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Full text of "Annali d'italianistica"

Annali 
dltalianistica 

Volume 20, 2002 
Exile literature 



Edited by 

Dino S. Cervigni 



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AdI 

Annali d^Italianistica 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3170 

http://www.ibiblio.org/annali e-mail: <annali@metalab.unc.edu> 

EDITOR 

Dino S. Cervigni, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

ASSOCIATE EDITOR 

Luigi Monga, Vanderbilt University 

ADVISORY BOARD 

Andrea Battistini, Universita degli Studi di Bologna 

Paolo Cherchi, University of Chicago 

Louise George Clubb, University of California, Berkeley 

Vincenzo De Caprio, Universita della Tuscia, Viterbo 

Domenico De Robertis, Universita degli Studi di Firenze 

Giulio Ferroni, Universita della Sapienza, Roma 

Franco Fido, Harvard University 

Valeria Finucci, Duke University 

John Gatt-Rutter, La Trobe University (Melbourne) 

Walter Geerts, Universiteit Antwerpen 

Willi Hirdt, Universitdt Bonn 

Antonio Illiano, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Christopher Kleinhenz, Univerisity of Wisconsin, Madison 

Edoardo A. Lebano, Indiana University 

Albert N. Mancini, The Ohio State University 

Mario Marti, Universita degli Studi di Lecce 

Olimpia Pelosi, SUNY-Albany 

Ennio Rao, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Aldo Scaglione, New York University 

Paolo Valesio, Yale University 

Rebecca West, The University of Chicago 

Assistant Editor 

Anne Tordi, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 



2002 by Annali d'ltalianistica, Inc. 



Editorial Policy 

Annali d'ltalianistica seeks to promote the study of Italian literature in its 
cultural context, to foster scholarly excellence, and to select topics of interest to 
a large number of Italianists. Monographic in nature, the journal is receptive to 
a variety of topics, critical approaches, and theoretical perspectives. Each 
year's topic is announced well ahead of time, and contributions are welcome. 
The journal is issued in the fall of each year. Manuscripts should be submitted 
on diskette and should be accompanied by a stamped, self-addressed envelope. 
Authors should follow the MLA style for articles in English; articles in Italian 
should conform to the AdI style sheet. Visit the journal's website 
(www.ibiblio.org/annali) for further information on the contributions' style. 
For all communications concerning contributions, address the Editor, Annali 
d'ltalianistica, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, 
NC 27599-3170, or post <annali@metalab.unc.edu>. 



Notes & Reviews 

This section occasionally publishes essays and review articles on topics treated 
in one of the previous volumes oi Annali d'ltalianistica. 

Italian Bookshelf 

Italian Bookshelf is edited by Dino S. Cervigni and Anne Tordi with the 
collaboration of Norma Bouchard, Paolo Cherchi, Gustavo Costa, Albert N. 
Mancini, Massimo Maggiari, and John P. Welle. 

The purpose of Italian Bookshelf is to identify, review, and bring to the 
attention of Italianists recent studies on Italian literature and culture. Italian 
Bookshelf will cover the entire history of Italian literature. AdI will review 
books exclusively on the basis of their scholarly worth. To this purpose, junior 
and senior colleagues will be invited to collaborate without any consideration 
to academic affiliation and with an open attitude toward critical approaches. 
Contributions to this section are solicited. Scholars who intend to contribute 
are encouraged to contact the editors or one of the section's permanent 
collaborators. Book reviews, to be submitted on diskette, should be sent to the 
Editor. For inquiries post <annali@metalab.unc.edu>. 

The Journal's Website: www.ibiblio.org/annali 

The tables of contents of all issues, including the list of all book reviews, are 
available online. As of volume 16 (1998), each issue's introductory essay and 
all book reviews are available online with their full texts. 



In Memory 



Aldo Vallone, one of the most distinguished scholars of Italian literature of the 
twentieth century, died on June 23, 2002, in Galatina, in the province of Lecce, 
where he was bom on November 1, 1916. He studied at the universities of 
Florence and Turin, graduating in 1940. He first taught at the liceo of Asti, 
Galatina, and Rome, later becoming Proweditore agli Studi and Ispettore 
Centrale at the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione. After teaching at the 
universities of Lecce and Bari, beginning in the academic year 1972-73 he 
taught at the University of Naples until his retirement. 

An extremely well-mannered, courteous, and considerate person, Aldo 
Vallone devoted his entire life to the study of Italy's literary culture. The 
bibliography of his published works is endless and will bear witness, for many 
generations to come, to his love for his native land, the Salento, and virtually all 
genres and all centuries in Italy's culture, beginning with his Prime noterelle 
dantesche (1947) and continuing indefatigably until the last days of his life. 
Interpreting respectfully Aldo Vallone's mind, I believe that he would like to be 
remembered especially for his Storia della letteratura meridionale (Napoli: 
CUEN, 1996, pp. 816) and his works on Italy's greatest poet, primarily his 
Dante (1971; re-edited in 1981) and his Storia della critica dantesca dal XIV 
and XX secolo (1981, 2 vols.), all three volumes belonging to Vallardi's 
prestigious Storia letter aria d' Italia. 

Among the many tributes Aldo Vallone received during his life, I would 
like to remember the following: Medaglia d'oro per i Benemeriti della Scuola 
Cultura e Arte (1971); and Medaglia d'oro conferred upon him by the city of 
Florence and the Societd Dantesca Italiana (1990). 

His love for his Salento led him back, time and again, to his native Galatina, 
where I had the privilege of meeting him and conversing with him on many 
occasions in his "Casa di Dante," his extremely rich personal library, to which 
he devoted so much love and care throughout his life: a true cenacolo where 
friends, disciples, and scholars used to convene to converse with, and honor 
Aldo Vallone. Next to the memory of this unique gentleman scholar and his 
prestigious works, Galatina's "Casa di Dante" will be affectionately 
remembered by all, and will remain the proper testimonial to Aldo Vallone's 
lifelong devotion to his great true teacher and mentor: Dante Alighieri. 

Dino S. Cervigni 
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 



In Memory 

Peter Armour, Professor of Italian at Royal Holloway University of London, 
died of cancer last June at the age of 61. One of the leading Dante scholars of his 
generation, his research interests also embraced the work of Michelangelo and 
Galileo. On Dante, Peter Armour's publications, though most closely associated 
with the Divine Comedy, and especially the Purgatorio, ranged over all of 
Dante's works and addressed not only literary topics, but also contemporary 
culture, medieval thought, the history of ideas and even the Tartars. 

Peter Armour gained his first degree at the Gregorian University in Rome, 
where he completed the Licentiate in Philosophy before returning to England to 
take his BA Honours in Italian at the University of Manchester. The training in 
philosophy and theology that Peter received in Rome constituted the invaluable 
foundation of his scholarly work. His effortless recall of details of biblical 
exegesis and Christian doctrine allowed him repeatedly to challenge existing 
interpretations, whether of Dante's Matelda or Michelangelo's Moses, and to 
propose new and convincing analyses. 

After posts in the universities of Sheffield and Leicester, Peter Armour 
moved in 1979 to London, becoming Professor of Italian in 1989. At Royal 
Holloway Peter built up the Department to become one of the largest and most 
prestigious in the UK. His international reputation took him to many parts of the 
world as guest lecturer and conference participant. In North America he was 
twice visiting professor at the University of Virginia, and a frequent speaker at 
Dante and Renaissance Society conferences. He was active wherever Dante 
scholars gathered, contributmg in recent years to the symposia on "Dante and 
the Natural Sciences" (Ravenna 1993), appropriately given his interests in 
Galileo, and on "Monsters" (Todi 1996), a topic related to his monograph on 
Dante's Griffin (Oxford University Press, 1989). 

In 1999 Peter took early retkement in order to concentrate on his research. 
At the time of his death he was preparing for publication his Oxford Toynbee 
lectures and was elaborating his ideas on the popular reception and performance 
of the Divine Comedy. His last public lecture, in Dublin last April, was on Dante 
and friendship. It was an appropriate farewell. Peter Armour's many friends 
around the world will mourn the loss of a great scholar, stimulating critic and 
dear friend. 

Jane E.Everson 

Professor of Italian Literature 

Royal Holloway University of London 



In Memory 

Robert S. Dombroski, Professor of Italian literature, died on May 10, 2002, at 
the American Hospital in Paris after a two-month battle with infectious 
endocarditis. He is survived by his wife, Lucy McNeece, Associate Professor of 
French and Chair of the Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies Program at 
the University of Connecticut, Storrs; his sons, Ian and Stanley Dombroski; and 
his grandchildren, Samuel, Lucas and Robert. 

Robert Dombroski grew up in Providence, where he was bom in 1939. In 
1962 he was awarded a B.A. in Italian at Providence College. After two years of 
study in Florence on a Fullbright, he pursued graduate studies in both Italian and 
Comparative Literature at the University of California at Berkeley, where he 
received an M.A. in 1966, and at Harvard University, where he obtained a Ph.D. 
in 1969. 

Robert Dombroski began his teaching career at the University of Chicago 
and in 1971 he joined Glauco Cambon and Giovanni Sinicropi at the University 
of Connecticut, Storrs. He taught Italian and Comparative Literature and 
founded and directed the university's Study Abroad Program in Florence. In 
1994 he was appointed Distinguished Professor of Italian at the College of 
Staten Island and Director of Italian Studies at the Graduate School of the City 
University of New York. 

Robert Dombroski authored and edited a number of important critical 
works, including Critical Perspectives on Decameron (1977), La totalita 
dell'artificio: ideologia e forma nel romanzo di Pirandello (1978), Apologia del 
vero: letture e interpretazioni dei "Promessi sposi" (1984), L'esistenza 
ubbidiente: letterati italiani sotto il fascism o (1984), Antonio Gramsci (1989), 
Properties of Writing: Ideological Discourse in Modern Italian Fiction ( 1 994), 
and Italy: Fiction, Theatre, Poetry, Film since 1950 (2000). Yet, it is perhaps in 
his groundbreaking studies on C. E. Gadda that Robert Dombroski 's 
accomplishments in the field of modem Italian literature are most apparent. To 
the work of Gadda, who remained a constant in Robert Dombroski's life, he 
dedicated numerous essays, two monographs - Introduzione alio studio di C.E. 
Gadda (1974) and Creative Entanglements: Gadda and the Baroque (1999) -, 
and a co-edited volume. Carlo Emilio Gadda: Contemporary Perspectives 
(1997). In 1998 he co-edited volume 16 of Annali d'italianistica devoted to 
Italian Cultural Studies. 

The exceptional quality of Robert Dombroski's scholarship was recognized 
intemationally. He was the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including 
the Modem Language Association Howard R. Marraro and the Aldo and Jean 
Scaglione Prizes. Earlier this year he was named honorary President of the 
American Association of Italian Studies. 

Robert Dombroski's life is distinguished not only by its academic 
excellence but also by his gift for teaching, his dedication to his students and 
colleagues, and his loyalty and generosity towards his friends. He has left a 
lasting impression on many lives and his memory will be cherished by all of us 
who have known and loved him. 

Norma Bouchard, The University of Connecticut, Storrs 



ANNAU D'lTALIANISTICA 

Volume 20, 2002 
Exile Literature 

II Dino S. Cervigni, Exile Literature: 

Betwixt and Between Body and Spirit 
15 Abstracts 

From the Middle Ages to the Post-Tridentine Era 

21 Giuseppe De Marco, L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 

quale autobiografia universale 
55 Robert Wilson, Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 
73 Guy P. Raffa, Dante 's Poetics of Exile 
89 Catherine Keen, Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 
113 Fabian Alfie, Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Cecco Angiolieri, Pietro 

de ' Faitinelli, and Pieraccio Tedaldi 

III Thomas Peterson, Out ofBabylon:The Figura of Exile in Tasso and 

Petrarch 
149 Armando Maggi, The Soul's Exile: Devotional Literature 

and Renaissance Culture in Guido Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 

Toward a New Notion of Exile 

173 \AX\%\Mong2Ly"Doom'd to Wander": 

Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modem Travel Narrative 
187 Nicola Bietoiini, / "concatenati dolori". Esilio, scrittura e 

censura nell 'autobiografia letteraria e ne "L'esule" 

di Pietro Giannone 
201 Robert A. Rushing, Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 
111 Cosetta Gaudenzi, £jc/7e. Translation, and Return: 

Ugo Foscolo in England 
235 Aida Audeh, Images of Dante 's Exile in 19^'' -Century France 

The 20th Centur y: Exile Litera ture 
Betwixt & Between Bod y&Soul 

259 Assumpta Camps, Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: 

per un 'ermeneutica delta sua opera 
275 Annunziata O. Campa, Utopia e disincanto: I 'esilio degli intellettuali 

spagnoli nella diaspora della Guerra Civile 
285 Giuseppe Tosi, Dall'attesa alia storia-esilio. La memoria e I'identita in 

Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 
307 Lucienne Kroha, Exile in Giorgio Bassani 's Work 
325 Cinzia Sartini Blum, Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo; 

Exile as the Last Utopia 



343 Laura Rorato, L'arte di perdere peso di Mario Fortunato, 

owero il paradigma dell'esilio in eta contemporanea 
355 S&hinaiGolsi, Grammatica o "Nuova grammatical" dell'esilio 
369 Jennifer Burns, Exile within Italy: Interactions between 

Past and Present "Homes " in Texts in Italian by Migrant Writers 
385 Simona Wright, Esperienza dell 'esilio nella poesia di Gezim Hajdari 
403 Giancarlo Lombardi, Parigi o cara: Terrorism, Exile, and Escape 
in Contemporary Cinema and Fiction 

Conclusion: Dante's Worthy Example & His Work for Peace 

425 Anthony Cassell, The Exiled Dante 's Hope for Reconciliation: 
Monarchia 3:16.16-18 

Notes & Reviews 

451 Dante Alighieri, Rime, a cura di Domenico De Robertis, voll. 5 ("i 
documenti", voll. I-II, pp. IX-LX, 431; 435-991; "Introduzione", voll. III-IV, pp. 
9-722, 723-1237; V, "Testi", pp. 9-595), Firenze, Casa Editrice Le Lettere, 
2002. (Paolo Cherchi) 

452 Dante and His Translators: Dante Alighieri, Inferno, translated by Robert 
Hollander and Jean Hollander; introduction and notes by Robert Hollander, New 
York: Doubleday, 2000, pp. 634. (Dino S. Cervigni) 

459 Italian Bookshelf 

Edited by Dino S. Cervigni and Anne Tordi with the collaboration of 
Norma Bouchard, Paolo Cherchi, Gustavo Costa, Albert N. Mancini, 
Massimo Maggiari, & John P. Welle. 

Augusto Fraschetti (a c. di). Roman Women. Trans. Linda Lappin. Chicago: U of Chicago 
P, 2001. (Carlotta Bendi 459) * Gigetta Dalli Regoli. II gesto e la mono. Convenzione e 
invenzione nel linguaggio fignrativo fra Medioevo e Rinascimento. Firenze: Olschki, 

2000. (Bruno Ferraro 461) * L. Scorrano, // Dante "fascista". Saggi, letture, note 
dantesche, Ravenna, Longo, 2001. (Nicola Bietolini 463) * R. W. B. Lewis. Dante. New 
York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. (Gregory Francesco Blanch 466) * Ignazio Baldelli. Dante 
e Francesca. Firenze: Olschki, 1999. (Diana Glenn 469) * Guy P. Raffa. Divine 
Dialectic. Dante's Incarnational Poetry. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2000. (Diego Fasolini 
472) * Letture Classensi 29. Costruzione narrativa e coscienza profetistica nella "Divina 
Commedia ", a c. di N. Mineo, Longo, Ravenna 2000. (Rodney J. Lokaj 474) * Zygmunt 
G. Bara ski, "Chiosar con altro testo ": leggere Dante nel Trecento, Cadmo, Fiesole 

2001. (Rodney J. Lokaj 476) * Marco Berisso. La raccolta dei poeti perugini del Vat. 
Barberiniano Lat. 4036. Storia delta tradizione e cultura poetica di una scuola 
trecentesca. Firenze: Olschki, 2000. (Fabian Alfie 479) * Romeo and Juliet Before 
Shakespeare. Four Early Stories of Star-Crossed Love. Trans. Nicole Prunster. Toronto: 
Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2000. (Erika Milbum 481) * Lucrezia 
Tomabuoni de' Medici. Sacred Narratives. Ed. and trans. Jane Tylus. Chicago: U of 
Chicago P, 2001. (Bruno Ferraro 483) * Ronnie Ferguson. The Theatre ofAngelo Beolco 
(Ruzante). Text, Context, and Performance. Ravenna: Longo, 2000. (Linda L. Carroll 



485) * Mariantonietta Acocella. L'asino d'oro nel Rinascimento. Dai volgarizzamenti 
alle raffigurazioni pittoriche. Ravenna: Longo, 2001. (Bruno Ferraro 488) * Ronnie H. 
Terpening. Lodovico Dolce. Renaissance Man of Letters. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1997. 
(Suzanne Magnanini 490) * Micaela Rinaldi. Torquato Tasso e Francesco Patrizi: tra 
polemiche letterarie e incontri intellettuali. Ravenna: Longo Editore, 2001. (Matthew 
Treheme 493) * Zsuzsanna Rozsnyoi. Dope Ariosto. Tecniche narrative e discorsive nei 
poemi postariosteschi. Ravenna: Longo, 2000. (Maria Predelli 495) * Quinto Marini, 
Frati barocchi. Studi su A. G. Brignole Sale, G. A. de Marini, A. Aprosio, F. F. Frugoni, 
P. Segneri, Modena: Mucchi Editore, 2000. (Stefano Termanini 497) * Jack D'Amico. 
Shakespeare and Italy: The City and the Stage. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2001 . (Nicole 
Prunster 500) * Rinaldina Russell, ed. Sister Maria Celeste's Letters to Her Father, 
Galileo. San Jose: Writers Club, 2000. (Silvia Ruffo Fiore 503) * Corrado Viola, ed. 
Edizione Nazionale del Carteggio di L. A. Muratori. Vol. 28, Carteggi con Mansi ... 
Marmi. Firenze: Olschki, 1999. (Gustavo Costa 506) * Viaggiatori inglesi tra sette e 
ottocento. Saggi di Daniele Niedda, Margaret Rose, Mirella Billi, Maurizio Ascari. A c. 
di Vincenzo De Caprio. Roma: Istituto Nazionale di Studi Romani, 1999. The Journey 
Home. Eleven Italian- American Narratives and an Utterance of Joy. Transcribed and 
written by Ross Talarico. West Lafayette, IN: Bordighera, 2002. (Thomas F. Heck 508) * 
Albert Ascoli and Krystyna von Henneberg, eds. Making and Remaking Italy: The 
Cultivation of National Identity Around the Risorgimento. Oxford: Berg, 2001. (Norma 
Bouchard 511)* Nicoletta Pireddu. Antropologia alia corte della bellezza. Decadenza ed 
economia simbolica nellEuropa fin de siecle. Edizioni Fiorini: Verona, 2002. (Rebecca 
West 514) * Amaldo Di Benedetto. Dal tramonto dei lumi al romanticismo. Modena: 
Mucchi, 2000. (Stefania Buccini 515) * Barbara Milizia, Le guide dei viaggiatori 
romantici, Istituto Nazionale di Studi Romani, Roma, 2001. (Paolo Rambelli 516) * Ann 
Lawson Lucas. La ricerca dell'ignoto. Firenze: Olschki, 2000. (Luciano Parisi 518) * 
Philip D. Rasico. Cafe i Quilombo: els diaris de viatge de Joaquim Miret i Sans (1900- 
I9I8). Barcelona, Institut d'Estudis Catalans, 2001. (Luigi Monga 521) * Angela Ida 
Villa. Neoidealismo e rinascenza latina tra Otto e Novecento. La cerchia di Corazzini: 
poeti dimenticati e riviste del crepuscolarismo romano (I903-I907). Milano: LED, 1999. 
(Daniela La Penna 522) * Francesca Caputo, Sintassi e dialogo nella narrativa di Carlo 
Dossi, Firenze: Accademia della Crusca, 2000. (Gigliola Sulis 525) * Enrico Cesaretti. 
Castelli di carta. Retorica della dimora tra Scapigliatura e Surrealismo. Ravenna: 
Longo, 2001. (Cinzia Di Giulio 528) * Rimanelliana. Studi su Giose Rimanelli /Studies 
on Giose Rimanelli, a c. di Sebastiano Martelli, Stony Brook, Forum Italicum, 2000. 
(Assumpta Camps 530) * Reflexivity. Critical Themes in the Italian Cultural Tradition. 
Essays by Members of the Department of Italian at the University College London, a c. di 
Prue Shaw and John London, Ravenna, Longo, 2000. (Assumpta Camps 533) * Luciano 
Parisi. Borgese. Torino: Tirrenia Stampatori, 2000. (Chiara Fabbian 534) * Loredana 
Polezzi. Translating Travel: Contemporary Italian Travel Writing in English 
Translations. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001. (Timothy Campbell 537) * Ruth Ben- 
Ghiat. La cultura fascista. Bologna: II Mulino, 2000. (Anna Maria Torriglia 539) * 
Beppe Fenoglio, Romanzi e racconti, nuova edizione accresciuta a cura di Dante Isella, 
Torino, Einaudi, 2001. Pp. LXVI - 1800. (Giorgio Nisini 541) * II castello, il convento, il 
palazzo e altri scenari dell 'ambientazione letteraria, a c. di Marinella Cantelmo, Firenze: 
Olschki, 2000. (Stefano Termanini 543) * Ernesto G. Caserta, Saggi critici su Croce, 
Napoli, Loffredo, 2001. Ernesto G. Caserta, Trent 'anni di critica italiana, Firenze, 



