E ora il matrimonio della figlia più piccola in Piazza Grande, Arezzo. Il neo marito è Thomas Savage (Isola di Man, UK). And now my youngest daughter’s marriage in Piazza Grande, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy. Her husband is Thomas Savage (Isle of Man, UK)
Elena e Tom sono ora felici. Tutto cominciò 5 anni fa, a Londra. Prima di allora conducevano due vite parallele che non s’incontravano (cito discorsi di Tom e dei suoi amici, perché i britannici fanno discorsi in queste e altre occasioni 😲 ).
Cresciuti in culture diverse, parlando due lingue diverse, avendo vissuto esperienze diverse (Tom a Parigi ed Elena a Barcellona e in Cina), si sono alla fine conosciuti al terzo piano d’uno studio di architettura a Londra, separati da una stampante.
Una divisione che è durata poiché Tom venne poi spostato in un altro piano anche se non c’è divisione che tenga, con l’amore. In Italia diremmo che un colpo di fulmine, un canale e una bottiglia di vino furono galeotti.
Ed eccoli adesso insieme, sposati e in luna di miele in Grecia, dove i genitori di Elena si sono conosciuti.
Da anni vivono in un appartamento non lontano da quel canale che li ha visti uniti per la prima volta.
Post Scriptum Come detto a Mary nel post precedente ora che il matrimonio della figlia “britannica” si è concluso posso / possiamo tornare alle nostre abitudini e, quanto a me, al blog. Stamattina, ormai qui a Roma, sfiniti, mia moglie ed io ci siamo guardati negli occhi e ci siamo detti:
“Ora le abbiamo sbolognate entrambe! [pausa interdetta] … pensa se avevamo 6 figli!! Ci avrebbero direttamente portati all’obitorio!!”
A man-to-man thing, after the previous post on how different women and men can be.
Roma, aprile 2004. Le 6 di una mattina fredda ma luminosa. Guardo i tetti di Roma. Sono seduto nella mia terrazza. E’ quasi l’alba e ho freddo.
Avevo risentito il mio amico la sera prima al telefono dopo tanti anni di silenzio. Scrivo velocemente a matita sul primo pezzaccio di carta che trovo parole che ho in testa, per paura di dimenticarle.
Parole buttate là, piene di emozione, forse anche un po’ selvagge.
Roba da anni 50s-60s, da epoca remota e superata?
Che volete che vi dica, era l’Italia del dopoguerra, giudicherete voi.
Al mio fratello maggiore
Amico mio, compagno
di scorribande felici
nella fase più piena della vita,
alle 6 di un mattino romano,
la fredda brezza che corre
sui tetti di una città pagana,
io te, compagno mio e fratello,
qui vengo a celebrare
come in un rito antico,
schizzando con la matita
rapide su un foglio
parole vive e non lavorate.
Mi hai insegnato a godere della vita
l’aspetto primordiale e forte;
io, con più timore,
cresciuto in un mondo femminile,
il lato virile mi hai insegnato,
quello con gli attributi,
che hai sempre avuto,
non lo dimenticare!
E cazzo vivaddio gli attributi!
In un mondo spompato
pieno di gente vuota stanca fasulla,
sei sempre stato esempio,
caro fratello mio,
di forza e di coraggio,
molto più che mio padre;
tu, e i miei zii materni,
i carissimi e amati
fratelli di mia madre.
A mio padre,
che pure ha significato tanto,
devo altre cose,
ma tu sei stato molto per me,
un anno in più vuol dire,
quando si è giovanissimi:
aiuta a stabilire il primato
che sempre ti ho riconosciuto.
E qui, in questa piccola terrazza
della città di Roma,
di fronte ai templi antichi
della nostra cultura primigenia,
io qui ti onoro,
fratello mio maggiore;
io qui ti celebro,
quel primato ancora riconoscendo
che non fu solo d’età.
A questo punto vino rosso berrei
(ma è mattino presto…)
il vino rosso forte, toscano,
di quelle serate d’inverno
della nostra campagna.
In cui tu,
la carne arrostita sulle braci,
i piaceri dionisiaci consegnavi
della carne, del vino
e delle femmine prese per i capelli,
e dolcemente, fortemente,
La brezza ora è più calda.
Le parole cominciano a mancare.
amico caro, forte mio compagno
e fratello maggiore,
di averti comunicato
le mie emozioni al brusco risveglio
dopo una telefonata.
Nota. L’avevo sentito la sera prima al telefono. Non ci eravamo rivisti da anni.
Per questo mi sono svegliato di soprassalto alle 5:30, con la testa piena di quella gioia, e che gioia (gli anni dell’infanzia e dell’adolescenza li conoscete tutti): noi li passammo insieme ogni singola estate nella campagna aretina degli anni 50s-60s.
Emozioni, anche dolori.
Ma tutto vissuto con esuberanza ed intensità quasi violente.
Aveva la casa di fronte alla mia ma quando ci vedemmo oltre i muri la prima volta (io solo, lui con la nonna, una cara signora d’altri tempi, avevamo 3-4 anni) non ci piacemmo affatto. Lui mi sembrava perfettino, troppo ben pettinato.
Poi un giorno sua madre lo portò da noi ufficialmente (le due mamme erano molto amiche). Contrariati cominciammo a tirare i sassi a un barattolo messo su un tavolo di pietra, così, tanto per vincere la scontrosità. Aveva un anno più di me.
Il gioco del tiro al barattolo fece scattare tutto. Da allora non ci siamo più lasciati, anche se con intervalli. I nostri cervelli sapevano volare insieme, e ridevamo, ridevamo, ridevamo a crepapelle. Aveva una mente bizzarra, umoristica, piena di idee.
Qui sotto ho 18 anni. Dì li in poi ci fu il primo intervallo. Lungo.
Adesso che siamo vecchi o quasi ci sentiamo ancora più vicini e non ci saranno intervalli.
Credo che sia la voglia di finire l’avventura meravigliosa cominciata insieme, anche con tutte le altre persone care accanto a lui e accanto a me, che ci rendono la vita più umana (e ci consolano delle sue miserie).
Quando si è giovanissimi [see translation following] e ci si imbatte per strada in una ragazza che è il nostro tipo se ne rimane come folgorati, e il dolore è tanto più acuto quanto più difficile (o impossibile) è la soddisfazione di tale desiderio, improvviso e assoluto.
[When we are extremely young and we stumble upon a girl in the street who is our type we are like struck dumb and our pain is all the more acute the more difficult (or impossible) is the satisfaction of our desire, sudden and absolute.]
Un brano di Jack Kerouac rende bene questa vitalità disperata tipica della primissima gioventù (da “On the road” che sfogliavo giorni fa; mi sembra di ricordare che anche J. D. Salinger abbia scritto qualcosa di simile):
[A passage by Jack Kerouac renders well this desperate vitality typical of early youth (from “On the Road” I was leafing through days ago; I think I remember J.D. Salinger wrote something similar too)]:
“I had bought my ticket and was waiting for the LA bus when all of a sudden I saw the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks come cutting across my sight. She was in one of the buses that had just pulled in with a big sigh of airbreaks; it was discharging passengers for a rest stop. Her breasts stuck out straight and true; her little flanks looked delicious; her hair was long and lustrous black; and her eyes were great big blue things with timidities inside. I wished I was on her bus. A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world”.
