Palazzeschi, 109-127.pdf - Aldo Palazzexcloi — Over here...

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Unformatted text preview: Aldo Palazzexcloi — Over here! Over here! — Pop! — To the health of Perela! — Pop! Pop! — Viva Perela! — Pop! — Pop! - Long live the Minister! — Pop! - Viva-Torlindao! — Pop! Pop! — Long live the Queen! — Pop! Pop! Pop! — Hurrah for the new Code! — Sole member! — Hurrah for the Code of Perela! 108 _ POP! whisk-.5 The Visit to Sister Mariannina Fonte And Sister Colomba Mezzerino... In the courtyard of the Royal Palace a carriage awaits. Perela, followed by three gentlemen of the Court, embarks on the first tour of inspection. — Signor Persia. Inspector General of the State, reformer of mm, of things, of institutions, and of customs. With exem- tz've power: material, spiritual...et ultra — 80 reads the pass that has been issued to Perela, which bears the signature of King Torlindao, and a little piece of which can be seen protruding from the boot of his left leg, like the petal of a rose. As Perela is about to take his place in the car- riage, Alloro approaches: he is the Royal Palace’s oldest servant, put at Perela’s personal service. Without being observed, he hands him a letter. The carriage moves off at a trot, and Alloro, with a smile of admiration and devotion that brightens his whole person, watches it disappear. He continues to repeat to himself these words: “How has he managed to do it? How did he do it? Of smoke. It’s hard to believe one’s own e es.” Y “Signor Perela, do you remember me? I am the Marchesa Oliva di Bellonda. You may recall that a few days ago, along with my dear friends, I spoke to you of my poor soul. They interrupted me and objected to my words of discouragement and to my just grievances. I reproach them, you understand, neither for malice nor for spitefulness, but for ignorance, because only out of ignorance did they 109 Aida Pulazzescbi reject my complaints. The poor things live with the illusion of loving and of being loved, of having loved, and they feel sure, may God forgive them, that what they talked about so lightly and so foolishly is love. Alas! I am she...who never has loved. Do you remember? “I sought to embellish my words for you, and like my dear friends perhaps I spoke to you with affectation. I said to you: each of us, when born, bears within his breast someone else’s heart, a maiden the heart of a youth, and the youth that of a maiden...d0 you remember? And that may well be so. Just think, then, how terribly difficult it is to meet that other person during our fleeting lifetime. Alas, it’s true, we all end up bearing Within our- selves this organ which has become of no use to us, this piece of flabby matter which, little by little and without our noticing it, becomes in out breast a sponge soaked with pain. It is the tragedy we all bear without realizing it, this may also be so...but today I no longer speak to you in that fashion, today I speak to you in quite another way, and with the utmost candor and simplicity I say to you: I have never loved till now because I had not found the man that could be loved by me. Moreover, today I could not even use such imagery or that tone of voice, I do not need to color my words.Two days ago I was unhappy,and now I am not. I love you. “I have been told that you neither eat nor drink nor sleep, that you do nothing of what all other men do, and that one should not expect anything of you. Well then...since Friday, when I saw you, I have been as you are: I too have stopped doing anything, I have done nothing but think of you. 110 Man of Smoke “You are thirty~three years old, are you not? So am I. I women TW years ago you were put up there in your c'imney, just when I was born. Had you continued to live since then, today you would be sixty-six years old, would you not? Twice my age. You would be...an old man, a man nearing death. And perhaps you would already be dead. Instead no, you are still young, a hand— some young man, as yOung as I am and, like me, restored to life and new to love. “I ask but one thing of you in return for all my love, one word: tell me that mine is not madness, but that you went up there to wait for me. It was to wait for me that you stopped half-way, to give me the time needed to reach you. I was so far away, so far away...and tired. I was running breathless, panting, desperate, exhausted; I was dying without hOpe of being able to reach you and bring you what of yours I possessed. But...you were good to me, so good and generous, you waited for me...and now here I am. I was able to reach you, I have reached you. “The sublimely pure expression of your face is before me and says to me: ‘I am of smoke.’ So be it. Do you perhaps believe that this is a barrier that will block the way of the Marchesa Oliva di Bellonda? Do you believe that I might repeat any of the remarks made against yOu by my friends concerning your exceptional nature? What does that matter to me? You are made of smoke.