Chapter 1 - The Cruelest Month

From Literary

Jump to: navigation, search


Overall Notes

This first few pages mix up quotations and references to works that mention fog; later, we find that these quotations probably come from the main character's anthology of works on fog, and some of them are repeated, now with their authors' names and references (pages 31-32 and 59-62). As befits a first chapter, many of the references are also the the first lines of famous novels and poems, as in the title of the chapter itself, a reference to the "cruelest month" of April that begins T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

Page 3

Bruges the Dead
one of the most famous French-language 19th century novels about Belgium is Bruges-la-Morte (Bruges the Dead, french text) by Georges Rodenbach. A short novel, portraying the Flemish city in Belgium as a place out of time, quiet, mysterious.
Rodenbach.jpg Bruges.jpg

Tomb of Georges Rodenbach, Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris; a Bruges canal

Where fog hovers between the towers like incense dreaming
the beginning of a poem by Georges Rodenbach, author of Bruges-la-Morte:

Le brouillard indolent de l'automne est épars... Il flotte entre les tours comme l'encens qui rêve.

[The lazy autumn fog is scattered; it floats among the towers like dreaming incense.]

Georges Rodenbach wrote 'Bruges-la-Morte' in French in 1892. In this highly symbolic novel, a widower has established himself on one of the oldest parts of Bruges along the water, the Rozenhoedkaai. He lives a sad and retired life, cultivating his pain and memories. The house is probably the ‘Spanish House’, where mayor Perez de Maluenda hid the Holy Blood in a lead casket in 1580 during the protestant iconoclasty. The town of Bruges takes the form of his grief, becomes a character of the novel, even becomes a symbol for his dead wife. In analogy to the eight-sided crystal brought back by Dirk of Elzas around 1130, supposedly containing the blood of christ collected in a cup by Joseph of Arimathea, the hero keeps locks of his deceased wife’s hair in a crystal relicary. One evening, leaving the cathedral, he sees a young woman who seems a dead ringer for his wife. He follows her up to the theatre; it seems she’s an actress playing in ‘Robert the Devil’. He becomes her lover but feels the city doesn’t approve. It all ends tragically during the yearly religious procession of the Holy Blood in which the whole town participates. Symbolically, he is punished for having transformed his spiritual feelings into sensual ones.

The poem is online at a [site]. and in English at an [site]. Yambo quotes it in French on p. 31.

A gray city, sad as a tombstone with chrysanthemums
from another poem by Georges Rodenbach, this one with the first line "C'est là qu'il faut aller quand on se sent dépris..." (also on a site):

Ville morte où chacun est seul, où tout est gris, Triste comme une tombe avec des chrysanthèmes.

Dead city, where each man is alone, where everything is grey, sad as a tombstone with chrysanthemums.

where mist hangs over the façades like tapestries -

My soul was wiping the streetcar windows so it could drown in the moving fog of the headlamps. -

Fog, my uncontaminated sister... -

A thick, opaque fog, which enveloped the noises and called up phantoms -

Finally I came to a vast chasm and could see a colossal figure, wrapped in a shroud, its face the immaculate whiteness of snow.
this evokes the final lines of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allen Poe, online many places, including the A. Poe Society of Baltimore:

"a chasm threw itself open to receive us. But there arose in our pathway a shrouded human figure, very far larger in its proportions than any dweller among men. And the hue of the skin of the figure was of the perfect whiteness of the snow."

Edgar-poe.jpg Ag pym.jpg Yandargent.jpg

E. A. Poe and two illustrations of Pym's encounter with a gigantic figure at the South Pole. The one to the right, by Yan Dargent, shows the figure with a scythe, i.e. as Death itself.

This astonishing image is followed by a note explaining that Mr. Pym was revising the last few chapters and they were lost with him at his death (apparently in some accident too well-known to need description). So there is no further explanation of the gigantic figure or how Pym got home to describe his adventures.

"My name is Arthur Gordon Pym"
the very first line of Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym. The novel, told in the first person but ending abruptly, describes adventures leading up to the approach to a "chasm" throwing up or pouring down "gray vapour" at the South Pole. The effect of Yambo's following the inexplicable vision of the novel's last line with the banality of the very first is startling, and suggestive already of the themes of Queen Loana: seeking to reconstruct identity, to confront the colossal foggy vision of the self. On pp. 115-116, Yambo discusses why this story might have become so important to him as an adult that it intruded on his first conscious thoughts as he recovered from his "incident."

Page 4

I was chewing fog. Phantoms were passing, brushing me, melting. Distant bulbs glimmered like will-o'-the-wisps in a graveyard. Someone is walking by my side, noiselessly, as if in bare feet, walking without heels, without shoes, without sandals. A patch of fog grazes my cheek, a band of drunks is shouting down there, down by the ferry. -
These paragraphs are a revision of lines from Gabriele D'Annunzio's Notturno: Commentario delle tenebre or Nocturne: Commentary on the shadows, mentioned and quoted on page 60. D'Annunzio wrote these prose poems while recovering from an eye injury. The book is online in Italian here.