In realtà al personaggio di “On the road” le cose poi vanno bene perché i due si ritroveranno casualmente nello stesso autobus e ne nascerà una storia, ma la descrizione della pugnalata è intensa e comunque credo sia esattamente ciò che ciascuno di noi, uomo o donna, ha provato più volte dai 10-12 anni in poi.
[Actually things ended up well for Kerouac’s character since the two will accidentally meet in the same bus and a love affair will ensue, although the description of the ‘stab’ is intense and in any case I believe it is exactly what each of us, man or woman, has experienced several times from 10-12 years of age onwards.]
I just can’t write one of my usual posts. My mind is blurred.
Because my sanctuary, the only place where I can find peace and concentration (my study room,) is a mess.
I am getting crazy, lunatico.
As I said these more-than-100 retrieved tomes which belonged to grandpa (a blessing and a suffering) have generated chaos in my life. 1/5 of them are permanently damaged by water – together with precious family pictures & documents.
[See below my father and my mother in 1946, the day of their marriage. Two other pictures of their marriage are gone (!!!).
My mother btw cried all the time during the ceremony. Her father, hit by a bus one month earlier, had just passed away. They married nonetheless. The war had just ended and people were eager to live, which is why we are the boomer generation, it is well known]
Trying so hard to rearrange my den I’ve fought against my nature and have gone to Ikea.
Ikea, to me, is biggest pain in the … neck ever. I have bought two big bookcases and have assembled them at home yesterday. Oh it takes a real engineer to do it, not a computer systems engineer, a ridiculous creature who deals with immaterial rationality and invisible bits.
Ikea being such a pain I decided to treat myself like a royalty before going.
1) I bought aanother New Testament both in Greek and in Latin;
2) Bought Dante’s Comedy translated to English by Allen Mandelbaum;
3) I called Marina, my medicine.
“Hey Marina, come have lunch with me, will you?”
“Ciao professore. Sì evviva! Villa Borghese va bene?” [Hi teacher. Wow yes! Villa Borghese ok?]
Brown hair, brown eyes, very outspoken, Marina is a beaming Italian beauty and the Sabrina Ferilli type of Roman woman (see the Roman actress on the left.)
But what most counts to me is that she’s been one of the best, most devoted, most sympathetic IT pupils I’ve ever had in the course of the last 15 years. There’s tons of affection & respect between us.
The two are similar and, if my wife is a bit closer to Minerva and Juno, Marina has among the rest this special quality my wife hasn’t:
She laughs the Roman laughter, one of the best specimen I’ve ever heard, no kidding.
Flavia’s ancient Roman laughter is heard in the room. It is loud, slightly crass but luminous, as it should be and as I hope it will ever ever be in the future, somewhat like a sympathetic, warm BIG HUG to the world.
[my mother laughed in the same way btw]
During a sunlit lunch at Villa Borghese, with umbrella pine trees majestically surrounding us (see Villa Borghese at the page head,) in front of a sumptuous tray of mixed antipasti – fusilli, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmisan etc., washed down with full bodied Chianti – we kept on chatting cheerfully while both vino and ver sacrum (sacred spring) were intoxicating the air bit by bit.
When the right time arrived I took my cell phone out of my jacket and started to play the moron (I’m good at that, you know.)
And then it happened.
Especially, she laughed.
Well, not one of her best laughs – she saw I was there with my cell phone – yet a sound, sympathetic Roman laughter which is revealing a bit of our city’s culture with all its pros and cons (any laughter being revealing of any culture, ça va sans dire.)
Back from my blog vacation, problem being I don’t know what to write. The heat is hampering my thoughts. At the end of the week the weather should be cooler, they say.
I’ll try to write shorter posts and make like a personal diary out of this blog. I’ve seen bloggers who write one-sentence posts. On va voir. We will see.
Count Calcagni’s memoirs cannot devour my blog. I’ll post Calcagni at wider intervals, then I will create a page where all excerpts can be read as one.
Readers keep on clicking my “Sex and the city (of Rome)” series, which is therefore always on the ‘Top Posts’ list on the right column. People coming here will think I am a maniac. I’d like them to know I write mostly about other stuff, so I’ll add a ‘Posts I like’ list.
Woodstock. Lots of mistakes and stupid ideas in those days [mid August 1969.] But the good part of it all was the concept of a society in which people love each other and are tolerant. It seems to me the world is evolving in the opposite direction.
[Getting old we all become a bit laudatores temporis acti.]
“True friendship is the most solid, the highest, the most disinterested, passionate and honest feeling that can link two persons. It implies sympathy of feelings, conviction to have found a twin soul, it is the most durable way of loving and being loved, … it is a fundamental component of happiness and, according to Epicure, the most precious good.”
“On the other hand – Bernazza adds – we cannot call authentic friends mere acquaintances ruled by feelings which are occasional, superficial, opportunistic, basically selfish. In this type of relationships liabilities are greater than assets and the final result is sorrow, most of the time.”
(his judgement on acquaintances is a bit extreme since many acquaintances in my opinion don’t necessarily end up with sorrow)
How can we attain true friendship?
“It is a construction to be built little by little, day by day, with patience and perseverance, with affection and intelligence, considering it is an achievement among the most complex, long, delicate that heart and mind together can accomplish.”
Friendship impacts on 3 points of CP’s list. Which list? A list regarding 20 major existential issues which, according to Dario Bernazza, we should address in the best possible way in order to diminish life liabilities and live a happy life. Friendship in fact regards points 4 (friendship), 5 (marriage) and 6 (children).
True friendship – Bernazza states – is the only factor that produces a good marriage or union between two partners.
True friendship is the only key to success in the relationship between parents and children, allowing mutual respect and the mutual fulfilment of rights and duties.
Bernazza’s idea of friendship is surely dated and it includes a wider range of affectionate relationships than the modern friendship concept does, being not far from Montaigne’s amitié, connected to the Latin amicitia and the Greek philìa.
On the other hand, romantic love to him is important only to a certain extent. Life to CP should be a careful construction. So I wonder if he would be for arranged marriages. Well, yes and no, since to him each person must be the real planner of his/her life.
[By the way, the Western romantic approach to marriage is just one possibility: arranged marriages thrived for thousands of years and are today still common in many parts of the world. Discussions on this theme by Indians can be read at Nita’s blog: 1 and 2]
Bernazza is an interesting example of cultural isolation. His thought is organic like the wine one finds directly at the farm, surely inferior to the big wines, but with a genuineness and that special patina which smells of the past.
But I’m asking myself: 1) is friendship really so important in the relationship with a partner and in parenting? 2) should living our entire life with a partner be the fruit of a thoughtful decision and a careful construction (when looking for “the one” why don’t we ask mamma, someone wrote) or should all be decided by attraction and romantic passion only?
Reema has tagged me for a post that should present a few melodious and soulful songs in Italian and in another language of my choice. So I chose some Italian songs from Rome and Naples (sung often in their respective dialects) and some Italy-related American songs sung in English by Dean Martin, the great charmer of Italian descent. I’m sure Reema, this nice and spunky Indian lady, will vigorously protest saying some of these songs are not soulful or melodious enough. Well they are, but in their own way.
