Description Table of Content PDF No previous work has examined political exclusion in Early Renaissance Florence or its significance for the transition from Florentine popular government to oligarchy. Your Access Options. Log In If you have personal access to this content, log in with your username and password here: Email or username: Password: Remember me. Forgotten your password? Log In Via Your Institution. As a coded but calculated language of per- suasion food ingratiated the host to the guests, and this, in turn, enabled him to seize opportunities and capitalize on the advantages that the per- ception entailed.
The political overlay superimposed to these convivial gatherings cannot be ignored, for it is precisely because of the political implications that food transmits through its "metaphorical or symbolic qualities," that banquets turned the host's private ambitions into public spectacles. Riario took intense interest to ensure that before departing for Ferrara, where she was to become the wife of Ercole I, Eleonora and the duke's envoys, with Matteo Maria Boiardo among them, were entertained with unprecedented magnificence.
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In the house he erected in her honour near the Church of the Holy Apostles, Cardinal Riario's wealth, power, and sophistication were meticulously dis- played. Splendid furnishings, new theatrical representations and an opu- lent banquet left their mark on his prestigious guests Pastor, Letters written by ambassadors, as well as by Eleonora herself, corroborate Riario's reputation as a powerful and astute statesman.
That Riario trans- formed the banquet into a formidable political manoeuvre is confirmed by the successful achievement of his immediate objective: offering a public display of the pope's alliance with the Aragonese king and, of course, Duke Ercole, while simultaneously casting off the Orsini and Medici families. By astutely turning the political discourse into one of gastronomic seduction and, at the same time, by fusing the two into one ingenious triumph, Cardinal Riario gave new meaning to the Renaissance understanding of political strategizing.
His deliberate substitution of a symbolically rich meal to a series of predictable political gestures demonstrated Riario's uncanny awareness of the possibilities offered by commensal diplomacy. He showed, among other things, that to influence people of power, diplo- matic skilfulness must rely on, and permeate, every social activity in which those people took pleasure.
At the same time, however, his act demon- strated that if on the one hand eating at his table signalled the renewal of papal-Aragonese diplomatic relations, it, on the other hand, also denoted the moral and ethical shortcomings of the parties partaking of the meal. The Cardinal's banquet, as a carefully conceived means to promote papal interests, served as a stage for the porous and ambivalent relationship between the pope's power and the fickle nature of his political alliances, but left no space for Christian ethical values.
The three-course menu included stags roasted whole in their skins, goats, hares, calves, herons, peacocks with their feathers, and a bear: osten- tatious dishes for a self-conscious group. Meats were served covered in sil- ver and innumerable sweets and confectionary shaped into artistic tableaux intended to stir and conquer the onlookers' imagination ensured the tri- umph of appearance.
However, despite — or perhaps because of — its adher- — 22 — Banquets and Power enee to the aristocratic culinary code, the far-reaching political implica- tions of Riario's banquet served more as an attack on his enemies than as a praise of his new allies. An illustration of this is the bear meat. Prized for its rarity rather than its nutritional qualities - because, according to the Galenic humoral theory, it "is not good for spleen or liver" and "generates all kinds of indigestible residue," as Platina's De Honesta voluptate et vale- tudine explains Platina, - this animal implicitly evokes not only the hunt for, but especially the overpowering of a fiercely untamed force.
The political message couched in the spectacle of a bear reduced to a meal could also call to mind the powerful Orsini family, 1 the pope's embittered rivals, linked by marriage to the Medici. Playing both on the homonymy and the meat's symbolic value, Riario insinuated the idea of the Orsini's subjugation and downfall so that his guests could foretaste, savour in fact, the political and economic results of such political a feat. Platina's treatise emphasizes the weakness of the bear's head and contrasts it to the strength of the lion's.
Accordingly, Riario's presentation of a "conquered" bear enhanced, by contrast, the leonine power that the Della Rovere, Aragonese, and Este families embodied. This bold act of gastronomic politics, sug- gesting that even untamed nature could be reduced to submissiveness through resolute forces, in fact literally and metaphorically swallowed, could hardly escape Riario's guests.
In the Orlando Innamorato the interplay between power and banquets emerges in the very first canto of the poem. As he presides over a Pentecost banquet surrounded by his knights, Charlemagne incarnates power. A truce he has declared for the occasion allows the Saracens to partake of the meal. The symbolism of Pentecost, recalling the Holy Spirit that — during a meal — emboldened and empowered the apostles to speak in foreign tongues and sway non-believers by proclaiming the new covenant, is here ostensibly retrieved through Charles' invitation to the Saracens.
The image of enemies sharing food infuses a symbolic value of sacredness into the scene and imbues it with the notion of power that transcends — and unites — warring factions. This power, which has the capacity to suspend momentarily the reality of war and gather enemies at the same table, effec- tively redraws the boundaries of Charles' authority and relegates the Saracens to a position of passive power.
Although on the battlefield they personify the force that opposes Charles, at the banquet, as his guests, they temporarily if unwittingly recast themselves in the role of his deferential subjects while he, paradoxically, assumes that of their sovereign because of I am grateful to Giuseppe Mazzotta for first suggesting this possibility. By temporarily turning into the "nourishing emper- or," fusing chivalric largesse with seeming Christian generosity, Charles, like Riario, forges a link between food and peace that conceals the chasm between the host's misleading generosity and the guests' indebtedness.
As the gastronomic translation of his power, Charles' banquet brings the stranger, the "other," the adversary into the fold, transforming it into the familiar, friendly commensal. In their temporary transformation the Saracens are juxtaposed to the impermanence that food represents. Ingredients blended together trans- form the "vivande" and produce gastronomic results that retain the flavours, but not the shapes, of original components. Culinary creations herald new and unforeseeable gastronomic reconfigurations.
Unlike other transformations, however, food transforms the transformed and from dete- rioration reproduces dishes that in their transient quality mirror the con- sumer's impermanent nature, fixing, even wriggling it against the perma- nence of history. The constructive process that food exemplifies suggests at first glance a correspondence with the new role the Saracens play at Charles' table.
A rupture in this occurs, however, as the terse exchange between Rinaldo and King Balugante takes place. This reveals that despite the superficial display of kindness, deep-seated hostility is not appeased through hypocritical celebrations of religious feasts. The banquet displays Charles' power and the influence he has over his guests, suggesting that Saracens, like "finissime vivande," can be consumed, devoured, by French knights.
Ridiculed by the Saracens for the modesty of his clothes, Rinaldo con- ceals the resentment that gnaws him and savours the thought of revenge he believes will be his the next day at the joust. Balugante, however, detects his uneasiness and further humiliates Rinaldo by asking him whether the court honours him for his virtues or his possessions.
Although the imme- diate goal is to deride the knight, Balugante's question implicitly casts doubt on his hosts' moral and ethical values. By raising the issue of appear- ance versus substance, hypocrisy versus sincerity, the pagan king unwit- tingly strips the veneer of hospitality the banquet seeks to sustain and exposes it as a banal ritual lacking the true spirit of the event it seeks to re- enact. The contempt in which the Christians hold the Saracens and their customs transpires in the manner in which they are described at the ban- quet.