Dannunzio.jpg D'Annunzio Casettarossa.jpg Casetta Rossa
The setting is Venice, like Bruges a city of canals; DÁnnunzio was living at Casetta Rossa there when he wrote Notturno.. Here are 8 lines taken from a 45-line section of the Notturno:

"Usciamo. Mastichiamo la nebbia. La città è piena di fantasmi. Gli uomini camminano senza rumore, fasciati di caligene. I canali fumigano. ... Le lampadine lucono come i fuochi fatui in camposanto.... I fantasmi passano, sfiorano, si dileguano.... [qualcuno] Cammina senza tacchi, senza scarpe, senza sandali... Una falda di nebbia mi strischia su la gota. Una frotta di ubriachi urla lagiù, in fondo al traghetto."

[Let's go out. Let's chew the fog. The city is full of phantoms. Men walk noiselessly, wrapped in dimness. The canals smoke.... The lamp bulbs shine like will-o'-the-wisps in a graveyard... The phantoms are passing, brushing by, melting.... (Someone) is walking without heels, without shoes, without sandals.... A flap of fog grazes my cheek. A band of drunks is shouting down there, down by the ferry.]

"The Fog comes on little cat feet" - is the first line of poem, "Fog," by Carl Sandburg:

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Simenon.jpg Conan doyle.jpg Christie3.jpg
Mystery writers: Georges Simenon, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie

Maigret is the main character in 103 novels and short stories written by Georges Simenon (another Francophone Belgian writer, like Rodenbach) from 1930-1972. Jules Maigret is the head of the homicide squad (Brigade spéciale) of the "Police Judiciaire" in Paris, France. A number of the Maigret novels include references to thick fog.

Elementary, my dear Watson
Sherlock Holmes's famous dismissal of his brilliant conclusions. (but Holmes never actually says this in any A.C. Doyle story)

ten little indians
an old counting rhyme, a politically correct (ha!) version of "ten little niggers" in which the little persons of color are killed off or eliminated one by one "and then there were none." American title of an Agatha Christie mystery novel, originally Ten Little Niggers and also called And Then There Were None.

hound of the Baskervilles
Sherlock Holmes's most famous case, which involves a glowing dog roaming the moors at night. Of special significance to Eco since the Holmesian hero of his first novel, The Name of the Rose, was named William of Baskerville.

The gray vapor was gradually losing its grayness...
Poe's Arthur Gordon Pym, ch. 25: "The gray vapour had now arisen many more degrees above the horizon, and was gradually losing its grayness of tint. The heat of the water was extreme, even unpleasant to the touch, and its milky hue was more evident than ever."

And now we rushed into the embraces of the cataract, where a chasm threw itself open to receive us.
third-to-last sentence of the last chapter, ch. 25, of Arthur Gordon Pym (see note to p. 3)

Duchamp29.JPG Masquedefer.jpg
celibate machines
The term, which could also be in English "bachelor machines" (fr. bachelor==celibataire) comes from the surrealists of the early 20th century, especially Marcel Duchamp, one of whose themes is "The Bride and her Bachelors." In 1954 Michel Carrouges wrote a book called Les machines celibataires, depicting the killing power of machinery and comparing Duchamp's Large Glass (aka "The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even", see illustration above) with the machine in Kafka's story "In the Penal Colony," to which Yambo refers in the next sentence. See Christian Hubert's note machines. The term has been taken up by modern French philosophers to indicate a sterile male love, with a feminine object but basically egocentric. Jean Baudrillard uses the term to refer to the final exhausted form of selfhood (NB probably the wrong word) "when everything is already calculated, subtracted, realized in advance." See his essay the Shadow of the Millennium.

in the penal colony
title of a short story by Franz Kafka. It involves a machine designed to inscribe, by means of needles, a "sentence" (the commandment broken by the condemned man) ever more deeply on the body, until the subject dies, supposedly happy in his understanding of the justice of his death.

the iron mask
The Man in the Iron Mask (illustration above) was an historical person, but here Yambo probably refers to the famous Dumas novel The Man in the Iron Mask, in which Louis XIV of France is "really" identical twin brothers, one of whom has been imprisoned with an iron mask over his head to hide his identity without killing him. A couple of other "masterpieces of popular romanticism" by Dumas are mentioned on page 114.

Page 5

Hesse.jpg Pascoli.jpg FGLorca.jpg
Herman Hesse, Giovanni Pascoli, and Federico Garcia Lorca

"Seltsam, im Nebel zu wandern!"
From the poem, Im Nebel ("In the Fog") by Hermann Hesse. Means, "strange to move in the fog!" text (German) text (English)

long laments of the steam engine
from the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli's poem "Il bacio del morto" (The Kiss of the Dead Man). On page 61, Yambo and Sibilla read excerpts from this poem and two others by Pascoli in which fog is mentioned.

priests shapeless in the fog walking single file toward San Michele in Bosco
a church near Bologna. The name evokes St. John Bosco, AKA Don Bosco, who will be an important figure in Yambo's recovery of memories. The verse is from the poem "Diario Autunnale (ii)" of Giovanni Pascoli's Canti di Castelvecchio.

.... preti, nella nebbia informi,
che vanno in riga a San Michele in Bosco.
Vanno. Tra loro parlano di morte.
Cadono sopra loro foglie morte.

Priests shapeless in the fog walk single file toward San Michele in Bosco. They walk. They speak among themselves of death. Dead leaves fall on them.

The sky is made of ash
perhaps the first line of the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca's 1920 poem "Campo", " El cielo es de ceniza."