I wonder if you noticed Anna’s joyful laughter. In the video next to the one below you might better perceive how mocking, tragic and a bit crass it can also be. It’s the typical (and complex) Roman laughter from a town both noble and vulgar, I know I’m blunt about it. This – please allow me – is possibly due to remnants of ancient mores and to a peculiar history: the base ways in which the Roman populace was entertained (with gladiators etc.) to be kept quiet might have left traces, for example. Sounds a bit like the world of today, with vile Tv and movies ruling, doesn’t it.
Born in the Roman slums in 1908, Anna displays this weird mixture of nobility and crudity, of impudence and extreme moral strength. She is the perfect symbol of Rome. Here she sings Scapricciatiello, a Neapolitan song by Ferdinando Albano (1894 – 1968). The film is The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969) and the guy playing the guitar is Anthony Queen, her husband in the plot.
Now a stornello romano from Mamma Roma (1962), with French subtitles, starring Anna Magnani and Franco Citti. A stornello is a Roman folk song where each strophe often begins with ‘fiore di’ (flower of…), the rest being improvised, which allows the man and the two women in the video to mock one another in ways, well, typical from here.
Anna plays the role of a prostitute during the post-war period, when Italians were struggling for survival. In this scene she is very upset because her pimp (Citti, with a moustache) has married the other woman. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini the film was judged immoral by critics and the public due to swearing.
Sweet Feelings of a City
Getting closer to the sweetness of the city, the Roman folk singer Gabriella Ferri sings Roma forestiera, (Stranger Rome), 1947, a song lamenting the post-war social transformation of Rome. The original Youtube movie inserted showed scenes from the films Mamma Roma and Roma città aperta, directed by Roberto Rossellini, probably one of the best Italian films ever produced. The movie is no longer available on Youtube for copyright infringement. Here another one with the same song Roma forestiera sung by Gabriella Ferri.
Now Arrivederci Roma, a song composed by Renato Rascel and sung by Claudio Villa, my favourite Roman folk singer. Born in Trastevere Villa has a wonderful voice but languages are not his forte (he pronounces ‘goobye’ instead of ‘goodbye’). Very beautiful pictures of Rome (but much betterones in the video next to this).
Another song by Renato Rascel, Roma nun fa’ la stupida stasera (Rome please behave tonight), sung by a bunch of artists – see credits at the end – and with a set of pictures among the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Here the core meaning of the song: (the man) “oh Roma, be as romantic as possible and help me to make her say yes to me;” (the woman) “oh Roma, be as unromantic as possible and help me to say NO to him!”
Italy in America. Dean Martin
And now our great Dean Martin (Dino Paul Crocetti) who sings a Neapolitan song Torna a Surriento (English titleTake Me In Your Arms.) This man and ALL the songs in this post really remind me of my first youth, I’ve got to thank Reema for it. Enjoy also some nice pictures of the Sorrento area, where – allow me again – the Romans first mixed up with the Greeks.
Listen now to On an Evening in Roma (Sott’er Cielo de Roma), one of Dino’s great Italian love songs (1961). The video is full of Rome’s great pictures.
Naples and the Three Tenors
We’ll finish with two beautiful Neapolitan songs. Here is Parlami d’amore Mariu’ (Talk me of Love Mariu’) by the Neapolitan composer Bixio. It is performed by the three tenors Luciano Pavarotti, José Carreras and Placido Domingo in Paris (1998).
Finally, as the cherry on the pie, Non ti scordar di me (Don’t forget me) by the Neapolitan composer Ernesto De Curtis. It is sung by Luciano Pavarotti in Budapest.
I know, I have dedicated so much space to music on Rome, but this is the Man of Roma’s blog, after all.
I’ll though say here aloud what it is already well known: the tradition of the Neapolitan song is much greater than that of Rome.
We said there is a general attraction-repulsion among the people from North and South Europe. Let’s forget the repulsion thing now and let us instead focus on the undoubted attraction we feel for each other – as for our use of the term hyperborean pls read this note.
the North Wind
The ancient Greeks dreamed about a mythical people living in a pagan Eden beyond Boreas, the north wind (hyper-Boreas = ‘beyond the north wind’). The Hyperboreans were imagined as perfect and almost god-like.
Thus Pindar in the V century BC:
Never the Muse is absent
from their ways: lyres clash and flutes cry
and everywhere maiden choruses whirling.
Neither disease nor bitter old age is mixed
in their sacred blood; far from labour and battle they live.
Such a bliss was though difficult to reach:
Never on land or by sea will you find
the marvellous road to the feast of the Hyperborea.
So Hyperborea was like a feast. Hard to tell which real experiences fed the myth but we perceive like attraction vibes coming from the Mediterranean and addressed towards some mythical folk of the north-east.
At least 5 centuries later, the Roman historian Tacitus, in his book Germania about the Germans (full text here) – a group of tribes also coming from the North-East – noted in AD 98: “In every house the children grow up, thinly and meanly clad, to that bulk of body and limb which we behold with wonder.” Less myth here but concrete admiration for the Germans’ powerful bodies (and pristine virtues.)
Caesar himself had appreciation for the Germans, if utilizing them in battle is any indication. Ancient Rome was filled with northern slaves who, even though seen as savages, were admired for their aspect and many Roman ladies wore expensive wigs made from their blonde or red hair.
Not Angles, but Angels
That the Mediterranean people found these northern folks attractive is confirmed by a legendary event with some historical ground. If true, it occurred more than 500 years after Tacitus’ time.
He then so exclaimed with a pun: “Non Angli, sed Angeli”, “they are not Angles, but Angels” and added: “Well named, for they have angelic faces and ought to be co-heirs with the angels in heaven.” Thus, according to Beda, he thought to convert the pagan Anglo-Saxons to Christianity and sent Augustine of Canterbury to Britain for this purpose.
Not much has changed since then. As regards contemporary Britons, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch and Germans (among the rest,) today’s Mediterranean people still see them as different in their bodies, skin, eyes, manners, and these differences are often seductive, beyond a doubt. Exactly as to Gregory, their children look such fair-skinned sweet angels to us. The women and the men we see as provided with a diverse beauty we generally find irresistible.
At 17 I was stunned watching the Irish girls dancing in the Dublin discos. The way they moved their bodies to the rhythm of music was so damn different from our girls’: a ‘lesser grace equals more grace’ type of thing, which almost knocked me out.
Churches as Factories for Marriage
A 45 years old American IT expert, italoamericano, confessed that the Italian and the Irish Americans who often gather in Catholic churches all over the States do feel this reciprocal attraction. “Churches are sometimes like factories for marriages. As far as us Italians– he confirmed – we cannot resist those fair and blue-eyed faces”. He had in fact married an Irish woman. Whether he met her in a church I’m not in a position to tell.
An attraction reciprocal. An American woman of German-English descent had lived in a small town close to Chicago. She said she gazed longingly at those Italians in the days when her catholic mother took her to the local church.
Ok, basta. Since from serious this post has become gossipy (and voyeuristic) I will redeem myself in the next and last post dedicated to the Hyperboreans.
Hopefully we won’t just talk about the physical qualities we admire in them.
Note. I couldn’t find an appropriate picture with English or German children (for Gregory’s angels.) The image above refers to Swedish girls during Luciadagen (Saint Lucia’s day) on December 13th. It is moving how these “sun starved people” revere Lucia (or Lucy,) the Saint of light born in sunny Sicily (her name coming from the Latin word lux = light.)