Commensal hierarchy that places higher-ranking individuals at tables raised on platforms is rooted in court protocol governing the prac- tices and observances of ceremonial banquets. By consuming the meal on the floor, as they customarily do, the Saracens implicitly relinquish the position of power that seating at the table would afford them and further the onlookers' perception of their social and moral inferiority.
But more than this, their custom dehumanizes them in the eyes of the Christians. The lower space the Saracens choose to occupy at the banquet makes it possible for the Christians to liken them to mastiffs, the aristocracy's dogs of choice that usually lie below the tables waiting to eat scraps tossed to them. This image of men eating below the tables, in front of Charlemagne, constructs a social vertical scale of commensal hierarchy that again places Saracens at the bottom and the French at the top of it.
Rinaldo is not any more sympathetic toward the Saracens for he calls them "gente asinina, maledetta razza" 1, His opinion is based on a construction of the "otherness" that excludes a priori the possibility of acceptance and inclusion because this would entail the acknowledgment and tolerance of cultural variables and, more importantly, the acceptance of the ambiguities and tensions that are inherent in human interactions among individuals from different belief systems.
Rinaldo denigrates the Saracens for their lack of intelligence. His generalization is based solely on the affected construct of what he sees around him rather than on his direct experience. Still, more forcefully than Rinaldo's, Charles' remarks about his guests illustrate not just the cultural dichotomy between the two groups, but especially the contradictions undermining the meal's true meaning.
As he retrieves the biblical image of sand blown by forceful wind, Charles inverts the meaning of the Psalm 2 where man's vul- nerability is counterbalanced by God's compassion and discloses, instead, his misplaced sense of superiority toward men he perceives as weaker. Predictably, Rinaldo does not take kindly to being publicly mortified. His retort to Balugante, however, shows him in control of his simmering resentment and even able to maintain an ostensibly unaffected behaviour So the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
He remembers that we are dust Man's days are like those of grass The wind sweeps over him and he is gone, and his place knows him no more," Psalm , By explaining that Christians indulge gluttons at the tables, pamper whores in beds, and confer honour only according to courage, Rinaldo defines his cultural understanding of appearances and substance.
According to this logic, gluttons who raven- ously devour and who are at the same time devoured by the rapacity of their desires are appeased and subjugated by the French according to their want. Prostitutes, like gluttons, are enslaved by and succumb to the per- version of desires that makes them vulnerable preys in the hands of shrewd pursuers. Rinaldo's argument, pairing gluttons and prostitutes, hinges on the deep-rooted Christian belief that from Post-lapsarian times linked the seductiveness of eating to sexual seduction.
But as it fuels tension by cast- ing the Saracens as voracious destroyers of traditions and conventions, will- ing to prostitute moral and ethical standards for material gains, Rinaldo's powerful indictment unveils the hypocrisy saturating his and the Christians' system of beliefs. While he argues that honour at his court is a measure of one's courage, his argument exposes deeper chords that resonate with his and his people's failure to understand that courage cannot be gauged by using flawed models.
The conscious, careful, and single-mind- ed depravity necessary to preying on gluttons and prostitutes' weaknesses discloses in fact the perpetrators' cowardice. By depicting his fellow knights as men skilled at gratifying the wants of individuals incapable of self-con- trol in return for personal gains, Rinaldo ascribes to his faction the same deceitfulness and depravity for which he faults the Saracens. Accordingly, his rationale for honour fizzles out, leaving only the shell of his argument to prove the validity of the honour system that governs his camp.
The emptiness of Rinaldo's argument reflects the ostentatious celebration of Pentecost. Reduced to a display of mere aesthetic significance the celebra- tion of the Christian feast crumbles into a ritualization of forms that are disconnected from spiritual meaning.
Christian beliefs paraded into spec- tacles of power to aggrandize Charles' power in the Saracens' eyes suggest only the prostitution of moral and ethical principles. The evisceration of the very principles on which the Christian camp supposedly bases its foun- dations necessarily entails the exclusion of honour. Rinaldo's scathing but flawed remark with regard to honour shows both his unawareness of the subtle implications his own argument presents and his failure to recognize the facts as they present themselves at the banquet.
Still, Balugante's insinuation juxtaposing wealth and courage indirect- ly exposes the moral inconsistencies cultivated by the sophisticated court culture. From this perspective the banquet's refined "vivande," transformed through intricate preparations of ingredients, is the symbolic correspon- — 26 — Banquets and Power dent of a mode of conduct that favours appearance over substance.
The banquets encoded meanings reveal only hypocritical interactions between Christian and Saracens. And, as the space where commensal politics take place to seduce the enemy, render it harmless, and even temporarily turn it into an obliging ally, Charles's banquet is the literary counterpart to Riario's Roman feast. Like the historical one, rather than marking the par- takers' moral and ethical integrity, this banquet denotes their unscrupulous practices.
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Or, to put it differently, under the veneer of conventional Judeo- Christian symbolism both banquets provide a view into the partakers' cov- etousness for power: power of possessions, power of wealth, and power to enforce particular perspectives. In short, they provide images of material and carnal desires that the partakers yearn to gratify.
The "finissime vivande" served at Charles' banquet do not reveal any specific content of the meal. Yet Boiardo's familiarity with the Este court and its customs, as well as the banquet's description, unequivocally sug- gests that Charles' meal hinges on the gastronomy of power. Still, it is sur- prising that the poet is not more precise because what may appear as a tri- fling non-issue becomes relevant when compared to the wider context of the Innamorato.
In other cantos the poet is very specific about the food his characters consume. In Canto XXV, for example, Angelica welcomes Rinaldo's cousin Orlando to a meal that specifically includes "frutti e con- fetti di molta ragione" 1, During the meal she seduces and ren- ders him harmless to the point that he becomes unable to achieve the goal that has set him on his journey: namely, possessing her.
Angelica's confetti not only render Orlando powerless, but they also turn him into her pawn, a condition that can arguably be described as his becoming her food. Given the details Boiardo offers in other cantos, it stands to reason to believe that by not using the same accuracy in the crucial first canto the author gives "vivande" a broader meaning than food. And if one accepts the idea that despite their masterful preparations "vivande" are ultimately consumed, and destroyed by those who eat them, it is also possible to believe that they stand as a metaphor for human beings.
According to Louis Marin, through the process that transforms raw ingredients into prepared dishes, food becomes a sign encompassing elab- orate ideological, political, and cultural concepts. He argues that it is through this metamorphosis that the comestible is transformed into the signified and the speakable is transformed into the edible Marin, Marin notes that in its resulting function of "uanssignificance," Marin, food becomes a metaphor, acquiring new meanings completely disas- sociated from its original physical significance.
Marin's argument is espe- — 27 — Pina Palma cially relevant to Boiardo's lack of specificity for this first banquet and the way he cuts it short by interjecting Angelica's arrival into it. She disrupts the banquet and wrecks havoc among Christians and Saracens. Everyone's attention turns to her and she, with her tale, captivates all. Putting the food as well as their differences out of their minds, both Christians and Saracens inflamed by desire hunger for Angelica and long to have her, that is, to consume — eat — her. By seizing their attention and supplanting the "vivande," she effectively becomes a "vivanda" each man believes can be appropriated for his individual pleasure.
