Chapter 17 - The Provident Young Man

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Page 379

Oh, such grief I feel, such misery, / To think, My Lord, that I offended thee
This seems to be a hymn version of the prayer known in English as the "Act of Contrition" said during the sacrament of confession, after confessing sins, in order to receive the priest's absolution. It begins in English with the words "Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee"; Italian version is online as an "Atto di dolore." A hymn version would presumably be sung by young people at a festival specifically related to confession.

Page 380

beginning of a beautiful friendship... letters of transit
allusions to the final scenes of Casablanca.

Page 382

Life is beautiful
also the title of a 1997 film by Roberto Benigni (La Vita è bella), which also portrays Italy during WWII. A connection, or simply a common phrase used to describe the postwar period? IMDB (Even as a common expression, nobody who ever even only heard of Benigni's film can come across this phrase without Benigni's ambiguity coming to one's mind. Like happend to the curses before, B. has immortalized this locution. It is not important if E. had B. in mind, the reader also decides. I don't know if it is only in Dire quasi la stessa cosa or also in Mouse or Rat, that E. expressed his gratitude for other people finding references he hadn't thought of himself. This entry and other ones for this page have all in common that they point to the ambiguity B. has enriched the frase with, and E. expresses in a way someone might, unexpectedly, think of as almost reactionary: Liberation, and now look, fornication and murder all over the place, instead of decent joyfulness. But to one's relieve, at the end of that section E. has Yambo wondering if his mixed evaluation of things happening might be blamed on his hormones. - And, no doubt, on Don Bosco.)

Claretta Petacci
Benito Mussolini's mistress who was shot along with Mussolini in April 1945. Wikipedia

Villarbasse massacre
From the Hands Off Cain website: "The last execution (in Italy) took place on March 4, 1947 in Turin, where three men from Villarbasse, Giovanni D' Ignoti, Giovanni Puleo and Francesco La Barbero, were shot at a rifle range just outside the city. The three men had been condemned to death by the Turin Court of Assizes on July 5, 1946 (the last death sentence handed down in Italy) for clubbing to death ten people and throwing their bodies down a well while committing a robbery at the farm where they lived, which netted the accused 45,000 Lire each." Since this was the last execution in Italy, Yambo exaggerates when he says "Executions continue in peacetime." (The meaning of this seems to be: we still have killings, but now it means peace - nel segno della pace - E. has Yambo express E's absolute abhorment also from capital punishment! Is this Y. or E. speaking?)

Leonora Cianciulli
"The soap-maker of Corregio," this woman killed three other women as sacrifices to ensure the safety of her son during the war (1939-40). When she was accused in 1946, she confessed and was sentenced to thirty years in prison, where she died in 1970. Details in English at the Museo Criminologico. (How come these are not seen as pre-war crimes?)

Rina Fort-
On November 30, 1946, a woman and her three children were found beaten to death in their apartment in Milan. In January, 1950, Caterina Fort, the lover of the woman's husband, was condemned to life imprisonment for the murders. However, while she admitted killing the woman, she insisted both in court and on her deathbed that an accomplice had killed the children.

Prostitutes. This looks like a dialect form of "signorine," "young ladies," but a google search implies that the form was used of postwar prostitutes, e.g. an article on Italian neorealist film online refers to "actual Americans involved in the black market and 'segnorine.'" It seems to be strongly associated with that period. (You have the origin of the form all in the quotation: American, well, allied, soldiers looking for 'girls'. But their pronunciation of signorine combined, in italian ears, to their, the soldiers' meaning. And from then on, even Italians used segnorine, wink wink, you know what I mean... It seems that Norman Lewis' Naples '44 is an impressive memoir of an english officer about all this - and other things, of course. You know, segnorine never rung a bell when I read it the first time. Now I feel enriched in my understanding, triggered by the original entry.)

Page 385

this is not the cover described by Eco:


larger but that of an english translation of Benoit's l'Atlantide (1920 italian translation: L'Atlantide).

Antinea .... dressed in an Egyptian klaft ... that flows down around her thick, wavy hair, so black that it is blue.... sash embroidered with irises made of black pearls
A klaft is the kind of headdress worn by pharonic images, a horizontally striped hood on which a sparrow hawk was woven, according to [1] Evidently Antinea in the novel, which is available in translation via Gutenberg, was a daughter of Neptune who, when she tired of one of her many lovers, turned him into a golden statue. Like Queen Loana herself, Antinea seems to be a version of H. Rider Haggard's heroine Ayesha aka She, located in a geographically distant place, centuries or even millenia old, and 99% effective as a seducer of men. Yambo's paraphrases and quotations from Atlantida provide a source for one of Jacopo Belbo's wordprocessed fantasies in Foucault's Pendulum:

The Egyptian klaft descends over your thick hair, so black it seems blue.... and oh, your tunic of black gauze with silver glints, your girdle embroidered with sinister rainbows, with black pearls!