During the darkest days of the year they pray Lucia to bring the sun back to them.
(“Lucy is one of the very few saints celebrated by the Lutheran Swedes, Finland-Swedes, Danes and Norwegians in celebrations that retain many indigenous Germanic pagan pre-Christian midwinter light festivals” – Wikipedia)
We have said in a previous post that all men are philosophers since everyone in the course of his/her life keeps building a constantly evolving grid of interrelated concepts that shape his/her unique conception of the world.
Therefore ‘philosophy’ is not such a weird thing that pertains only to a specialized category of professionals. It is on the contrary a natural feature of our species, exactly like talking or walking on two legs.
Inner motives help
There is another element I want to point out (since we mentioned it just briefly in the past.)
These concepts and their linking seem (at least to me) related to inner motives each of us keeps inside, unconsciously or not.
Such motives, often of biographical origin, are like filters that highly influence the way we see the world.
Everyone has his/her unique way of going through this thing, the uneducated and the educated alike, the unintellectual and the great pros of thought (traditional philosophers and scientist philosophers.)
Ancient-Rome fiends, for example, may filter out things accordingly. They can look at a Renaissance façade and notice only the Roman elements that were reinvented by Renaissance architects, the semi-circular (or triangular) arches of the windows, for instance, which they can mentally link to Rome’s Pantheon niches which probably hosted the statues of Caesar, Augustus and Agrippa.
I being one of those maniacs, when within the walls of a Roman Basilica I am seldom hit by religious feelings and am rather inclined to imagine business people and magistrates doing their jobs in ancient Rome. What I tend to see is in fact the public building the Romans utilized for business, markets and legal matters, and not the place of Christian religious cult Basilicas were converted into (when they were not created from scratch for this purpose by the followers of the new religion.)
What I mean is that we all have our obsessions, themes, leitmotivs. They not only greatly influence our view of things, on my opinion, but also tend to provide our ideas with some kind of order, thus helping us to become little or great philosophers.
Well, let’s face it, these manias may energize our ideas though this doesn’t automatically translates into real philosophical consistency, something one can reach only through toil (which is the work of the pro.)
These themes are evident in people we know well – close friends, family members, colleagues. We are aware of their fixations, which sometimes bore us to tears. It can be a father (or mother) figure obsession, a pervading mental escapism that comes out in many comments or behaviours, it can be anything.
Such leitmotivs are also present in the works of writers, musicians, scientists etc., although they are more complex to detect and it is the big part of a critic’s job to probe their works in search of elements which make the stylistic imprint of an author.
a crush on a Muslim girl?
Just as an example, one reason why a melody by Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff is recognized as his and only his is this bizarre Arabic-scale leaning he had and that may related to some profound experience in his life.
It’s because he had Tartar ancestors? Was he desperately in love with a Muslim girl? I have to check – it might be for both reasons. I read somewhere he was in love with a Muslim girl and that he lost her for some reason. I may be wrong (plus I may sound mushy) but I couldn’t check this information in the books I have or in the Internet.
Let us in any case listen to one of Rachmaninoff’s orientalizingmelodies from Piano Concerto N. 2, III, Allegro scherzando.
The Cairo trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz is dominated by the robust personality of Ahmed Abd el-Gawwad, wealthy merchant, almighty husband and father, pious, stern and inflexible with his family by day, sensual and witty with his male friends and Cairo’s ladies of pleasure by night (Nicole Chardaire). He is the Egyptian patriarch par excellence whom “both men and women throughout the Arab world view … with melancholic nostalgia and admiration” (Sabry Hafez). Among other characters are his wife Amina, submitted to her husband though strong and the real emotional centre of the family, and the young son Kamal, who, unlike his brother Yasine, pleasure-seeking and superficial, is all absorbed in his ideals of poetry and wisdom.
Kamal falls in love with an inaccessible and beautiful young woman, Aïda, who lives in a splendid mansion – thence the name of the second novel of the Trilogy, Palace of Desire – and has spent some time of her life in Paris. The events are set in the first decades of the last century.
While Aïda is away, Kamal is sighing in her absence and remembering. Here are some of his love words (the French translation being in my view better, I add some of it for those who can read this language):
“Ta peau d’ange n’est pas faite pour la chaleur brûlante du Caire. (…) Your angelic complexion was not made to roast in the heat of Cairo (…) Let the sand enjoy the tread of your feet. Let the water and air rejoice in seeing you.”
“Le Caire est vide sans toi. Y coulent tristesse et solitude (…) Without you, Cairo’s is a wasteland exuding melancholy desolation (…) no place in Cairo offers me any solace, distraction or entertainment (…) so long as I remain under your wing, I feel fresh and safe, even if my hope is groundless. Of what use to a person eagerly searching the dark sky is his knowledge that the full moon is shining on earth somewhere else? None … Yet I desire life to its most profound and intoxicating degree, even if that hurts (…)”
“Today, tomorrow, or after a lifetime (…) my imagination will never lose sight of your dark black eyes, your eyebrows which join in the middle, your elegant straight nose, your face like a bronze moon, your long neck, and your slender figure. Your enchantment defies description but it is as intoxicating as the fragrance of a bouquet of jasmine blossoms. I will hold onto this image as long as I live. (…)”
“Don’t claim to have fathomed the essence of life unless you are in love. Hearing, seeing, tasting, and being serious, playful, affectionate, or victorious are trivial pleasures to a person whose heart is filled with love.”
“Ton cœur ne sait plus où jeter l’ancre, il va à la dérive, cherchant sa guérison à travers toutes les médecines de l’âme qu’il trouve tantôt dans la nature tantôt dans la science, dans l’art et … le plus souvent … dans l’adoration de Dieu …”
“Your heart [Kamal’s] could find no repose. It proceeded to search for relief from various spiritual opiates, finding them at different times in nature, science, and art, but most frequently in [religious] worship.”
“Seigneur Dieu, je ne suis plus moi-même (…) Mon cœur se cogne aux murs de sa prison. Les secrets de la magie dévoilent leur mystère. La raison vacille jusqu’à toucher la folie.”
“Oh Lord, I was no longer the same person. My heart collided with the walls of my chest as the secrets of the enchantment revealed themselves. My intellect raced so fast it courted insanity. The pleasure was so intense that it verged on pain. The strings of existence and of my soul vibrated with a hidden melody. My blood screamed out for help without knowing where assistance could be found.”
“Husayin, Isma’il, Hasan and I were busy discussing various issues – Kamal recalls – when there came to our ears a melodious voice saluting us. I turned around, totally astounded. Who could be approaching? How could a girl intrude on a gathering of young men to whom she was not related? But I quickly abandoned my questions and decided to set aside traditional mores. I found myself with a creature who could not possibly have originated on this earth. (…) At last you asked yourself whether there might not be special rules of etiquette for mansions. Perhaps it was a breath of perfumed air originating in Paris, where the beloved creature had grown up.”
Kamal keeps on remembering his first encounter with Aïda: “The charming look of her black eyes added to her fascinating beauty by revealing an agreeable candour – a daring that arose from self-confidence, not from licentiousness or wantonness – as well as an alarming arrogance, which seemed to attract and repel you at the same time.”
References. Naguib Mahfouz, Palace of desire, English translation by William Maynard Hutchins, Lorne M. Kenny and Olive E. Kenny, 1991, by the American University in Cairo Press, Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf.