But just as the "vivande" turned powerful enemies into obliging guests, this new "vivanda," Angelica, turns her foes into submissive subjects. Charles himself is not impervious to the power she exerts and agrees, without much consideration, to the terms of her request. Although Angelica's true intentions are hidden from him at this time, his lack of con- cern with the accuracy of her story reveals, like his banquet, his fascination with form rather than substance.
This appears most conspicuously in the verse that describes him as one who "Mira parlando e mirando favella. But it is his "parlare" that turns into "favellare," suggesting a shift from self-controlled to unguarded and even fantastic conversation, that more precisely sums up his capitula- tion to her. As the flaws of his character surface, Charles' role as the moral and political leader becomes questionable. He turns into Angelica's pawn and, as a result, the power he imperiously embodied and displayed through his banquet teeters on the brink of powerlessness and subjection.
The scrumptious but unspecified "vivande," the bait with which he temporari- ly disempowered the Saracens, finds its correspondent in Angelica the Saracen who renders the emperor Charles, like all the men around him, powerless. The scale of commensal hierarchy is here turned upside down by Angelica, a Saracen and a woman who embodies the unexpected and unspecified "vivanda" capable of thrusting the emperor and his knights into a position of passive power.
We know that by relying on the politics of food Riario succeeded in imposing his interests on his guests, essentially redesigning, if only for a brief period, the political map of early modern Italy. By this time Cardinal Riario was dead and Sisto's manoeuvrings had already entered a more complex stage. Yet Boiardo, the ambassador- — 28 — Banquets and Power poet who attended Riarios historical banquet and had first-hand experi- ence with gastronomic politics, does not afford the same success to his characters. Time and again he questions and undermines the legitimacy not just of their personal interests, but the means by which they seek to achieve them.
He questions their obsession with rules and decorum and also their inability to confront embarrassing truths. In canto one Rinaldo and Charles, blind to what they perceive to be both irrelevant and extra- neous to their moral superiority, do not question the principles on which they base their certainty. As a conduit for exposing the duplicity, ambigu- ity, and limits of power devoid of self-analysis food and banquet serve Boiardo formidably in the first Canto of the Innamorato.
They show that despite the sense of aloofness and control their cultivated images seek to convey, powerful individuals who lack a clear sense of introspectiveness, like elaborate "vivande," conceal their true moral character under visual and ideological self-serving disguises. This, of course, raises a more intrigu- ing question: is this Boiardo's critique of the Estes elite circle within which he worked?
Or is it, again, just a matter of a persuasive woman appearing at the wrong time and making an offer that no reasonable man could pos- sibly decline? The Complete Woks of Aristotle. Jonathan Barnes. Princeton, N. Boiardo, M. Orlando Innamorato. Turin: Einaudi, Marin, Louis. Food for Thought. Mette Hjort. Messisbugo, Cristoforo.
Et il modo d'ordinar banchetti, apparecchiare tavole, fornire palazzi, e ornar camere per ogni prencipe. Venice: al segno di San Girolamo, Pastor, L. De honesta voluptate et valetudine. Savonarola, Michele. Jane Nystedt. Augustine, Confessions, book X, xxx-xxxi. Indeed, carnal pleasures for him include both lust, especially sodomy, and immod- erate desire for food and drink.
In his De Honesta Voluptate, a collection of recipes and advice for good living, written in the 1 With the term "sodomy" in this context I refer to male-male sex primarily as anal intercourse. In sixteenth-century Italy to engage in male- male sodomy was not an exclusive practice; often it did not preclude sexual rela- tions with women and was related to age old-young and a hierarchical active- passive structure.
See Ruggiero, The Boundaries of Eros, chap. See also Giannetti and Ruggiero, "Introduction. In this work, Platina paid much attention to the idealistic princi- ple of moderation derived from the Greek and Roman worlds. During Cosimo the Elder's regime Florentine Archbishop Antonino Pierozzi later St Antoninus — in his confessor's manual — warned against sloth, excess food and drink as causes of sodomy. There seems to have been a widely shared vision at the time that saw the pleasures of eating and the pleasures of sex — particularly sodomy — as closely and dangerously related.
During the sixteenth-century, in the popular imagination of the vari- ous Lands of Cockcaigne, the enjoyment of capons, partridges and roasted meats went hand in hand with the enjoyment of sex. This seminal book has been crucial in the writing of this article. If servants died of hunger in Ruzante's comedies, in other texts the parasites were always on the lookout for sumptuous dinners and sodomit- ical pleasures.
In comedies, dialogues and especially poetry produced in fifteenth and sixteenth-century Italy the language started to register the idea that glut- tony and sodomy were closely related to each other. The usage of the words ghiotto and ghiottone as a noun and as an adjective to indicate a sodomite is present in works — to quote a few — by Lorenzo de' Medici, Lorenzo di Filippo Strozzi, Pietro Aretino, Anton Francesco Grazzini, Francesco Maria Molza, Francesco Berni and others.
There the pedant, with his typical learned ignorance and fool- ish use of Latin, is portrayed as the stereotypical sodomite who has a diffi- cult relationship with a page who makes continuous fun of him. See para- graph "Le gourmand" 1: , and quotations listed in the Glossary under the voice ghiotto. Andate, andate, messere, che voi non sapete che cosa sia un buon boccone. The more gen- eral term ghiotto recurs in its homoerotic associations in other texts such as dialogues and in contemporary burlesque poetry.
The term ghiotto also appears at times in Florentine criminal records and is especially common in the depositions given by informers to the Ufficiali di Notte, the magis- tracy dedicated to the suppression of sodomy; the primary word used to refer to the young boys who prostituted themselves was ghiotti along with some other derogatory feminine names Rocke, Forbidden Friendships, and n. The extensive usage of the terms ghiotto and ghiottone m literary texts, in the judiciary system and in the everyday world takes part in and contributes to a set of cultural assumptions that view homoerotic practices as an immoderate desire in many ways equated to the immoder- ate desire for food.
Jean Toscan offers a more precise genealogy for this usage of the word: If these particular erotic practices or the part of the body where such practices take place may be called bocconi, it is normal to call ghiotto or ghiottone those who seek them. Toscan, Le Carnaval du langage, 1: ; my translation.
The negative conceptual link between gluttony and lust was not lim- ited to law, literature, and everyday language; it also found support in the medical-dietetic genre that captured widespread interest from the mid-fif- teenth-century on. Written mainly by physicians — although philosophers, poets and artists were also interested in laying out their own particular view of the ideal dietary regime and nutritional choices — these works were above all prescriptive and their general theoretical framework was Galenic. Even though it is clear that most of this prescriptive literature was not adopted in everyday practice, it is important to recognize that the dietary literature of the Renaissance — like prescriptive literature in general — should be regarded as an embodiment of a range of cultural ideals.