Cesati, 2001. (Emanuele Cutinelli-Rendina 546) * Umberto Eco. Experiences in 
Translation. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 2001. (Paolo Bartoloni 547) * Maria Nicolai 
Paynter. Ignazio Silone. Beyond the Tragic Vision. Toronto: Toronto UP, 2000. (Deborah 
Holmes 550) * Ugo Spirito. Memoirs of the Twentieth Century. Trans. Anthony 
Costantini. Atlanta: Rodopi, 2000. (Cinzia Donatelli Noble 553) * Paolo Giordano and 
Anthony Julian Tamburri, eds. Pluralism and Critical Practice. Essays in Honor of 
Albert N. Mancini. West Lafayette, Ind.: Bordighera Press, 1999. (Augustus Pallotta 
555); Giuseppe Bonaviri, Giufd e Gesit. Fiaba teatrale in due parti e un epilogo, a c. di 
Sarah Zappulla Muscara, Catania, La Cantinella, 2001. Carmine di Biase, Bonaviri e 
I'oltre. L'opera intera, Napoli, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, 2001. (Roberto Bertoni 558) 
* Mary Ann Frese Witt. The Search for Modern Tragedy. Aesthetic Fascism in Italy and 
France. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 2001. (Nicoletta Pireddu 560) * Bart Van den Bosche. 
''Nulla e veramente accaduto ". Strategic discorsive del mito nell 'opera di Cesare 
Pavese, Leuven UP, Firenze, Franco Cesati Editore, 2001. (Assumpta Camps 563) * 
Joseph Tusiani. Ethnicity. Selected Poems. Lafayette, IN: Bordighera Press, 2000. 
(Norma Bouchard 565) * Carlo Lucarelli. Almost Blue. Trans. Oonagh Stransky. San 
Francisco: City Lights Books, 2001. (Dawn Green 567) * Raffaello Baldini. Carta canta 
(Page Proof). Ed. Daniele Benati. Trans. Adria Bemardi. Boca Raton FL: Bordighera, 
2001. (Paolo Rambelli 569) * Zigmunt G. Bara ski and Rebecca West, eds. The 
Cambridge Companion to Modern Italian Culture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 
2001. (Gaetana Marrone 572) * Giancarlo Lombardi. Rooms with a View: Feminist Diary 
Fiction, 1952-1999. Farieigh Dickinson UP, 2002. (Lori J. Ultsch 574) * Helen Barolini. 
More Italian Hours. Boca Raton, FL: Bordighera, 2001. (Paola Blelloch 577) * Jonathan 
Usher, and Domenico Fiormonte, eds. New Media and the Humanities: Research and 
Applications. Proceedings of the First Seminar "Computers, Literature and Philology, " 
Edinburgh, 7-9 September 1998. Oxford: Humanities Computing Unit, University of 
Oxford, 2001. (Christian Dupont 581) * Mauro Novelli. / "saggi lirici" di Delio Tessa. 
Milano: Pubblicazioni della Facolta di Lettere e Filosofia dell'Universita degli Studi, 
2001. (Andrea Malaguti 584) * Valeria Finucci, and Kevin Brownlee, eds. Generation 
and Degeneration: Tropes of Reproduction in Literature and History. Durham: Duke UP, 
2001. (Cristina Mazzoni 587) * Franco Nasi, a c. di. Intorno alia via Emilia: per una 
geografia culturale deW Italia contemporanea. Atti del convegno La Via Emilia. Cultural 
Journeys through Contemporary Italy. Italian Cultural Institute, Chicago, University of 
Chicago, 11-13 maggio 2000. Boca Raton, FL: Bordighera Press, 2001. (Stefania 
Lucamante 588) * Marco Bertozzi. L 'immaginario urbano nel cinema delle origini: la 
veduta Lumiere. Bologna: CLUEB, 2001. (John P. Welle 590) * Sheryl Lynn Postman, 
and J. Jell Hernandez, eds. Cinema and Multiculturalism. Selected Proceedings. New 
York: Legas, 2001. (Cinzia Di Giulio 593) * Carlo Celli. The Divine Comic: The Cinema 
of Roberto Benigni. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. 2001. (William Van Watson 595) * 
William Hope. The Films of Giuseppe Tornatore. Leics, UK: Troubador, 2001. (Cinzia 
Di Giulio 598) * Giorgio Agamben. The Man without Content. Trans. Georgia Albert. 
Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999. Giorgio Agamben. The End of the Poem. Studies in Poetics. 
Trans. Daniel Heller- Roazen. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1999. (Alessandro Montani 599) * 
Italian Grotesque Theater. Trans, and Introd. Michael Vena. Madison, NJ: Farieigh 
Dickinson UP, 2001. (Daniela Cavallaro 603) * Daniela Bisello Antonucci. Nino 
Palumbo e I'evoluzione narrativa. Metauro: Fossombrone, 2001. (Simona Wright 604) * 
Umberto Mariani. La creazione del vero. II maggior teatro di Pirandello. Fiesole: 



Cadmo, 2001. (Simona Wright 606) * Anna Banti. ^^La Signorina" e altri racconti. Ed. 
Carol Lazzaro-Weis. New York: The Modem Language Association, 2001. Anna Banti. 
'TAe Signorina'' and Other Stories. Ed. Carol Lazzaro-Weis. Trans. Martha King and 
Carol Lazzaro-Weis. New York: The Modem Language Association, 2001. (Angela M. 
Jeannet 609) * La materia deU'anima, a c. di Letizia Comba, Torino: Rosenberg & 
Sellier, 2001. (Anna Maria Torriglia 610) * Sante Matteo e Stefano Bellucci (a c. di), 
Africa Italia. Due continenti si avvicinano, Faraeditore, Santarcangelo di Romagna, 1999. 
(John Foot 612) * Renzo Ricchi, Selected poems, traduzione di Catherine O'Brien, 
introduzione di Mario Luzi, Gradiva Publications, 2000. (Paola Bortolotti 614) * 
Jennifer Lagier. Second-Class Citizen. Lafayette, IN: Bordighera, 2000. (Dawn Green 
616) * Cinzia Sartini Blum, and Lara Trubowitz. Contemporary Italian Women Poets. A 
Bilingual Anthology. New York: Italica Press, 2001. (Stefania Benini 617) * Willi Jung, 
ed. Mitteilungen des Studiengangs Deutsch-Italienische Studien/Studi Italo-Tedeschi 5. 
Bonn: Universitat Bonn, 2001. (Daria Valentini 620) 

623 Brief Notices. Edited by Anne Tordi. 

Portales 1 (August 2001). Pp. 145. 

Lucio Romano. Lettere di Gioacchino Toma a Eduardo Dalbono. Poemetto. Lecce: 

Universita Popolare Galatina, 1997. Pp. 89. 

Lucio Romano. Una vita in versi. Percorsi e note critiche. Galatina: Edizioni II 

Campanile, 2001. Pp.223. 

Frank J. Pettinelli. A Faraway Sun. First Books Library, 2002. Pp. 195. 

J. K. "Kirk Bonner." Introduction to Sicilian Grammar. Ed. Gaetano Cipolla. Brooklyn, 

NY:Legas, 2001. Pp.225. 

Chroniques italiennes. Melanges offerts a Pierre Laroche. Universite de la Sorbonne 

Nouvelle 69/70 (2-3/2002). Pp. 222. 

Alessandro Carrera. L 'amore del secolo. Un paesaggio verbale. /Love of the Century. A 

Wordscape. Fuoricollana 5. Castel Maggiore: Book editore, 2000. Pp. 127. 

Luisa Rossina Villani. Running Away from Russia. Ital. trans. Luigi Fontanella. Boca 

Raton (FL): Bordighera, 2001. Pp. 67. 

Nuove lettere. Rivista internazionale di poesia e letteratura 10. 1 1 (1999). Pp. 199. 

Albino Pierro. Selected Poems. Trans. Luigi Bonaffini. Toronto: Guernica, 2002. Pp. 174. 

Angela M. Jeannet. In forma di corona. Firenze: L'Autore Libri, 2001 . Pp. 98. 

Assunta Finiguerra. Rescidde (Scricciolo). Supplemento della rivista di poesie Pagine. 

Radici: Collana di poesia in dialetto. Preface by Achille Serao. Roma: Zone Editrice, 

2001. Pp. 79. 

Maura Del Serra. Infinite Present. Selected Poems of Maura Del Serra. Trans. Emanuel 

Di Pasquale and Michael Palma. Crossings 12. Boca Raton, FL: Bordighera, 2002. Pp. 

129. 

Kevin M. Cahill. Unponte verso la pace. Roma: Editoriale Pantheon, 2001. Pp. 126. 

A Sicilian Shakespeare. A Bilingual Edition of All His Sonnets. Trans, into Sicilian Renzo 

Porcelli. Preface Gaetano Cipolla. Brooklyn: Legas, 2001. Pp. 99. 



AdI 2004: Petrarch and the European Lyric Tradition 

Francis Petrarch was bom from a Florentine exile in Arezzo on July 20, 1304; 
he died in Arqu^, near Padua, during the night of July 18-19, 1374. Heralded as 
the first Renaissance man and one of the greatest Humanists of all times, 
Petrarch exercised by far his greatest influence by means of his Canzoniere: a 
collection of 366 poems, on which he worked through most of his adult life until 
his death, celebrating the Petrarch-persona' s alternating relationships with an 
idealized woman, Laura. 

Petrarch's Canzoniere incorporates many of the previous songbooks' 
technical and poetic characteristics, from the exploitation of virtually all 
available metrical forms to the construction of his collection following the 
bipartite structure of Dante's Vita nuova: namely, the celebration of the beloved, 
first, when she is alive, and, second, when she is dead and in heaven. The aspect 
in which Petrarch surpassed all previous lyric traditions and which fascinated all 
poets for many centuries was the poetic I's unremittingly introspective analysis 
of all facets of the human psyche in its never-ending attempts at bridging the gap 
between the self and the other, personified by the beloved. The conclusion of the 
Canzoniere, however, seems to overturn that seemingly impossible human 
endeavor of connecting with the other. The Petrarch-persona, in fact, turns 
himself wholly to the Christian Godhead through the intercession of the Blessed 
Virgin, thereby placing a religious and sacred seal on a poetic creation 
characterized more by a personal, individualistic, and earthly pursuit than by a 
supernatural quest. 

Pefrarch's Canzoniere influenced, modified, and shaped all lyric poetry for 
the next three centuries, until the middle of the 17* century, and constituted a 
constant point of reference for many poets throughout the 1 9* and 20* centuries 
as well. The unparalleled literary phenomenon that swept through most of 
Western Europe became know as Pefrarchism and constituted one of the most 
revolutionary and innovative frends in modem poetry. 

Insofar as poetry in all its manifestations, according to Mikhail Bakhtin, has 
shaped and still shapes humans' way of thinking and relating to each other more 
than philosophy, one can appreciate the importance of Pefrarch in Europe's 
literary and cultural history. The seventh centenary of Pefrarch's birth, therefore, 
is an appropriate moment for reflecting on his influence especially in Italy, 
France, Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain. With the support of the College of 
Arts and Sciences and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures of 
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Annali d'ltalianistica intends to 
celebrate the seventh centenary of Pefrach's birth in two ways: first, by 
organizing a convention on "Pefrarch and the European Lyric Tradition" in the 
Spring of 2004 on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel 
Hill; second, by publishing selected papers presented at the Convention in the 
2004 issue of AdI, scheduled to appear in the Fall of the same year. 



Pino S. Cervigni 



Exile Literature: Betwixt and Between Body and Spirit 

"Exilium ibi esse puta, ubi virtuti non sit locus" 

{Cicero, Pro Milone 101) 

"Nulla terra exilium est, sed altera patria est" 

(Seneca, De remediis fortunae 8.1) 

On January 27, 1302, Dante Alighieri was expelled from the city of Florence in 
which he was bom and which he was destined to make famous more than any 
other Florentine. Shortly afterward, on March 10, 1302, he was also condemned 
to death by the new government of his native city. The year 2002, therefore, 
marks the seventh centenary of what Italy's most famous exile viewed as "pena 
d'essilio e di povertate" {Convivio 1:3.3). We do not know what Dante's literary 
career would have been without the forced exile he experienced until the end of 
his life; we know, however, that his exilic condition, which he always judged 
totally unjust and imdeserved and which he suffered in the noblest manner, 
deeply affected all the works he wrote afterward. At the same time, that life of 
forced wanderings made him also realize most deeply the Christian believer's 
condition of exile on earth and pilgrimage toward the heavenly Jerusalem. 

Most obviously, the experience of exile is unique neither to Dante alone nor 
to Italians as a people. And yet, the Italian peninsula's political fragmentation 
until the second half of the 19* century, the dictatorship that the newly formed 
country experienced for most of the 20* century's second quarter, and finally 
Italy's participation in the Second World War, caused many Italians (just as 
countless other people all over the world) to experience exile because of 
political, religious, and economic reasons. Removed to a new land, the exiled 
person is time and again viewed as, or even turns into, a stranger, a foreigner, an 
alien.' 

Physical removal or absence from one's country, however, invariably 
creates a peculiar inner condition in all exiles, who may live this imposed 
physical removal or absence in as many different ways as the different 
circumstances of their physical removal, the conditions of their host country, 
and the personal and subjective reactions to their new ways of life may be. 
Being an exile, therefore, always entails a deeply felt inner condition; in fact, it 
is precisely this deeply and continuously felt awareness of the original, forced or 



' Stranger: < Lat. extraneus 'outward,' < extra 'outside'; foreigner: < late Lat.foranus 
'outsider,' <foras 'outside'; alien: < Lat. alienus, < alius 'other.' The word "exile" (It. 
esule) has an uncertain etymology: Lat. exsul < ex and solum 'soil, land': chased away 
from one's land. For further comments on these and related terms, including the notion of 
otherness, see Monga 33-37. 
Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002) 



12 Dino S. Cevigni 

self-imposed moving away from one's country that invariably constitutes the 
exiled person's raison d'etre. 

Being in exile according to the strict sense of the word, therefore, affects 
not only the body but necessarily also the spirit of all those who undergo it. In 
fact, the exile of the spirit may affect also many of those who, still living in their 
own country, suffer because of countless forms of spiritual, mental, or emotional 
alienation and estrangement. In brief, the exilic experience lies betwixt and 
between body and spirit, space and symbol; and as such, every one may 
experience it, as all of this volume's essays attest. 

Consequently, precisely because the exilic experience affects the human 
spirit, it also becomes, time and again, a fertile ground for countless written 
documents belonging to virtually all literary genres, as this volume documents: 
autobiography (De Marco; Bietolini); poetry in all its forms (Wilson; Raffa; 
Keen; Alfie; Peterson; Rushing; Camps; Burns; Wright); religious writings 
(Maggi); travel literature (Monga); translation and literary studies (Gaudenzi); 
fine arts (Audeh); autobiographical and philosophical writings (Campa); novel 
(Tosi; Kroha; Santini Blum; Rorato; Goia); film (Lombardi). Whether the 
exile is physical or existential, spiritual or intellectual, what concerns the scholar 
in this context is the written document left behind by either the person who lives 
this exilic condition or by someone else who has witnessed that person's life. 
Thus, the title of this twentieth issue ofAnnali d'italianistica, "Exile Literature," 
may appropriately be used to encompass all such written documents that deal 
with exile in all its manifestations, diachronically spanning all centuries of 
Italy's literary culture, and painfully documenting the individual exile's 
experience, which is as diverse as the people subjected to it. In fact, the 
volume's twenty-three essays devoted to exile literature evince a ftmdamental 
truth: humankind seems to bear within itself the exilic seed, which may grow 
into the tree of physical exile, or the tree of religious, spiritual, intellectual, and 
existential exile, or finally a grafted tree bearing the fruits of both previous ones, 
betwixt and between body and soul, space and symbol. As if it were a gene in 
each of us, exile seems to allow no one to escape it. What counts first and 
foremost, therefore, is the way each individual lives exile. Situated virtually at 
the beginning of Italy's literary culture, Dante Alighieri's exilic experience has 
always been, and still is, a model worthy of our attention and imitation. 

Insofar as exile constitutes a painftil human experience, religiously and/or 
anthropologically barkening back to Adam's and Eve's expulsion from Eden, 
another kind of exile, hardly ever documented and described, should be borne in 
mind. All the written documents broadly defined as exile literature, in fact, 
allude to, but do not describe, the exilic experience of the Other; namely, the 
exilic experience of the countless people who have lived and suffered it in 
silence. The largest majority of people, in fact, suffered exile, betwixt body and 
spirit, without ever being able to write about it. This volume intends to 
commemorate this silent exile as well. 



Exile Literature: Betwixt and Between Body and Soul 1 3 

It should not go unnoticed, in fact, that the exilic condition that typically 
concerns the scholar is that of an adult male of considerable education, wealth, 
or political influence. Next to him, but more often left behind, are all those — 
and they are the majority — who remained silent: patient wives, innocent 
children, bereaved relatives and friends, and the throngs of faceless exiles and 
reftigees, crisscrossing plains, mountains, deserts, and even oceans of all 
continents from time immemorial to the present day. Although the silent exiles' 
history cannot be written, this volume should also be read as a document to their 
unspeakable story. For these reasons, I was particularly happy to welcome two 
essays, by Campa and Sartini Blum, which deal with women's exilic 
experiences. Furthermore, throughout the volume, we are reminded that we are 
dealing not just with literary documents, but with chronicles of suffering, such 
as that of the Jewish people's millenary experience (Tosi; Kroha).^ 

Thus AdPs twentieth volume urges all its readers to bear in mind that we 
are dealing with people and not just with literary documents. Accordingly, this 
seventh centenary of Dante's exile, which we celebrate shortly after the 
beginning of the Christian era's third millennium, may be viewed as a most 
appropriate occasion to focus once again on exile and the condition of the 
exiled. The twentieth century that has just come to a closing, in fact, may have 
witnessed the exile, in all its deplorable forms and excesses, of the largest 
number of people in humankind's history, most of whom have been unable to 
make their suffering voices heard. These essays, spanning all centuries of Italy's 
literary culture, bear witness to the plethora of experiences of suffering destined 
to accompany humankind throughout its history, provide penetrating insights 
into so many literary texts, and offer a useftil taxonomy of exile's 
transformations as a literary, cultural, and existential notion. 

Moving from 1302 to 2002, and from ancient times to our own days, this 
volume's essays analyze the countless ways in which the experience of exile has 
become over the centuries the privileged locus for writing, not just poetry, but 
also philosophical and political treatises, religious meditations, autobiographical 
and travel accounts, and countless other forms. One can thus fully appreciate the 
words of Cicero and Seneca inscribed at the beginning of this introductory note. 
The true exile — Cicero warns us — is the absence of virtue: a challenging 
statement fiirther developed by Seneca, who writes: "No land is a land of exile, 
but rather another patrid"; namely, a country and a place where civic and 
religious virtue can be practiced in order to obtain, according to Dante's 
teaching and practice, beatitude first here in this life and then in the next. 

In fact, the danger that lies beneath the individual's refiisal to accept the 
exilic condition is the return to viewing exile in the manner it was conceived and 
practiced before its total rethinking and transformation by Graeco-Roman and 



^ On the Jewish experience from the perspective of exile, I refer to the recent volume 
edited by Sechi and Santoro: L 'ombra lunga dell 'esilio: ebraismo e memoria. 