Naguib Mahfouz, Le Palais du désir, French translation by Philippe Vigreux, Jean-Claude Lattès, 1987, Livres de Poche.
Note on translation. As far as translation of novels and poetry, we usually prefer a beautiful and unfaithful translation to an ugly and faithful one, meaning by ‘unfaithfulness’ only “aesthetic respect of the new language we are translating into” (and possibly not distortion of the original meaning). One might guess that we consider the French version belonging to the former. Yes, we do, although its type of ‘unfaithfulness’ is hypothetical since Arabic is unknown to us.
We already know that these frescoes, mosaics, statues etc. shocked the Victorians so much (see our first Post on Roman Sex).
Additionally, an interesting account in French of the best of them (60, with corresponding beautiful lithographs) was written by an unknown author, a certain ‘Colonel Fanin’ (or Famin? A Mistake in the English translation? see later) and published I guess illegally in 1816 in a limited edition by a French antiquarian (Stanislas Marie César Famin: ‘Colonel Fanin’ himself I guess) with the help of the Neapolitans (this French guy and Rome’s Greek cousins were such terrible brats, weren’t they.)
[On the matter, a History today‘s take; a good French blog’s take]
It is revealing (and funny) how 19th Century Europe got so scared of this book. All known original copies were destroyed by the French government though two at least survived. One was hidden in the private case of the British Museum, another ended up in the Library of Congress in Washington. I am pretty sure some billionaire possesses some other copy somewhere in the world.
In 1871 the book was translated into English and went through many pirate (and forbidden) editions. It can now be viewed in the Internet, the problem of the English copy it comes from being the horrible colour separations of the reproduced lithographs.
We do not need to show you all the lithographs and the corresponding comments since you can browse them yourself. These comments seem to me both highly cultivated and captivating. The author appears torn between aroused curiosity, admiration and condemnation.
Below you can see Plate VI (Invocation to Priapus) reproducing a bas-relief which depicted a married couple performing a home sacrifice to this God of fertility.
Here is the comment by the author:
“EVERYTHING in this bas-relief indicates an interior scene, an act of candour and piety, and not a disgusting orgy. The a married pair, clad as decently as the nature of the sacrifice to which they are about to proceed will allow, seem to be asking the god who presides over generation to put an end to a grievous sterility; the expressive gestures of the woman, especially, bear out this explanation. The husband is occupied in stretching out a curtain which is to veil from profane eyes the mysteries of the sacrifice”…
“The god, represented with the figure of a bald-headed and bearded old man, reposes on a little column, before which we observe a kind of altar erected in haste by the married pair, on which they have placed some oak-leaves and the pine-apple which surmounted the thyrsus of the priestesses of Bacchus.”
The Image in Plate XLVIII ( 48 ) reproduces a fresco from Pompeii. It is much more erotic and equally unconventional compared to today’s sexual manners.
“A YOUNG and beautiful married couple are amorously toying on a small bed. A lighted lamp shows that the scene takes place at night-time … the young man is carelessly stretched on his back, while his obliging companion, seated astraddle over him, is left to perform the principal part. In the background may be seen the cubicular slave, who is attentively watching the voluptuous pastime, and seems to be even looking on it with a lustful eye–
Masturbabantur phrygii post ostia servi,
Hectoreo quoties sederat uxor equo.”
Well, I won’t translate these two verses by the Roman poet Martial, but the cubicular ( = in bedroom) slave was common and had to serve his/her masters whenever requested.
Scenes like this have been realised in the 2005 HBO/BBC TV series Rome, “a fictionalized account of Caesar’s rise and fall” (Wikipedia.)
People were mainly shocked by these and other sex scenes, also those who praised the TV series (many did, critics included.) I think it was a pretty good experiment aiming at showing some Roman history together with pre-Christian sexual (and non sexual) habits. The latter didn’t save the series since the former was too heavy for contemporary audiences.
I liked the series though – one of the finest reconstructions of Ancient Rome I’ve ever saw- and I highly recommend it.
“This fresco – we are getting back to our mysterious author – is not without merit as regards its execution. The woman appears strong and well-formed; her fair hair falls over her shoulders in wavy curls. The man is beardless, but his stature is tall, and everything about him denotes a youth full of vigour and fire. The bed, a very inconvenient one for such sports, is … supported by four legs, too slender to resist long if they were not made of iron, a custom which has been perpetuated down to our own day in the south of Italy. It is, nevertheless, possible that this piece of furniture … was composed of a substance more precious than gold, for at the period of the decline, to which this painting belongs, luxury was carried to such a degree among the Romans, that it surpassed even the most marvellous stories of Eastern poets.”
Colonel Fanin tries here in my view to justify such unrestrained manners with the concept of decline but it must be noted that Rome at the times of Pompeii was instead at her apex from every point of view.
He then makes another mistake about the colour of Roman women’s hair (historians having proved that Roman hair was of any colour.)
“The Roman ladies attached great value to fair hair, though Nature had given them such beautiful black hair. It was indeed their habitual custom to have their heads shaved, and to cover them with light hair, which the young girls of Germany or Gaul sold them at fabulously high prices.”
It is true though that the fair and red hair colour was appreciated. Romans were open to a wide world of possibilities, being at the head a vast world.
He here gives us a lively image of Roman unrestrained wealth:
“Every part of the known world at that time contributed to subserve the reckless and mad luxury of the Romans. India sent them fine pearl necklaces, valued at several millions of sistertii; Arabia, her sweetest perfumes; Alexandria, Tyre, and Asia Minor, precious stuffs worked with gold and silk; Sidon, its metal or glass mirrors. Other countries sent to Rome purple, gold, silver, bronze, all the productions both of art and nature, the choicest wines, and the rarest animals. Under the later Scipio, men of high authority at Rome were seen wasting their substance with favourites, others with courtezans, or in concerts and costly feasts, having contracted, during the Persian war, the Greek tastes; and this disorder grew into a madness among the youths.”
So far we have wandered about Roman sexuality trying to understand 1) how remote it is from contemporary sexuality and 2) why everything has radically changed in the West since those times.
The first question seems clear. The Romans were very different and fancifully enjoyed pleasures and sex even though they tried not to be dominated by them (see our earlier post on ancient teachings.)
How different they were finds further evidence in statues like the famous Borghese Hermaphroditus shown above and kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris, especially when we think that these statues were very common in the Greco-Roman world. A hermaphroditus is actually a transsexual.
Can you imagine today a VIP’s living room offering the view of a marble transsexual to guests? Well, apart from a few eccentric artistic milieus, I think even open-minded people would be a bit puzzled, wouldn’t they.
The second question is more difficult. I believe that the Christian religion bears some responsibility, although I acknowledge that sexual pleasure & love are tremendous forces to the extent that they can be a social problem to be handled no matter the culture or epoch we live in.
As the Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater put it, we like sex too much, it therefore being potentially dangerous and unproductive, with every society trying to regulate it in a way or another.
Puritanism in its broad meaning, however, (eg loving only what is not pleasurable,) is to be condemned in my view even if it can push us to extremely hard work (puritanism was seen, no need to remind it, as a factor of development in areas of the United States according to Max Weber’s theories – if my memory is not faltering.)
As always it is a matter of right measure. The Romans achieved great things (like the Anglo-Saxons did) and worked hard to attain them but lived pleasantly and were (mostly) not puritanical (in the early Republic they were.)