For instance, if one ate a wolf's liver, associated with See Five Comedies from the Italian Renaissance. According to Platina, the consumption of pork, the meat of an omnivo- rous and greedy animal, would lead to the transformation of one into a rav- enous ghiottone unable to distinguish between good and bad food.
Other texts, however — based on the same theory — suggested which food ought to be consumed for help with Venus's work; this "aphrodisiac" literature became a very successful genre in itself. Albala, Eating Right, and For instance, all foods that were seen as warming the body and the blood, from asparagus to artichokes, from cloves to pigeons and partridges, as well as all salty foods were considered aphrodisiacs Albala, Eating Right, Sometimes physicians also associated rare and expensive foods coming from far regions with illicit sex and "often explicitly connected per- verse tastes in food with sexual license.
The transference theory would lose force by the second half of the sixteenth century, but it remained common to attribute somatic effects and symbol- ic meanings to different types of foods. Social symbolism was important as well: in the eyes of these dietetic writers, certain foods were appropriate only for certain classes. Peasants should eat rustic grains and preserved meat, while birds, fresh meats, fruit or seafood were suitable only for gentlemen and courtiers. As has been widely discussed, food was a significant factor in social evaluation and this was especially true in Italy during the Renaissance — with a strong social hierarchy and great differences between urban and rural cultures Grieco, "Food and Social Classes".
Such distinctions were closely related to the desire by the upper classes to distinguish themselves through specific man- ners and behaviour and to a hierarchical vision of the world that saw it as one "great chain of being" that progressed upwards from the humblest of things to the most important. In the original Latin: "Hoc animal edacissimum est, et ob hanc rem sanguine multum ac calore abundat. Ulignosa loca, ubi volute- tur libenter, incolit ad reprimendum calorem.
The great chain of being was thought to connect all God's creation in one design. Roots and legumes, being products of the soil, were the farthest from God and thus the only ones that peasants at the bottom of society could eat. Because fruit trees were closer to the sky with their branches, and so distanced themselves from the soil, the lowest of the four elements, fruit could be a food worthy of nobles.
Unable to resist the succulent peaches that grow in the garden of his master, the peasant Zuco Padella is caught in the act of stealing them to satisfy his desire. After punishing him harshly, his master haughtily underlines the servant's deeper crime warning him: "The next time stay away from the fruit of my peers and stick with yours: turnips, garlic, leeks, onions, and shallots along with sorghum bread.
Following the concept of the "great chain of being", it is clear that melons and strawberries were condemned at least in part because they grow direct- ly on the soil, but the low opinion of peaches does not seem to fit. Curiously, while fruit in general was viewed as the noblest among the foods produced by plants, peaches themselves were often considered poisonous. I: Un'altra volta lassa stare le fructe de li mei pari e mangia delle tue che sono le rape, gli agli, porri, cepolle e le scalogne col pan di sorgo.
For a modem critical edition see Le Porretane ed. Sero id quidem factum et cum difficultate, verum postea ubique fere sponte proveniunt. Fabulas mihi narrare videntur qui scribunt vene- nata cum cruciatu apud Persas gigni, et ob earn rem a Cyro inde ad Aegyptios translata, ut quos armis vincere non poterat, veneno saltern necaret. Confingunt item quo res verosimilior videatur Aegyptio sole et caelo deinde mitigata fuisse. Melons shared this unhappy com- pany and enjoyed a yet more negative fame in widely circulated folk tales that warned that even kings and popes had passed away after eating pan- tagruelic dinners based on melons.
Only the most coura- geous doctors were willing to allow their charges to eat peaches or melons — if one could not resist the temptation — but then only at the beginning of the meal so as to have a chance to avoid the putrefaction problem. The condemnation of melons was so widespread that a physician from Bologna, Pietro Nati, felt the need to defend the fruit in a small treatise he wrote about the more general topic of health during times of plague.
Nati observed that melons were no longer poisonous — as they were in Galen's time — and that they were regularly consumed at courtier's tables. Nati's study is interesting because it shows how practice and dietary precepts did not always coincide: melons, peaches, and other types of fruit were, in fact, enjoyed during meals and receptions offered at gentlemen's houses. Dicono Federico terzo, Henrico settimo e Alberto sec- ondo imperatorii esser morti per l'uso d'essi.
Through practice he was convinced that the popular lore was false and the medical taboo right: he decided that he liked fruit and cold wine but that they, despite their pleasant taste, were not at all good for his health: While doing this [test] I found out that that claim was false, because I liked very much rough and very cold wine as well as melons and other fruit In Messisbugo's book there is no men- tion of any physician's negative advice; melons and peaches appear at dif- ferent moments during banquets, often together with other types of food deemed dangerous.
Albala, Eating Right, In works written earlier only a few foods were openly condemned; restrictions hinged on modera- tion. The natural attraction for certain foods and their good taste were seen as guiding principles. With its pleasant taste, fruit in moderation could even be seen as therapeutic in this context. One possible explanation for the changing attitude of sixteenth-century writers with respect to melons, peaches and other fruits is that conceptions of body, pleasure, and food changed along the lines suggested by Elias.
Foods that had qualities that were similar to humours deemed positive were nutritious and foods that were different were restricted to correcting humoral imbalances. For six- teenth-century authors, however, there is a shift to repression of instincts as a key factor in dietary decisions — hunger and good taste are no longer a positive signs of the body's humoral or other needs, but rather potential temptations in a moral battle waged over controlling the desires of the body and its appetites.
One should eat what is good for health, not what tastes good, as Cornaro already affirmed. Food could be used as a medicine to correct imbalances, but this was no longer to be controlled by desire and taste but by doctors and experts in health both physical and spiritual.
Certain foods, delicious and now tempting, could now lead inevitably to physical and mental illnesses, sexual perversion, even death. Along with fruit this list of suspect foods included all those that like sweets, fat meats or sausages were portrayed in carnivalesque representations where they symbolized gustatory and sexual license and lower-class tastes Albala, Eating Right, It is important to remember, however, that these foods were regularly served during upper class banquets, appeared in cook- books, and were consumed by people in their everyday meals.
British travelers in Italy often remarked on the richness and abundance of Italian fruit at meals even as they referred to the dangers of eating too much fruit. William Cecil received from his son's tutor, before his leaving for Italy, the following warning: It is to be feared that Mr. Thomas shall not bear the great heats of that country, and being given also to eat much fruit, may soon fall into sick- ness, as he did in France by that occasion Olsen, "Poisoned Figs," William Thomas, one of the first English historians of Italy, actually admitted to having been converted to eating fruit after living in Italy, renouncing the heavy meat-based diet of his native country Olsen, "Poisoned Figs," Melons also particularly attracted him, but he warned his readers to abstain from eating them during the summer when — 39 — Laura Giannetti Ruggiero they were ripe and full of juice.