> I also am of smoke. I love you, and one who loves must ask for nothing, but only and always give, give, give...give always. To ask is to love oneself and not to love. You are so very light? I am as light as you, for I have rid myself of all suffering. 111 Aldo Palazzeschi “My love has blossomed. And if the shower of its warm petals be welcome upon your fair brow and over the rest of your spiritual person, if indeed the warm petals of my love be not displeasing to you...if you do not refuse them. ..then know that my heart is a world for you, a world made all of gardens. “You need not answer me, you shall never tell me whether you have loved me. It is not this that I wish, for were you to hate me, I would love you, were you indifferent to me, I would love you, were you to love me, I would love you. I have written to you for one reason alone: that woman who made you listen to her grief, who showed you her face full of pain, who told you she was unhappy, today no longer speaks that way, she no longer complains. She has another face; her lips have learned to smile, and her heart overflows with joy. That woman is happy. And it is only right that you should know Why.” — Here is Sister Mariannina Fonte, a sinner. — How many times have you sinned, Sister Fonte? — Three times, Signor Perela. — And now you ask forgiveness for your sin? ~— Three times a day. — Qd what is sin? -%_n.isashat W.. 9 "mint. not 5.10 ot evenuwhen it gives us pleasure? Wu ”.3145. at is just when Sin is worse — find is the pleasure of men always sinful? nap-m5‘fi-1” mnunot the pl'éasurewof Virtue. 7am here is Sister Colomba Mezzerino. SWIM — A penitent? 112 Man of Smoke — A sinner she is not, Signor Perela. Sister Colomba has brought us the fragrance of her purity, and she preservesit, for it is the fairest flower of all She prays for sinners. — There are, then, twgwmngls. omersons: those % asETEnggrmsWSr theiro "Wigshgngwthose HUM)?!”- m guplore forgiveness f” r the smngf oftl‘igrnsM — And a third kind, Signor “Perela: those persons who only sin. For them Sister Colomba, the chosen, prays night and day. Go, Go, Sister Colomba and implore mercy for those persons. I shall guide you through the convent, Signor Perela. Only you may CfltCL 113 Ala — Do men die at the worst moment of their lives, or is death the worst moment of their lives? — The mystery of life and death is something no one has ever been able to reveal. We know only that no one would wish to die. Death is that moment in which men most yearn for life. It is the great portal of life, but when they approach it they are scorched by the heat. If one of the dead could awake, he would tell you what the mystery of life is. And perhaps he would ask you to explain the mystery of death in return. — I have sometimes heard of men who returned to life after they died. — Those struck by the sleep of a syncope. But they did not experience the supreme moment, they were halted at the threshold and felt no more than the first blast that deprived them of their senses. Only when they really died did they learn the secret of life. There was once a little courtesan who at the culminating moment of love would succumb, drowning. From her throat would come forth certain violent gurglings — glu glu glu 3114 3114 — of someone dying in water, after which she would remain at the bottom for a good fifteen minutes without giving any sign of life. And then she would resurface fresher and livelier than before. Everyone wanted to try her, a try for which she charged a nice round figure. They called her the diving cocotte. And here is Ala, the guardian of the cemetery. Wrapped in a large fur and huddled in her armchair, the old woman doesn’t take her gaze from 114 Man of Smoke the threshold, and she looks like a dried-out walnut in its halfshell. — This woman has no memory of time and things; the number of her years is unknown, though some estimate it to be a thousand or more. She would have no answer for any question whatever. — How did she manage to escape? -— As you know, Signor Perela, death makes use of a scythe to mow the grass in her lawns, which she then carries to her barn. Well then, when she arrives here laden, she does not pause for even a moment, but throws down her bundle and rushes off to gather another. And in leaving, such is her haste that when she reaches the gate she takes a very quick step, an imperceptible skip of joy, so that her blade never touches the ground to reap this leaf of grass. 115 The Meadow of Love - Signor Perela, behold the meadow of love. — Do all those people love one another? — They love one another or believe they love one another. They all believe in love. LOve is born from an encounter, it is a spark that ignites. Of all these paired hearts, one loves and the other lets itself be loved. The one who loves is so happy that it is sure of being loved in turn; and the power of love is such that the one who lets itself be loved is also sure of loving. A sweet deceit. — And if each were to be in love with the other.