Victorian friends: CharlesDickens.jpg Dickens HansChristianAndersen.jpg Andersen

Fog up the river, fog down the river
evokes the second paragraph of Dickens' Bleak House, quoted more fully on page 60-61:

"Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city."

fog biting the hands of the little match girl
Hans Andersen's story Little Match Girl" ends with the child dying in the snow at Christmas time. In the story, it is dark, cold, and snowing, but not foggy. File:Matchgirl.jpg A Danish stamp celebrating Andersen's Little Match Girl.

bridges to the Isle of Dogs
the island is in East London. T.S. Eliot refers to it in The Waste Land:

The barges wash
Drifting logs
Down Greenwich reach
Past the Isle of Dogs.
Weialala leia....

as if they were up in a balloon and hanging under the brown fog
(see comment by nebbia)--Bleak House again.

I had not thought death had undone so many
a line from Dante, Inferno 3, as translated by T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land. Dante is of course talking about all the people in a particular area of Hell; Eliot is talking about people in a particular part of London. On page 31 Yambo quotes at more length this passage from The Waste Land.

Eliot.jpg T. S. Eliot Dante.jpg Dante Alighieri

Posco reposco flagito
These are three Latin verbs meaning something like "I ask, I ask again, I beg". Interesting that Yambo asks a question about their grammar (a question relevant to his own story): do they have a future infinitive? That is a schoolboy's anxiety....

cujus regio, ejus religio
(The ruler decides the religion of his realm) - the policy that was the essence of the Peace of Augsburg, The Peace of Augsburg was a treaty signed between Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and the forces of the Schmalkaldic League on September 25, 1555 at the city of Augsburg in Germany. The effect of the treaty was to establish official toleration for Lutherans in the Holy Roman Empire. According to the policy of cuius regio, eius religio, the religion (Catholic or Lutheran) of a region's ruler determined the religion of its people.

Page 6


Autosole Highway, between Roncobilaccio and Barberino del ?-
this weather report refers to two small towns, about 19 km. apart, on the main highway between Bologna and Florence. On an geographical website, it is remarked, "Chi non ha mai sentito parlare della nebbia fra Roncobilaccio e Barberino del Mugello?" ["Everybody's heard at some time or another about the fog between Roncobilaccio and Barberino del Mugello"].

spring on all sides shines in the air, and in the fields rejoices
lines 5-6 of Giacomo Leopardi's poem "Il passero solitario."

Dr. Gratarolo
Perhaps a reference to Guglielmo Gratarolo, the sixteenth-century physician who edited an important collection of alchemical texts: Verae Alchemiae Artisque Metallicae (Basel, 1561).

Pym was someone else. He did not come back again
Actually, like Yambo, Pym did come back long enough to tell his story, at least up to his wonderful vision at the South Pole; but he died before he could publish the ending.

Page 7

"Call me...Ishmael?"
the opening sentence of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. (Ishmael was also the son of Abraham, who is mentioned on page 19, the prototypical wanderer). The actual first sentence is "Call me ishmael." -- without the ellipsis, and without the question mark. Eco discusses the importance of this decisive opening sentence (as compared to the more "hesitating" version presented here) in his book "Six Walks in the Fictional Woods".

Saying Euclid or Ishmael was easy, like saying Jack and Jill went up a hill
Euclid suggests Greek learning, science and math; Ishmael, the Bible, hence Christian literature, and also American literature; "Jack and Jill went up the hill" must be Yambo's favorite nursery rhyme, since it recurs in the fugue of quotations on p. 20. The Italian Yambo says that Euclid and Ishmael are as easy to say as "ambarabà cicci coccò tre civette sul comò." This tonguetwisty rhyme is online in 2 versions at [1], where it seems slightly naughty, "three civette (owls/flirts) made love to the doctor's daughter." This makes Jack and Jill a good equivalent, since it also has versions or readings in which Jill's tumbling has a sexual connotation.

"April is the cruelest month
the first line of T.S. Eliot's famous poem, Waste Land, which also explores memory and makes one reference to fog.

Page 8

the Sacks book
The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat : And Other Clinical Tales, by Oliver Sacks. Sacks's accounts of rare or unique neurological problems surely help Yambo--and Eco--to formulate the nature of this particular brand of amnesia.


Giambattista Bodoni
(1740-1813) Bodoni, the quintessential Italian font, is widely used to this day. Bodoni himself was born in Piedmont, where Eco hails from, and Eco's grandfather was a typographer. In Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, the publisher and publishing firm for whom two of the protagonists work in named Garamond Press, Garamond being another famous French typeface. Note also that the name of William of Baskerville (in The Name of the Rose), although ostensibly referring to Sherlock Holmes, could perhaps also be a reference to the 18th-century English typographer John Baskerville, who created an eponymous typeface.

Napoleon ... he was as if unmoving.
Ei fu. Siccome immobile,... the first line of Alessandro Manzoni's poem Il Cinque Maggio (1821), the date of Napoleon's death.

Page 9

I was going whack whack and having a great time
By the end of the page, Yambo becomes afraid of such "exquisite sensations," remembering the name of Broglio who (p. 18) goes whack on soft cheeses just for the pleasure of it. (Albeit that the going whack whack was hitting his pillow, while the piacevolissima sensazione - singular! - came from pressing tooth paste out.)

On a tightrope. Like the Little Mermaid
Hans Christian Andersen's story Little Mermaid actually compares the heroine's first standing up to walking on knives or needles. Like Yambo, however, she is performing this routine in a new body, for the first time, after she sacrifices her tail.