14 Dino S. Cevigni 

Judeo-Christian civilization. We read in Homer, through Achilles's words to 
Priam, who asks for the return of his son Hector's body: 

"[ ] This is the way 

the gods ordained the destiny of men, 

to bear such burdens in our Hves, while they 

feel no affliction. At the door of Zeus 

are those two urns of good and evil gifts 

that he may choose for us; and one for whom 

the lightning's joyous king dips in both urns 

will have by turns bad luck and good. But one 

to whom he sends all evil — that man 

goes contemptible by the will of Zeus; ravenous 

hunger drives him over the wondrous earth, 

unresting, without honor from gods or men." 

(///W 24:525-33; Fitzgerald 630-42)^ 

An example worthy of being imitated by all men in past and future history, 
Dante refiised to accept the condition of exile as "contemptible." On the 
contrary, he turned around the notion of being banished as despicable, thereby 
transforming humankind's exilic condition into a state of honor and source of 
pride. Although, or perhaps precisely because he was forced to taste "the salty 
bread of others," he turned physical hunger ("fame") into glory ("fama"), while 
wandering from place to place out of monetary needs but not because of 
restlessness, being honored at the same time by "gods and men." Ultimately, one 
cannot but hope that the exemplary model provided to all of us by Dante will be 
heeded. His treatise on government that he conceived and wrote completely 
while he was in exile, as Cassell reminds us, nurtures the seed of peace while 
harboring Dante's hope for reconciliation. 

Works Cited 

Homer. The Iliad. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Anchor Books, 1974. 

Monga, Luigi. "Travel and Travel Writing: An Historical Overview of Hodoeporics." 

Annali d'italianistica 14 (1996): 6-54. 
North, Robert. "Exile." The Oxford Companion to the Bible. Ed. Bruce M. Metzger and 

Michael D. Coogan. New York: Oxford UP, 1993. 209. 
The Oxford Classical Dictionary. V^ ed. Ed. Simon Homblower and Antony Spawforth. 

Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996. 
Sechi, Maria, Giovanna Santoro, and Maria Antonietta Santoro, eds. L'ombra lunga 

dell'esilio. Firenze: Giuntina, 2002. 



^ "In Greece it [exile] was from earliest times a standard consequence of homicide, and 
was as much a religious way of getting rid of a source of pollution as a punishment. Thus 
Zeus in Homer's Iliad is said to make men exiles, driving them like a gadfly over the face 
of the earth (24. 532f )" ("Exile," The Oxford Classical Dictionary 580). 



Abstracts 

In his "L'esperienza di Dante 'exul immeritus' quale autobiografia universale," 
Giuseppe De Marco analyzes, by means of textual and intertextual examples, 
the most noble manner in which Dante lived, accepted, and transformed his 
exilic condition, which to us, through a perspective of seven centuries, appears 
to have affected and enhanced the Florentine and greatest Italian poet's oeuvre 
to a sublime and unsurpassed level. In the second half of his essay, an excursus 
from Petrarch to our times, De Marco in fact points out the extent to which 
Dante's noblest transformation of his exilic condition forms a constant point of 
reference throughout the centuries for all those who experienced, or did not 
experience exile. 

Robert Wilson, in "Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid," contrasts Dante's 
exile with Ovid's confinement to a faraway place. Although Dante and Ovid are 
often grouped together as poets of exile, a fundamental difference marks the 
nature of the two poets' exile. Ovid is relegated rather than exiled, so that he is 
confined to Tomis, whilst Dante is excluded from Florence. This basic 
difference of orientation resides at the basis of differences in Dante's and Ovid's 
treatment of their places of exile in particular, and may also explain the reasons 
Dante does not refer much to Ovid's exile in relation to his own (in addition, 
obviously, to the culpa to which Ovid admitted, while Dante could not and did 
not). 

Focusing on Dante's oeuvre. for Guy P. Raffa, in his "Dante's Poetics of 
Exile ," Dante's exile, figuring as both misfortune and opportunity, is arguably 
the most personal manifestation of the poet's dialectical imagination. This 
experience and conception of exile thus becomes the catalyst for Dante's 
dialectical hermeneutics ("both - and" instead of "either/or") and what most 
distinguishes the poet's hermeneutics from the Pauline-Augustinian model of 
conversion. To develop this argument — and to sharpen the distinction between 
"conversion" and "exile" — Raffa draws on Jakobson's distinction between 
metaphoric substitution, whereby the old life is eradicated for the new one; on 
metonymic contiguity, which keeps both past and present in play; and also on 
historical and theological representations of exile in the medieval imagination. 
In "Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile," Catherine Keen analyzes 
Cino's poetry, in which the poet portrays himself as a foreigner, or even as an 
infidel, who can scarcely be assimilated by the surrounding community, thereby 
"displaying an exilic obsession with distance and loss" that affects his lady as 
well. In so doing, Cino — Keen argues — deploys a form of "poetics of 
exclusion," which shows similarities with a Cavalcantian "exilic outlook" 
without ever embracing totally Cavalcanti's position. Keen's conclusion is 
remarkable for her insight into Cino's poetics: "Even though his psychological 
attachment to binary pairings means that he may have to represent his exilic 
transitions as an adoption of Otherness, he still prefers to exist as a nameable 
outsider than to probe the ambiguities of exile too far, and so risk Cavalcantian 
self-annihilation." 

In "Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Cecco Angiolieri, Pietro de' Faitinelli, and 
Pieraccio Tedaldi," Fabian Alfie examines the theme of exile in three 

Annali d'italianisitica 20 (2002) 



1 6 Exile L iterature: A bs tracts 

fourteenth-century poets, Cecco Angiolieri, Pietro de' Faitinelli, and Pieraccio 
Tedaldi, who suffered exile from their native cities for reasons not well know to 
scholars. Their personal tragedies inspired the three of them to compose sonnets 
that expressed their anguish. Yet, their poems are more than mere outlets for 
personal pain, for they are finely tuned documents that demonsfrate the authors' 
literary self-consciousness. Thus this essay examines the intertextual 
relationships among the three works, showing how each author builds upon the 
work of his predecessors. 

Thomas Peterson, in "Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and 
Pefrarch," focuses on two highly representative figures of early Humanism and 
the late Renaissance, thereby showing the extent to which the metaphoric- 
symbolic notion and poetics of exile continued and evolved throughout the 
centuries. Approaching the topic of exile in Petrarch and Tasso intertextually, 
Peterson argues for a redemptive return on the part of the principal characters of 
the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta and the Gerusalemme liberata from Babylon 
back to Jerusalem: namely, to a life of religious devotion and sacred community. 
The differences in literary genre — Peterson argues — do not present an 
obstacle but rather an opportunity to study similar "figural" presentations of the 
"battle of the soul" in Pefrarch and Tasso. By examining the lexical and thematic 
incidences of exile in these two authors' masterpieces, Peterson is thus able to 
draw parallels between the life changes of Tasso's heroes (and the Christian 
army) and the transformation of Petrarch's "lover at a distance" into a Davidic 
singer in religious retreat and contemplation. By focusing on shared elements in 
the works, from stylistics and rhetorical dispositio to the Augustinean problem 
of the will and the historical-prophetic mission of the Church, Peterson 
demonsfrates the sacred role of poetry in the vision of the two poets as a means 
to guide the individual sinner, as well as the community, out of the earthly 
bondage. 

Armando Maggi, in "The Soul's Exile: Devotional Literature and Renaissance 
Culture in Guido Casoni's Ragionamenti interni,'' studies how, in Casoni's 
devotional text, "cielo" at once signifies God's presence in the creation and 
man's exile from God. Paradoxically, the world and its imposing skies are the 
locus where God approaches us and distances Himself from us. "Cielo" is 
indeed a complex signifier, for it testifies both to a presence and a radical 
absence. In brief, this post-Tridentine author (1561-1642) evidences the extent 
to which the view of humankind's exile from heaven endures and informs 
writing. 

Writing from the perspective of travel literature, Luigi Monga, in "'Doom'd to 
Wander': Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modem Travel Narrative," analyzes the 
extent to which exile, an obvious form of spatial displacement, is connected to 
travel, and thus writing about exile is akin to travel narrative. Despotic rulers, 
political or religious leaders dispatched the best of their citizens from their 
native country. Setting aside the most famous Italian exiles of the early modem 
period, from Dante to Machiavelli, Casanova and Foscolo, Monga selects a few 
examples of French and British expatriates who chose, by direct authority or 
personal decision, to seek freedom and serenity abroad. In most such cases Italy 
was the fmal end of their escape. Avoiding the troubles of 1588, an "annus 



Exile Literature: Abstracts 17 

mirabilis" in a continent fraught with religious conflicts, and "doom'd to 
wander" abroad during the 1 7'''-century "Great Rebellion," the most promising 
youth of France and England escaped to Italy, finding there the foundation of an 
intellectual "locus amoenus." These bright individuals involved in the Grand 
Tour wrote about their personal experiences, shaping a widely read travel 
narrative that helped maintain an endless flow of tourists. On the other hand, 
Cardinal de Retz, the archbishop of Paris who opposed a despotic Louis XIV, 
chose to set off to Rome, pursued by the wrath of his king and the loathing of his 
religious brothers. Returning to France, an apparent loser in an uneven fight and 
forced to an internal exile in a faraway monastery, he continued nevertheless his 
battle, writing a biased, but influential autobiography, a memorial of his struggle 
that is also a dazzling travel narrative. 

Nicola Bietolini, in "I 'concatenati dolori'. Esilio, scrittura e censura 
nell'autobiografia letteraria e ne 'L'esule' di Pietro Giannone," examines the 
many ways in which the exilic experience of Giannone is reflected in his 
writings, primarily in his Vita and the poem "L'esule." What makes Giannone's 
exilic experience even more troubling (and disturbing for us, as we look back at 
it) is the incessant persecution of the ecclesiastical authorities even after 
Giannone had left Naples. To such a continued persecution we owe the 
autobiography, the poem mentioned above, and related passages in the author's 
works, as Giannone seeks to portray himself through the literary image of the 
virtuous citizen who is oppressed by a corrupt and corrupting political and civic 
system. In these attempts Giannone emerges as a victim of a cruel political and 
religious power: an exile by antonomasia. 

Focusing on Ugo Foscolo, the Romantic era's and the Italian Risorgimento's 
best known exile, Robert A. Rushing, in "Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo's 
'A Zacinto,'" re-examines Foscolo's famous sonnet of exile in the light of Van 
Den Abbeele's 1992 Travel As Metaphor. The essay examines several of the 
ways that Van Den Abeele's model of travel (where the stable space of the home 
is used to orient and understand the experience of travel) is complicated by 19"'- 
century Italy. In fact, for Foscolo to think about home, he must pass through 
Italian, Greek, Austrian, and Venetian detours. Finally, the article looks not only 
at the ways in which these detours inform and shape the sonnet, but also at the 
epistemological consequences of "uprooted" travel. 

In "Exile, Translation, Return: Ugo Foscolo in England," Cosetta Gaudenzi 
employs translation as a critical concept to study the work of Ugo Foscolo in 
England. The article sheds light on Foscolo's role in the process that made 
Henry Francis Gary's version of the Commedia (1814) the first authoritative 
translation into English, and examines the reasons behind Foscolo's shift in exile 
fi-om writing literature to practicing cultural translation and transference. 
Aida Audeh's "Images of Dante's Exile in 1 9'*'-century France" brings the 
reader back to Dante's exile and the extent to which it influenced French 
imagination in the 1 9* century. Aida Audeh, in fact, shows how, in the midst of 
the great interest in Dante in French arts and letters in the 19''' century, a sub- 
genre appeared on the basis of biographical legends surrounding the period of 
Dante's exile. Investigation into this sub-genre reveals a complex interchange of 
historical facts, anecdotes, fancy, and outright errors, producing images of 



1 8 Exile Literature: Abstracts 

Dante's exile unique to France. Cultural manifestations of interest in Dante's 
exile are so extensive as to necessitate a full-length study of his role in shaping 
painting, sculpture, and popular imagery. References to Dante's exile appear in 
works of fiction and in biography, as well as in commentary accompanying 
French translations of the poet's works. What is significant and striking is 
French literature's reformulation and embellishment of history or biography 
concerning Dante's exile and its effect on interpreting French art. 
At the beginning of the 20* century, Dino Campana (1885-1932) becomes a 
profoundly suffering prototype of the 20*-century notion of exile as alienation 
and estrangement. In "Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un'ermeneutica 
della sua opera," Assumpta Camps analyzes Campana' s multifaceted "esilio 
interiore," whose causes may be found not only in the poet's mental and 
psychological instability but also in what Mario Luzi calls the modem poet's 
"deposizione dal trono" and existential disenchantment. In Dino Campana — 
Assumpta Camps points out — the poet's irmer condition is transformed into the 
image of a voyage, viewed as a flight from his inner exile, and yet also a symbol 
of his inner restlessness, always looking for, but never finding, a locus of 
spiritual purification and peace. 

Moving away from the symbolic to focus on the exile's ever-present horrific real 
and historical element, Annunziata O. Campa's "Utopia e disincanto: I'esilio 
degli intellettuali spagnoli nella diaspora della Guerra Civile" focuses on the 
Spanish Civil War, which deeply affected and divided Italy also. A crucial event 
that still represents a point of reference in contemporary history, as well as a 
debate about political categories and accepted ideologies, the Spanish Civil War 
is also a reflection on the dramatic role played by the Spanish intelligentsia and 
the struggle of Europe's intellectuals during the first half of the 20* century. The 
nationalist regime's wave of repression produced a large diaspora of exiles, 
among whom the philosopher Maria Zambrano, whose exile of forty-five years 
brought her to many friendly countries in America and Europe, including eleven 
years in Italy. Through her essays and poetry, Zambrano became the archetypal 
figure of the intellectual who represented the struggle of an entire people against 
repression. Her tragic experience allowed her to elaborate a phenomenology of 
exile seen as her "motherland": a literary rendition of an experience that can no 
longer be uniquely appropriated by a male adult. 

Giuseppe Tosi, in "Dall'attesa alia storia-esilio. La memoria e I'identit^ in Se 
non ora, quando? di Primo Levi," explores the primary motives of Levi's novel: 
the destruction of the Ashkenazi Jewish communities during the Second World 
War; the sense of uprootedness among the survivors, which impelled their 
participation in the partisan resistance; the cultural dissolution experienced by 
the survivors, including their estrangement from religion and its eschatological 
dimension; and their entry into a history-exile in which identity and memory are 
irredeemably compromised. The sudden disappearance of the past imposes its 
shadow on the survivors, permanently marking their attempts to rebuild their 
lives. 

Lucienne Kroha, in "Exile in Giorgio Bassani's Work," analyzes the exile 
motif as it figures in three first-person novels in which the same 
protagonist/narrator tells the story of his experiences as a Jew in pre-war Fascist 



Exile Literature: Abstracts 19 

Italy. The story of his coming-to-grips as an exile in his own country after the 
implementation of the Race Laws of 1938 becomes a sort of Bildungsroman. in 
which both the mirage of integration and the "ghetto mentality" are likened to 
the comforting maternal cocoon of pre-oedipal narcissism. On the other hand, 
the reality of Jewish life under Emancipation is described as demanding the 
mature, manly acceptance of exile or oedipal difference. The gendered 
elaboration of the exile motif reflects doubts about Jewish manliness rampant in 
post-Darwinian pseudo-scientific discourses of Jewish identity. 
Focusing on the exilic experience described by a woman, Cinzia Sartini Blum, 
in "Toni Maraini's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia," examines exile 
as a precondition for nomadic adventures of thought in the work of Toni 
Maraini. Unlike other members of her intellectually prominent family, Toni 
Maraini assumes the authorial persona of an exile from the Western intellectual 
establishment. From this perspective, exile is not the conventional metaphor for 
the (post)modem state of existential alienation, but a revived figure for an 
ethically and politically driven move toward intercultural understanding. Rather 
than evoke nostalgia for lost origins, authenticity, and meaning, exile points to a 
liminal place, beyond old and new intellectual boundaries, where it is still 
possible to search history for enduring human values. 

In "Z, 'arte di perdere peso di Mario Fortunato, owero il paradigma dell'esilio in 
et^ contemporanea," Laura Rorato seeks to situate the notion of exile within a 
post-modem context. Whereas historically the notion of exile has unfolded in its 
constant reference to an origin, in postmodern literature, after the loss of a 
master narrative and faith in history, exile seems to lack its referent to an origin. 
Consequently, exile becomes a permanent existential condition wherein the "I" 
and the "Other" seem to coincide, and the traditional dichotomy between home 
and foreign land is taken over by that between body and mind. In Fortunato's 
novel, its characters' maniacal attention to the body represents their attempt at 
overcoming this body-soul dichotomy in an effort to re-establish order where 
chaos has taken over. In reality, Laura Rorato concludes, in order to transcend 
exile's condition one must accept one's precariousness and all things' mortality, 
thereby learning how to look at the world from a different perspective; or, as 
Calvino (to whom Fortunato refers) teaches us, one must learn "the art of losing 
weight." 

Introducing a young author, Sabina Gola, in her essay "Grammatica o nuova 
grammatica dell'esilio," shows how a young author, Diego Marani, reflects on 
the notion of exile taking as the novel's leading motif the wars and the 
consequent exile that have affected so many people in a small European country, 
Finland, and also all European peoples in the 20th century. In Marani's novel, 
the linguistic notion of grammar becomes emblematic of one's existence, which 
everyone seeks to live according to certain norms. The novel's characters, 
accordingly, seek to live their own lives, and thus, symbolically, to re-create a 
new grammar capable of allowing them to live their lives as exiled. The key 
element in reading the novel, thus, becomes language; namely, every human 
being's, and consequently also every exile's, sacred patrimony, and, at the same 
time, an element of socialization and isolation. 
Jennifer Burns, in "Exile within Italy: Interactions between Past and Present 



20 Exile Literature: Abstracts 

'Homes' in Texts in Italian by Migrant Writers," considers representations of 
exile in recent novels by three italophone migrant writers: Ron Kubati 
(Albanian), Mohsen Melliti and Salah Methnani (both Tunisian). It analyzes the 
extent to which economic migration is figured in these texts as a form of exile, 
and considers the ways in which the relationship between "home" and "exile" is 
represented and manipulated in these narratives. 

Simona Wright, in "Esperienza dell'esilio e poesia in Gezim Hajdari," 
discusses how the face of Italy has been transformed over the past twenty years 
by the phenomenon of immigration, which has wrought changes at the political, 
economic, and social levels. In this regard, a group of immigrants has sought to 
participate actively in the national culture, and foremost among them is Ggzim 
Hajdari. This essay analyzes his complete poetic oeuvre, in which are reflected 
the various phases of the immigrant experience as well as the thoughts and 
feelings that accompany it. 

Giancarlo Lombard!, in ''Parigi o cara: Terrorism, Exile, and Escape in 
Contemporary Cinema and Fiction," focuses on the portrayal of the community 
of Italian terrorists in exile in Paris as presented in a play, a documentary, and a 
full-length feature film. Locus of "abjection," land of apparent shelter and 
freedom, Paris is the maze in which former terrorists lose themselves while 
escaping justice. It is also the repository of unconfessed and unconfessable 
secrets. It is a place that former terrorists always contrast with the Italian cities 
and villages in which they were bom; it is an abyss from whose depth they are 
granted blindness and vision: the same blindness and vision through which they 
form new perspectives on their past actions. 

Anthony Cassell, in "The Exiled Dante's Hope for Reconciliation: Monarchia 
3:16.16-18," provides a convincing explanation of a difficult passage of Dante's 
political treatise, which thus offers all exiled people, betwixt and between body 
and soul, an additional example of an exemplary conduct and interpretation of 
exile. When the long-exiled Dante found himself again having to assert his 
opmions on the separation and correlation of the priestly and imperial powers in 
the Monarchia, he knew that he was entering a controversy that had simmered in 
different guises for centuries and that he directly blamed for his own banishment 
from his native city. Although Dante placed his emphasis on an Aristotelian 
earthly happiness, he nevertheless followed St. Thomas Aquinas, and others 
before him, who had treated the blessedness of this life as ultimately ancillary to 
eternal blessedness. Accordingly, Dante reiterated similar caution in the wording 
of the universally accepted formulas in his last lines. The Poet, forced to wander 
and seek his shelter in strangers' lands, had always recognized the far greater 
importance of eternal blessedness, making its attainment the ineffable object and 
culmination of the last canticle of his Commedia, dedicated to the very friend on 
whose behalf he composed the Monarchia. Dante here records, in his waning 
exiled years, his simple, optimistic Christian conviction, that, despite the bitterly 
salted bread of implacable earthly tribulation, he viewed life on earth as blest, 
naturally, sacramentally, and directly, by a loving, omnipotent God. From a life 
of expulsion Dante writes both of unity and of his own ultimate usefiilness and 
belonging. 