He even observed ambiguously that their sweetness is so attractive that no one can resist it and some even eat so many that they die as a result Olsen, "Poisoned Figs," Did William Thomas know the medical proscriptions? His words and those of other British travelers in sixteenth-century Italy stress the conflict between the prohibition of such "dangerous" foods and the everyday experience of liv- ing and eating in Italy. Practice and theory seem to diverge profoundly, then, in this period. The insistence on prohibition and the on-going attempt to build a dietet- ic ideal must be seen as being as significant in many ways as its rejection in everyday life.
It has been hypothesized that the stronger the prohibition of these foods was at the time — as strange food, as food fit only for courtiers, as dangerous and illicit food — the stronger became the desire to break the taboo. Peaches and melons came originally from Persia and from the Middle East, lands of fabled beauty, abundance and corrupt customs, lands often associated in popular belief with sodomy; thus their fruits could be seen as a sort of suspicious food right from their origins.
For while dietetic lit- erature saw a great enemy in forbidden fruits, especially melons and peach- es, contemporary literature used those and other food images to represent and celebrate the forbidden fruits of Renaissance sexuality, illicit sex and 21 Rosenberger, "Arab Cuisine and Its Contributions to European Culture": "Arab princes ordered fruit brought to Baghdad from afar: melons packed in ice and shipped in lead containers, along with prized Damascus grapes and plums.
The Middle East was apparently the original home of a number of species known to the Greeks and Romans. The Arabs played the important role of improving these species and making them known over a wide area. These include the apri- cot [ What information we have about the diffusion of citrus fruit is unreliable.
The melon known since antiquity, was joined by the watermelon, which came from India. Both were widely cultivated as sweet, refreshing treats. The so-called paradoxical encomium was the preferred poetic form used by Francesco Berni and his followers. In it, the praise of an everyday simple object, food, or even an unpleasant illness — such as syphilis — wittily played with and drew upon erotic or obscene metaphors. The Accademia dei Vignaiuoli originated in from a group of humanists and poets earlier gathered in the Accademia Romana that was first founded by Pomponio Leto in the fifteenth-century.
An invitation to a ludic style of life that will be attached to the Accademia dei Vignaiuoli is anticipated in a letter written by Francesco Berni to Francesco Bini in We must live until we die, despite those who don't like it, but the impor- tant thing is to live happily, as I invite you to do, by attending those ban- quets which are taking place in Rome, and by writing as little as you can; because this is the victory, which conquers the world Frantz, Festum Voluptatis, Quia haec est victoria, quae vincit mundum.
Francesco Bini, Lettere facete e piacevoli di diversi grandi uomini e chiari ingegni, vii, Molza, to Mr. Giovanni Della Casa, and to all the Divine Academy. May God grant you his blessing in giving you a large Priapus for your garden, with a pitchfork as long as a beam between your legs and a big scythe in your hand and that you will be bothered neither by frost, fog, worms or foul winds, and that you might have beans and peas in their pods and peach- es and carrots all year round, as I desire for my own small and failing gar- den here which I take care of and keep up as much as I can.
In their poems dedicated to the forbidden fruits there also appears to be a conscious playing with the pedantic side of their own avocations as humanists. Giovanni della Casa, e a tutta quella divina Academia. I have slightly modified the translation by Frantz. A Priapus was a phallic boundary marker used in ancient Rome to demarcate and protect property. Making fun of such humanistic texts condemning fruits such as peaches and melons which were sternly warned against in this classical tradition, then, offered another opportunity to mock playfully some of the more extreme charac- teristics of their own humanist pretensions and at the same time cleverly extol sodomy - both were, in a witty way that was irresistible to Berni and his fellow word-smiths, formally forbidden fruits which, in the everyday world, were enjoyed by those in the know.
The law and the Church con- demned sodomy, represented here by peaches and melons, while peaches and melons in their own right were forbidden by the classical dietetic and medical texts reiterated by humanist authors. What better way for the berneschi poets to playfully extol sodomy — the forbidden sin of the Renaissance — than to praise peaches and melons, the forbidden fruits of the Renaissance?
Francesco Berni soon became the most important member of the Accademia de Vignaiuoli and his leadership was recognized by the other poets, as is clear in the beginning lines of Francesco Maria Molza Capitolo de' fichi: "Di lodare il mellone avea pensato quando Febo sorrise e Non fia vero che '1 fico disse resti abbandonato.
The fascination with descriptions of fruit in erotic poetry certainly warrants a closer examination for its rich nuances. For the extensive use of images of forbidden fruits in erotic poetry was not an accident; it is clear that Berni and his followers and imitators were well aware of dietetic proscriptions that labelled certain types of fruit dangerous for one's health and at the same time extremely desirable.
In a neat paral- lel, the same was true for sodomy: it was desired, forbidden, and frequent- ly practiced. In other poems the rounded shape of melons or apples were used in the same way. This excellent edition by Danilo Romei explains all the erotic metaphors in the poems. The sexual metaphor is clear: O frutto sopra gli altri benedetto, buono inanzi, nel mezzo e dietro pasto; ma inanzi buono e di dietro perfetto! In particular, Lorenzo de' Medici in his "Canzona degli innestatoti, " — a poem dedicated to the act of grafting plants, including peaches — plays with lengthily descriptions of dif- ferent types of sexual contact between males as well as between males and females.
Canzona degli innestatori," in Trionfi e canti carnascialeschi. D XLIV. The poems on peaches and melons nonetheless capture the readers' attention for the priv- ileged place given to the passive side of sodomy, usually considered the least honourable, because of its association with the female sex.
In sixteenth-century Italy sodomy was held to be a mortal sin and a crime against nature, God, and society and as such was regularly deemed worthy of capital punishment. Nonetheless, it was widely practiced and ideally organized in a patriarchal and hierarchical fashion that mirrored the rest of society. In theory as well as in everyday reality, young adult males were supposed to take the dominant active role, sexually and socially — they sought out the peaches and melons — while younger youths in their early teens took the passive role — offering peaches and melons.
The Dialogo contra i poeti written by Francesco Berni in explores, among other topics, the connections between poets and sexuality. He starts by telling Orpheus story's from the Metamorphoses charging him first with the "bella inventione," and then has the interlocutor Sanga list a group of poets famous for their preference for young boys w.
Asked by the interlocutor Marco whether he was a poet or not because he wrote poems such as Le anguille, Le pesche and La primiera, Berni responds that he did not consider himself a poet because of those works and he did not make enemies just for writing them. Writing their erotica ghiottoneria, the Vignaiuoli and their imitators mocked the cultural humanistic milieu in which they lived and, at the same time, the popular belief that saw human- ism and sodomitical pleasures as strictly connected.
It is now con- sidered a topic worthy of analysis in its own right, not as an occasional mere diversion from more "serious" issues. Yet, at the same time, they served nicely as a series of Renaissance metaphors that were invested with a rich and playful array of meanings by poets like Berni and his followers. For them, the image of fruits such as peaches and melons was a privileged site to extol sodomy, play with the imagination, and give sodomy a more everyday common sense. As Berni concluded, "but everybody likes the good morsels," 41 that is, the buoni boc- coni that ghiotti and ghiottoni certainly enjoyed.