In Foucault's Pendulum, chapter 113, Casaubon describes having feet numb from standing in one position for a long time as "standing on a bed of spiny sea urchins. The Little Mermaid." Interestingly, back in chapter 8 of that book, Belbo reminisced about little Marilena "tightrope-walking" on the back of a bench, a vision that becomes part of his erotic fantasies. (But everyone who has experienced trying to walk after having passed some weeks completely horizontal, remembers the shock of not being quite able to maintain one's balance on those hurting rag doll's legs. So Belbo's hang up seems of quite a different order than can be referenced to Andersen's tale. Let's not trip into the Pendulum's trap of relating all to everything.)

a mirror, as everyone knows
The mirror, through which all knowledge is reflected (and hence distorted), features prominently In Eco's writings on semiotics.

I would not want to met me on a deserted road at night, Mr. Hyde
Refers to Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in which Mr. Hyde is an alter ego of the Doctor who concentrates all his depraved impulses with no conscience. Physically, he is much smaller than the good doctor himself.

Le serpent qui danse
a [2] by Baudelaire and song by Serge Gainsbourg. A reference to semen? The story about Broglio, given on 17-18, has to do with an obssessive sensual squeezing.

Page 10

Samweller.jpgExcellent, said the Duke. - Confucius Confucius.jpg

Wellerism -
an expression of comparison comprising a banal saying or a quotation followed by a joking "said ..." clause ("I mustn't lose my head," said Marie Antoinette); from Charles Dickens's character of Sam Weller (pictured above left) in The Pickwick Papers. Presumably the Confucius sentence is a Wellerism because a Duke is an Excellency (?).

y la hierbabuena -
("and the mint") from the poem "Memento" by the Spaniard Federico Garcia Lorca:

Cuando yo me muera,
entre los naranjos
y la hierbabuena.

When I die between the oranges and the mint.

a las cinco de la tarde
("at five in the afternoon") This phrase is repeated through a Garcia Lorca poem - LA COGIDA Y LA MUERTE. (from a comment by dmarino) . Both poems are online at a literature site.

like I was a circus freak
(The italian expression is comme se fossi un fenomeno sa baraccone. As it is a very commonly used one, it's hard to explain the italization.)

Page 11


the concept of filtering information once fascinated Eco, as evinced in this [3] from 1995.

Broca's area
the section of the human brain is involved in language processing, speech production and comprehension (see above).

Page 12

the Collegno amnesiac
refers to a man who was arrested for theft in Turin in 1926 but plead innocent because he claimed to have lost all memory of his identity and past. [4]

Page 13

You only have one mother, your mother is still your mother
googling "Di mamma ce n'è una sola" gives 645 hits; "la mamma è sempre la mamma" gives 942. These are proverbial phrases in Italian.

This is actually a quote from Albert Camus' novel "L'Étranger" ("The Stranger" in English). In the novel, the main character, an extremely apathetic young man named Mersault, experiences the death of his mother. These lines, within the context of the novel, help to illustrate Mersault's disinterest in the fundamental emotions and attachments of life.

Page 14

Socrates.jpg Buddha.jpg Donbosco.jpg

Pleasure is the cessation of pain
a common philosophical definition, attributed to Epicurus, Socrates and Buddha....

The provident young man sleeps on his back with his hands clasped on his chest
A reference to Don Bosco's book The Provident Young Man, a guide to extreme purity for Catholic boys, which turns out to be important to Yambo's adolescence. Don Bosco and his book will figure in Yambo's final vision.

Page 15

"you always said you could resist anything but temptation" -
quoted from Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde.

Page 16

"you were fanatical about pinball, like a little kid"
Foucault's Pendulum by Eco also contains a discussion of Pinball, which occur (most notably) on page 222 and 415 in the trade papeback, and 187 and 345 in the standard paperback. "You don't play the pinball with you hands, you play it with your groin, too... But a female groin is required, one that interposes no spongy body between the ileum and the machine, only skin, nerves, padded bone sheathed in a pair of jeans, and a sublimated erotic fury, a sly frigidity, a disinterested adaptability to the partern's response, a taste for arousing desire without suffering the excesses of one's own..." (222, 187.)

Page 17

Palazzo Campana-- nice (exterior) photo on the of Turin website.

"unless this is all conspiracy"
conspiracy was one of the principal themes of Foucault's Pendulum.

Jimmy Picklock
probably not a literary character. A jimmy is another word for a pick-lock tool. Coincidently, the italian word for burglar, scassinatore, googles Bilbo Baggins, in Tolkien's The Hobbit.

the Ipcress File
a Cold War-era spy film from 1965, starring Michael Caine, based on a book by Len Deighton

I trust you. What are stracchini?
a reference back to the wandering thought about "Broglio with the stracchini" which had come to Yambo while he was squeezing the toothpaste tube (p. 9). This is the first time Yambo asks for help to release a memory. Stracchini.jpg
An example of stracchino, a kind of italian cheese.

Page 19

Note: in this brilliant fugue of quotations, each clause a joining of two disparate bits of literature, some of the references are the work of the English translator, Geoffrey Brock, as one can determine by a comparison with the very end of the excerpt at [5]

"there are perfumes as fresh as a child's flesh"
"Correspondences", Baudelaire. text (French)

"the marchioness went out at five o'clock"
Paul Valery

"in the middle of the journey of our life"
first line of Dante's Inferno.