Therefore it is not by chance the Latin folks originated from them (Italy, France, Portugal, Spain etc.) tend to savour life with taste, refinement and joy, this incidentally also being a reason why the Italian and the French ways of life are getting attractive and represent today a school (not the only one) of savoir vivre in the West.
Thing being Latin folks are more or less taught since they were babies to cultivate beauty and all it implies.
It is so simple,
as simple and beautiful
as a Greek temple.
Their ancestors in fact, our Ancient Romans, didn’t just eat (as many Anglo-Saxons do, though progress is evident): they invented a highly refined culinary art. Equally, they didn’t just reproduce themselves (as many Christian fanatics do): they invented forms of refined eroticism which allowed them to live a fuller life.
Is it wrong? Is it right?
Should beauty in all its forms be a main part of our life?
A full answer is more coomplicated than it seems, but I definitely think it isright.
Yes, I conclusively think it is right, my sweet readers. Oh I really don’t have many doubts about that.
As we have said in the first post regarding Sex and the city of Romethe ancient Greco-Romans had a totally different attitude towards sex and enjoyed a sensuality open to possibilities whose variety can confuse contemporary people (in spite of what we Westerners think of our sexual liberation) to the extent that what we are about to narrate could offend people’s feelings. We therefore ask for pardon but we also make known to minors and prudish people to please not read any further.
Open sensuality? Yes, since for example the sacred poet Virgil probably sighed for Alexis, a beautiful boy; Horace celebrated incest, adultery and sex with female slaves; Ovid, Petronius and Catullus went a lot further (we might see later); not to mention the Roman phallic festivals like the Liberalia, held on the 17th of March …
“… where a monstrous phallus was carried in procession in a car… and the most respectable of the matrons ceremoniously crowned the head of the phallus with a garland”, or festivals like the Bacchanalia where similarly a huge phallus was carried and “as in the Liberalia, the festivities being carried on into the night, as the celebrators became heated with wine, they degenerated into the extreme of licentiousness, in which people indulged without a blush in the most infamous vices.”
Before trying to understand what is left today of these distant habits (the post title actually refers to survivals of ancient behaviours in today’s world, we’ll see why), we are going to provide a few detailed illustrations of this freer (or different, in any case) attitude .
So we’ll start by mentioning a Roman goddess, Dea Bona (‘Good Goddess’) and a scandal occurred at the time of great Julius Caesar.
Roman Dea Bona
In Roman religion Dea Bona (Latin for ‘Good Goddess’) was a “deity of fruitfulness, both in the earth and in women … The dedication day of her temple on the Aventine was celebrated May 1. Her temple was cared for and attended by women only, and the same was the case at a second celebration, at the beginning of December, in the house of the Pontifex Maximus [the chief Roman Priest, today’s Pope being still the Pontifex Maximus of Rome], where the Pontifex’s wife and the Vestal Virgins ran the ceremony.” (Bona Dea. 2007. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved December 9, 2007, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online.)
I wonder if the online Britannica is exact here, since the December celebration was conducted “by the wife of the senior magistrate present in Rome in his home” (any senior magistrate then: Pontifex, consul etc.). In fact, according to Plutarch (2nd cent. A.D., Life of Cicero 19.3, 20.1-2) when Cicero was consul, the day he made the famous speech which is known as his third Catiline oration, he was escorted in the night “to the house of a friend and neighbour; his own being occupied by women who were celebrating the secret rites of the goddess whom the Romans call Bona.”
The December festival was more interesting than the May one since “it was not held in the goddess’ temple … it was an invitation-only affair and pretty exclusive”. The wife of the magistrate managed the whole thing during the night, all was secret and occurred in a context of classy luxury (quote from here.)
What was happening during these secret-sacred rites from which men were strictly excluded? Surely it was something like a mystery cult, hence little we know about it (maybe you can find something in Macrobius’ Saturnalia). According to the Latin poet Juvenal, who wrote his satires many generations later (but who was also probably a bit of a misogynist), the Bona rites included drunken orgies among women (Juvenalis Sat. vi, l. 314):
“Well known to all are the mysteries
of the Good Goddess,
when the flute stirs the loins
and the Maenads of Priapus sweep along,
frenzied alike by the horn-blowing and the wine,
whirling their locks and howling.
What foul longings burn within their breasts!
What cries they utter as the passion palpitates within!
How drenched their limbs in torrents of old wine!
Saufeia challenges the slave-girls to a contest….”
The scandal broke during the Dea Bona December ceremonies in 62 BC, when Julius Caesar was Pontifex Maximus. This is why the celebration took place in his house. Caesar of course was absent, being a man. The way it all developed seems to confirm Juvenal’s view, as we have said.
“(9.1) Publius Clodius was a man of noble birth and notable for his wealth and reputation, but not even the most notorious scoundrels came close to him in insolence and audacity. Clodius was in love with Caesar’s wife Pompeia, and she was not unwilling. But a close watch was kept on the women’s apartment, and Caesar’s mother Aurelia followed the young wife around and made it difficult and dangerous for the lovers to meet.”
“(9.3) The Romans have a goddess whom they call Good… It is unlawful for a man to approach or to be in the house when the rites are celebrated. The women, alone by themselves, are said to perform rites that conform to Orphic ritual during the sacred ceremony.”
“(10.1) At the time [when the incident occurred] Pompeia was celebrating this ritual; Clodius did not yet have a beard and for this reason thought that he would escape detection if he were dressed up as [woman] lyre-player, and went into the house looking like a young woman. He found the doors open and was led in without difficulty by a slave-woman who was in on the plot; this woman went to Pompeia and told her, and some time passed, but Clodius could not bear to wait, and as he was wandering around the large house and trying to avoid the lights, one of Aurelia’s [female] attendants got hold of him, and asked him to play with her, as one woman might with another, and when he refused, she dragged him before the others and asked who he was and where he came from.”
“(10.3) Clodius said that he was waiting for Pompeia’s slave Abra (which happened to be the woman’s name), and gave himself away by his voice. The [woman] attendant dashed away from him towards the lights and the crowd, shouting that she had caught a man. The women were terrified, and Aurelia called a halt to the rites of the goddess and hid the sacred objects; she ordered the doors to be shut and went around the house with torches, looking for Clodius. He was found in the room that belonged to the girl where he had gone in an attempt to escape. When he was discovered, he was taken through the doors by the women and thrown out of the house. That night the women went right off and told their husbands about the affair, and during the day the story spread through the city that Clodius had been involved in sacrilege and had committed injustice against not only those he had insulted, but the city and the gods.”
“(10.5) Clodius was indicted for sacrilege by one of the tribunes, and the most influential senators joined forces against him and testified about other dreadful outrages he had committed and his incest with his sister.”