The University of Miami discorrendo. Can we assume from this literary statement that Berni was a sodomite? Or was it just — like the poems — a literary game to make fun of humanistic circles? Or could it have been a self-defence against sodomy prosecution or perhaps instead a covert admission of his sexual preference?
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The answer lies in further research on Berni and his circle. For a modem edition see Marzo, Note sulla poesia erotica, The author would like to thank the participants at both sessions for their comments and helpful responses, and in particular Will Fisher. Works Cited Augustine. Confessions, trans, by William Watts. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, Albala, Kent.
Eating Right in the Renaissance. Antonino di Firenze Antonino Pierozzi or St. Opera di Santo Antonino arciverscovo fiorentino utilissima e necessaria alla instruttione delli sac- erdoti e di qualunque devota persona la quale desidera saper vivere christiana- mente e confessarsi bene delli suoi peccati. Con una breve instruttione per li sacer- doti curati. Vinegia: Aretino, Pietro.
Milan: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, Bandello, Matteo. Giuseppe Guido Ferrara. Berni, Francesco. Anne Reynolds. Riccardo Bruscagli. Rome: Salerno, Francesco Berni, di M. Giovanni della Casa, del Varchi, del Mauro, di M. Bino, del Molza, del Dolce e del Firenzuola, ricorretto e con diligenza ristampato. In Firenze, Libro Secondo. Da Messisbugo, Christofaro. Emilio Faccioli.
Using Italian Vocabulary
Degli Adenti, Giovanni Sabadino. Bruno Basile. Luigi Cornavo, Nobile Vinitiano. Venice: San Luca al Segno del Diamante, n. Venice: Appresso Gabriel Giolito de' Ferrari, De Medici, Lorenzo. Dolce, Lodovico. I st ed. Bari: Universale Laterza, Five Comedies from the Italian Renaissance, ed. Laura Giannetti and Guido Ruggiero. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, Flandrin, Jean Louis. Arriva da un luogo senza inizio e va verso un luogo senza fine. Dobbiamo immaginarcela, la pioggia. Viene da nessun dove e da nessuna parte va, ma la pioggia, la pioggia, dobbiamo portarla noi.
I dati sono sufficienti. He has pub- lished articles in Italian and in English on medieval, modern and contemporary Italian literature, English and American literature, Italian-American literature, and comparative litera- ture. Livorni has also published three collections of poems: Prospettiche illusioni Illusions of Perspective , Nel libro che ti diedi. Sonetti In the Book that I gave you. The collec- tion Onora il Padre e la Madre Honor Thy Father and Mother , which gathers previously published and new poems, was released in October Blakesley Livorn. Non chiedermi calma.
Lettera al Padre Eccomi, Padre. Ormai anche il tempo ha ceduto il suo scettro imbiancato e torni, ancestrale figura, o forse son io che percorro la strada. Eccomi, Padre. O Padre! The hour hand lies suspended over your breast: man speaks waiting for death he scratches out segregating syllogisms. Letter to the Father Here I am, Father. By now time has ceded its whitened scepter and you return, ancestral figure, or perhaps it is I who walk along this road.
Father, I was already old when you made me and I am certain that my first cries bit into your chest, like a vision. That crown of dreams, racing down your forehead, still burns you, as if it were ironclad blackmail; tell me, Father, would you ever have overcome the full and complete enchantment of the late moons? Here I am, Father. The night watches you, and sleep, heavier than tears, overwhelms you, and everything that I feel and do breaks like glass.
Father, I followed the fights in vain, and like a raging lion I clawed away at the ice, enchanted by a dissolving vision in my eyes. Oh Father! Ribelle al passato ne sento il fascino come tortura, come passione le vene mi gonfia e certo capisci quel che ti dico. Padre, non vedi che brucio? Soltanto se guardi le mani, vedi ogni dito proteso in cerca, proteso con cura verso ogni grido che forte trionfa dentro le tempie. Sentii una voce venire dal fondo della tua stanza e dapprima mi parve essere un vento che si sfaldava in un coro di fiati.
A rebel against the past, its fascination tortures me; like passion, it swells my veins, and you certainly know what I am telling you. Father, do you not see I am burning?
The Cabala of Pegasus
Just look at my hands, you will see every finger stretched out, carefully searching for every cry that loudly triumphs in my temples. Father, every crevice in my mind, like a failed action, repeats an ancient ritual of disgraced generations. I heard a voice coming from deep in your room and at first it seemed to be a wind crumbling into a chorus of sighs.
Father, I feel my guts stolen away, as if I were a child, and it is atrocious to sense once more the dancing breath leaf through the list of my crimes. You, Father, are a necessary evil; now I understand what I saw and one day we will join our faces, when a new child comes, a rebel.
Now I am here, and I attend to my rituals and I live each day precariously, risking each day by tempting all the fates: Father, why have you forsaken me? He has recently begun working as a freelance literary scout and editorial advisor. Baret Magarian was born and raised in London, but he is of Armenian extraction and currently lives in Italy. In London he directed fringe theatre and cabaret. Zibetti and Magarian hope to stage the piece again in in Torino. He can be contacted at this email address: baretbmagarian hotmail. They told me to drive to the guy, the big guy, the boss, the genius, the man who pisses pink champagne, and who craps caviar.
I knocked on his door in Lincoln, Nebraska, he handed me the package. I had to make it all the way to Los Angeles. The final stages of the trip entailed a hypnotized spell in the Mojave desert with its honey mesquite trees and tumbleweeds and cacti and lizards and a blowtorch sun and the unreal skies and the desolation and the cosmic American landscape. Just me, the car, the package, the bottles of Miller beside me offering to lubricate my soul, so long as no cops spotted me as I trailed a blaze of toxic speed, dust clouds blooming around my tires, the smell of gasoline in the wind, taint- ing that pristine nothingness of the desert.
That nothingness was perfect for me because that nothingness was my life. Pressing the gas, driving the machine hard, the wind vacuuming off the dust between the cracks, the elemental tapestries being weaved around me, and for a moment, for a second, it was perfect, the music vibrating, a low hum, the engine purring, the sirotti.
Il pezzo grosso, il boss, il genio, quello che piscia champagne rosa e caca caviale. Avevo bussato alla sua porta a Lincoln, Nebraska, e mi aveva dato il pacchetto. Con quel coso in mano sprigioni un tale calore da inviare in orbita una navicella spaziale. Dunque avevo preso il pacchetto, maneggiandolo con cura manco fosse la versione digitale rimasterizzata della fica di Clau- dia Schiffer.
Dovevo arrivare fino a Los Angeles. Davo gas, andavo al massimo. Consciousness seemed to expand in vibrating rings, pulsing out like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The light was fading, the evening was coming.
The Politics of Exclusion in Early Renaissance Florence | Late Medieval and Early Modern Studies
There was no stopping it. I glanced at the package slumped on the back seat. It was still intact. No ants had eaten into it, gaffer tape squeezed it like bandages round an Egyptian mummy. I pulled up at a desert motel. I needed showering, a bed, some kind of sanctuary for a few hours. Time had decomposed the place. In fact it looked like it had been abandoned years ago. Discarded branches were scattered before its entrance like cigarette butts and the wooden sign that announced it was slanted at an acute angle, hanging from a tall stump of wood, looking like it might decapitate a passing stranger.