"Abraham begat Isaac and Isaac begat Jacob and Jacob begat " Matthew 1:2, the beginning of the New Testament humourously conflated with the following-- "the Man of La Mancha" - Don Quixote, aka 'The Man of La Mancha'. "that was when I saw the Pendulum" - the first line of Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco "betwixt a smile and tear," - [Byron]: "Man! Thou pendulum betwixt a smile and a tear." "where late the sweet birds sang," - Shakespeare's sonnet 73, spoken by an aging lover, grafted onto a "branch" of Lake Como, expression that rememembers the really first phrase of Manzoni's novel "Betrothed"("I promessi sposi"), novel known by everyone in Italy. (NB Eco has a different literary bird perching on the lake's branch in the Italian original, a reference to an other italian poem). "the snows of yesteryear" - François Villon, "[Of The Ladies Of Yore]" "softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves," - from the end of "The Dead," the last short story in Joyce's book [[6]]. "messieurs les Anglais" - first words of the phrase: "Messieurs les Anglais tirez les premieres!" Comte d'Anterroche.

Page 20

je me suis couché de bonne heure,
the first line of Proust's massive work, A la Recherche du temps perdu; in Foucault's Pendulum ch. 73, Belbo also quotes the line, presumably in Italian.

"though words cannot heal"
from the first line of poem 128 of Petrarch's Canzoniere, a collection of love poems

"the women come and go"
from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot

"here we shall make Italy or"
"Here we shall make Italy, or die!" was uttered by Garibaldi before leading the charge that overran the Bourbon positions at the Battle of Calatafimi, 1860.

"a kiss is just a kiss"
a line from "As Time Goes By," the song made famous by Casablanca, a film that Eco has written extensively on.

"tu quoque alea"
The Spanish wiki on Queen Loana interprets this as a combination of two famous quotations from Julius Caesar: "Tu quoque, Brute,fili mihi" ("Thou also, Bruus, my son" better known in English as Shakespeare's "Et tu, Brute") when he saw Brutus among his assassins, and "Alea jacta est," The die (sing. of dice) is cast, when he crossed the Rubicon river to march on Rome. In French, "aléas" means something like "disasters."

"a man without qualities"
the title of Robert Musil's magnum opus

"fights and runs away"
from the rhyme "He that fights and runs away, will live to fight another day", completed two lines later.

"brothers of Italy, ask not what you can do for your country"
a twist on John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, 1961, quoting the italian national anthem ("Fratelli d'Italia", brothers of Italy) in the first part as well; in the italian original version lacks the Kennedy reference.

"the plow that makes the furrow"
in the context, this suggests the idea of "beating swords into plowshares" (Joel 3:10) with its opposition between war (swords, brothers of Italy, fighting) and agriculture (plow, the wise fellow who runs away). A similar opposition is represented by the description a battle followed by one of ploughing depicted on Achilles' shield in the Illiad Book 18. The poet Pare Lorentz made a film in 1930 with the title "The Plow That Broke the Plains," music by Virgil Thomson ([7]), but this is unlikely to be a referent.

"will live to fight another day"
the completion of the rhyme just mentioned above.

"I mean a Nose" -
A bit from Volume 3, Chapter 31 of Laurence Sterne's 1760 novel Tristram Shandy, the 18th-century equivalent of "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar":

"I define a nose as follows, intreating only beforehand, and beseeching my readers, both male and female, of what age, complexion, and condition soever, for the love of God and their own souls, to guard against the temptations and suggestions of the devil, and suffer him by no art or wile to put any other ideas into their minds, than what I put into my definition. For by the word Nose, throughout all this long chapter of noses, and in every other part of my work, where the word Nose occurs, -- I declare, by that word I mean a Nose, and nothing more, or less."

"by any other name"
a play off of Juliet's line in Romeo and Juliet, "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." There, Juliet means that names are unimportant and do not affect the things they designate, but Eco has written that his use of the title, The Name of the Rose, implies exactly the opposite: names are important.

"Italy is made"
Massimo D'Azeglio, Cavour's predecessor as prime minister of Piedmont suggested, in the first meeting of the parliament of the newly united Italian kingdom, famously suggested that "Italy is made, We still have to make Italians." [8]

"now the rest is commentary"
This seems to have become a bit of a statement of finality, a la "...and that's final". The (assumably) oldest reference I can find is to a Jewish story about a question asked of Rabbi Hillel -- a notable rabbi from the 1st century BCE. A non-Jew asked the rabbi to teach him everything about the Torah while standing on one foot. Rabbi Hillel responded: "What is hateful to you, don't do unto your neighbor. The rest is commentary. Now, go and study." Eco has also mentioned this motif in Foucault's Pendulum, explaining that "truth is brief (afterward, it is all commentary.)" (525)

"mi espiritu se purifica"
from a novel by the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, Niebla (Fog). One of the last sentences of the book is, "Siento que mi espiritu se purifica al contacto de esta muerte", "I feel that my spirit is purified in contact with this death."

"en Paris con aguacero" -
"Me morire en Paris con aguacero," "I will die in Paris with rain pouring down," is the first line of the Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo's poem "Piedra Negra Sobre una Piedra Blanca". Interestingly, the omitted element which joins the two Spanish quotations is "death": esta muerte, me morire.

"don't ask us for the word"
Eugenio Montale, "chiederci la parola"

"crazed with light"
Eugenio Montale again, "il girasole ch'io lo trapianti" (Bring Me the Sunflower So I Can Transplant It)

Bring me the flower that leads us out
where blond transparencies rise
and life evaporates as essence.
Bring me the sunflower crazed with light.

