Chapter 18 - Lovely Thou Art as the Sun

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Page 410

Bonum est diffusivum sui
a phrase from Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica, which has many possible translations but means basically "Goodness shares itself, by definition." However, Yambo may be slyly translating more like "Spreading yourself around is good." (It looks like an internal reference, this misconstruction of Yambo's. By treating bonum as an adjective, he feels encouraged to tell Lila what's in his heart. Before, the meanig of pitanna was endearingly misread.)

Page 413

"houses of tolerance"
whorehouses were legal in Italy from 1860-1958, though under the Fascists they became somewhat more extremely regulated and "productive." Caffe Research Report.

Wanda Osiris -
a musical theater star who had a long career, from the 30s to the 50s. Apparently she specialized in walking down staircase stage sets while singing, and one of her songs was Up there at the Capocabana, mentioned previously at the end of ch. 8 and 11, and on 339. The name was a stage name, and of course evokes the Egyptian god of the Dead.

Page 421

I saw like the apostle, I saw the center of my Aleph -
Revelations (Apocalypse) "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." The apostle would be John, with the traditional Church assignment of the Book of Revelations to John the Apostle. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet (alpha + omega == beginning and end ) but Yambo uses the Hebrew word Aleph for the same letter; perhaps he was friends with the enthusiasts of the Cabbala from Foucault's Pendulum? Anyway, the vision that follows often parodies Revelations, mixed in with Dante's own use of Revelations imagery at the end of Purgatorio and purporting to culminate in a vision of the Rose like Dante's in Paradiso XXXI. It is more likely that the "Aleph" here is a quote from Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges short story, "El Aleph", a point in the universe where you could see all other points. ("Cerré los ojos, los abrí. Entonces vi el Aleph.", "I closed my eyes, I opened them. Then I saw the Aleph"). The blind monk in Eco's "The Name of the Rose", Jorge de Burgos, is a pun on Jorge Luis Borges, which also became blind, and wrote a short story about the Library of Alexandria. (And the incipit of the Pendolo is a reference to Borges?)

not the infinite world, but the jumbled notebook of my memories
This recalls Dante's vision of God at the end of the Divine Comedy, Paradiso XXXIII 85-87:

Nel suo profondo vidi che s'interna, legato con amore in un volume, ciò che per l'universo si squaderna:

"I saw, in its infolding depth, bound with love into one volume, all that which is scattered through the universe."

In Foucault's Pendulum, chapter 3, Belbo evokes this image in connection with the training of memory: "O Raimundo, O Camillo, (probably Ramon Lull, 13th-century philosopher, and Giulio Camillo Delminio, 16th- century writer; both were involved in constructing complex memory systems as the basis of encyclopedic knowledge) you had only to cst your minds back to your visions and ... all that was disjointed in the universe was joined in a single volume in your mind, and Proust would have made you smile."

In Chapter 1, Yambo felt that his grandchildren's presence had the opposite effect, unleashing a disjointed encyclopedia of names which had no connection. The connection here is finally provided not by an art of memory but by "MY memories."

I am also dreaming that I have now awoken and can remember what I saw.
since the very end of the vision and the book is broken off in an abrupt access of fog, the declaration here that Yambo is remembering what he dreamed, i.e., his vision, goes against the possible interpretation that his second incident led to his death. (The Pym enigma?)

Page 423

What you see, feel free to write it in a book
Revelations 1:11; see also Dante, Purgatorio XXXII, 103-5.

Page 425

And in the midst of the throne and around the throne were four Creatures
Revelations 4:6-7; see also Purgatorio XXIX 91-105. Eco discusses the Biblical passage in his book on translation, Mouse or Rat? (2003). He mentions the difficulties found by illustrators of a Mozarabic commentary on Revelations in depicting the creatures being both "in the midst of" and "around the throne", as it would be impossible for them to be in both places simultaneously. Eco emphasises that the Book of Revelations is a dream, and that the images it is supposed to evoke are not static but rather are film-like -- so the creatures were in fact rotating in a wheel-like motion, sometimes in the midst of the throne, sometimes around it. Disappointingly, the illustration of Yambo's vision makes no attempt to reflect this, and simply plumps for four creatures around the figure of Ming the Merciless.

she resembled a great harlot
Revelations 17 3-6; see also Dante, Purgatorio XXXII, 148-51.