(Trans. Weaver, ch. 97; presumably the Italian word for the beaded jacket evokes both Iris, goddess of the rainbow, and the iris flower.) A page later the woman in question is addressed as "you Antinea, you Mary Magdalene."

Page 387

the a poil Kalmyk women
reference to the naked women in the ethnographic book perused by the boys, p. 317. (Cf. poilu, p. ?, a beardy french partizan? So you can bet 'à poil' means 'showing pussy'. But still, why should this bring the definition of pitana to Y.'s mind if 'calmucche' does not also have a connotation of 'women minding their own buisness by themselves'? A google search on 'calmucca' led also to some rather dark sites, not needing to enter because they make this point by their very existence. Anyway, again: who's talking, E., knowing in hindsight, or Y.?)

Page 389

Lovely thou art as the sun, white as the light of the moon
these lines are incorporated into Belbo's fantasy about Lorenza Pellegrini and the Comte St. Germain in Foucault's Pendulum, ch. 97, to which this chapter of Queen Loana provides other "footnotes." Evidently Belbo sang in a choir similar to Yambo's. The hymn to the Virgin becomes a praise of the beloved woman, for both men, although Belbo has the speaker promptly die of pure lust, while Yambo's final chapter is a vision promising a transcendent beloved.

Page 392

One night, in a convent school, a girl died.....
This story is also told by Belbo in Foucault's Pendulum, ch. 8; in his wordprocessed memoir, "A bevy of fair women," he counts the "virginal Ophelia," who sits up at her funeral to explain that she is damned, as his third "lost love" (after the Virgin Mary and little Mary Lena). Belbo says "Find my first communion book. Does it have this illustration, or did I make the whole thing up?" Since, however, Yambo provides independent confirmation of the story's circulation, it must have been part of childhood education in Italy in the 1930s.

Page 393

consensus gentium
"the agreement of all the nations"

Page 395

"a woman naked is a woman armed"
Also cited by Belbo in his fantasy, just before the Atlantida quotation noted above in ch. 97 of Foucault's Pendulum.

Page 398

de la musique avant toute chose
music first, above everything else. Quotation from Paul Verlaine.

nomen omen
the name is an omen, i.e. Solara was a sunny place for a childhood, since its name means "sunny."

Page 400

A Rebours by Huysmans
This and the following pages are a good example of the problems some readers and critics have with Queen Loana. Here, Eco devotes the final pages of his novel's penultimate chapter to... summarizing another book. This particular book itself is, however, a book which summarizes other books--we get a lot of detail about Des Esseintes' reading. A rebours means, in French, "against the grain" or "backwards" in the sense of "doing something backwards," in the wrong order or direction. In chapter 2 of Foucault's Pendulum, Casaubon speaks of his "initiatory journey--à rebours, alas.... soon I would see the world anew, not as it should be, but as it is." Huysmans is also mentioned in chapter 46; the Garamond Press friends overhear Agliè telling a Frenchman who has just described a Black Mass, "You've been reading too much Huysmans, my friend!" The scene which Yambo summarizes here is perhaps related to his own quest for himself; a somewhat artificial, edited, mediated version of the past will satisfy him, while the "reality" of England/ the past remains distant, an island across the channel to which he has not the energy to travel.

(Clearly, Y. is subliminating - this may not be english, I mean transforming to a different level in the freudian sense - his bewilderments of puberty, and it is told with the hindsight of comatose Bodoni: the realization of your dreams/ideals may lead to disappointment, if not punishment. What came to my mind, reading these pages, was Fellini's defence when critizied for upsetting le tout Rome with his practical jokes: these are not lies, I'm enlarging your experiences, your realitiy! The best definition of fiction, of art, I ever heard... In the first part Bodoni asks what the use is to have made love if not remembering. It is all processed in the brain, whether reality or fiction. So where is the difference? Why go to England?)

Page 405

The Unfound Isle...unattainable...
Parallels with Eco's Island of the Day Before? That novel also featured a man in sight of, but unable to reach, a mysterious uninhabited island. The open end of Island of the Day Before is similar to the statement here: "The Unfound Isle, since it is unattainable, remains forever mine."

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