"we'll have our battle in the shade"
"...on the eve of [the battle of Thermopylae], [the Spartan officer, Dienekes] was told by a native of Trachis that the Persian archers were so numerous that, when they fired their volleys, the mass of arrows blocked out the sun. Dienekes, however, quite undaunted by this prospect, remarked with a laugh, 'Good. Then we'll have our battle in the shade.'" -Herodotus, The Histories (a common online version; for a better one see [9])

"and suddenly it's evening"
A famous line, title of a three-line poem and of a 1942 collection of poems by the anti-Fascist poet Quasimodo. The poem can be read in Italian and English at [10]. The English phrase is the title of at least three different musical compositions, by Elizabeth Luytens (1966), Tobias Picker (1994), and Donald Erb (1997).

One of the Monks in "The Name of the Rose" is called Salvatore. The monk Salvatore has a secret past he tries to hide. When his secret is revealed, (ray of light - see poem above) he is burned at the stake - "suddenly it's evening"???

The monk Salvatore may have gotten his name partly from the double pseudonym Salvatore Quasimodo since, like Quasimodo in Victor Hugo's novel Notre-Dame de Paris, he is deformed and in some ways isolated. The Italian poet may have been looking to Hugo's hunchback too, or else to the origin of his name, the entrance verse for Low Sunday, "Quasi modo geniti infantes, rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite" ("Like newborn babies, desire milk rationally and without deceit").

"around my heart three ladies'"
a line from Dante, "Tre donne intorno al cor mi son venute," "Three ladies came to me and sat around my heart" -- Later Poems. Late in the book, in chapter 14, Yambo evokes three ladies in his own life. And Belbo's file ending chapter 8 of the Pendulum is also named Tre donne intorno al cor...

"arms I sing" -
the first line of Virgil's Aeneid, "Arms and the man I sing." The Aeneid line in turn evokes the beginning of Homer's Illiad, which is parodied a few lines later here in the fairy-tale of Achilles.

"oh Valentino Valentino wherefore art thou"
another play on a famous line from Romeo and Juliet, here substiuting Romeo with the heartthrob film star of yesteryear, Rudolph Valentino

"happy families are all alike"
The first line of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

"said the bridegroom to the bride"
This may just be a varation on the actress to the bishop, although this specific phrase does turn up in some versions of "The Robber Bridegroom" by the Brothers Grimm.

"Guido I wish that"
Dante, Guido Cavalcanti

Guido, I wish that Lapo, you and I,
in one enchantment bound, right now could be
inside a vessel faring on the sea,
braving the wind, to your content and mine.

"mother died today"
the first line of The Stranger by Camus

"I recognized the trembling"
Dante again: [11], Canto I, 117, "I recognized the trembling of the sea."

of man's first disobedience"
Paradise Lost, Milton

Of Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit Of that Forbidden Tree...

"de la musique"
"De la musique avant toute chose" ("music before all other things") --Paul Verlaine (1844-1896)

"où marchent des colombes" -
Paul Valéry (1878-1945) Le Cimetière marin (The marine cemetery, 1920) "Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes, / Entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes; [...]" ("This quiet roof, where doves walk, trembles among the pines, among the tombs")

"go little book""
Robert Louis Stevenson, "Little Book", taking a line from the end of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde: "Go, little book, go, little myn tragedye." A classic way of beginning an envoy or final stanza of a long poem.

'to where the lemons blossom"
Johann Stauss II "die Zitronen bluhen"? Where the lemons blossom being Italy.

"once upon a time there lived Achilles son of Peleus"
A cheeky twist on the beginning of Homer's Iliad.

"and the earth was without form"
the beginning of Genesis, "the earth was without form and void.", in italian twisted with a reference to a Manzoni's poem.

"[the earth was] too much with us"
the first line of Wordsworth's poem,

"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours."

"Licht mehr licht über alles"
combination of Goethe's last words ("Light, more light!") and "Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles," the German nationalist hymn of the 19th century, part of which remains Germany's national anthem today. In Foucault's Pendulum ch. 73, Belbo attributes the phrase to the dying John Dee.

"Contessa, what oh what is life?"
Giosué Carducci (1835-1907), Nobel Prize 1907. "Ode Jaufré Rudel" (1888)

Contessa, che è mai la vita? / Countess, what oh what is life?
É l'ombra di un sogno fuggente./ Is the shadow of a fugitive dream.
La favola breve è finita, / The brief tale is finished,
Il vero immortale è l'amor. /The real immortal is love.

"and Jill came tumbling after"
from the rhyme "Jack and Jill/went up the hill/to fetch a pail of water./Jack fell down/and broke his crown/and Jill came tumbling after". The sort of rhyme one is told as a child, already cited on p. 7 by Yambo.

Names, names, names:
Eco has a longtime love of lists, and it's possible, even probable, that someone could trace the connection that emerges throughout this list of seemingly random names from history. (Could also be taken as an out-of-context play on "Words words words" from Hamlet, as words are all Yambo can remember, rather than the emotions, etc that might be attached to what the words represent.)

insert info from

Dalloca.jpg Brummel.jpg Pindar.JPG

Angelo Dall'Oca Bianca
(Verona, 1858-1942), realistic painter of figures and landscapes; above, his 1915-20 Piazza delle Erbe. See

Lord Brummell
(1778-1840), famous dandy, "Beau" Brummel, a commoner who rose to associate with the Prince Regent through his wit.