Giuseppe De Marco 

L'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 
quale autobiografla universale* 

I. L'esilio - come 6 noto - ha costituito un punctiim dolens nella lacerante 
biografia dantesca, ma soprattutto un topos fondamentale dell'opera del divin 
Poeta; difatti, come scrive Pasquini, "se di qualcosa non 6 dato dubitare nel 
giudizio che la posterita ha costruito di Dante, tale e certamente I'importanza 
dell'esilio nella sua vita: il fatto che esso abbia segnato una svolta decisiva 
nell'esistenza e nell'opera del nostro autore".' Nelle opere di Dante, il tema 
dell'esilio si profila inizialmente come amara sofferenza per I'ingiustizia subita 
e come straziante nostalgia per la lontananza dalla patria. Ma neWiter artistico 
I'asprezza dello sdegno e del dolore sfuma, fondendosi con la nostalgia e il 
rimpianto delle anime purgatoriali, in una malinconica accettazione del 
peregrinare, scevra da ogni speranza nella giustizia umana. La progressiva 
perdita dell'individualita del dolore culmina con la fine del viaggio ideale 
(Paradiso, XVll e XXV), dove la condizione dell'esule diventa simbolo 
universale di un'umanita sradicata dal divino. 

Non a caso, sradicamento ed esilio costituiscono, tra gli altri, due elementi 
della genesi della letteratura italiana' - "exilium quasi extra solum" secondo 
Isidoro di Siviglia (V, xxvii, 28) -; essa, difatti, nasce all'insegna della 
"mobility" e deir"erranza": 



L'itineranza connessa aU'esilio ha determinato per Dante lo sganciamento culturale da 
Firenze. un'accelerazione del processo di superamento delPesperienza stilnovistica e 
I'insorgere di una prospettiva sovramunicipale e di un intento teorico e critico, che sfocia 
in un progetto di organ izzazione della cultura e della lingua (come testimoniano il De 
vulgari eloquentia e il Convivio) e, insieme. di una poesia universale e di una figura 
ideale di poeta-profeta che gia affiora nelle rime deU'esilio e trova la sua piii completa 
realizzazione nella Commedia, con la quale Dante t consapevole di costruire Vepos 



* Questo saggio costituisce una sorta di rivisitazione, integrazione e aggiornamento del 

volume da me pubblicato nel 1996 dal titolo: Mitografia dell'esule. Da Dante al 

Novecento 

' Pasquini, La parabola deU'esilio 122; tra gli allri contributi. al riguardo. e doveroso 

almeno segnalare: Marchi, Dante in esilio; lannucci , L 'esilio di Dante: "per colpa di 

tempo e di fortuna"; AA. VV., Dante e le citta deU'esilio; Russo. Dante exul inmeritus: 

variazioni compositive sul /dal tema; De Marco, Dante "exul inmeritus": dalle Rime alia 

Divina Commedia, in ID. . Mitografia dell 'esule. Da Dante al Novecento 17-33. 

^ Si rinvia a Asor Rosa, Lafondazione del laico, in Letteratura italiana, dir. da ID. , Le 

Questioni, Torino, Einaudi, 1986, V, pp. 90-93, ora in ID. , Genus italicum. Saggi sulla 

identita letteraria italiana nel corso del tempo (34-142). 

Annalid'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



22 Giuseppe De Marco 

volgare e cristiano, originale ricreazione della poesia alta dell'epo^ latino. 



(Mercuri 230) 



Occorre, inevitabilmente, risemantizzare - come ha proposto e analizzato 
Battistini, attraverso un'argomentazione elaborata e sottile - il concetto di esilio, 
"restituendolo a tutta la sua tragicita medievale".'' Piuttosto che leggere I'esilio 
dall'ottica storica codiflcata nella civilta classica da Seneca nel dialogo Ad 
Helviam matrem e da Plutarco, dove i'avvenimento viene trasfigurato con il 
sostegno imperturbabile e, nel contempo, fiero di una consolatio, nel cui solco 
della tradizione, d'altra parte, si incanala talora lo stesso Dante, sembra piii 
opportuno considerare la brutality della condanna, regolare per quei tempi, 
secondo la quale, nel caso che Dante e gli altri condannati si fossero rifiutati di 
pagare I'ammenda imposta, "omnia bona talis non solventis publicentur, 
vastentur et destruantur, et vastata et destructa remaneant in comuni."'' Inoltre, 
"si quis predictorum ullo tempore in fortiam dicti comunis pervenerit, talis 
perveniens igne comburatur sic quod moriatur": e la condanna - feroce - che 11 
10 marzo 1302 Cante de' Gabrielli da Gubbio emetteva contro Dante e contro 
altri quattordici imputati. Tenuto conto della veemenza irosa, scandita dalla 
sequenza dei verbi prescrittivi, non si pu6 non concordare col Petrocchi, allorchd 
definisce "la lettura" di questo "celebre documento" come "uno del momentl piu 
impresslonanti per chi intraprende lo studio di Dante". ^ 

Prima di procedere, b opportuno riflettere - seppure fugacemente - sul 
concetto o nozione di esilio vigente nella cultura dell'epoca. In riferimento 
alPoriginaria legislazione germanica, colui che t colpito dal bando b destlnato a 
morire come persona, in quanto collocate fuori della legge, privato dl 
qualsivoglia tutela giuridica; eliminato dalla societas, non gode piu della pace 
cittadina (Friedlosigkeit), insomma perde la civitas. Appellate wargus, lupo, 
obbligato a vagolare "per silvas", vede incalzare contro di s€ la sua gente, 
serrato fuori, usurpare il diritto della sua stessa vita; egll puo essere 
impunemente vilipeso. ^ Successivamente, la giurisprudenza tent6 di conclliare 



^ Battistini, L 'estremo approdo: Ravenna, in AA. VV. , Dante e le citta dell 'esilio (158). 
■^ Le citazioni delle sentenze sono tratte, qui e altrove, dalla sezione Documenti danteschi. 
* Petrocchi. Dal priorato alia condanna: le vicende d'uno sconfilto, in ID. , Vita di Dante 
(90). 

^ Sul bando, pena dell'antica legislazione germanica di poi ripresa dagli statuti comunaii 
medioevali, si veda Leicht, Storia del diritto italiano. II diritto privato 25-27; Crifd, 
Esilio, in Enciclopedia del diritto, XV, 712-22. Indicative e fondamentale si rivela lo 
studio di Ghisalberti. La condanna al bando nel diritto comune, "Archivio Giuridico 
Tilippo Serafini'", CLVIII, 1960, pp. 3-75, nei quale, tra I'altro si rileva: "[. . . ] I'istituto 
germanico implicava, come I'esilio romano, I'espuisione del reo dalla comunita, in modo 
che egli non partecipava piu della condizione di chi vi apparteneva, ma, a differenza 
deU'esule romano. il bandito diventava il nemico di tutto, privo di ogni diritto e passibile 
di ogni offesa da parte di chicchessia, onde giustamente si definisce il bando germanico 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 23 

I'istituto del bando con il canone del Corpus iuris civilis e, di conseguenza, 
equipard il bannitus al fuoriuscito, esamin6 se il bannitus potesse considerarsi 
servus poenae e per questo paragonarsi al condannato a morte dell'antica Roma. 
Quantunque alcune di queste decodificazioni si mutassero lievemente in senso 
indulgente, la trattatistica civile-canonica persevere nel riconoscere una aderente 
analogia giuridica tra I'esiliato e lo scomunicato. "E cosi Dante, lui un tempo 
wargus, lupo errante per la selva secondo il diritto germanico, ritomer^ nemico 
dei veri Jupi che insidiano la cerchia dell'ovile Firenze, libero perche riaccolto in 
giusto consorzio civile, erede dell'antica tradizione romana, ripresa e sancita 
dairimpero cristiano" (Rigo 148-49). Per Dante, quindi, la lex deve collimare 
con lo ius commune o ius romanum. 

Nei primi anni dell'esilio. Pintento di Dante sara volto a proiettare 
un'immagine di se e della sua esperienza attraverso il flltro della scrittura, 
giustificato in questo tentative dal De Consolatione boeziano e dalle 
Confess iones di Agostino. Pertanto, gli appare lecito parlare di s6, per 
difendersi dall'infamia dell'esilio, come Severino Boezio, e per addottrinare 
I'umanit^, come Agostino. 

Una delle prime testimonianze - indirette - circa I'esilio di Dante, viene 
registrata da Giovanni Villani, il quale, dopo aver ricordato la vicinanza della 
casa dell'Alighieri alia sua, puntualizza che il poeta "sanza altra colpa co la detta 
parte bianca ftie cacciato e sbandito di Firenze" (336); e a proposito della 
Commedia aggiunge: "Bene si dilettd in quella Commedia di garrire e sclamare 
a guisa di poeta, forse in parte piu che non si convenia; ma forse il suo esilio 
gliele fece" (337). Dunque, per il cronista la composizione del poema h 
influenzata dalla condizione di esule di Dante, diversamente dalle altre sue opere 
scritte sempre negli anni dell'esilio, per le quali la valutazione risulta del tutto 
positiva: 

[. . . ] e poi quando fue in esilio fece da XX canzoni morali e d'amore molto eccellenti, e 
in tra H'altre fece tre nobili pistole; Tuna mand6 al reggimento di Firenze dogliendosi del 
suo esilio senza colpa; I'altra mando a lo 'mperadore quand'era a I'assedio di Brescia, 
riprendendolo della sua stanza, quasi profetezzando; la terza a' cardinali italiani 
quand'era la vacazione dopo la morte di papa Chimento, accio che s'accordassono a 
eleggere papa italiano; tutte in latino con alto dittato. e con eccellenti sententie e 
autoritadi, le quali furono molto commendate da' savi intenditori. 

(Nuova cronica 336) 

Vero d che - pur tra le imprecisioni di alcuni dati - questa del Villani b la prima 
biografia di Dante, allestita a non molti anni dalla sua morte, e si rivela gia come 
una sorta di riflessione critica, in quanto il cronista offre un'interpretazione 

come perdita di pace, Friedlosigkeit, pena veramente capitale, comprensiva nella 
pienezza di suoi efifetti dtWa persona e dei beni, tendente a togliere la vita e il patrimonio, 
ed escludente colui che ne t colpito da ogni tutela giuridica" (9). 



24 Giuseppe De Marco 

negativo-positiva deH'Alighieri, che seppure "non bene sapeva conversare co' 
laici" (337), tuttavia "per Taltre sue virtudi e scienza e valore di tanto cittadino 
ne pare che si convenga di dargii perpetua memoria in questa nostra cronica, con 
tutto che per le sue nobili opere lasciateci in scritture facciamo di lui vero 
testimonio e onorabile fama a la nostra cittade" (337-38). Risultava essere, ad 
ogni modo, una redintegratio: quella memoria, ignominiosa, che Cante de' 
Gabrielli aveva intenzionalmente ascritta negli statuti cittadini, si innalzava a 
"perpetua memoria" nelle pagine della cronistoria dell'epoca. 

Le tappe della peregrinatio dell'esilio dantesco risultano note soltanto in 
maniera parziaie, sovente estrapoiate da accenni del poema e delle altre opere; 
pertanto, e opportuno instaurare un dialogo costante e diretto con il testo 
dantesco, per restituire alio stesso anche il ruolo protagonistico che gli spetta. 

Cosl, in un'accorata pagina del Convivio, suffragata da tematiche 
passionali-emotive, viene a sancirsi, nei secoli, la figura dell'esilio e dell'uomo 
exul: 

Ahi, piaciuto fosse al dispensatore de I'universo che la cagione della mia scusa mai non 
fosse stata! ch6 n6 altri contro me avria fallato. ne io sofferto avria pena ingiustamente, 
pena, dico, d'essilio e di povertate. Pol che fu piacere de li cittadini de la bellissima e 
famosissima figlia di Roma. Fiorenza. di gittarmi fuori del suo dolce seno - nel quale 
nato e nutrito fui in fmo al colmo de la vita mia. e nel quale, con buona pace di quella, 
desidero con tutto lo cuore di riposare I'animo stancato e terminare Io tempo che m'6 
dato -. per le parti quasi tutte a le quali questa lingua si stende, peregrine, quasi 
mendicando, sono andato. mostrando contra mia voglia la piaga de la fortuna, che suole 
ingiustamente al piagato molte volte essere imputata. Veramente io sono stato legno 
sanza vela e sanza governo, portato a diversi porti e foci e liti dal vento secco che vapora 
la dolorosa povertade; e sono apparito a li occhi a moiti che forsechd per alcuna fama in 
altra forma m'aveano imaginato, nel conspetto de' quali non solamente mia persona 
invilio, ma di minor pregio si fece ogni opera, si gia fatta, come quella che fosse a fare. 

{Convivio, I, III, 3-5)* 

11 brano. solcato da toni aiti e vibranti - preludio a quelli solenni del XVII del 
Paradiso (vv. 55-60) -, esprime uno dei momenti di piu elevata e inerme 
rivelazione circa il significato del profondo turbamento dell'esilio e delle 
conseguenti umiliazioni che da esso deriveranno. Inoltre, la pagina e trapunta da 
un compatto intreccio di espedienti figurali e retorici, quali metafore, 
circonlocuzioni, figure etimologiche, che mirano energicamente su ridondanze 
allitterative, parallelismi di clausole ritmiche e annominazioni verbali, con un 
esito globale di prosa versificata di tenace carica emotiva e di elevata 
constructio stilistica. Si traduce cos), con mirabile intensita emotivo-espressiva, 



' I rilievi si devono a Miglio, Snodi della biografia dantesco, in "Per correr miglior 

acque... ". 

* Si cita dall'edizione a cura di Vasoli. 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 25 

la consapevolezza di una vita effimera e insidiata, oltraggiata nella sua umana 
dignita e quasi minimizzata, se non svilita nel suo valore. Ciononostante, la 
linea discorsiva lambisce accenti palpitanti di una rilevata denuncia esistenziale, 
ma tende anche a verificare ed esaminare la essenza stessa del I' esperienza 
letteraria. Di qui, I'esilio quale momento di elevazione deH'uomo sulla 
mutability e sulla occasionalita della storia. Pertanto, non stupisce il fatto che 
Dante affermi nel De vulgari eloquentia (I, VI, 3) che Pesperienza dell'esilio 
crea un punto di esplorazione fausto, al fine di scrutare la degenerazione del 
mondo. II poeta mediante I'esilio pu6 ideare e costruire la figura del letterato, la 
cui patria non risulta piu un comune (citta), ma il mondo intero: 

Nos autem, cui mundus est patria velut piscibus equor, quanquam Sarnum biberimus ante 
dentes et Florentiam adeo diligamus ut, quia dileximus, exilium patiamur iniuste, rationi 
magis quam sensui spatulas nostri iudicii podiamus. Et quamvis ad voluptatem nostram 
sive nostre sensuaiitatis quietem in terris amenior locus quam Florentia non existat, 
revolventes et poetarum et aliorum scriptorum volumina quibus mundus universaiiter et 
membratim describitur, ratiocinantesque in nobis situationes varias mundi locorum et 
eorum habitudinem ad utrunque polum et circulum equatorem. multas esse perpendimus 
firmiterque censemus et magis nobiles et magis delitiosas et regiones et urbes quam 
Tusciam et Florentiam, unde sumus oriundus et civis. et plerasque nationes et gentes 
delectabiliori atque utiliori sermone uti quam Latinos. 

{De vulgari eloquentia, I, VI, 3)' 

In stretto collegamento con I'emblematico brano del Convivio (I, III), si rinviene 
un'allusione al proprio avverso fato, allorche Dante afferma: '"Eiecta maxima 
parte florum de sinu tuo, Florentia, nequicquam Trinacriam Totila secundus 
adivit'";'" mentre, in altro luogo, dove tratta del prestigio e della fama che pu6 
provenire dalla pratica del volgare, I'Alighieri dice: "[. . . ] nos ipsi novimus, qui 



^ Si cita dall'edizione a cura di Mengaldo, di cui segue la traduzione: "Ma noi, la cui 
patria t il mondo come per i pesci il mare, benche abbiamo bevuto nel Samo prima di 
mettere i denti e amiamo Firenze a tal punto da patire ingiustamente, proprio perch6 
Fabbiamo amata, i'esilio, noi appoggeremo la bilancia del nostro giudizio alia ragione 
piuttosto che al sentimento. Certo ai fmi di una vita piacevole e insomma 
dell'appagamento dei nostri sensi non c'e sulla terra luogo piu amabile di Firenze; 
tuttavia a leggere e rileggere i volumi dei poeti e degli altri scrittori che descrivono il 
mondo nell'assieme e nelle sue parti, e a riflettere dentro di noi alle varie posizioni delle 
localita del mondo e al loro rapporto con I'uno e I'altro polo e col circolo equatoriale, 
abbiamo tratto questa convinzione, e la sosteniamo con fermezza: che esistono molte 
regioni e citta piu nobili e piu gradevoli della Toscana e di Firenze, di cui sono nativo e 
cittadino, e che ci sono svariati popoli e genti che hanno una lingua piu piacevole e piu 
utile di quella degli italiani" (53). 

'° 11, VI, 4 (""Strappata dal tuo seno, Fiorenza, la maggior parte dei fiori, invano il 
secondo Totila si spinse in Trinacria'" (183). 



26 Giuseppe De Marco 

huius dulcedine glorie nostrum exilium postergamus". " Difatti, la poesia t per 
Dante I'occasione impareggiabile, al fine di ridestare negli uomini I'amore per la 
giustizia: qui risiede la missione di Dante, poeta segregato, vox profetica, che fa 
dell'esilio un vessillo che lo distingue e lo edifica sul disfacimento di Fiorenza e 
della penisola italiana, per cui Yexul inmeritus puo alteramente rallegrarsi della 
propria sorte: 

E io, che ascoho nel parlar divino 

consolarsi e dolersi 

cosi aiti dispersi, 

ressilio che m'6 dato, onor mi tegno: 

ch6, se giudizio o forza di destino 

vuol pur che il mondo versi 

i bianchi fiori in persi. 

cader co' buoni e pur di lode degno. 

(RimeC\y,v\. 73-80)'^ 

La canzone Tre donne in torno al cor scaturisce da una profonda riflessione 
sulPesperienza deli'esilio, rigorosamente connessa al tema della iustitia. Uexul 
inmeritus inserisce il suo personale destino nell'universale capovolgimento di 
valori che vede il predominio dQWaferitas e della iniquity. Le "tre donne" che 
trovano scampo e si annidano presso il cuore del poeta, lacere e lacrimanti, 
simboleggiano difatti - come propone il figlio di Dante, Pietro nel suo 
commento a Inf. VI, 73 - rispettivamente la Giustizia universale, la Giustizia 
umana e la Legge naturale, anch'esse esiliate dal consorzio civile insieme a tutte 
le piu nobili virtu. Dante, pertanto, si dichiara fiero e intemerato di una sventura 
che lo associa a esuli cosi insigni, in un contesto storico rovinoso, in cui i probi 
sono indotti a perire: ma la intrepidezza di questa asserzione si intride 
inopinatamente nella contristata nostalgia per Firenze e nella consapevolezza di 
un accoramento ora purtroppo intollerabile. A buona ragione, dunque, Tre 
donne intorno al cor t stata autorevolmente defmita da Contini come "la grande 
canzone dell'esilio" (452). 

Non vanno trascurate, in tale contesto, le rime Se vedi li occhi miei (CV) e 
soprattutto Amor, da che convien (CXVl). "Questa vertu" (la giustizia) 
all'inizio del verso delTultima terzina, "pace" in chiusura della strofa e di tutto il 
testo costituiscono i due termini chiave del sonetto Se vedi li occhi miei, in cui 
vibra, con un'intonazione acuta dell'apostrofe profetica, I'amarezza, lo sdegno 
per la situazione politica presente e il bramoso protendersi verso la giustizia, che 
- almeno nella spes del poeta -, deve ricreare il mondo umano secondo I'ordine 
perfetto del mondo divino, perseverando la pace. Invece nella parte finale (w. 