The windows were thick with grime. Despite all this the place attracted me and I pulled into the parking lot, where plastic bags stirred in the residual wind. I parked with precision and care, picked up the package. The package was cold to the touch, icy cold. It felt as if it had just been sitting in a freezer.
I got out shakily, cradling the package and walked up to the reception. A large, bovine woman was behind the counter. She made me think of a squashed cream puff. She nodded up from her airport novel and glanced at me without a flicker of interest. She began to write care- fully with a half chewed biro. I clutched the package protectively. La coscienza sembrava espandersi in cerchi vibranti, che sgorgavano pulsanti come il petrolio fuoriuscito nel Golfo del Messico.
La luce si smorzava, scendeva la sera. Inutile provare a fermarla. Lanciai uno sguardo al pacchetto appoggiato sul sedile posteriore. Era ancora integro. Non era stato aggredito dalle formiche, i nastri telati lo strizzavano come bende intorno a una mummia egiziana. Mi fermai a un motel nel deserto. Avevo bisogno di farmi la doccia, di un letto, di qualche ora di ristoro. Il tempo aveva decomposto un luogo che, in effetti, pareva in abbandono da anni. Le finestre erano spesse di sudiciume. Parcheggiai con cura e precisione e raccolsi il pacchetto. Scesi barcol- lando dalla macchina, tenendo il pacco con circospezione e mi avviai alla reception.
Afferrai il pacco con aria protettiva. Could be terrorism. Or could be drugs. You a writer? Payment upfront. Check out 10 am. The master I mentioned at the start. It was his work. His editor was in LA, you see. He types on an old Olivetti, makes a single carbon copy for himself when he types. He has ruled out the computer, the fax, the attachment, the email, this fucker wants his masterpiece to be handed in person to his associate as though it were an aluminum case stuffed with loot.
Non ho nulla, a parte il pacco. Per via del terrorismo. O potrebbe esserci la droga. Sono venti dollari per la camera. Pagamento anticipato. Stanza libera entro le dieci. Era opera sua. Il suo editor stava a Los Angeles, tutto qui. Ha messo al bando computer, fax, allegati, e-mail. He is the Elvis of literature. As I said he craps caviar and he pisses pink champagne. He is as eccentric as Howard Hughes and as classic as a Ferrari. He writes prose of a beauty that makes grown men weep and women squirt.
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the final word in Final Words, the Writer whose every phrase gets emblazoned onto the fabric of consciousness as surely as if it were a laser beam. His second, Prototype of Love , was told from the point of view of a pregnant man. The Sound of Extinction was about meet- ing God who turns out to be this little guy who goes around with a supermarket trolley. The books grew larger and more ambitious. The Philosopher King was set in a remote village in Cyprus whose inhabitants are pig ignorant and primitive.
Next came The Millions , a page satire about an agency in New York that specializes in faking alternate lives for people whose own lives are boring and uneventful. The agency produces documents, diplomas, certificates, letters, emails, creates an illustrious, exotic past for those who come knocking at its door. E io sono il corriere. Poi, un bel giorno, vi prende la residenza uno straniero. Il suo aspetto esotico suscita ogni tipo di dicerie e il paese si divide in due parti: quelli che lo amano e quelli che lo odiano. The fake biographies sabotage the actual until reality itself becomes one vast and bloated invention.
The Overhaul chronicled the decline of a wealthy American family over four generations. The narrative spanned hundreds of years, evoking in hallucinatory detail the Na- tive American genocide, episodes from the American civil War, the assassination of Martin Luther King and the attack on the World Trade Center. What finally emerges is the complete culpability of money. After the midnight celebrations die down he offers the surviving family members port of a rare vintage from a diamond-encrusted decanter.
The port has been laced with strych- nine and the whole clan, including Riley, goes into convulsions and asphyxiates. The book garnered tremendous critical acclaim and several death threats and there were rumors that the CIA and the FBI had subsequently opened files on him. No one knew the subject of his latest novel. No one even knew the title. I wrestled with the key and stepped in. I placed the package carefully on a side table and switched on the lamp. Dirty light, dirty windows. Light, dark. The place was a lousy dump. But it would do. I was exhausted. La verifica registra il declino di una ricca famiglia americana attraverso quattro generazioni.
Riley organizza una festa pantagruelica di fine anno trasformando la magione avita in un vortice di ogni esempio concepibile di lussuria e decadenza. Esauriti i festeggiamenti di mezzanotte, egli offre ai membri su- perstiti della famiglia un porto di una rara annata, mescendolo da una caraffa incastonata di diamanti. Il vino era stato avvelenato con la stricnina e tutto il clan, Riley compreso, ha le convulsioni e muore di asfissia. Nessuno sapeva neppure il titolo. Armeggiai con la chiave ed entrai in camera.
Luce sporca, finestre sporche. Luce, buio. Quel posto era un letamaio, ma avrebbe fatto al caso mio. Ero sfinito. What lay inside it? What gems and what pearls? Did that package somehow contain the guy? Did it contain his essence? All that was best about him? Was that pack- age, in the final count, more real, more destined for immortality than the man himself? It had been made abundantly clear to me that on no account was I to open it.
It had been made digitally clear that if that package were tampered with my balls would be neatly severed from my scrotum. I stared hard at the thing. Or maybe what lay in there was no good after all, was just scrambled shit… The motel room was stuffy. I walked over and yanked open a window. I stared outside at nothing, at the barren night, approaching like the onset of a disease, the night of longing and sexual desire and unanswered calls for companionship. Then I took one of those interminable pisses, one of those that last so long that your legs begin to buckle and you have to prop yourself up against the wall with your arms.
I pulled out a Marlboro and smoked it right down to the tip. I walked back over to the package. It was warm. The damn thing was emanating heat like a computer. What was going on with this package? First it was freezing cold, now it was warm, it was as though the thing had been plugged into an electrical source. It seemed as if the package was alive, it seemed to be a living thing. I managed to foil a mad impulse to open it.
I was beginning to feel scared. I took the thing over to the cupboard and shoved it inside. I walked out into the corridor and over to my car, opened it up, pulled out the bottles of beer and returned with them and opened one up and took a long gulp. That steadied me a little bit and I spread out on the bed. The springs whined in protest. Then I finished off all the beer. Before I knew it I was sleeping.
But it was short-lived and I woke up a few hours later. I stared at my watch. It was 2. I switched on the bedside lamp and went over to the cupboard. I touched the package. It was no longer warm and no longer cold. But it was true, the package had been cold, had been hot. It was an insane package, it had been driven mad by its contents, or maybe it was a package that was subject to the freakish extremities of climate change.
Guardai fisso il pacchetto. Quali perle e gemme di saggezza? Conteneva la sua essenza? La sua parte migliore? Mi era stato abbondantemente spiegato che non avrei dovuto aprirlo per nessuna ragione. Mi era stato chiarito con digitale precisione che se quel pacco fosse stato manomesso mi avrebbero staccato di netto le palle dallo scroto. Fissai attonito quel coso.
