemme Conquistata, namely, that Rupert is Richard's lover. Their tragic story, completely missing in Gerusalemme Liberata, will be shaped according to the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus in the Iliad, which will provide Tasso with a lot of material for the new episodes in his own poem, together with the Aeneid. In fact, as it had already been mentioned, many new sections in GC consist in reworked and powerful translations from classical Epic.
At this stage of the story, nobody seems to suspect the nature of the bond between Richard and Rupert; it will become clear after the latter's death, in the light of Richard's reaction to it. What matters more here is that all this belies the silly commonplace that ignorant critics have been parroting for four centuries, i.e., that Gerusalemme Conquistata should be the triumph of bigotry.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Under accusation (2)

Summarizing GC 6: 46-48

Arnold [Arnalto], one of Gernand's best friends, reports the events in a biased form: Richard -- he says -- killed Gernand for a futile reason and, despising Godfrey's camp rules, he even used his sword against another Christian knight. He should therefore be sentenced to death; otherwise, if Godfrey pardoned Richard, any other Crusader may feel free to follow his bad example. Finally, Gernand's friends would take private vengeance, (*) and clashes would ensue everywhere. Arnold is succeeding in awakening the feelings of the bystanders towards Gernand when another knight, Anselm, starts to defend Richard. Godfrey of Bouillon listens to both with a stern countenance . . .

(*) A typical Nordic-epic attitude, see Beowulf. Tasso, as we will see, will make a difficult attempt to balance "heathen" heroism and Christian morals.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Foray into Soon

cover by Kai Robb

The fourth American anthology of the Emanations series should be out in two or three weeks. Meanwhile, just something about the Magic Trio (Nivalis70, Selkis Art, ilT), who made a lot of illustrations for the texts included in the anthology, not only for the contribution they were directly involved in, that is an experimental translation of Canto 18 of Dante's Inferno "after the manner of" the Italian writer, poet, movie director, columnist and social martyr Pier Paolo Pasolini (born 1922 - killed 1975).

by Selkis
by Nivalis

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Trip: Charn

From: CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia)

The quote: The stone of which everything was built seemed to be red, but that might only be because of the curious light. It was obviously very old. Many of the flat stones that paved the courtyard had cracks across them. None of them fitted closely together and the sharp corners were all worn off. One of the arched doorways was half filled with rubble. The two children kept on turning round and round to look at the different sides of the courtyard. One reason was that they were afraid of somebody -- or something -- looking out of those windows at them when their backs were turned.

Where have we already seen a place like that? Here and here and here.