" I, XVII, 6 ("noi che per la dolcezza di questa gloria ci buttiamo dietro le spalle I'esilio'' 

(135). 

'^ Si cita daU'edizione a cura di Contini, in Opere minori. 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 27 

71-84) di Amor, da che convien. il poeta dichiara che, legato com'^ dal nuovo 
amore, anche se crollassero le ragioni deU'esilio e i concittadini, mossi a pietil, 
gli consentissero la liberty di rimpatriare, egli non avrebbe I'autodeterminazione 
di avvalersene: 

E questa sbandeggiata di tua corte. 
signor. non cura colpo di tuo strale: 
fatto ha d'orgoglio al petto schermo tale 
ch'ogni saetta II spunta suo corso; 
per che I'armato cor da nulla 6 morso. 

O montanina mia canzon, tu vai: 

forse vedrai Fiorenza, la mia terra, 

che fuor di s6 mi serra, 

vota d'amore e nuda di pietate; 

se dentro v'entri, va' dicendo:"Omai 

non vi puo far lo mio fattor piu guerra: 

1^ ond'io vegno una catena il serra 

tal che, se piega vostra crudeltate, 

non ha di ritomar qui libertate". 

(RimeCXVlvv. 71-84) 

E una canzone dotata di un rilevante spessore allegorico; al riguardo, 
puntualizza opportunamente il Mercuri, 

L'amore che s'impadronisce di Dante e comparato nell'epistola IV a un signore che toma 
in patria dopo un lungo esilio. Tutto ruota intorno a questa metafora deU'esilio: anche la 
donna: (vv. 71 sgg. ) t esiliata dalla corte d'amore, cosi che il suo cuore e invulnerabile 
ai dardi di Cupido; ma questa donna t orgogliosa (v. 73) e insensibile (v. 75), come 
Firenze che e "vota d'amore" (= insensibile) e "nuda di pietate" {= orgogliosa). 

Con questo non si vuole dire che la donna in questione simboleggi Firenze ma si 
vuole affermare che il cambiamento dell'orizzonte letterario t in parte accelerato 
dall'esperienza dell'esiliato Dante, che va configurando un'idea di poesia di forte 
impegno etico e un'immagine esemplare di se [...]. 

(Mercuri 244). 

Con la morte di Arrigo VII svaniscono le ultime speranze ghibelline e per 
Dante non giunge il "gaudium expectatum" {Ep. V, 3); pertanto, Vexul inmeritus 
viene attanagliato da una tragica solitudine velata da una struggente malinconia. 
Pax e quies sono gli auspici per il ftituro; un documento molto prezioso, in tal 
senso. e testimoniato dal racconto offerto dall'epistola di frate Ilaro a 
Ugguccione della Faggiola - un tempo posta dalla fllologia e critica dantesca nel 
limbo degli apocrifi, ma di cui ora e stata defmitivamente dimostrata 
I'autenticita e veridicit^ grazie a Giorgio Padoan -, nella quale si legge: 



28 Giuseppe De Marco 

Ecce igitur quod iste homo ad partes ultramontanas ire intenderet et per Lunensem 
dyocesim transitum faceret, sive loci devotione sive alia causa motus. ad locum 
monasterii supradicti se transtulit. Quem ego cum viderem, adhuc et michi et aliis 
fratribus meis ignotum, interrogativi quid peteret, et cum ipse verbum non redderet, sed 
loci tamen constructionem inspiceret, iterum interrogavi quid quereret. Tunc ille, 
circumspectis mecum fratribus, dixit pacem. Hinc magis ac magis exarsi ad 
cognoscendum de illo. cuius conditionis homo hie esset, traxique ilium seorsum ab aliis; 
et habito secum deinde colloquio. ipsum cognovi, Quem quamvis ilium ante diem 
minime vidissem. fama eius ad me per longa primo tempora venerat. 

(6-7)'^ 

Alio stesso clima s'ispira VEpistola XII, dettata dalla condizione di 
segregazione, cui Dante k costretto, nonche di completo isolamento, intriso di 
austero dolore e di una sensibility assoluta del proprio valore e della propria 
dignita. Dai toni profondamente suggestivi, emerge una fiera fermezza, dalla 
quale insorge la doppiezza esiliato-esiliarsi, per la quale gli obiettivi si 
ribaltano, e la reale patria deWexul non risulta essere entro le anguste mura della 
sua citta, bensi nel confine della sua audacia e delle sue virtu. Pertanto, I'esilio 
di Dante non costitui solo una sorta di via crucis, ma sort) anche - e soprattutto 
- un arduo, ardito e idealmente vittorioso iter artistico, specie per quel che 
concerne la costruzione dellMmmagine del poeta-profeta,''* a individuare le 



'^ Si cita da Padoan, II progetto di poema paradisiaco: "Vita nuova". XLII (e I'epistoladi 
Ilaro), in ID. , // lungo cammino del "Poema sacro". Studi danteschi 14-16 ("Ecco 
dunque che, intendendo quest'uomo andare neile regioni al di la dei monti e transitando 
attraverso la diocesi di Luni, mosso o da devozione del luogo o da altra causa, venne al 
monastero sopradetto. Vedendo costui, ancora sconosciuto e a me e agli altri miei 
confrateili. gli chiesi cosa volesse; e non rispondendo egli ma osservando invece 
Tedificio. gli chiesi di nuovo cosa cercasse. Allora egli. avendo guardato intomo i 
confrateili che erano con me. disse: pace, lo arsi ancor piu quindi dal desiderio di sapere 
di lui. di quale condizione quest'uomo fosse, e lo trassi in disparte dagli altri; e avuto poi 
con lui un colloquio. seppi chi era. Quantunque non lo avessi mai visto prima di quel 
giorno, la sua fama mi era giunta gia da molto tempo"). 

'"* Dante: poeta o profeta? E una delle piu spinose cruces esegetiche che ha tormentato sia 
gli antichi sia i moderni commentatori. Insomma, Viter dantesco va ritenuto una fictio 
poetica o invece una visio profetica? La questione e stata riproposta, anche da lannucci, il 
quale, dopo aver delineato, con accuratezza e rigore ermeneutico. la storia del dibattito 
critico concernente sitTatto argomento. pone Taccento sulle profonde analogic 
intercorrenti tra le strategic poetichc della Commedia e i modi del profetismo biblico; alia 
luce di talc ottica, a Dante potrebbe essere conferito lecitamente il titolo di "profeta", a 
condizione che la sua missione profetica sia considerata non "come una dicotomia tra 
propheta e poeta. ma piuttosto come una fusione dei due dementi"; anzi, lo studioso b 
persuaso che "la missione di Dante di essere poeta della verita sia dominante e giustifichi 
la sua collocazione nel contesto della profezia biblica. Come i profcti biblici, egli 
interpreta la sua missione in quanto omaggio alia verity della parola di Dio e la enuncia 
per mostrare i mali del presente e per tratteggiare una visione di un futuro migliore. La 



L 'espehenza di Dante exul immeritus 29 

ragioni della storia universale, per trame le linee di interpretazione del presente 
e del fUturo. Sulla scorta di tale prospettiva, come avrebbe potuto accettare 
I'ofFerta fiorentina di un'amnistia (1315) che imponeva condizioni umilianti? II 
suo categorico rifiuto k motivato nella XII Epistola in questi termini: 

Estne ista revocatio gratiosa qua Dantes Alagherii revocatur ad patriam, per trilustrium 
fere perpessus exilium? Hocne meruit innocentia manifesta quibuslibet? hoc sudor et 
labor continuatus in studio? Absit a viro phylosophie domestico temeraria tantum cordis 
humilitas, ut more cuiusdam Cioli et aliorum infamium quasi vinctus ipse se patiatur 
offerri! Absit a viro predicante iustitiam ut perpessus iniurias, iniuriam inferentibus, velut 
benemerentibus, pecuniam suam solvat! 

Non est hec via redeundi ad patriam, pater mi; sed si alia per vos ante aut deinde per alios 
invenitur. que fame Dantisque honori non deroget, illam non lentis passibus acceptabo; 
quod si per nullam talem Florentia introitur, nunquam Florentiam introibo. Quidni? 
nonne solis astrorumque specula ubique conspiciam? nonne dulcissimas veritates potero 
speculari ubique sub celo. ni prius inglorium, ymo ignominiosum populo Florentino, 
civitati me reddam? Quippe nee panis deficiet. 

(£pw/o/a XII, 5-9)" 

NeW Epistola II, indirizzata a Oberto e Guido, conti di Romena, Dante, 
neH'esprimere il profondo cordoglio per la morte del loro zio Alessandro e 
nell'elogiare, tra I'altro, I'animo virtuoso e la liberalita del defunto, coglie 
I'occasione per dichiarare che egli, sovente, nutriva consolazione e deponeva la 
propria speranza, circa la sua vicenda di exul inmeritus, solo in Alessandro, 
conte di Romena. Cos), I'esule, affranto dalla scomparsa del conte, giustifica la 

missione di Dante a servizio della verita infonde intensita profetica nella sua opera e lo 
rivela non solo grande poeta, ma anche, altrettanto. un messaggero religioso del Signore, 
un vero profeta il cui compito, analogamente a quello dei profeti biblici, t svelare la 
realta di Dio e il Suo desiderio che il Suo popolo Gli sia fedele, in modo da poter 
trascorrere I'eternit^ con Lui, sotto il Suo sguardo pieno d'amore" (lannucci, Dante.poeta 
o profeta?, in '^Per correr miglior acque... ". f...J, t. I, pp. 1 1 1-12). 
'* Si cita dalle Opere minori a cura di Frugoni-Brugnoli ("E questa la grazia del richiamo 
con cui Dante Alighieri 6 richiamato in patria dopo aver patito quasi per tre lustri I'esilio? 
Questo ha meritato una innocenza evidente a chiunque? Questo i sudori e le fatiche 
continuate nello studio? Lungi da un uomo familiare della filosofia una bassezza 
d'animo a tal punto fuor di ragione da accettare egli, quasi in ceppi, di essere offerto, a 
guisa di un Ciolo e di altri disgraziati. Lungi da un uomo banditore della giustizia il 
pagare. dopo aver patito ingiustizie, il suo denaro agli iniqui come a benefattori. 
Non t questa la via del ritomo in patria, o padre mio; ma se una via diversa da voi prima 
o poi da altri si trover^ che non deroghi alia fama e all'onore di Dante, quella non a lenti 
passi accettero; che se non si entra a Firenze per una qualche siffatta via, a Firenze non 
entrerd mai. E che dunque? Forse che non vedr6 dovunque la luce del sole e degli astri? 
Forse che non potr6 meditare le dolcissime verity dovunque sotto il cielo, se prima non 
mi restituisca alia citti, senza gloria e anzi ignominioso per il popolo florentino? N6 certo 
il pane mancher^"). 



30 Giuseppe De Marco 

sua assenza dalle "lacrimosis exequiis", dovuta alia inopinata poverty che 
I'esilio gli ha arrecato, invita la "progenies maxima Tuscanorum" a dolersi della 
dipartita di un si eccezionale uomo, tanto quamo "me miserum [...], qui a patria 
pulsus et exul inmeritus infortunia mea rependens continuo, cara spe memet 
consolabar in illo'\ '^ Per la topica consolatoria dell'esilio anche VEpistola III si 
rivela indicativa, in quanto Dante, per persuadere Cino da Pistoia a tollerare la 
sventura dell'esilio, gli consiglia di leggere sollecitamente i Fortuitorum 
Remedia - opera diffusa nel Medioevo e attribuita a Seneca -: "que ab 
inclitissimo phylosophorum Seneca nobis velut a patre filiis ministrantur, et 
illud de memoria sana tua non defluat: 'Si de mundo fliissetis, mundus quod 
suum erat diligeret'". '^ Significative, inoltre, ai fini del nostro discorso, la VI, 
nella quale Dante, rivolgendosi agli "scelleratissimi Fiorentini" rimasti in citt^, 
defmisce se stesso "exul inmeritus" e loro pronti per la feroce voracita della 
cupidigia ad ogni scelleratezza (VI, 5); la VII, dedicata ad Enrico VII, nella cui 
chiusa si legge: "ac quemadmodum, sacrosancte lerusalem memores, exules in 
Babilone gemiscimus, ita tunc cives et respirantes in pace, confusionis miserias 
in gaudio recolemus". '^ Infine, sicuramente degna di rilievo avrebbe dovuto 
essere una epistola a noi non pervenuta, di cui riferisce I'unico testimone diretto 
della scrittura dell'Alighieri, Leonardo Bruni - "veduto in alcune epistole di sua 
propria mano scritte" -,'^ il quale annota che Dante ospite a Verona presso gli 
Scaligeri "ridussesi tutto a umilta, cercando con buone opere et con buoni 
portamenti racquistare la gratia di potere tornare in Firenze per spontanea 
revocatione di chi reggeva la terra. Et sopra questa parte s'affatico assai, et 
scrisse piii volte, non solamente a particulari cittadini et del reggimento ma al 
popolo; et intra I'altre una epistola assai lunga, che incomincia: 'Popule mee, 
quid feci tibi?'" (546). 

L'attivita epistolare di Dante 6 davvero frenetica ed k architettata su una 
prosa tendente piu che altro all'enfasi conturbata della rampogna, con 
abbondanti ricorsi dW apostrophatio, oW exclamatio, alV interrogatio, 
aWantonomasia, aWiperbole. Insomma, le Epistole documentano un uso 
sapiente dei procedimenti retorici e delle varie forme del cursus, frutto di grande 
perizia tecnica. 

Da queste esemplificazioni testuali concrete emergono commiserazione e 



'* Ep. II, 3 ("io misero [...], che cacciato dalla patria ed esule senza colpa, la mia 

sventura considerando di continuo me stesso in lui consolavo con cara speranza"). 

'^ Ep. ill, 8 ("che da! famosissimo dei fiiosofi, Seneca, a noi, come dal padre ai figli, 

sono offerti e non scorra via dalla tua buona memoria quel detto: 'Se voi foste del mondo, 

il mondo amerebbe ci6 ch'e suo'"). 

'* Ep. VII, 30 ("e come ora, memori della sacrosanta Gerusaiemme, esuli gemiamo in 

Babilonia. cosi allora cittadini e respirando nella pace ricorderemo nella gioia le miserie 

della confusione"). 

'^ Bruni. I'ita di Dante, in ID., Opere letterarie e politiche 548. 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 3 1 

sofferenza per la condizione di esiliato misero ed erratico, la pungente nostalgia 
di Firenze, la delazione per un'ammenda iniquamente subita, mentre traspare, 
altresj, la vigorosa affermazione della nobilt^ di uomo e di intellettuale; 
elementi, questi ultimi, che confluiranno abbondantemente, a mo' di puntelli, in 
alcuni emblematici canti della Commedia. L'opera, infatti, nasce - in 
particolare la terza cantica - proprio come la reazione deU'ejcw/ inmeritus, che 
oppone all'ingiustizia della Terra I'autentica giustizia del regno ideale 
(Paradiso). E quasi una sorta di regno dei fini in cui si realizza quel connubio 
virtu-giustizia infranto in terra: di qui, I'urgenza di ripristinare la concordia tra 
civitas terrena e civitas celeste. Alia sofferta esperienza della realty Dante 
contrappone I'esperienza ideale ultraterrena, ponendosi quale giudice - pur 
sempre umano - dei suoi personaggi e del suo tempo, per rivendicare il bene per 
11 bene, il male per il male. Gi^ con la Monorchia egli, ricorrendo alia visione 
dell'umanit^ guidata dai "due Soli", I'uno indipendente dall'altro, in effetti 
rispondeva proprio all'ansia di giustizia e di pace dell'esule, alia sua ultima 
illusione, crollata con il fallimento dell'impresa di Arrigo VII di Lussemburgo. 

Pill concreti - ora in maniera implicita, ora esplicita - sono, invece, i 
richiami all'esperienza dell'exw/ inmeritus nella Commedia, dove I'indole 
politica e connaturata all'indole morale. Possiamo, cosi, individuare e 
opportunamente documentare i riferimenti che Dante fa alia sua lacerante 
esperienza deU'esilio gi^ nel secondo canto deH7n/er«o, allorch6 - secondo 
lannucci - Beatrice che discende agli Infer! "riscatta Dante dall'esilio, sia 
politico che spirituale, in cui la Fortuna e il Tempo I'hanno gettato. II suo gesto 
drammatico risolve la trama del poema, che nella sua formulazione piu semplice 
6 una testimonianza deU'esilio di Dante da Firenze e del suo rimpatrio nella citt^ 
celeste" (lannucci A. A., p. 231). Nel VI 6e]V Inferno, Dante pone tre domande 
a Ciacco: quale sar^ il ftituro di Firenze? Nella "citta partita" vi sono cittadini 
giusti? Qual b la causa di tanto gravi discordie civili? II goloso fiorentino 
preannuncia che 

[ ] "Dopo lunga tencione 

verranno al sangue, e la parte seivaggia 
caccer^ i'aitra con molta offensione. 

Poi appresso convien che questa caggia 
infra tre soli, e che I'aitra sormonti 
con la forza di tal che testd piaggia. 

Alte terr^ lungo tempo le fronti, 
tenendo I'aitra sotto gravi pes!, 
come che di cio pianga o che n'aonti. 
■: Giusti son due. e non vi sono intesi; 

superbia, invidia e avarizia sono 



32 Giuseppe De Marco 

le tre faville c'hanno i cuori accesi. {If. VI. 64-75)^ 



E qui compendiata, tramite ii ricorso ad alcune parole chiave - alte-pesi- 
pianga - la vicenda di una disfatta e di un trionfo, con il suo seguito di 
arroganza, di sopraffazioni, di acute e lancinanti sofferenze. E siccome Dante fli 
tra le fila dei vinti, il suo accento si pone incupito sulle tribolazioni interiori sue 
e dei suoi sodali sconosciute al vincitore. Invero, la profezia di Ciacco riguarda 
esplicitamente Firenze, ma contiene implicitamente un lieve cenno alle vicende 
personali di Dante, al suo esilio, riverberato nei "gravi pesi", sotto cui il partito 
dei Bianchi sar^, purtroppo, lungamente tenuto. Nondimeno, una comunanza di 
sorte e al fondo della condizione di Dante e del dannato, di sentire alio stesso 
modo: ambedue sono esuli, I'uno in terra (exul inmeritus) I'altro neU'infemo, 
del tutto consapevole di averlo meritato. Certo, il dialogo di Ciacco k 
"lapidario" e "freddo", ma - postilla Di Pino - 

quel linguaggio di doiore e d'ironia, di compianto e di sarcasmo in commistione con una 
disposizione d'amore chiusa e immanente nei cuore; quel linguaggio dal quale secoli di 
lettori hanno appreso Vanimus delTesule verso la citta i cui cittadini I'hanno gettato 
"fuori del suo dolce seno": quel linguaggio, nei canto di Ciacco, non t ancora scattato. 
Deve sorprenderci il fatto che. se veramente Ciacco - come pare di dover dedurre - gli 
predice rimminente esilio, Dante lavori di retorica (tre domande, tre risposte), e 
immagini che il dannato alluda con distacco a Firenze senza nominaria ('ia tua citti"). 

(Di Pino, Firenze nella immaginativa oltretnondana di Dante 325) 

Tuttavia, in questo primo fra i canti politici della Commedia, come nota 
V. Sermonti, 'I'esilio di Dante, assorbito dal fondo catramoso del quadro, 
aspettera quattro canti per affiorare alia superficie dell'iconografia poetica". ^' 
Difatti, la prima puntuale e diretta predizione dell'esilio sar^ pronunciata a 
Dante da Farinata degli Uberti: 

"Ma non cinquanta volte fia raccesa 
la faccia de la donna che qui regge, 
che tu saprai quanto quell'arte pesa. " 

(// X, 79-81) 

Giova puntualizzare che I'anima che il pellegrino incontra e, di tanto in tanto, il 
riflesso del poeta; secondo R. Giglio, in essa si rispecchia 

parte della propria coscienza, alia ricerca di peccati o di residui di essi, che ora la poesia. 



^° Qui e altrove le citazioni sono tratte da La Commedia secondo I'antica vulgata, a cura 

di Petrocchi. 

^' Sermonti (a c. di). La Divina Commedia, Inferno VI (79). 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 33 

con la sua grande capacity escatologica, provvede a purgare interamente. [...] 
L'autobiografia, intesa come purificazione, va pertanto estrapolata dalla caratterizzazione 
di alcuni personaggi. rilevata dai colloqui che il personaggio Dante ha con essi; in tal 
modo si ha la possibility di inseguire anche i riposti pensieri, le interne sofferenze, le 
tensioni al peccato che costellarono la vita e I'esilio del poeta. 