Mi avvicinai alla finestra e la spalancai. Senza risultato. Tirai fuori una Marlboro e la fumai fino al filtro. Poi tornai al pacco. Era caldo. Non scherzo. Quel maledetto coso emanava calore quasi fosse un computer. Che succedeva al pacco? Prima era gelido, ora caldo, come se qualcuno lo avesse infilato in una presa di corrente.
Riuscii a trattenere il folle impulso di aprirlo. Cominciavo ad aver paura. Le molle gemettero, contrariate. Poi scolai la birra. Prima che me ne rendessi conto, mi addormentai.
Ma fu un sonno di breve durata e dopo alcune ore mi svegliai. Erano le due e mezzo. Tastai il pacco. Per un attimo pensai di essermi immaginato le sue alterazioni ter- miche. Ma era vero, il pacco prima era freddo, poi era caldo. Era un pacco pazzo, era il suo contenuto ad avergli fatto perdere il senno, o forse era soggetto ai bizzarri eccessi del cambiamento climatico. It was hard to identify what was making the sound. I glanced out of the window where I found nothing but the parking lot half swal- lowed in the void of night. This was the desert.
The desert where life existed, but barely, where the only friends to be had were the shadows, rustling like leaves and pattering like leaves on the fringes of consciousness. There was nothing here, not even a yellowing skeleton in the cupboard that might be dragged out and danced with in a last ditch attempt to ward off terminal loneliness. The next part of this whole thing is rather hard to describe.
As I was sitting there, feeling myself sinking deeper and deeper, I began to have the impression that the boundaries of reality were being redrawn, that they were shifting, that a seismic shift was taking place and that my motel room was no longer a motel room, that it was more like a chamber passing through space. I continued to stare out of the window. I turned away but, when I turned back again, at once — with the awful certainty that accompanies dread—I knew that something was wrong. I looked through the murky window. A tall, dark figure with his back to me, standing motionless and inert.
He just stood there, looking out into space, wrapped up in a brown raincoat. What the hell was he doing out there in the dead of night? I watched, the curtain pulled toward me to conceal my presence. It might have been a statue as opposed to an actual human being. As I watched I began to feel my throat growing dry. I needed water, so with two long strides made it to the bathroom. I let the faucet run and downed a glass.
When I had returned to my vantage point he, it, was still there. Indivisible horror was rising, spinning its sticky web. I was aware of my hands tighten- ing into fists as I stood there. It was as though the weight of what I saw was pushing against, crushing, my ability to interpret it. I was seized with the idea that if I could just catch a glimpse of its face my curiosity would be laid to rest so I decided to venture out there, leave my safe room and stare the thing in the eyes, but I could feel my heart vaulting as I hurried down the corridor, and my legs sirotti. Era difficile capire la causa di quel rumore.
Guardai dalla finestra e non vidi che il parcheggio mezzo inghiottito nel vuoto della notte. Questo era il deserto. Continuai a guardare dalla finestra. Attraverso il vetro offuscato vidi una figura alta e scura che mi dava le spalle, immobile e inerte. Scrutai, la tenda tirata verso di me per nascondere la mia presenza. Avrebbe potuto essere una statua piuttosto che un essere umano. Guardando, sentii la gola farsi secca. Non riuscivo a staccare lo sguardo da lui. Un indis- solubile orrore cresceva, tessendo la sua tela appiccicosa.
Impietrito, mi resi conto che le mie mani si stringevano a pugno. As I grappled with my keys, another door, way down the corridor, on the opposite side to my room, opened slowly. A woman stepped out uncertainly. She had blonde hair. She wore jeans. She could see that I was too scared to pose any danger to her. She weighed up the situation, probably assuming from my behavior that I was either mad or sick.
Era bionda. In jeans. Non posso tornare nella mia stanza Sta bene? Are you ok? She was on the wrong side of forty, with depleted features and a beaten up body, but not unattractive, not without a certain 3 am allure. She was wearing jeans and a blue denim shirt and she was smoking a cigarette. She watched me as I unraveled before her, and something held her to me. She had latched on to my torment. How do you say we fix you a drink? How does that sound? In my room? You sure look like you could use a drink.
Some strength returned to my frazzled legs. In my room. Safe and cozy. She poured me a drink and handed it to me. I took a sip of Bourbon and felt it erupt in my throat. I was with another human being, a desirable woman, I had company, I had alcohol, the night no longer seemed nightmarish, interminable.
Whatever it was had you all shook up pretty frickin good. Fumava una sigaretta. Si era allacciata al mio tormento. Che ne dici se ci prepariamo un drink? Ho del bourbon. Che te ne pare? Nella mia camera? Nella mia camera. Sicuro e protetto. Ma tu sei uno a posto, giusto? Non sei pericoloso? Sei un gentiluomo, dico bene? La seguii docile nella stanza. Presi un sorso di bourbon e sentii che mi scoppiava in gola. Qualunque cosa fosse, ti ha sconvolto da morire. Ti dispiace se non ne parliamo?
I said nothing. She said nothing. I took another sip of Bourbon. How long since I left Ray? Yeah he was as low as they get, old Ray, yes siree, a piece of real shit, a real evil motherfucker. To you?
Did I give off that vibe? You seem pretty tough. Pretty tough. And you were very kind just now. Not many people would have given me the time of day. I must have struck you as crazy just now. Io non dissi nulla. Lei non disse nulla. Presi un altro sorso di bourbon. In effetti sarebbe carino avere un uomo nel letto, qualcuno contro cui ranicchiarsi.
Non ho un uomo nel mio letto Da quando ho lasciato Ray? Cosa ti ha fatto? Sembri una tosta. Una tosta. E ora sei stata molto gentile. Devo esserti sembrato un pazzo scatenato. Adesso sto meglio, ma Had I finally gone insane? Was it the driving? Was it the manu- script? Was it my nothing life? In that instant a connec- tion was made and I was filled with tenderness for this complete stranger.
We both took off our clothes, leaving our underwear, and climbed into the bed and it was all very natural. I feel safe. I began to stroke her hair very very softly. She stretched her arm out and switched off the bedside lamp. We lay there together in the dark. I felt suspended between grief and joy. Part of me wanted to kiss her, but it seemed to me there, laying there, in the motel, in darkness, that a kiss would only chalk up pain later, that each kiss would add to the pain tapestry, would be another stitch and bit of embroidery in the pain tapestry so I resisted and I guess she resisted too.
Sleep rolled over me like a great tidal wave. And then I was awake again. Something was happening. My eyes opened, my body contorted, the darkness was everywhere, but I felt super attenuated pleasure in my loins, surging, coruscating sirotti. Erano state le ore di guida? Era stato il manoscritto? Il nulla della mia vita? Ci spogliammo entrambi e rimanemmo in biancheria intima, ci infilammo a letto ed era tutto molto naturale. Non fece obiezioni. Presi ad accarezzarle pian piano i capelli. Rimanemmo distesi insieme, al buio. Ero sospeso tra pena e gioia.