[Her name was Clodia – prob. the slutty Lesbia loved by Catullus – a perpetual scandal like her brother Clodius. We’ll probably talk about her again, it is important in our view of Roman sex. In the painting below you can see Catullus visiting aristocratic Lesbia’s mansion, a nice work by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836 – 1912,) an interesting painter of late nineteenth century Britain]
[Online Britannica: “In December 62, when the winter ceremony of the Bona Dea (from which men were excluded) was celebrated in the house of Julius Caesar, a man believed to be Clodius was discovered disguised as a female harpist among the participants. Charged with incestum he was tried before the Senate…Caesar divorced his wife in suspicion that she had admitted Clodius to the ceremony….Clodius maintained he had been at Interamna, 90 miles (145 km) from Rome, on the day in question, but Cicero, who abused the defendant intemperately, presented evidence to the contrary. Clodius was acquitted, perhaps because the jury had been bribed, but immediately began to devise ways to revenge himself on Cicero.” (Clodius Pulcher, Publius. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 9 Dec. 2007) ]
Plutarch (10.6): “Caesar immediately divorced Pompeia, but when he was summoned as a witness in the trial said that he knew nothing about the accusations against Clodius. The prosecutor asked him about the apparent contradiction: ‘why then did you divorce your wife?’ He answered, ‘because I thought my wife should be above suspicion’….Clodius was acquitted because most of the jurors handed in their opinions in illegible writing, so that they would not endanger themselves with the common people by voting against him, or disgrace themselves with the nobility by letting him off.”
I think the reason Caesar supported Clodius was because they belonged to the same common people (democratic) party. Clodius was popular and influential therefore deemed useful by Caesar for his own political career.
Sometimes when people have a problem – any problem: love, career, friends, family, deep shyness, health etc. – they get depressed, they remain passive and do nothing. Other times people, trying also desperately to get out of their bad situation, find some strength and react, in a way or another.
Of course the result of this re-action can either solve their problem or, as a possible alternative, get to a problem that is worse, not to mention total failure or disaster (this not being the point though.)
Ok, I am making it simple but, from what I have just said, strength seems such an important ingredient in one’s life success – Country philosopher would say:”No doubt about it, really no doubt about it.” I think you’ll soon meet him, oh you’ll have to readers.
Back to the point now.
Strength of Mind, plus Action
Strength is in fact crucial, I can tell you by experience. No matter your intelligence or big qualities, if you are not provided with enough strength of mind to face things with firmness, if you do not possess some sort of personal bravery, even powerful intellectual processing capabilities might not help much. Quite the contrary, they might be an extra handicap making you a flop.
Here’s one theoretical example.
Even a perfect intellect though spending its time thinking thinking thinking only (and not acting with bravery of mind) it’s almost sure to reach its exact opposite, namely total imperfection in life, which can have many names: frustration, implosion, deep sorrow, depression, overthrow, stalemate etc.
Failure, in short.
The world is full of gifted people that are total flops because they’re cowards and forceless, I know too well, many of my failures (apart from a few successes) being due to flaws where lack of courage was not seldom part of the bunch. And of course, one being a flop means being partially or totally impeded to fulfill one’s dreams as for family, career, love and so forth.
I would add (since we are all bloggers) that even writing & thinking too much can sort of devour itself and make the writer stop writing altogether. This for example happened to me with musical composition: too much loved, too much adored, thus devouring itself, hence failing (or flopping, if you prefer.)
Finding Courage Inside. Magister
Given strength is such a good quality how can one attain it in case we are deprived of it? Hard question. I can tell what Magister used to say, probably referring to an idea by the Italian thinker Antonio Gramsci:
“Anyone of us can find all the force he needs, atremendousforce,if only he really tries, no matter his gender, nation, age, instruction, religion (or non religion), no Gods helping, no religion helping, only our human nature helping (or genes, if you prefer.)”
Of course I am making Magister’s words exuberant a bit since he lectured us with his crystal-clear ideas that imprinted on us vigorously, day by day.
“Sometimes one needs to really be cornered to discover this tremendous bravery we all can have – he kept saying.
“Sometimes one actually needs to feel in danger.”
Magister now sounded implacable, his voice rising.
“Yes! Only in real danger one is sometimes able to stand up with one’s ballsfirm, in order to face things, and FIGHT!”
Gosh, we were STUNNED. We couldn’t but keep staring at him, totally wide-eyed.
I will also add the sublime example of Victorian Kipling’s Rikki-tikki-tavi baby mongoose, fighting and winning even over the dreadful adult female King cobra. Yes, baby mangusta won because cornered (and out of love for the British humans she/he lived with, though mangustas’ behaviour I have no idea about.)
So let us make use of thispotential inner courage we all have in order to face things and act. In other words, let us fight for a better life – personal or collective, it is the same.
Of course, dear readers, this post is also pretty personal since I am living a hard moment, so once more I’m trying to follow Magister’s example to find such inner force and make use of all the personal bravery I am capable of.
Destructive Solution: aggressive Anger
The thing is, being very stressed these days, I am starting to make mistakes.
1) Excess. One mistake is letting excess prevail a bit. No big deal, since once I’m all right I’ll take care of it and tame it (hopefully.)
2) Anger. The worst thing – and a possible by-product of Magister’s teaching on strength? – which I consider due only to age (or bad temper?). I mean, I feel such a great anger inside, together with this constantly re-lost & re-found energy at my disposal now, without a doubt.
Why the hell am I angered? For personal reasons I won’t say and because I see my country (and Europe) not reacting well to challenges. I see people here in Italy full of intelligence and of resources my generation didn’t even dream of (same old song at each generation, I know) looking unprepared, narrow-minded and provincial, not to mention Italians’ almost total ignorance of the whole world picture.
I see the UK and France fantasizing they still have great empires (or great world influence of their own), thus halting in a way or another the European political unification.
Oh this really drives me mad, especially the Brits’ behaviour, really so mad indeed – tending to condone the French out of sentimental weakness: I consider them at present the best fruit of Latin civilization.
This anger thing reminds me of an old man, long white hair, bald, dirty clothes though full of tremendous dignity I met 25 years ago in Pamplona, Spain – see the picture above. He told us two words in Italian in a bar, so I asked him:
“How is government here in Spain?”
His facial expression changed and, looking at me with boiling rage, he roared:
“LATRONES! LATRONES!” (Thieves! Thieves!)
Oh was I startled, plus I got worried for the poor old fellow’s health.
2.1) Made my Indians angry. First totally moronic consequence of my destructive anger (plus lack of concentration): I’ve recently flooded my sweet Indian bloggers (Amith, Poonam, Ashish, Ishmeet etc.) with hard (not against them tho) and/or fussycomments which gave them the impression I wanted their blog space A-L-L for myself.
GOD DAMN! They might ban me from now on, being all connected to one-another, one whisper sufficing to be excluded by the only readers I have (or the core of them.)
It would though be right, it would though be RIGHT, this punishment, because of this verbal abuse of mine that has no excuses, really no excuses at all, going against what I call humanitas, which is basically sympathy & respect for others.
One Big (Tiny) Missile Against The Ex-Victorians
2.2) Stupid attack on Great Britain, i.e.second moronic mistake.
Some time ago I found a high-brow English blog on politics, Westminster Wisdom (subtitle: “mind trained by academia into almost fractal subtlety”).
It was highly ranked in Technorati plus this guy’s (or guys’) nick was Gracchi, which in Ancient-Roman history is the name of two brave brothers who decided to carry out a revolutionary state-land property reform (land to be given to small peasants) since the ancient Roman Res Publica was not so Publica after all, 200 clans (or gentes) basically having ALL the riches (and lands) for themselves. These two brothers were in fact butchered by landowners gorillas. Same old story almost everywhere in the ancient and non ancient world.