(Giglio 37-38) 

In realta, la base sulla quale si adempie la graduale proiezione della figura di 
Dante in Farinata, consiste nella scelleratezza della nuova Firenze, che ha 
sperimentato le sue prime prove, espellendo gli Uberti, e culminer^ nell'esilio di 
Dante, fautore della giustizia. 

Soltanto "la cara e buona immagine patema" di Brunetto Latini poteva 
essere adeguata a predire la gloriosa e immortale sorte di Dante ('"Se tu segui 
tua Stella, / non puoi fallire a glorioso porto, / se ben m'accorsi ne la vita bella; / 
e s'io non fossi si per tempo morto, / veggendo il cielo a te cosi benigno, / dato 
t'avrei a I'opera conforto'", XV, 55-60); e nessuno meglio di altri, a cui era 
toccato la ventura di sperimentare Tesilio in terra straniera, motive le stesse 
scissioni di parte, era in grado di profilargli come una dignitas la condizione di 
esule e di braccato: 

"Ma quello ingrato popolo maligno 
che discese di Fiesole ab antico, 
e tiene ancor del monte e del macigno, 
•' ^ ti si far^ per tuo ben far. nimico: 

ed e ragion, che tra li lazzi sorbi 
( si disconvien fruttare al dolce fico. 

Vecchia fama nel mondo li chiama orbi: 
gent'e avara, invidiosa e superba: , 

dai lor costumi fa che tu ti forbi. 

La tua fortuna tanto onor ti serba, 
che I'una parte e I'altra avranno fame 
di te; ma lungi fia dai becco I'erba. 

Faccian le bestie fiesolane strame 
di lor medesme, e non tocchin la pianta, 
s'alcuna surge ancora in lor letame, 

in cui riviva la sementa santa 
di que' Roman che vi rimaser quando 
fu fatto il nido di malizia tanta. " 

(// XV, 61-78) 

E questo un precipuo insegnamento morale, che la risposta del discepolo 
pienamente e decisamente conferma: poich^, qualunque cosa avvenga, egli 
rester^ irremovibile: 



34 Giuseppe De Marco 



"Cio che narrate di mio corso scrivo, 
e serbolo a chiosar con altro testo 
a donna che sapr^ s'a lei arrivo. 

Tanto vogl'io che vi sia manifesto, 
pur che mia coscienza non mi garra. 
ch'a la Fortuna. come vuol, son presto. 

Non e nuova a li orecchi miei tal arra: 
pero giri Fortuna la sua rota 
come le piace, e i villan la sua marra. " 



(// XV, 88-96) 



La risposta di Dante risulta ben degna del prestigio della magnanima 
"sprezzatura" del maestro,^^ e armonizzata alio stesso stringato sapore 
sentenzioso. La rigorosa e alta dirittura morale di Brunetto Latini era ormai 
filtrata in quella del discepolo, memore che "il magnanimo si merita virtudi e 
grandi onori, li quali s'avvegnono a lui; apparecchia I'anima sua a cose grandi, e 
dispregia le cose piccole e vili" (Tesoro, XXXIV, 110). Inoltre, i versi "giri 
Fortuna la sua rota / come le piace, e '1 villan la sua marra", su cui ha posto una 
sottile attenzione esegetica lannucci, non vanno considerati unicamente come 
"una risposta acuta e commovente alia profezia di Brunetto, ma anche come una 
testimonianza precisa" in cui Dante "riconosce che ii tempo - Chronos - scorre 
inevitabilmente verso I'esilio e che questo evento segnera una svolta drammatica 
nella sua vita -un Kairos" (lannucci A. A., p. 226). 

Nella settima bolgia Dante s'imbatte in un dannato incenerito, violent© 
uomo di parte e ladro pistoiese, Vanni Fucci, il quale, dopo aver 
impetuosamente e sdegnosamente confessato di aver rubato gli arredi di una 
cappella del duomo di Pistoia, si vendica - causando dolore a Dante - con una 
veemente profezia: la rovinosa disfatta dei Guelfi bianchi ad opera di Moroello 
Malaspina. Di qui, anche Dante, come gli uomini del suo partito, sar^ esiliato da 
Firenze: 

"Ma perchd di tal vista tu non godi, 
se mai sarai di fuor da' luoghi bui, 
apri li orecchi al mio annunzio. e odi. 

Pistoia in pria d'i Neri si dimagra; 
poi Fiorenza rinova gente e modi. 
Tragge Marte vapor di Val di Magra 

ch'6 di torbidi nuvoli involute; 
e con tempesta impetuosa e agra 
sovra Campo Picen fia combattuto; 

ond'ei repende spezzera la nebbia, 
si ch'ogne Bianco ne sara feruto. 

E detto I'ho perchd doler ti debbia!" (// XXIV, 140-151) 



Si rinvia a Cottignoli 33-35. 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 35 

Cosi Vanni Fucci, bestia e ladro. chiude canto e profezia con uno dei versi piu 
brutalmente traboccanti della Commedia. 

Nella seconda cantica le profezie sono sorrette da un tono lirico piu 
sflimato. Mario Luzi asserisce che ^ proprio il Purgatorio la parte della 
Commedia in cui meglio si esprime piu direttamente la fondamentale struttura 
concettuale e metafisica deU'esilio, in quanto 

nel purgatorio si attuano per coincidenza le due condizioni essenziali: quelle della perdita 
e del rimpianto e queila deiresclusione dal somtno gaudio. Progressivamente le anime si 
spostano dalla prima alia seconda. il primo senso di sradicamento cede al desiderio e 
all'attesa; Vallora e offuscato e canceilato dal non ancora. Sublime e umanissimo 
paradigma di quello che fu I'esperienza politica, morale e teologale deU'esilio per Dante: 
un uomo che come i suoi coevi aveva implicito il vaiore materiale ed etico della sede, 
delTubicamento civile: e come gli altri intellettuali formati nella dottrina tomistica aveva 
dello stesso soprannaturale una visione insediata. 

Bisogna, credo, tener presente questa sostanziale premessa per misurare il vaiore dello 
sconvolgimento e del superiore ritrovamento che I'esperienza deU'esilio ha riservato a 
Dante; e per meditare convenientemente sulla forza di rivelazione che egli vi ha scorto 
fmo ad assumerla a immagine e a interpretazione totale del destino terreno e ultraterreno 
deH'uomo. 

(Luzi, L 'esilio, Dante, lapoesia 207-08) 

Nel VI canto del Purgatorio Pesilio non viene considerato come sciagura 
personate, bensi come conseguenza della sventura di tutta la citta, poich^, a 
causa delle lotte fra fazioni, i cittadini florentini altemativamente solevano 
essere banditi e richiamati, in conseguenza del fatto che Firenze aveva "mutato" 
e "rinovate membre!" Cosi, ancora una volta, la vicenda personale dell'esule 
diventa esemplare della realta della degenerazione di una citta intera. 

Malinconica, contenuta nelI'VIll canto, che vibra dello stato d'animo 
dcWexul inmeritus, b la profezia di Currado Malaspina, che anticipa, in certo 
qual modo, queila piii concreta e diretta di Cacciaguida. Uincipit b di un 
preludio toccante, in quanto introduce il tema della lontananza che, nel corso del 
canto, si muter^ in quello deU'esilio, una delle costanti della prima e della 
seconda cantica, ma soprattutto una delle piu significanti interferenze del vissuto 
di Dante nell'opera. L'esilio viene qui ad intersecarsi con la obbligata 
lontananza da Dio delle anime che ospitano I'antipurgatorio:" 



^^ Argomenta efficacemente Chiavacci Leonard! che I'VIII del Purgatorio appare il canto 
deU'esilio per eccellenza: "[...] dove 11 doppio aspetto che tale parola assume lungo tutto 
il poema, del quale t uno dei motivi-guida, se non forse il piii importante, viene a 
rivelarsi contestualmente, in una contiguita che un'altra sola volta, nel XXV del 
Paradiso. si manifestera cosi apertamente. II duplice esilio di cui il poema si fa voce t 
infatti quello storico del personaggio Dante, lontano dalla sua citt^ Firenze, dove spera 
invano di ritornare, e quello spirituale - che e dello stesso Dante ma anche di ogni uomo 



36 Giuseppe De Marco 



Era gi^ I'ora che volge il disio 
ai navicanti e 'ntenerisce il core 
lo dl c'han detto ai doici amici addio; 

e che lo novo peregrin d'amore 
punge, se ode squilla di lontano 
che paia il giorno pianger che si more; 

quand'io incominciai a render vano 
Tudire e a mirare una de Palme 
surta. che Tascoltar chiedea con mano. 



{Pg. VIII, 1-9) 



II pungente dolore individuale di Dante, pur cosi martellantemente presente, si 
innalza, in questa atmosfera impregnata di pathos, a livello universale, purgato 
nello struggimento di tutti gli uomini, neWiter di questa vita che 6 un 
ininterrotto dover abbandonare ci6 che si ama. L'angoscia di Dante esule, che 
non vagheggia piu la iustitia degli uomini, si riverbera in quella sovra-umana di 

- delTanima dalla sua patria, il cielo, alia quale non invano si tende, con speranza che 
non sar^ delusa. 

Ora, in questo canto ottavo, I'uno e I'altro esilio, che in vario modo intessono tutta la 
trama del poema, sono cantati con uno scambiarsi di accenti e di immagini che ne fa 
infine uno solo, come in realty essi divennero nell'animo dell'uomo che quel poema 
scrisse. 

Qui 'le memorie dell'esilio - scrisse il Tommaseo - si alternano alia speranza e alle 
vision! del cielo'. Ma questa alternanza [...] si giuoca tra due termini simili. in quanto 
'speranza' e 'visioni del cielo' sono infme i modi in cui si esprime il sospiro di un altro 
esilio. diverso nei termini ma uguale neila sostanza. 

[...] La doice ora della sera che punge il cuore di colore che sono 'ftiori della loro 
patria' [...], nei grandi versi cui piu che due lustri di doloroso esilio danno la memorabile 
modulazione - ora segnata dalla campana della preghiera che si leva prima della notte -, 
vuole qui indicare un tempo del racconto: il tempo in cui le anime raccolte nella valle si 
uniscono appunto in preghiera [...], guardando al cielo come luogo della loro speranza. 

Ma tutti gli spiriti qui riuniti al tramonto sono anch'essi degli esuli, 'fuori della patria', 
come i viandanti dei primi versi; la Salve Regina da loro cantata poco prima - nella quale 
I'uomo chiede di giungere al termine del suo esilio nella valle terrena - gi^ ce ne ha 
avvertito. Gli esuli della perifrasi e quelli della valle tuttavia sono e non sono gli stessi: 
quelli guardano indietro, alle cose care lasciate, con dolcezza ma con malinconia; questi 
guardano avanti a quel cielo dove giungeranno. con trepidazione ma con speranza. E il 
diverso segno che sempre accompagna i due esilii, dalla citta storica e dalla citt^ celeste, 
e che in questi versi viene a farsi adiacente e quasi concorrente nello stesso ambito 
poetico, sovrapponendosi I'una all'altra figura". Parimenti, I'apparizione dei due angeli 
con vesti e ali verdi. con in mano le spade infuocate, "non altro sono se non la figura 
dell'originario esilio dell'umanit^ (come lo chiamer^ Adamo nei Paradiso), da cui ora si 
pu6 ritornare grazie alia redenzione" (Chiavacci Leonardi. Introduzione al canto VIII, in 
Alighieri. Commedia, Purgatorio, vol. II, pp. 227-29). 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 37 

chi, disorientate e sbigottito, perviene al cospetto di Dio: 

[...] "Or va; che 'I sol non si ricorca 
sette volte nel letto che '1 Montone 
con tutti e quattro i pie cuopre e inforca, 

che cotesta cortese oppinTone 
ti fia chiavata in mezzo de la testa 
con maggior chiovi che d'altrui sermone, 
^- se corso di giudicio non s'arresta. " 

{Pg. VIII, 131-139) 

Le ultime battute del canto, pronunciate da Currado Malaspina - e come 
consueto, la profezia e tessuta da uno stile oscuro e ambiguo, oltre che 
retoricamente molto costruito -. rilevano come si sia affievolita, ormai, in 
Dante, la malinconia e come Vexul inmeritus accetti tristemente il suo 
peregrinare: accettazione, dunque, umile e votata degli eventi nei quali opera e 
agisce la divinitas. 

Altra nota autobiograflca chiude il canto XI, in cui viene predetto a Dante 
che presto assaporera la ritrosia e la sensazione che genera il "tremar per ogne 
vena": 

"Piu non diro, e scuro so che parlo; 
ma poco tempo andra, che 'tuoi vicini 
faranno si che tu potrai chiosarlo. 

Quest'opera li tolse quei confmi. " 

{Pg. XI, 139-142) 

E Oderisi da Gubbio che, dopo aver additato I'anima di Provenzan Salvani, 
predice a Dante-pellegrino I'imminente esilio, durante il quale avvertira i morsi 
cocenti della umiliazione e della miseria e dell'isolamento morale. E in virtii di 
quell'amara esperienza che sara capace di cogliere il significato dell'azione 
eroica del Salvani, allorch^ quest'ultimo libero, umiliandosi, un amico sulla 
piazza di Siena dalle pene che soffriva nella prigione di Carlo I d'Angid, 
facendo cosi tesoro del monito evangelico: "coloro che si umiliano, saranno 
esaltati". Dunque, Provenzan e stato mutato da orgoglioso in magnanimo, 
grazie a quel gesto; ed e lo stesso passaggio che si attua in Dante, che, per una 
qualche dose di superbia, matura proprio nel corso dell'esperienza dell'esilio. 

E ancora Bonagiunta Orbicciani da Lucca, dopo aver "momiorato" a Dante 
che in esilio conoscera una donna, Gentucca, che gli fara amare la sua cittii, gli 
profetizzera I'esilio in questi termini: 

"Tu te n'andrai con questo antivedere: 
se nel mio mormorar prendesti errore. 
dichiareranti ancor le cose vere. " 

(Pg XXIV, 46-48) 



38 Giuseppe De Marco 

Infine, Forese, dopo che Dante gli ha chiesto notizie circa le sorti infelici 
della patria, riferisce al pellegrino che ii maggior responsabile della "trista 
ruina" di Firenze - ma si astiene dal nominare il frateilo Corso Donati - sar^ 
trascinato alPinferno da un cavallo diabolico. L'Alighieri, che riconosce in 
Corso il "mandante politico" del suo esilio, lo ripaghera con un livore 
incoercibile, proibendosi di annotarne per iscritto il nome ignominioso: 

"Or va", diss'el; "che quel che piu n'ha colpa, 
vegg'io a coda d'una bestia tratto 
inver' la valle ove mai non si scolpa. 

La bestia ad ogne passo va pm ratto, 
crescendo sempre, fin ch'ella il percuote, 
e lascia il corpo vilmente disfatto. 

Non hanno molto a voiger quelle ruote", 
e drizzo Ii occhi al ciel, "che ti fia chiaro 
ci6 che 'I mio dir piu dichiarar non puote. 

(Pg. XXIV, 82-90) 

II filo conduttore che lega I'intero canto VI del Paradiso h esibito dalla 
partecipazione personale del Poeta, dal riverbero della sua vicissitudine 
autobiografica, dalla consequenzialita del pensiero ivi estrinsecato con molto 
supplizio dall'Alighieri. Difatti, nella prima parte egli ha delineato la sua 
posizione politico-storico-religiosa; nella seconda, proiettandosi nella figura di 
Romeo da Villanova, ha affrescato la sua mestizia di esule, ma, nel contempo, 
anche la sua dignita, la magnanima v/5, I'inflessibile condizione di uomo 
solitario, sebbene un virile ritegno gli abbia ostacolato di insistere sulle 
tribolazioni che 6 stato costretto a patire ingiustamente nel corso del cupi anni 
delPesilio: 

"[. . . ] e se 'I mondo sapesse il cor ch'elli ebbe 
mendicando sua vita a frusto a frusto, 
assai lo loda, e piu lo loderebbe. " 

(Pd. VI, 140-142) 

I riferimenti al motivo dell'esilio, disseminati in vari luoghi della 
Commedia sotto forma di profezie post eventum - o pseudoprofezie? - ^^ 



^* Con singolari spunti esegetici, non privi di stimolante novitas, Barberi Squarotti 
sostiene che nella Commedia le vere e proprie profezie sono poche, in quanto quelle cosi 
definite da moiti commentatori. invero, lette nella adeguata ottica e investite del loro 
coerente valore esegetico. risultano solo una pseudopremonizione di eventi gia accaduti. 
Tali, puntualizza il critico. devono essere considerate le parole di Ciacco, Farinata, 
Brunetto. Cacciaguida e delle altre anime che, nel corso ddViter dantesco ad Deum, 
rivelano al poeta-viator awenimenti privati e pubblici. Dante, uomo di profonda fede, t 
conscio del faUo che anlivedere il futuro e contro la dottrina di Dio: non soltanto risuita il 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 39 

allusivi al destino del poeta, sono stati fin qui sempre enigmatici, ma culminano 
tutti neH'incontro di Dante con il suo trisavolo Cacciaguida, che rivela 
manifestamente la dolorosa sorte del proprio discendente. Solamente ora si 
intende come Pesilio, iniquamente tollerato, si trasfiguri in una sorta di "provida 
sventura", per ricorrere ad una nota espressione manzoniana, poich6 esso si 
innalza a emblema di una condizione privilegiata, quella di essere stato eletto da 
Dio al fme di assolvere ad una missione di riscatto a beneficio della ''humana 
civilitas". L'ingiustizia perpetrata dagli uomini viene in tal modo ricompensata 
dal sommo Bene stesso, in virtu - ovviamente - di quella visione provvidenziale 
della storia, specificatamente della civilta medioevale, con la celebrity di cui 
Dante godra presso i posteri e col giovamento che conseguira loro dall'aver 
potuto apprendere quanto narrato dal poeta nelle tappe del suo iter ad Deum. 

II Crociato del cielo di Marte dichiara vigorosamente I'innocenza di Dante, 
paragonandolo a Ippolito scacciato inconsapevole da Atene: 

"Qual si partio Ipolito d'Atene 
per la spietata e perfida noverca, 
tal di Fiorenza partir ti convene. " 

{Pd. XVII, 46-48) 

Di poi, la struggente umiliazione suscitata dall'esilio, dopo che egli ha lasciato 
"ogne cosa diletta / piu caramente", e quella di sperimentare 

"si come sa di sale 
lo pane altrui, e come e duro calle 
Id scendere e 'I salir per I'altrui scale. 

E quel che piu ti graver^ le spalle. 
sara la compagnia malvagia e scempla 
con la qual tu cadrai in questa valle:" (Pd. XVII, 58-63) 

punto di pill elevata hubrys. della protervia massima contro la divinitas , ma t oltre a cid 
I'antitesi del libero arbitrio, pervenendo a congetturare I'esistenza di una sorte ormai 
decretata con scrittura perpetua nel libro della vita dell'uomo. Pertanto, le parole 
attraverso le quali Dante fa dialogare i protagonisti. che nellay?c/jo gli rivelano il ftituro, 
altro non sono che postille a eventi gii verificatisi, o meglio ne sono la "versione 
ufficiale", in quanto sanzionata da Dio. Di profezie reali, di chiara matrice biblico- 
gioachimita, e lecito parlare - sempre secondo lo studioso, allievo di Getto -. solo in ran 
loci nella Commedia, quali, per ricorrere a qualche esemplificazione, nei versi del veltro e 
del "cinquecento diece e cinque". Sulla scorta di tali argomentazioni, il critico, dopo aver 
chiarito il significato delle profezie messianiche "interpretate dall'esegesi cristiana, fin 
dai Vangeli. come annunciatrici del Cristo", conclude che lo stesso significato rivestano, 
sostanzialmente, quelle che Dante intercala cosi solennemente nel poema (Barberi 
Squarotti, Spiegazione e profezia 105-29). Per la controversa, quanto spinosa questione 
della profezia, ci si limita a rinviare al piu completo, ragionato e sistematico saggio di 
Palma di Cesnola. 