Page 426

the Beast from the Sea
Revelations 13:1

the great tournament of Mongo
a somwhat odd way to carry on the imagery of Dante and Revelations, the tournament of Mongo was life-or-death gladiatorial arena combat, wherin Flash Gordon faced various kinds of beast-men. The prize for victory was both a kingdom and a bride.

Page 429

swarms of grasshoppers ... tongues of fire ... the stars of the heavens seemed to fall upon the earth
the language of Revelations, with a touch of the plagues of Egypt and the story of Pentecost from Acts of the Apostles.

majestic agon
in Greek and Roman culture, an agon is a game or contest, such as a horserace.

Kim's Great Game
a reference to Rudyard Kipling's book Kim, in which the Great Game is the espionage (and eventually war) of the British in Afghanistan. In his "Return of Count Saint Germain" in Foucault's Pendulum, Belbo uses the phrase "Great Game," too.

Page 433

a City of Glass
Revelations 21, the City of Jerusalem (21.18: "The city was pure gold, like pure glass.")

Page 435

Gdp-spettac1-10.jpg American in Paris.jpg Above: Wanda Osiris and Georges Guétary on staircases

parade of archons ... descent of all seven heavens
In Foucault's Pendulum, the Archons are the Gnostic "rulers" of the earth who are behind the universal Plot. Here, the archons seem to be rather the spirits guiding the seven heavens, each of which is related to a planet of the geocentric solar system: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Sun, Jupiter, Saturn.

Diana Palmer suitors
i.e. rivals of the Phantom for the hand of his beloved.

at the foot of the stairs Mandrake the Magician now appears
It's interesting that in the horrors of the scene of Belbo's death in chapter 113 of Foucault's Pendulum, there is a "Mandrake in tails," a circus magician who keeps the pendulum swinging in the desired rhythm even after Belbo has been hanged on it..

I'll build a stairway to Paradise
This is the way the Gershwin song is presented as Georges Guétary sings it in the 1951 movie An American in Paris. [1] This also recalls the reference to Wanda Osiris, p. 413 above, who was also a staircase dancer.

Page 441

à poil
nude. (Not wearing any panties! or so it was suggested.)

Page 442

La Filotea arrives
This is Yambo's mother's prayerbook, "The love of God" by Father Riva, which in his child's mind had held out the promise of a plot where Filotea, whoever she was, would "arrive" (p. 97).

emerging out of it as if from a happy apiary
in Paradiso XXXI, Dante constructs an image in which the souls of the blessed form a gigantic shining rose, around which the angels fly like bees gathering honey. On p. 444, Lila's female classmates will form a white rose, announcing her coming as Yambo's bride (so called by Don Bosco). Here, the bees emerging from the apiary of the school entrance are Yambo's own family. This seems to recall the elided pair of quotations in Chapter 1, "happy families are all alike said the bridegroom to the bride."

neck wrapped in a brace ... like Eric von Stroheim's
A reference to one of the actor's greatest roles, as the aristocratic German WWI aviator in Jean Renoir's film La Grande Illusion (IMDB). The character has been shot down and can no longer fly or fight; he is in charge of a prison for captured enemy officers. He is something of a dandy but he must wear a spectacular neck brace, which supports his chin as well as the back of his head. Good picture at the Wikipedia article on Illusion.

Ivory Patrol
The group to which Tim Tyler and Spud belong in the comic book series which includes The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. The Oratorio kids in Ivory Patrol uniforms are a prelude the appearance of Loana herself and Don Bosco, founder of the Oratorio. The song they sing is one which Yambo associated with "the feminine charms of Ethiopia" on p. 192, perhaps very dimly evoking by association the Bride of the Song of Songs (Canticles) who is "black but beautiful" and represents, in conventional Catholic exegesis, the Church as the Bride of Christ.