> — When the spark ignites both parts simultane- ously, it produces a confiagration that represents the most dangerous and most delusive love, the kind that is quickest to die out. If it were not so, they would go along without ever meeting, like two parallel lines. - And if neither of the two truly loved the other? — They would not come here, they would go directly to a cheap hotel. — And where does their love lead them? — Through its infinite paths which everyone travels and no one has ever succeeded in knowing. The great round meadow is encircled by a path where magnificent chestnut trees also go in pairs, offering refreshing shade, and in the middle innu- merable couples stroll. Clasped together, their interlocked hands entwining one another’s waist, their heads joined, mouth against mouth, they whisper and smile at love’s happiness, they gaze into each other’s pupils, longing to penetrate and 116 Man of Smoke possess one another. Neither of the two pays attention to what is happening around them, two eyes can only see two other eyes. Maidens who idly play with rose branches, young girls barely in bloom, smile as love speaks or listen silently in rapture, and when they feel themselves pierced too deeply by their lovers’ eyes they half-close their own and unwittingly inflict torture on that rose branch. Women advanced in years, almost old, stroll with a youth, almost a boy, press him with questions and drive their gaze like an Arabian dagger toward his heart. Love knows no age; age renders it stronger, tenacious, formidable. Then it is he who cannot bear it; wounded by that dagger, he lowers his head and continues along the way, absorbed in thought. — What do they say to one another? — They speak love’s language. 80 intent do they seem that you would suppose that the most varied and brilliant subjects are being discussed. They have but one subject, and their repertoire may extend at the most to a few phrases, the same for all of them and always the same....Some have avail- able to them two or three that they repeat endlessly but which seem as new as when they first spoke them; the more they repeat them, the more beautiful they sound. Or they fashion their eloquence with extremely long periods of silence interrupted by broken and infrequent words. Love has no need of words, like the great works of the creation, those works that men call mute because they cannot understand their language. From the other side of the meadow there begins a grassy lane of brilliant green: it is lined by pOplars, which cast their shadows of old men, tall, 117 Aldo Pnlnzzmbz' crooked, and skeletal. It is like riding on the back of a zebra. The pairs come and go, they follow one upon the other without looking around them, and they cross one another on the scrawny shadows. It is like riding on the back of a tiger. You pass, you move on, and you walk unobserved amid the swarm of so many couples. — Do those people think? — Not in the least. The engine is turned off in a total abandonment, without which there is no possible happiness in love. Each one pours his own life entirely into the other, and as soon as reason intervenes love dies. On reaching the extreme end of the lane, you turn and see it before you, long and straight, and at the other end you see a large disc that seems to have been hung there: the meadow of love. The pairs move in a sweet, cradle—like undula- tion, the poplars have drawn close and have formed a covering arch, even the chestnut trees merge into one another. Everything moves in a languid torpor of vertigo, slow and even oscillations, the long shaft of the lane and the large green disc — the pendulum. The enormous pendulum that ticks off the moments for man. — It is getting late, Signor Perela. — Are those people staying? — When the sun sets, they leave; you would see them going off into the distance two by two, some- what in a hurry and chilled, heading for the city to mingle with others. But if then you were to return when it is quite dark and you happened to go into the meadow, here and there you would hear sighs and muffled whispers. 118 Man of Smake — Some who had stayed? —Yes. — Even in the dark of night the pendulum swings...swings...swings...with no halt in its constant oscillation. 119 ..—s.~.-m.. W - Iba — Iba, Signor Perela. The cell receives its only light from a few rays that filter through a low grating. The iron door, which is hermetically sealed, has a glass peep—hole through which you can see the risoner only if you remain there peering long into the darkness of the cell in an effort to discern something. Little by little there advances, as through a dissipating fog, the outline of a mass that only with great difficulty yOu can make out. Now there appears, in the form and color of three baked pears, an enormous, warty nose. The face is covered by a dark, shaggy fleece, and the forehead is hidden by tufts of disheveled hair that form an astonishing bush. The last thing to strike you are two points of light, two vivid rays that are never covered