5th century BC Greek lyric poet, famous for his odes to victors in athletic contests.

Flaubert.jpg Disraeli.jpg Zena.jpg

(1821-1880), French novelist, author of Madame Bovary, who is evoked elsewhere in the novel.

(1804-81) British statesman, Queen Victoria's Prime Minister

Remigio Zena
(1850-1917). Italian Catholic author of fiction (pseudonym of Gaspare Invrea).

Jurassic.jpg Fattori.jpg Straparola.jpg

geological period when the dinosaurs roamed.

(1825-1905), probably Giovanni Fattori, Italian Realist Painter. The name means "makers"... Abovbe, his self-portrait. See

Straparola and the pleasant nights
16th-century author and his Piacevoli Notti, a collection of Italian and Middle Eastern fairy tales, structured like the Decameron.

Pompadour.jpg Smith wesson 3 003.jpg Rosa.jpg

de Pompadour
(1721-64), Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, famous for wit as well as beauty.

Smith and Wesson
gun manufacturers in the days of the American Old West, founded 1852 and still going strong: [site].

Rosa Luxemburg
(1871-1919), Polish-born German Marxist philosopher and revolutionary. Wikipedia

Zeno.gif Palmavecchio.jpg Archaeopteryx.jpg Ciceruccia.jpg

Zeno Cosini
self-analysing anti-hero of Italo Svevo's 1929 novel Confessions of Zeno. Also evokes the "paradox of Zeno" mentioned elsewhere in the novel.

Palma the Elder
(ca.1480-1528), Palma il Vecchio, Italian painter. Above, his Judith with the Head of Holofernes.

prehistoric bird with feathers.

Angelo Brunetti (1800-1849), participated in Italian revolutionary politics in Rome, partly by throwing parties:

Irenaeu.jpg Pinocchio.jpg

Matthew Mark Luke John
authors of the four Gospels.

hero of Carlo Collodi's 1883 book, the naughty wooden puppet who achieves his goal of becoming a living son to his creator, Gepetto, with the help of a blue-haired fairy. Several references later in the novel, both to the book and to the illustrations of Attilio Mussino, of which one is shown above..

Sade2.jpg Goretti..jpg Thais.jpeg

Sade's Justine's frontispiece of Virtue being worried by Lust and Vice, Saint Maria Goretti, and Gustave Dore's vision of Dante's vision of Thais.

heroine of a 1791 novel by the Marquis de Sade; she is the naive sexual victim.

Maria Goretti
(1890-1902) pre-teen girl saint who was murdered by a would-be rapist: "Death rather than sin." The female equivalent of Aloysius Gonzaga and Domenico Savio, mentioned in chapter 17 as ideals of chastity for boys.

Thais the whore
Eco refers to Dante's depiction of Thais immersed in excrement among the flatterers in Inferno XVIII, lines 127-136. Thais was a mistress of Alexander the Great, who turns up a few names later. The name also belongs to St. Thais, a repentant whore.

Osteoporosis.jpg EmpireAlex.jpg Gordian.jpg

loss of bone density, usually with age, leading to curvature of the spine.

Saint Honoré
(6th c. bishop of Amiens) has a fashionable long straight street in Paris named after him, and is the patron saint of bakers and millers. A Gâteau St-Honoré is a fabulous dessert of puff pastry decorated with caramel and whipped cream.

Bactria Ecbatana Persepolis Susa Arbela
cities of the Persian Empire, conquered by Alexander the Great (see map above).

Alexander and the Gordian knot
Alexander the Great "solved" the riddle of the Gordian knot, the solver of which was to rule all Asia. Instead of untying it, he cut it with his sword.

The encyclopedia was tumbling down on me, its pages loose, and I felt like waving my hands the way one does amid a swarm of bees.
This is a nightmare version of some images from the last cantos of Dante's Paradiso, which are taken up again but in a sublime mode on 421 ("the jumbled notebook of my memories") and 442 (Yambo's family now seeming to emerge like bees from "a happy apiary"). Encyclopedic knowledge makes his grandchildren seem like menacing bees; his recovered if jumbled notebook of memories restores them to the happy, orderly bees of Virgil and Dante.

Page 21

Ella.jpg Rimbaud.jpg

A-tisket, a-tasket, a green and yellow basket... Was it red? Was it brown? Was it blue? No! Just a little yellow basket.
from Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of "A-tisket a-tasket"

"A noir, E blanc, I rouge..."
from the poem, "Vowels," by French poet Arthur Rimbaud (portrait above by Henri Fantin-Latour), which assigns a color to each vowel of the alphabet. text (French)

Page 22

Note: this fugue has a different format from the previous one: the series of quotations are based on a noun common to two in a sequence, a kind of poetic puzzle. The keywords sometimes point to motifs important later in the novel: mind, love, stars, fire, world, string, orders, angels, tread, lightly, lie, beauty, wonder. For example, in Chapter 8 Yambo puts on a set of records with themes of "night", most of which are love-songs which mention the stars (here linked in Dante); the "mysterious flame" of Queen Loana is evoked here in the image of fire. And Yambo's heart suffers because he will not follow the doctor's orders. (But at the same time the reader must keep in mind that many of these references are the translator's and not Eco's, because the translator had to find equivalents where straightforward translating would not do.)