Wow, I said. I love this man. He loves the Romans & the common people like I do. Therefore I started reading his blog with a pleasure that diminished the more I was realising how his high-brow British English (which I probably envied) was hard to understand. My anger, while reading, kept surging surging.
Such fruitless sophistication (I thought,) I had to read sentences 3 times to figure out their content (was I just tired?)
You’ll say it’s because I am no mother-tongue. I’m not, and I toil for every sentence I write.
But let’s face it. I read the Economist, Financial Times etc. quite a lot. I used to read over and over the Canterbury Tales (modern English verse, tho,) Pope, Shakespeare, Byron & Milton, bits of Joyce etc. (and, American-English stuff, even more than British stuff, except for English poetry, of course, which I totally adore. I’ll add several historical & political British – and American – books.)
Additionally, my anger was surging surging also because this guy dared to call himself Gracchi.
This Briton I mean dared to use a Roman name that since more than 2000 years always meant: with the common people! For the common people! Caesar himself, though from the noblest breed, wrote works that even a baby could read and belonged to that Gracchian youth and all that democratic bunch which helped him to gain power.
In ten minutes I was like the man in Pamplona: all rage, my pent-up grudge against the Brits exploding – the only real Trojan horse of Europe (forget the French.)
Well, it didn’t explode, to say the truth. It imploded, probably making my life 2-3 years shorter.
I didn’t (and don’t) nonetheless care a f*** about my health, being a citizen of Rome with all his couldn’t-care-less attitude, non ce ne frega riccamente un cazzo a noi romani.
Although, I did care, and got so angry about this after-all-innocent-Brit-guy’s blog. Hence, rage being rage:
Vendetta is a dish
You have to eat so cold,
Oh yes, my fellow countryman,
so cold, cruel, perfidious.
Perfidious-Albion-like ah ah
perfidious-Albion-like ah ah ah ah
ah ah ah aaahhhh ….
Such a silly poem actually – I love my silly English poems – though this one (among the silliest) may somewhat describe my feelings while so perfidiously I was about to prepare my missile against the UK.
Once my comment was completed – and well equipped after two hours oftoil – BANG! I shot my legions forwards, feeling like Maximus Decimus Meridius in the moments preceding the German Marcomanni’s annihilation (in the Gladiator’s initial movie battle, btw.)
“Your blog seems great to me, although a bit too sophisticated. Is this sophistication the essence of what you call academic? (I know this is not your thought). Trying not to be provocative I’m only disappointed.
I thought only the French and Italian Academias (or their respective literatures) suffered from this illusion that sophistication of style immediately translated into quality of content, or from this aristocratic (id est corporative) disease that makes intellectuals more concerned about other intellectuals than about talking to a public. The natural consequence of this undemocratic attitude being of course that the world does not read our works any more.
Britain was such a happy exception. You did so much not only for the ‘public understanding of science’ but also for the ‘public understanding of humanities (and politics)’.
Where is Europe going if even the shepherds are getting lost….?
A man of the street of Rome
[downgraded to middle-brow status
(though proud of it),
whose ancestors were noble citizens of Rome
since at least 10 centuries]
Saturday, October 20, 2007 3:49:00 PM
The arrow was cruel, no doubt, and painted with subtle venom, especially if you consider his nick, Gracchi, and the fact that only 40 years earlier sublime (and high-brow) Bertrand Russel, together with hundreds of other high-brow British intellectuals, had the rare quality of being understood even by porters (or street cleaners, if you prefer.)
This dirty shot to the Gracchi guy was in fact such a blow in my view that, thinking of it now while I’m writing, I am not so proud of it, I’m not so proud of it at all.
In any case my legions of words having been too quick for him – and too well organized, I’ll confess my silly pride – this poor, decent Briton thus finally replied:
“Thanks TD [TD?]
Manofroma cheers for the praise. I’m sorry about the sophistication- I do write some simpler articles- but basically I write this for fun, so though I’ll try and be more concise in the future I suspect the subjects won’t change! I do think that there is a point in there- and I think TD [??] has found it for example- anyway thanks for visiting and sorry your visit disappointed you in some ways.”
Saturday, October 20, 2007 4:12:00 PM
Nice reply, after all, and his blog highly cultivated and interesting indeed, of a higher quality than mine, no doubts about it.
But then, total victory of Roma over the UK? Oh no no no, of course not. Great Britain always backfires.They never give up, never, even during Alexandrian-style decadence.
After 1 day an anonymous comment in fact came out:
“No no no don’t listen to Manofroma’s incomprehensible post. There is absolutely nothing ‘too sophisticated’ about your writing – it is most lucid and precise. Stick exactly to what you are doing, it works beautifully! One of the few blogs out there that is consistently a joy to read.
Sunday, October 21, 2007 1:08:00 AM
Probably true, although, what if HE HIMSELF had written the anonymous comment? There must be reasons why they are called Perfidious-Albion. Well, in truth, difficult to say whether the Romans were instead more honest, in their total brutality that spared nobody if they deemed it necessary. So hard to say. In any case, as for Gracchi, I’ll never know if it was him to backfire or someone else.
Truth painted with Sorrow. Ghosts
The thing is, what the hell do I care, my dear readers. I was an aggressive bastard, whatever the result of this microscopic war between Roma and the UK – who probably didn’t even notice the battle, and Rome in any case couldn’t care less, ah ah ah.
Things, you know, are much more complicated. And they are not painted with venom, they are painted with sorrow …
Truth being I cannot but love Britain of course. I wouldn’t have toiled so much to learn its language; I wouldn’t have listened to Sir Edward Elgar‘s Victorian music so much, a bit too romantic to Roman ears, though providing that feel of imperial greatness I needed to write my most Roman posts, this introductory post, for example.
And the thing is I do not only love the Britons. I most of all love so much the people and the place I am departing from.
Is it guilt that is making me aggressive, my departure though being not deprived of reasons and fairness?
And, out of guilt, is it a ‘hating-myself <–> hating-my-beloved-ones’ type of thing? Or is it just fear?
“Ok man, this is personal stuff – one might say. Let’s get more practical. We just learned you are leaving: where the hell are you going?”
Well, I’m going somewhere to the south – only 30 minutes by train will take me back to my beloved city.
I’m going where I can watch our Mediterranean sunset reflecting on the salty sea water, every day that is left to me, every single day, away from all the smog, away from the big city chaotic pace, although, unfortunately, also away from all that I love unconditionally.
And one danger is approaching, ruthless. Ghosts from my mind are about to attack. I can feel them.
They’re approaching and even if it was foreseen that doesn’t mean I am not scared, being totally alone, nobody waiting for me, now and in the future, I believe.
This might be the final reason why I got so armoured, aggressive. Mind ghosts, theonly real ones in my view (see the post Ghosts from Asia,) will make my life a lot harder, for a length of time whose duration I cannot predict.
They are the ones to be really fought, not the Brits, certainly, whom how can I judge they being superior to Italians in many respects (not in all respects though, oohh really no doubt about it.) I will not judge them, though pls allow me to strongly disagree with their stubborn, anachronistic (plus self-destructive) Trojanism.
I really do hope that love, harmony and joy will soon circle back in the life of everyone, me being though a natural born loner, as it always was and as it always will probably be.
I might lose my battle with ghosts (and with fear). Even though in the end, in the very end:
When the unwanted Guest arrives …
I might be afraid
Or I might smile and say:
My day was good, let night fall.