by lids and that dilate and contract like circles under the effect of heat. — Five years ago, King Pelagallo died of a colic whose cause was never determined. Inquiries into a King’s death are never deep, the new King inter- rupts the investigation, and even when the guilty one is suspected, he, more than anyone else, can live with the certainty of being the most favored of the new King’s subjects. The State had no choice but to declare bankruptcy: ruin and shame. The dynasty was extinguished. To resolve the tragic situation, they resorted to an extreme expedient: “the richest citizen willing to pour out his fortune, to the very last coin, into the State’s coffers will be crowned as King, whosoever he may be.” 120 Man of Smoke It was the morning of the contract. The most illustrious personages of the kingdom, celebrated bankers, and financiers were in the Throne Room, all bearing the inventory of their riches. Ascending the great staircase of the Royal Palace with pock- ets bulging, each one of them saw himself descend- ing it with empty pockets but with a crown upon his head. The Palace presented an unusual appearance, at once imposing and grim, as when a Sovereign’s corpse lies in state. The honor guards, the escort in full uniform, and the servants in resplendent braid— ed livery formed a hedge at the entrance as well as along the great staircase and along the sides of the Throne Room. An absolute silence reigned save for the tinkling sommmar-Havwsm‘g‘re "Wt? W813 most“ nine Chantih”“7”""'""""m” -.._-....... wrung-MM;- u nwmm yone at all could become ng, Signor Perela, anyone who was ready to offer his wealth to the State in order to heal its wounds in a time when money is everything. m" ""'"”'""”"'“”'"““‘ “”Knd’loj“t'h“ET‘Ecomes Iba approaching the door of the Royal Palace, the very man you see in that dark cell. The city’s most notorious alcoholic and brut- ish sot whose tongue alcohol had little by little so swollen that he could no longer speak, the butt of street urchins and the companion of all the drunk- ards of the most disreputable taverns, the man whom patrolmen would gather up at the break of dawn like a heap of excrement. At first they want to bar his way, but Iba carries a large sack in each arm. And that day every citizen enjoyed the same right, just as all players are some— how the winner of the lottery before the number is drawn. He advances, tottering, but the weight of 121 Aldo Puluzzmhi the sacks serves to help him keep his legs and balance, and he even holds himself straighter than usual. As always, his thick hair is revoltingly unkempt, caked with the dirt, mire, and foul scum that he picks up in his nightly lairs which are generally the street, sheds, or the edge of a ditch. His wild beard covers his face, while his nose, a purple mushroom, seems to squirt Out the blood with which it is swollen. In smiling, his two re— maining teeth, the canines, seem like the props of an orangutan’s distorted mouth. He is covered with dirty, threadbare rags. Up...up...he ascends the great staircase of the Royal Palace, between the rows of braided personages, the glitter of medals and sabres, the flaming color of uniforms and livery. He ascends, pausing on each step to set himself firmly on both feet before attempting the ascent to the next one. When he reaches the Throne Room, all those present draw back Suddenly with a cry of Oh!... Oh!...0h!...prolonged, interrupted, emitted in a hundred tones and in a hundred voices, an instinc- tive Oh! of surprise, of disgust, of indignation, not because the man was there but because they had allowed him to enter. A border of impeccable wading/ates is formed; everyone has stepped aside and draws back, fram- ing the extraordinary presence with astonishment and indignation, as though in a ‘present arms!’ to Iba who, there in the middle, totters, laughs... and looks around without being able to see clearly. As soon as he is in the center of the hall, he lets the two sacks fall heavily. Everyone holds his breath. The hall is a ring of eyes that grow wide as he drops down and, with a childlike manner, unties 122 Man of Smoke the first of the sacks, emptying its contents onto the floor. Pulled by the force of their popping eyes, the bystanders come forward involuntarily, and forget- ting their repugnance for the filthy creature, they form a close and dense circle around Iba. The sacks are full of gold and sparkling, precious gems, neatly packed bills, and bonds from all the banks. An incredible treasure, a fabulous fortune! What Iba let fall at the foot of the throne in order to ascend it surpassed by far that of the noblemen and the financiers of the Kingdom. And the man, stretched out on the floor in the guise of a beast, kept thrusting his hands into all that treasure, childlike, the way a boy plays with sand at the seashore, and as it was taken from him bit by bit to be inventoried, he would raise his head, laughing, himself the first to be...
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