40 Giuseppe De Marco 

Vero e che nulla di sordido o di ignobile risalta da! tessuto di queste parole; il 
riferimento alio stato di esule di Dante rileva unicamente due punti di austera 
tribolazione: Pafflizione e I'asprezza di questa vita. Non emerge in tale contest© 
alcun riferimento nei riguardi degli altri, affinche nutrano pieta per il poeta, n6 
biasimo da parte dei signori prodighi di ospitalita a Dante. L'ostinazione e la 
inesorabilita risultavano essere effettivamente nella sua condizione di isolato ed 
estromesso dalla sua Firenze e dalla lotta nella quale si era immerso. Di qui, il 
suo dolore da individuale si estende a universale e Dante altri non h che 
I'emblema di tutti colore che ingiustamente patiscono il sopruso d'altri. 

II profondo dolore causato dall'esilio e, pero, riscattato dalla totale 
separazione da una society con la quale e, ormai, irrealizzabile il dialog© sui 
valori cristiani; pertanto, esule non t Dante, bensi I'umanita che si 6 separata da 
Dio, al quale necessariamente deve essere riportata: in questo consiste, dunque, 
I'arduo compito di Dante Alighieri, affidatogli dall'alto dei cieli. Ecco cosi 
chiarito il trionfo della orgogliosa accettazione della condizione dell'esiliato, 
con il riscatto delPintellettuale fuoriuscito: 

"Ben veggio. padre mio, si come sprona 
lo tempo verso me, per colpo darmi 
tal, ch'e piu grave a chi piii s'abbandona; 

per che di provedenza t buon ch'io m'armi, 
si che, se loco m'e tolto piu caro, 
io non perdessi ii altri per miei carmi. " 

(Pd. XVII, 106-11) 

La questione qui toccata da Dante e quella tipica degli intellettuali smarriti, 
lacerati interiormente, che in ogni epoca si sono, purtroppo, trovati a vivere e ad 
agire in un consorzio civile nel quale dominano la prepotenza, I'intoUeranza e 
I'egoismo. 

Non certo si esaurisce con la profezia di Cacciaguida il riflesso 
dell'esperienza dell'esilio dantesco. Nel XXIV del Paradiso san Pietro, per 
sollecitudine di Beatrice, esamina Dante sulla fede. Per fede si diventa cittadini 
della corte celeste, di quella civitas Dei che, sperata nell'esilio terreno ""ex fide 
vivens'\ realizzer^ la giustizia e la pace completa. Nel canto successive I'esule 
dalla patria terrena viene accettato nella patria celeste;'^ qui Dante mette un 
nostalgic© sospiro rivolto alia patria lontana, rifiutatagli dai suoi antagonisti 
politici, esternando il desiderio di riuscire a raggiungere, con I'ardua impresa del 
"poema sacro / al quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra" (Pd. XXV, 1-2), che lo 
ha reso "per molti anni macro" (v. 3), il vagheggiato rimpatrio a Firenze e 
I'incoronazione poetica sul fonte del suo battesimo (vv. 7-9). In siffatto 
contest© viene a convalidarsi I'inarrestabile c©ngiunzi©ne fra I'esili© e la gl©ria, 



^' Gia nei Convivio. IV, XXVIII, 5, Dante aveva posto in corrispondenza ii ritorno nella 
patria terrena con I'ingresso nella patria celeste. 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 4 1 

tutta modulata a livello stilistico su toni solenni: Dante, esule e poeta, 6 ormai 
conscio del la propria grandezza e del ruolo di schba Dei e di poeta-profeta, a 
cui sono concessi anche gli onori mondani: 

Se mai continga che 'I poema sacro 
a! quale ha posto mano e cielo e terra, 
si che m'ha fatto per piii anni macro 
^ vinca la crudelta che fuor mi serra 

del bello ovile ov'io dormi' agnello. 
nimico ai lupi che li danno guerra; 

con altra voce omai con altro veilo 
ritornero poeta, e in sul fonte 
del mio battesmo prendero 'I cappello. 

(Pd. XXV, 1-9) 

I suindicati vers! collimano, a livello di un riscontro intertestuale - e non sembri 
questa una mera digressione, in quanto il richiamo intertestuale qui e d'obbligo 
-, con quanto si legge nella prima egloga dantesca a Giovanni del Virgilio, nel 
corso della quale, parimenti, affiora la nostalgia dell' esule per la patria che 
ancora gli viene negata: 

"Nonne triumphales melius pexare capillos 
et patrio, redeam si quando, abscondere canos 
fronde sub inserta soiitum flavescere Samo?" 

(Egl. II, vv. 42-44) 

f ] 

Tunc ego: "Cum mundi circumflua corpora cantu 
astricoleque meo. velut infera regna, patebunt. 
' devincere caput hedera lauroque iuvabit: 

concedat Mopsus" [...]. 

(£g/. II,, vv. 48-51)^^ 

Piu che considerare qui solo il rifiuto da parte di Dante alle proposte di Giovanni 
del Virgilio circa I'invito di recarsi alio Studio bolognese, quale poeta in latino, 
ed essere incoronato poeta - tra I'altro, Bologna era dominata dai guelfi Neri e 
la presenza di Dante in quella citta non sarebbe stata sicuramente confortata da 
un'accoglienza propizia! -, e opportune cogliere anche e soprattutto la 
rinfervorata speranza di un rientro in Firenze; sebbene ora incanutito, il poeta h 



^^ Si cita dall'edizione a cura di Cecchini. in Alighieri, Opere minori ("[...]'Non t forse 
meglio pettinare per il trionfo i capelli, e, se mai torni in patria suile rive deH'Amo, 11 
nasconderli canuti sotto la fronda intrecciata, dove ero solito aver florida chioma?'[...] 
'Quando i corpi rotanti intorno all'universo e gli abitatori del cielo saranno, come i regni 
inferi. palesi nel mio canto, mi piacera cingermi il capo d'edera e d'alloro: Mopso me lo 
consenta""). 



42 Giuseppe De Marco 

tuttavia confortato dalla sua voce molto potente e autorevole, unicamente per 
virtu di poesia: la qual cosa tanto piu era plausibile, allorche la composizione del 
Paradiso fosse stata ultimata. Inoltre, il riscontro simmetrico fra I'esordio del 
XXV della terza cantica e i versi succitati deU'egloga sembra essere attestato 
pure dal contrasto-confronto fra la "florida chioma" del vigore giovanile, quindi 
corrispondente agli anni prima dell'esilio, e quelli canuti deH'uorno pervenuto 
alia soglia della maturity, tanto piu prestigioso ("con altra voce omai con altro 
vello"). Non va sottovalutata, infine, la significativa flinzione dei tempi verbali, 
scandita dal trapasso del congiuntivo ottativo dQWincipit ("Se mai continga") 
all'energico guizzare dei due indicativi fiituri: "ritornero", "prender6", il cui 
nesso sintattico ("redeam si quando"; "patebunt [...] iuvabit") trova la sua 
corrispondenza nei versi citati deU'egloga. 

Non e casuale che Dante apra il canto dell'esame sulla speranza con 
un'occhiata nostalgica a Firenze, che coincide con la spes di ritomarvi; tuttavia 
la malinconica riflessione autobiografica sulla propria condizione di esule - del 
tutto effimera - b irrilevante rispetto alle coordinate spazio-temporali divine. 
Difatti, il rientro a Firenze viene reclamato, se non addirittura preteso, in virtd 
dell'inviolabile diritto del verbum poetico, che sormonta qualsivoglia barriera e 
oltrepassa qualunque antilogia o conflitto terreno; di qui, la liberta a Dante viene 
elargita, secondo quanto scrive P. Rigo, dalla "poesia della Commedia che la 
riflette dal cielo e la restituisce alia terra. [...] non e Firenze che concede la 
liberty a Dante, ma i la poesia della Commedia che rende libera Firenze; e Dante 
ritomando in Firenze sancisce in se stesso questa liberta, per lui stesso, scriba e 
ministro di poesia, ripristinata" (160). 

Di poi, Dante viene esaminato da santo Jacopo Maggiore sulla speranza. 
Beatrice, dopo un esplicito riferimento alia Chiesa militante, chiarisce il motivo 
per cui a Dante k, concesso, dal luogo d'esilio, di ascendere alia Gerusalemme 
celeste: 

"[. . . ] per6 li e conceduto che d'Egitto 
vegna in lerusalemme per vedere, 
anzi che M militar li sia prescritto. " 

(Pd. XXV, 55-57) 

Invero, a noi sembra proprio questo il luogo in cui si assiste a un'apoteosi 
dell'Esilio, quale ultima, mistica tappa dell'/Yer dantesco. Un episodio storico, 
qui richiamato, I'esilio degli Ebrei, nuovamente si flette sul livello della storia, 
per favorire e, nel contempo, sorreggere la spes di un exul deH'Autunno del 
Medioevo. Ma dal motivo del rimpatrio, esplicita nostomania, la vicissitudine di 
quest'eATw/, qui - molto probabilmente -, piu che in altri loci nella Commedia, 
coincide con la ventura dell'intera umanita. Non a caso, nel canto XXVI, a 
chiudere gli incontri del cielo delle stelle fisse, sospeso e oscillante tra fisica e 
metafisica, si leva la luce di Adamo, che spiega a Dante "la cagion di tanto 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 43 

essilio" (v. 1 16): e proprio Adamo - il primo ed unico uomo non nato dal parto 
di una donna, ma creato direttamente da Dio - I'iniziatore della perenne 
condizione delTuomo esule. 

Al fondo, lo scopo per cui Viter si attua e si conclude, raggiunge la meta 
suprema nei versi 37-40 del XXXI del Paradiso: 

[. . . ] io, che al divino da I'umano, 
a I'ettemo dal tempo era venuto, 
^ e di Fiorenza in popol giusto e sano. 

di che stupor dovea esser compiuto! 

Firenze viene ricordata per Pultima volta, in quanto essa 6, ormai, un bene 
irrecuperabile, come scrive la Chiavacci Leonardi: "[. . . ] ricordo che qui - fuori 
del tempo - non si fa piu voce profetica, ma implorazione del cuore umano 
all'aiuto divino. E Dante assume ora, in questo cielo dove fmalmente h giunto, 
la flgura che per tutto il poema lo accompagna come sua ombra, o suo doppio, 
quella del pellegrino che si trova nel tempio del suo voto, cio6 dell'esule che 
arriva in patria". ^^ Cos) Firenze e Gerusalemme si equivalgono, storia ed 
escatologia si incrociano. La condizione di Dante esule si carica, stemperandosi, 
di dirhensione sovrapersonale e metastorica: colui il quale risulta giusto 
nell'eternita viene esiliato dalla terra, pertanto puo ritenersi ormai defmitivo 
I'addio al mondo della contingenza, grazie al fatto che I'uomo e riuscito ad 
approdare alia sua reale patria, con I'animo libero e trasumanato, come asserva 
lannucci; "[. . . ] cos! il tema dell'esilio nel poema sacro si risolve non nel 
tempo, ma aldila della sfera della Luna, sul piano anagogico" (232). 

Autobiografia universale, dunque, questa di Dante, in quanto la sua vicenda 
biografica ed artistica persiste ad incidere tenacemente nella sensibilita odiema e 
il suo insegnamento, mai come oggi, che viviamo in un delicatissimo e 
drammaticissimo momento storico, nel quale, purtroppo, laferitas ha prevalso e 
trionfato sulla humanitas, si rende quanto mai attuale. Onde, I'esilio del divin 
Poeta si e protratto sino ai nostri giomi e si flette nell'esilio di colore che 
naufragano nella loro condizione di solitudine, causa il deterioramento dell'era 
consumistica, e non riveste importanza alcuna, se nello stesso luogo in cui si d 
nati, o, addirittura, nel contesto socio-familiare, dove compaiono larve e sagome 
rifrante nel lugubre turbinio di una condizione di psicostemia e di estraniazione 
alienante. 

Quale fisionomia ha assunto I'esilio nel corso della nostra letteratura? 

Non e agevole - per economia di spazio - analizzare ed esaurire la vastit^ e 
complessita del tema della ricerca; indagini di tal genere non sono mai 
veramente esaurite: ne importa che lo siano, come sanno gli intendenti. 



" Chiavacci Leonardi, Introduzione al canto XXXI in Alighieri, Commedia, Paradiso, 
1997, vol. 111(850). 



44 Giuseppe De Marco 

Pertanto. si procedera, solo per rapide campionature, il cui discorso tende a 
individuare alcune significative tarsie dell'esilio in letteratura, che, da Dante, 
esemplare inauguratore, viene a costituirsi come una sorta di mosaico per una 
autobiografia universale. 



II. Anche Petrarca paghera con I'esilio deH'apoiide - nullius civitatis civis - le 
scelte del suo stesso immaginario, quel vagare qua e la senza meta, quella 
solitudine interiore ("Solo et pensoso i piii diserti campi / vo misurando [...]")^* 
che e il tormento di un'anima in perpetuo esilio. Esilio-rinuncia, esilio assenza- 
lontananza in Petrarca: 

S'io esca vivo de' dubbiosi scogli, 
et arrive il mio exiiio ad un bel fine, 
ch'i' sarei vago di voltar la vela, 
et I'anchore gittar in qualche porto! 
Se non ch'i' ardo come acceso legno, 
si m'e duro a lassar I'usata vita. 

(LXXX, vv. 31-36) 

E un tormento, una solitudine, un esilio che si trasmetteranno, come una sorta di 
credit^, in modi e forme diverse, al Tasso e al Leopardi. 

E nota la vicenda umana di Tasso, "fiigace peregrino", costretto a scrivere e 
a veramente vivere per interval/a imaniae, negli interval I i deila pazzia. Sar^ il 
primo - di una serie di poeti, fortunatamente non troppo lunga! - a patire fino in 
fondo il drammatico esilio del manicomio. Indicativi, in tale direzione, sono 
testi quali Allefiglie di Renata, Al Metauro e una lettera indirizzata ad Antonio 
Costantini, datata 1-iOaprile 1595. 

Ma addirittura tutto un secolo sara attraversato - e quasi reso esemplare - 
dal mito dell'esule: quell'Ottocento romantico e non, in cui presto si delineano 
le figure di Foscolo-Mazzini-Berchet-Fusinato-Scalvini-Ruflfa-Tommaseo. 
Scriveva il Tommaseo: "Tua patria e I'esiglio,/ tua sede il periglio,/ tua legge 
I'amor", rivolgendosi alia propria anima ferita dal tempo; ma gia Foscolo, esule 
romantico per eccellenza, aveva insuperabilmente tratteggiato, prima nelle 
Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis e poi nei Sonetti e nelle Grazie quella figura 
dell'esule fuggiasco anche da se ("Un di, s'io non andro sempre fuggendo 
[...]"), quell'essere esiliato e, insieme, esiliarsi, che riconduce tutta questa 
schiera di esuli al loro sommo inauguratore, Dante. 

Di "autoesilio" si pu6 parlare per Leopardi, separato dal mondo dalla 
finestra del "paterno ostello", unitamente alia siepe, anch'essa fondamentale per 
la comprensione della solitudine leopardiana. Ma quanto lontana questa dalle 



Qui e altrove le citazioni sono tratte da Petrarca. Canzoniere, a c. di Antonelli et al. 



L 'espehenza di Dante exul immeritus 45 

figure esiliate di Manzoni: Napoleone ed Ermengarda, salvate in extremis dalla 
"provida sventura" della loro stessa morte. 

Ma sono moiti e pressoch^ infiniti i modi in cui un'anima - poetica o non - 
puo avvertire ad un certo punto della propria vita e della propria storia 
quest'estraneita, quella separazione dal mondo - o da un certo mondo - che ne 
determina I'esilio obbligato o volontario. 

Si pensi alia figura dell'esule quale si enuclea dai versi degli Scapigliati in 
forte e netto contrasto con I'affarismo borghese o alia figura dell'esule 
novecentesco che avverte sempre piii lo smarrimento, la solitudine, Vangoscia 
di appartenere ad un'eta dominata dai consumi, e a un progresso incontrollato 
che rende I'uomo sempre piii schiavo dei suoi bisogni a discapito del suo 
patrimonio interiore e, percid, sempre piu attanagliato dalla nostalgia di un 
mondo altro e diverse, di una "patria ideale", di una citt^, di un paese 
dell'anima, perfmo di una lingua, di un dialetto perduto e presto anche ritrovato, 
per non vivere fino in fondo I'esilio. 

Siamo a! centro della figura dell'esule quale si e andato delineando nel 
"secolo breve", il Novecento. Si tratta di un esilio che t stato, talvolta, avvertito 
- e poi poeticamente espresso - come solitudine, angoscia, disperazione. 
Solitudine, come nel caso del Michelstaedter, anche nello stare tra la folia ("Ho 
paura di trovarmi ft-a gente, allora mi sento tanto piu isolato"),^' o aH'intemo di 
una straniante citta modema, come nel caso dell 'esilio psicologico di Sbarbaro 
("che la citta mi pare / sia fatta immensamente vasta e vuota"),^''o aH'intemo 
della carcerazione manicomiale, come nel caso di Campana e di Lorenzo 
Calogero. Ma solitudine e serena disperazione ed esilio si ritrovano 
nell'ambiguita dell'esistenza di Umberto Saba e in modi abbastanza simili nel 
"distacco progressive", nelle "fiighe" di Vincenzo Cardarelli. Ed h subito mitica 
la figura del naufrago ungarettiana, quasi alter ego dello stesso Ungaretti, 
"uomo di pena": 

In nessuna 
Parte 
di terra 
mi posso 



E siamo a! Montale della "muraglia" con i "cocci aguzzi di bottiglia" e alia sua 
"insormontabilita"," condizione di permanente esilio esistenziale. E ft, in A. 
Gatto, il volontario esilio del poeta dzWisola dell'essere e quello di Quasimodo 



" "Alia famiglia, 23 ottobre 1905", in Michelstaedter, Epistolario (14). 

'° Sbarbaro, Ecco dalla lussuria. M'incammino, Pianissimo (1914), in ID. , L' opera in 

versi e in prosa (25). 

^' Ungaretti, Girovago, in ID. , Vita d'un uomo. Tutte le poesie (85). 

" Montale, Meriggiare pallido e assorto. Ossi di seppia, in ID. , L 'opera in versi (28). 



46 Giuseppe De Marco 

dall'isola amata e mitizzata. Difatti, il nostalgico ricordo della Sicilia accresce 
la mesta malinconia deU'esilio in terra lombarda e rende piii doloroso, con il 
presagio della morte. Panelito di quella quies vagheggiata in una "ignota terra", 
quindi a Tindari Quasimodo oppone "la terra ove ogni giomo" il poeta 
s'inabissa, nella quale si logora la coscienza delTallontanamento e 
delPabbandono; pertanto, solo il canto puo fungere da lenimento consolatorio, 
attra verso I' "aspro esilio". 

Terra d'esilio di Pavese offre una testimonianza concreta di una storia 
privata di tragica solitudine, popolata da protagonisti emarginati e da scene tristi. 
Identica atmosfera aleggia ne // carcere, il racconto di una chiusa angoscia, di 
una solitudine bene espressa dal confino, dove Stefano, il protagonista, b assente 
metafisicamente dal resto del mondo, perch6 condannato, o autocondannatosi, 
ad una condizione di cruenta solitudine che gli permette di guardare la vita 
"come dalla flnestra del carcere". 11 quadro dell'esperienza deU'esilio in Pavese 
si estende, con tinte sempre piu tetre di delicate e squarciate note di solitudine, 
in Lo steddazzu , in cui alia condizione delP "uomo solo" si unisce anche quella 
proveniente dal confino politico: "La lentezza dell'ora / e spietata, per chi non 
aspetta piii nulla";" tuttavia - sostiene Di Pino - I'esilio per Pavese consiste 
"nella dissipazione del mito o, meglio, nella contaminazione irreparabile tra 
mito e storia". ^'' 

Non puo non ricordarsi qui I. Silone - esule in Svizzera dal 1930 al 1945 -, 
perseguitato dal regime fascista. Da questa esperienza nasceranno i cosiddetti 
romanzi deU'esilio {Fontamara, Pane e vino, II seme sotto la neve). Le amare e 
lancinanti vicende deU'esilio vengono, tra le altre cose, proiettate in Pietro 
Spina, il protagonista di Pane e vino e di // seme sotto la neve, soprattutto per la 
difficolta che egli dovra affrontare e per la sua condizione di ftiggiasco. 