love that within my mind discourses with me
Dante, Purgatorio, 2, line 112

the love that moves the sun and the other stars
Dante, Paradiso, 33, line 145

stars hide your fires
Macbeth in Macbeth, Act I, Scene 4, Shakespeare

if I were a fire I would burn the world
Cecco Angiolieri (Siennese, c.1258–1312), "I were a fire, I'd burn up the world"(S'i' fossi foco, arderei 'l mondo)

I've got the world on a string
song written by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler; peformed by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and others.

there are strings in the human heart
Dickens, "Seven Poor Travellers"

the heart does not take orders

who would hear me among the angel's orders
from the first line of Duino Elegies by Rilke :" Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel / Ordnungen?"

fools rush in where angels fear to tread
From Alexander Pope, "An Essay on Criticism", part III, line 66. First lines of "Fools rush in," a song performed by Sinatra. "Where Angels Fear to Tread" is also the title of E.M. Forster's first novel.

tread lightly she is near
first line of Requiescat, [12] by Oscar Wilde

lie lightly on her
evokes the burial of a young woman, a voice asking the earth or turf to lie gently on her body, probably a translation of an epigram by Martial, "Erotion the slave-girl", [13]

a beautiful lie
one traditional definition of poetry.

touched with the wonder of mortal beauty
from Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by Joyce

wonder is the poet's aim
Gianbattista Marino (1569-1625), (E’ del poeta il fin la meraviglia) "La Murtoleide.

"I was twenty. I won't let anyone say that's the best time of a person's life."
" J'avais vingt ans. Je ne laisserai personne dire que c'est le plus bel âge de la vie ," Paul Nizan, Aden Arabie (1931). In Foucault's Pendulum ch. 73, Belbo quotes this line, changing the age to thirty.

When Gregor Samsa woke one morning
opening of Franz Kafka's short story "The Metamorphosis."

Page 23

MonaLisa.jpg Olympia.jpg

The Mona Lisa, Manet's Olympia ( image),

Mona Lisa
aka La gioconda, Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting (ca. 1500) now in the Louvre. Probably the most recognizable face in Western culture. But "no one's ever been devoured by the Mona Lisa--an androgynous Medusa only for esthetes," says Casaubon in Foucault's Pendulum, chapter 2.

Manet's Olympia
a painting by Edouard Manet which shocked Paris in 1865 with its unromanticized, unmythologized picture of a beautiful naked woman.

(1881-1973), Spanish-born painter famous as the leader of the cubist school but also for many other styles. "A good imitation" of a Picasso might well be a painting by another distinguished French or Spanish artist. Below: Picasso's 1910 portrait of Kahnweiler, Salvador Dali's 1923 "cubist self-portrait."

PicassoKahnweiler1910.jpg Dalicubist.jpg


Greta Garbo
Swedish film actress (1909-1990). NB she, like Moravia, had died recently at the time of Yambo's "incident." She had however retired from films in the early 1940s.

Albert Einstein, physicist (1879-1955).

Antonio de Curtis (1898-1967), a famous and beloved Italian comedian and actor. [14] Note: the San Marino 2005 "Varietà" stamp series above was issued for the centennial of the birth of Wanda Osiris, a music-hall star who will be important in the book.

John F. Kennedy, American president (1917-1963)--only 14 years older than Yambo.

Alberto moravia.jpgMoravia
Alberto Moravia (1907-1990) - pseudonym of Alberto Pincherle, Italian journalist, short-story writer, and novelist. [15]

Page 25

a convergent lens in a camera obscura
A camera obscura allows viewing, in a darkened room, of a vista outside; a nice site is at the of Pretoria. Cameraobscura.jpgFile:Cameraoobscura.jpg

Among those who have compared vision or memory to a camera obscura are Locke, Descartes (La Dioptrique, 6th section, in which he carefully describes the role of the lens in sharpening the image)., Leibniz, Nietzche, Marx, Henri Bergson and Freud.

A typical analysis is that cited by Jonathan Crary in Suspensions of Perception (page 24):

"John Dewey provides an exemplary account, using optical figures, in his 1886 textbook: 'In attention we focus the mind, as the lens takes all the light coming to it, and instead of allowing it to distribute itself evenly concentrates it in a point of great light and heat. So the mind, instead of diffusing consciousness over all the elements presented to it, brings it all to bear upon some one selected point, which stands out with unusual brilliancy and distinctness.'"

Gratarolo, however, speaks of memory (not attention) as the lens which focuses and even enhances the image.

Page 26

Marcel Proust.jpg Celine.jpg Valery.jpg
Marcel Proust, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and Paul Valéry

"It seems there must be an involuntary memory of the limbs"
Time Regained by Proust, page 11 (Modern Library edition)

"Nothing compels memories to manifest themselves as much as smells and flames"
This is a quotation from the French novellist Céline, "Rien ne force les souvenirs comme les odeurs et les flammes." The phrase is used in an account of French paratroopers during the Algerian war in 1954, by Pierre Leuillette, at 2004-05, without attribution. An literary site identifies it as by the writer Céline.

"Soleil, soleil, faute éclatante"
Paul Valéry, Ébauche d'un serpent:

"Soleil, soleil !...Faute éclatante !
Toi qui masques la mort, Soleil....
Tu gardes les cours de connaître
Que l'univers n'est qu'un défaut
Dans la pureté du Non-être.

Sun, sun! dazzling fault! you who mask death, O Sun... you keep the courses from knowing that the universe is just a mistake in the purity of Non-being.

Back to The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

Personal tools