Page 444

Don Bosco
19th-century Italian saint, founder of the Salesian system of boys' Oratories, and author of The Provident Young Man.

Duae umbrae...
Latin translation of Lili Marlene: "Two shadows become one for us, under the lamp we stand, once upon a time Lili Marleen, once upon a time Lili Marleen." Official Lili Marleen Page

Omnia munda mundis
Latin, "Everything is pure to those who are pure." This is a passage of the Holy Bible (Titus 1:15).

a white rose
Dante, Paradiso XXXI, 1-3:

In forma dunque di candida rosa mi si mostrava la milizia santa che nel suo sangue Cristo fece sposa.

"In the form of a white rose did that holy army show itself to me, which Christ had made his Bride with his blood."

In Dante's Paradiso, his beloved Beatrice is just one among many holy ones who form this Celestial Rose, and direct the visionary hero's gaze towards God, the Trinity. In fact, Yambo imagines Lila as three different women--one might say "the three roses" of chapter 14, or one might say a Lila-Trinity.

Page 447

Leyda.jpg Leyden.jpg Cranach.JPG Two engravings of Eve after Lucas van Leyden, and a painted Eve by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Luca di Leyda Eve
Luca di Leyda would be Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533), who did indeed create works depicting Eve; however, his Eves tend to be comfortably proportioned. Is it possible that Yambo is thinking of a different 16th-century Lucas, Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), who painted Eves and Venuses with strangely long legs who fit in some ways Yambo's fantasy of the nearly-naked Lila? (About half a page lower follows the description of a dancing lady that seems to fit rather well the picture of p. 396 in the italian edition(( which might correspond to about p. 400 of the english edition)), at least better than the accounts about Papini do.)

Page 448

Littlemermaid.jpg Littlemer.jpg Alone and still as she gazes out to sea, a creature transformed by magic into a strange and beautiful seabird, her long slender bare legs....
this seems to be an image drawn from Hans Andersen's story of the Little Mermaid (already evoked in chapter 1), who, when her beloved prince prefers another woman, refuses to earn a return to her mermaid-life by killing him; at that point, she is unexpectedly transformed into a "daughter of the air," a "transparent beautiful creature" who after 300 years of good deeds will earn an immortal soul. The image evoked however is that of the famous 1913 statue of the little mermaid in Copenhagen harbor by Edvard Eriksen.

the faraway princess
The 12th-century Provençal troubadour Jaufre Rudel of Blaye wrote poems to a "faraway princess", bringing into literature the idea of amor de lonh (love at a distance) which reached its greatest expression in life and literature in the love of Dante for Beatrice, to which Yambo's friend Gianni compared Yambo's love for Lila. Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac, wrote a play called "The Faraway Princess" (La Princesse Lointaine), about Jaufre Rudel.

lovely as the sun, white as the moon
The words of the hymn to the Virgin Mary cited on p. 389. For Dante, Beatrice is an associate of and representative of the Virgin Mary; for Belbo in Foucault's Pendulum, the Virgin Mary is his first love, prefiguring Cecelia (ch. 8).

the navel of the world
the Umbilicus Mundi or center of universal power sought by the esoterics according to the theories of the conspirators of Foucault's Pendulum. Here, of course, as in Dante, it is just a little girl.

final scene of my Cyrano
in which the hero is at last able to confess his love because he is dying. Is Yambo's failure to see what he wants a sign that he is dying, or that in fact he is returning to the fog of daily life? (Y. cannot confess, if he's to be any kind of a Cyrano. But he might make her infer, in his last scene, and then die at the foot of the stairs. But this reader still does not understand how Y. will make her infer.)

Page 449

the Opportunity
that which Belbo in Foucault's Pendulum always felt he had missed, too (e.g. ch. 16).

A late Latin word for smoke, similar to the classical fumifucus. The implication seems to be that the excitement of discovering the Shakespeare folio in chapter 14 precipitated a second medical "incident," and that part 3 represents a near-death experience, now coming perilously close to the end. The sun, a symbol of the conscious mind, has been beautiful but is now turning black. (Revelations again? - this time 6:12 then.

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