Financo nei campi di concentramento la Commedia di Dante ha offerto una 
sorta di conforto per i detenuti: basti ricordare P. Levi, cui "I'orazion picciola" 
deirUlisse dantesco {Se questo e un uomo) pare un punto d'appoggio per 
sollevarsi dalla condizione di abbrutimento ferino del Lager. II celebre canto 
6e\V Inferno riveste "un ruolo tanto preminente, [...] nel resoconto del Lager di 
Levi, nella sua presentazione sostenuta [...] dell'importanza del nutriment© 
spirituale (il testo di Dante), insieme col cibo materiale (la zuppa di cavoli e 
rape) per la sua salvezza".'^ E cos) I'exul inmeritus lenisce le pene di un esilio 
che t lontananza non solo dalla patria, ma dalla condizione umana. La poesia 
dantesca quale fonte inesorabile di sostegno umano e dimostrata anche dalla 
testimonianza di Mirko Deanovid, allorch^ fu arrestato e deportato a Stara 
GradiSka, all'inizio del secondo conflitto mondiale. L'unica cosa che riusci a 



^^ Pavese, Lo steddazzu, in ID. . Poesie edits e inedite (134). 

''' Di Pino G. . Esilio e letteratura, in AA. VV. , Dante e le citta deU'esilio (219). 

^ Biasin. , L esilio e it contagio, in L 'esilio come certezza. La ricerca d'identita 

culturale in Italia dalla Rivoluzione francese ai nosth giorni ( 100); si veda Sodi. 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 47 

portare con se fu un'edizione tascabile della Divina Commedia, quale unica e 
suprema compagna per "il doloroso 'viaggio' verso I'ignoto". 

Anche nell'opera di Giorgio Caproni t possibile individuare forme e motivi 
che, in certo qual modo, riconducono alia categoria spirituale e alia dimensione 
mentalistica deU'esiiio: II passaggio d'Enea, II seme del piangere, II muro della 
terra compongono una sorta di trittico esemplato sulla Commedia, percorso da 
temi e nuclei danteschi. Difatti, al Seme del piangere Caproni approda dopo un 
soggettivo, travagliato riscontro con un inferno moderno: il conflitto mondiale; 
di qui, la scelta da parte del poeta del virgiliano personaggio di Enea per 
proiettargli il senso dolente dello sconvolgimento, dell'esilio storico e 
"coscienziale". Enea, per certi aspetti, rinvia, per metonimia, alia figura di 
Virgilio nella Commedia, con la differenza che Caproni innalza il suo 
protagonista a simbolo della solitudine, di una condizione di peregrinanza priva 
di qualsivoglia forma di riscatti trascendenti . Insomma, I'Enea di Caproni viene 
raffigurato come un ramingo dello smarrimento e degli enigmi dell'epoca 
contemporanea, pur con il risalto dello "spirito peregrino" di Dante: 

- Enea che in spalla 
un passato che crolla tenia invano 
di porre in salvo, e al rullo d'un tamburo 
ch'e uno schianto di mura. per la mano 
ha ancora cosi gracile un f\ituro 
da non reggersi ritto. Neiravvampo 
funebre d'una fuga su una rena 
che scotta ancora di sangue, che scampo 
pu6 mai esserti il mare (la falena 
verde dei fari bianchi) se con lui 
senti di soprassaito che nei punto, 
d'estrema solitudine, sei giunto 
pill esatto e incerto dei nostri anni bui?" 

Suffi-agata da una esemplare lettura di Dante, la poesia di Caproni ondeggia 
fi-a una trepidante rimozione del presente e \afascinatio della lontananza. Basti 
ricordare, in tale direzione, la reinvenzione della madre, Anna Picchi, in II seme 
del piangere, entro le cui linee d'ombra il poeta-figlio-amante riesce a tessere 
I'ordito di una disfida: allestisce una compiuta raccolta sugli interstizi vacillanti 
della memoria, conferendo a immagini di separazione-assenza e a luoghi 
sgretolati la vis della effettualita. In proposito, quanto mai calzante ci sembra il 



^* Deanovic. Letture dantesche in un campo di concentramento, in Dante e il mondo 

slavo (107-08); Panicoio era gia apparso col litolo La "Divina Commedia" in un campo 

di concentramento nel 1942 ."Studi romanica el anglica zagabriana", 19-20, 1965, pp. 

201-02. 

" Caproni, Versi, II passaggio d' Enea, in ID., Tutte le poesie (\62). 



48 Giuseppe De Marco 

rilievo della Di Legami, secondo la quale // seme del piangere "allude ad un 
tempo diviso fra I'oggi dell'esilio e il passato della spensierata pienezza, 
deil'infanzia con la madre. Figurazione allegorica personale ma imensa di una 
frattura ove le rovine della storia e i traumi personali convergono verso uno 
stesso luogo: quello delle origini, dell'identita. dell'autocoscienza poetica". ^* 

In particoiare, nel Congedo del viaggiatore cerimonioso & altre 
prosopopee (1965) si coglie, attraverso il viaggio allegorico, una parabola 
esistenziale. La metafora centrale del poemetto, eponimo della silloge, t 
appunto quello del viaggio connesso al motivo della memoria e della morte, in 
particoiare del passaggio da vita a morte. E un viaggio che si prefigge come 
meta il Nulla, lo spazio vuoto che si fende a stento di 1^ dalla stazione-morte. 
Domina nella poesia il sentimento del distacco e, di conseguenza, la 
"cerimoniosita" che scorta siffatto sentimento. Una voce, un "io" nel corso del 
poemetto si accinge a separarsi dai suoi compagni di viaggio, nello 
scompartimento di un treno. E si appresta, ovviamente, a congedarsi-esiliarsi 
dalla collettivita sociale e dalla vita stessa, essendo ormai pervenuto "alia 
disperazione / calma, senza sgomento", quindi risulta impossibile una 
qualsivoglia attesa: Addio{Congedo del viaggiatore cerimonioso, in Caproni, 
Tutie le poesie 258). Solitudine, esodo, deserto della vita si impongono, 
puntellando Pordito dei versi, in maniera tersa entro un paesaggio nudo, in cui 
risaltano il "buio" e V "oscurit^" {La lanterna, II bicchiere). Di poi, nello 
spossessamento, nella dissipazione, nello sconvolgimento del limite e deH'oltre, 
la vox della poesia si rivela essere invero scampata parola. In tal senso, il 
viaggio mediante la vita, completamente inabissata, totalmente svampita del 
"viaggiatore cerimonioso" ininterrottamente proteso agli avanzanti "congedi", si 
e mutato in iter attraverso il verbum. Siffatto rapporto con la parola viene a 
rendersi nella postuma Res amissa (1991) eccelso, tanto da sfociare in una sorta 
di esilio incondizionato dalla realta. 

Condizione di permanente esilio vive Angelo Mundula nella sua citt^ 
Sassari, laddove pur "nasce I'aurora del verso" nitido odisseico: "Questa h la 
citta dell'esilio / dove un nome k stato cancellato. /[...] Solo il nome cancellato 
6 testimone / che qualcuno (qualcosa) c'6 stato / che I'esule presto o tardi ritoma 
/ nella citta dov'd nato". '^ Questa di Mundula b un'odissea minore, tutta 
modulata sulla lingua della stessa solitudine, nella cui struttura 6 possibile 
avvertire una emotiva movenza ulissiaca (// mare inesorabile, p. 22). La silloge 
Per mare e quasi tutta intessuta di sottili trame delPesule o dell'ansia del nostos: 

Dopo mille catastrofi e citta perdute 

il viaggiatore e finalmente universale e apolide 



^* Di Legami, // seme del piangere e il desiderio di un oltre. Parole di essenza e di 
assenza in Dante, Caproni. Giudici, in ''Per correr mglior acque . . (892). 
" Mundula. . Sassari, in ID. , Per mare, Cittadella (89). 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 49 

e ogni volta si chiede a quale citta approdi 
lui che non ha anagrafe ma solo passaporti 
c'est un jeu d'enfant un jeu de I'oie 
se la nuova citt^ t sempre una beance 
un porto che s'illumina della nave che va. 

{Quasi un gioco dell 'oca 30) 

II viaggio per mare - percorso da istanze metafisiche - k indicative anche 
di un viaggio altro, attraverso il quale Mundula tenta di ricreare I'idea della 
poesia, quale dialogo deU'essere e del certo e - per ricorrere a una espressione di 
Montale - come "scala a Dio", ponendo come punto di partenza Sassari, la citt^ 
del suo esilio, per il perseverante iter che conduce alia Luce, laddove il visus h 
ineffabile. 

II piu "totale" e, forse, piu alto libro di Mario Luzi, Viaggio terrestre e 
celeste di Simone Martini {]994), rivela un grande nostos poematico e sinfonico, 
nel suo sogno palingenetico di una poesia che, nonostante tutto, puo ancora 
salvare il mondo, riguadagnarlo alia civilt^, alia sua essenza umana, vincendo la 
barriera del tempo e degli uomini: 

Per amore di chi 
scrive 
, , . e convive 

lui chierico vagante 
queste carte 
I di esilio, di viaggio? 

di rimpatrio. di estraneamento... *^ 

Simone Martini e I'emblema dell'artista exul nel nostro tragico, ultimo 
Novecento. Egli viene rappresentato dal poeta in un conclusive metaforico 
viaggio da Avignone alia citta natale, Siena, viaggio etereo e metafisico, ma, nel 
contempo, tangibile e umano. Trattasi di un peregrinare deH'anima alia 
riscoperta della dimensione terrena, ma e anche, questo viaggio, una 
purificazione dello spirito. Di qui gli inquietanti interrogativi da parte di Luzi 
posti ad apertura dell'ultima sua silloge. Parole pellegrine (2001): 

Mondo. in che parte 

di me o di te ero? 

Acosaero d'un colpo • ; 

fatto complice e straniero? ■- 

(1999)"' 



"'^ Luzi. Per amore di chi. Viaggio terrestre e celeste di Simone Martini, in ID. . L 'opera 

poetic a (968). 

'" Luzi, Parole pellegrine (15). 



50 Giuseppe De Marco 

E significativo il fatto che sia proprio Luzi a scrivere che 

Pesilio t una metafora ricorrente nella poesia moderna. Esclusione, separazione. e 
alienazione costituiscono infatti lo stato variabile ma permanente che il poeta occidentale 
moderno (ma non solo post-leopardiano) accusa come sofferenza e diminuzione 
impostegli: ed e un patema cosi fondamentale che si puo considerare subiacente a 
qualunque disegno o forma I'esperienza vada assumendo - siano pure nominalmente 
antitetici per conclamato ottimismo, come sarebbe un'irreale lans vitae. [...] 

La dissidenza o lo spaesamento deU'esilio circolano [...] nei regime poetico 
moderno ora in modo evidente ora a un livello cosi profondo che solo per via di metafore 
possiamo decifrarli. Tutto questo ha generato molte specie di arbitri e di storture. Oggi 
noi forse abusiamo per consuetudine e vizio mentali. nei frequentarla e nel decifrarla o 
nel comodamente presumeria quella metafora. quasi topos senza piu relazione con la 
sostanza. Mi ha per questo avvinto I'idea che la rilettura di Dante mi suggeriva: dalla 
metafora risalire alia realta primaria. dal nome riportarci alia cosa e alia causa che gia 
contenevano cvidentemente tutte le derivate [..].''' 

Alia fine di questo percorso, sorge spontanea la seguente domanda: quale 
lezione puo impailire PEsilio a uno scrittore fuoriuscito? A! riguardo, Brodskij - 
Premio Nobel per la Letteratura nel 1987, esiliato dalla Russia nel 1972 - 
risponde in questi termini: 

[...] se c'e qualcosa di buono neU'esilio e che insegna I'umilta. Si pu6 perfino arrivare a 
dire che quella deU'esilio e la piu aha Lezione di umilta, la lezione definitiva. Ed e tanto 
piu preziosa per uno scrittore in quanto gli apre la piii ampia prospettiva possibile [...]. 
Essere sperduti in mezzo al genere umano. nella folia - folia? -. tra miliardi di individui; 
diventare un ago in quel proverbiale pagliaio - ma un ago che qualcuno va cercando -, 
questo e Tesilio, in sostanza. Ammaina la tua vanita, dice I'esilio, non sei che un 
granello di sabbia nel deserto. [...] C'e un'altra verita [...] ed e che I'esilio t una 
condizione metafisica. [...] la realta si riduce ad uno scrittore esule che passa il suo 
tempo a lottare e tramare per riaffermare il proprio significato, il suo ruolo incisivo, la 
propria autorita. II suo pensiero dominante. naturalmente. e per colore che ha lasciato in 
patria; l-.l"" 

Analizzando, poi, la condizione di uno scrittore in esilio, Brodskij, la 
paragona crudelmente a quella 

di un cane randagio o di un uomo catapultato nello spazio dentro una capsula (somiglia di 
pill a quella di un cane, naturalmente, perch6 nessuno si preoccupera mai di recuperarti). 
E la tua capsula e il tuo linguaggio. 1...] Per uno che fa il mio mestiere la condizione che 
chiamiamo esilio e, prima di tutto, un evento linguistico: uno scrittore esule t scagliato, o 
si ritira, dentro la sua madrelingua. Quella che era, per cosi dire, la sua spada, diventa il 
suo scudo. la sua capsula. (32) 



^' Luzi M. . L esilio. Dante, la poesia (200-01 ). 
Brodskij, La condizione che chiamiamo esilio, in ID. . Dall 'esilio (19-20). 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 5 1 

Invece Bujor Nedelcovici, scrittore e saggista rumeno, nota che I'esilio, per 
i numerosi intellettuali del Ventesimo secolo. e "sia un viaggio iniziatico che 
una prova del la verita"; la condizione di "meteco" (metoikos - straniero) "e 
difficile da vivere e resiliato rimane uno straniero tormentato dall'ossessione di 
conservare la propria dignita di uomo". ^* Per Talbanese Kadare, poi, lo scrittore 
e un esule per natura e ricorda Dante Alighieri che ebbe "la brillante idea di 
opporsi alle baruffe politiche tra le due fazioni antagoniste della sua citta e 
questo gli costo un lungo esiiio (nella citta vicina!)". E aggiunge, non senza 
una punta di graffiante ironia: "[. . , ] in quest'esilio egli scrisse una delle piia 
grandi opere della letteratura universale: La Divina Commedia. Abbiamo 
motivo di domandare se non sia stata questa la vera ragione del suo 
allontanamento"/*^ 

E noto che negli anni Trenta, per sfuggire al nazismo, molti intellettuali 
fiirono costretti ad abbandonare la Germania e i Paesi occupati: Freud, Popper, 
Canetti lasciarono Vienna per Londra; Bertoldt Brecht e T. Mann si rifligiarono 
negli Stati Uniti; Stephan Zweig riparo in Brasile. dove si suicido; Walter 
Benjamin emigro a Parigi e anch'egli si suicido sul confine franco-spagnolo, a 
Port Bou, mentre tentava di sfuggire alia Gestapo. Ancor piii della Germania 
nazista - nota, a buona ragione, Nedelcovici - e PUnione Sovietica a diventare 
nel Ventesimo secolo la piu grande generatrice di esuli. Famoso il caso di 
Solgenistin. Inoltre, Todissea di personalita, quali Picasso, Chagall, Kandinskj, 
Camus, Samuel Beckett, Mircea Eliade, ha solcato la storia scientifica, letteraria 
ed artistica del tragico Novecento. 

"Cos'e Tintellettuale di oggi se non I'Esule, che alia cecita del consumismo 
oppone la solitudine della sua grandezza e la forza del suo unico credo?" Cosi 
concludeva Giovanna Scarsi la nota alia quarta di copertina d'un nostro volume, 
Mitografia dell 'esule. Da Dante al Novecento (1996). Ebbene, il Mondo oggi 
rivendica, se pure troppo tardi, il bisogno di recupero del primato della cultura 
ed il ripristino della funzione delTintellettuale, identificato nelle forze vive di 
una minoranza e della giovinezza militante. Al fondo, con realismo ottimistico 
auspichiamo che la lettura di queste pagine dia occasione di meditazione ed 
offra spunti di sollecitazione all'impegno attivo, perche I'intellettuale - nella 
fiducia della collettivita - esca dallo splendido isolamento di "esule" 
incompreso ed accolga il richiamo dei tempi alia sua missione di dotto, che 
valga - lungi da qualsivoglia forma di mera retorica! - a formare la Coscienza 
per un Futuro migliore. ^ 

Omignano Scala, Salerno 



^ Nedelcovici. La letteratura come patria. I miti dell 'esiiio { 1 7). 
*^ Kadare. // viaggiaiore venuto da lontano (21 ). 



52 Giuseppe De Marco 

Opere citate 

AA. VV.. Donte e le citta dell 'esilio. Atti del Convegno internazionale di studi (Ravenna 

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Mondatori, "I Meridiani", 1997, vol. III. 
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Mondadori. *i Meridiani", 1998\ vol. II. 
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Cecchini V.. - Mazzoni F.. Miiano-Napoli, Ricciardi, 1979. vol. V, t. II; Rime, a 

cura di Contini G.. in Opere minori. Miiano-Napoli. Classici Ricciardi-Mondadori, 

1995. vol. I. t. I; Convivio, a cura di Vasoli C. - De Robertis D., in Alighieri D., 

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Torino. Einaudi. 1986. V, pp. 90-93. ora in ID., Genus italicum. Saggi sulla 

identita letteraria italiana nel corso del tempo, ivi. 1997. pp. 34-142. 
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e coscienza profetistica nella "Divina Commedia". a cura di Mineo N.. Ravenna, 

Longo. 2000. vol. 29, pp. 105-29. 
Battistini A., L 'estremo approdo: Ravenna, in AA. VV.. Dante e le citta dell esilio, op. 

cit.. pp. 155-75. 
Biasin G. P., L 'esilio e il contagio, in L 'esilio come certezza. La ricerca d 'identita 

culturale in Italia dalla Rivoluzione francese ai nostri giorni, a cura di Ciccarelli A. 

-Giordano P. A., "Italiana" VII, West Lafayeue, Bordighera, 1998, pp. 95-1 1 1. 
Brodskij 1., Dall 'esilio, traduzione di Forti G., Milano. Adelphi, 1988. 
Bruni L.. Vita di Dante, in ID.. Opere letterarie e politiche. a cura di Viti P.. "Classici 

latini" dir. da Lana I.. Torino. UTET. 1996. pp. 539-52. 
Caproni G.. Tutte le poesie. Milano. Garzanti, "Gli Elefanti", 1999. 
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ragione. Dante Manzoni Tenca. Pisa. Giard'mi. \9SS, pp. 21-35. 
Crifo G., Esilio. in Encictopedia del diritto. XV, Milano, Giuflfre, 1966, pp. 712-22. 
De Marco G.. Mitografia dell'esule. Da Dante al Novecento. Napoli, Edizioni 

Scientifiche Italiane, 1996. 
Deanovic M.. Letture dantesche in un campo di concentramento. in Dante e il mondo 

slavo (Atti del Convegno di Studi -Dubrovnik 26-29 ottobre 1981 J, Zagabria, 1984, 

pp. 107-08. 
Di Legami F.. // seme del piangere e it desiderio di un oltre Parole di essenza e di 

assenza in Dante, Caproni, Giudici. in ""Per correr mglior acque... ". Bilanci e 

prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millennia. Atti del Convegno 

di Verona- Ravenna 25-29 ottobre 1999, Roma, Salerno Editrice, 2001, t. II, pp. 

875-97. 
Di Pino G., Esilio e letteratura, in AA. VV., Dante e le citta dell 'esilio, pp. 207-23. 
. Firenze nella immaginativa oltremondana di Dante, in Miscellanea di Studi 

Danteschi in memoria di Silvio Pasquazi, Napoli, Federico & Ardia, 1993, vol. I, pp. 

325-39. 



L 'esperienza di Dante exul immeritus 53 

Di Siviglia I.. Etymologiarum sive Originum libri AX a cura di Lindsay W. M., Oxford, 

1985. 
Document! danteschi. in AA. VV., // processo di Dante, a cura di Ricci D.. Firenze, 

Arnaud. 1966. 
Ghisalberti C, La condanna al bando nel diritto comune, "Archivio Giuridico 'Filippo 

Serafini' ". CLVIII, 1960, pp. 3-75 
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Dante Altri studi sulla Commedia. Napoli, Loffredo. 1999^, pp. 33-57. 
lannucci A. A.. L 'esilio di Dante: "per colpa di tempo e difortuna", in Dal Medioevo al 

Petrarca. Miscellanea di studi in onore di Vittore Branca, Firenze, Olschki, 1983, 

vol, I. pp. 215-32. 

. Dante.poeta o profeta?, in "Per correr miglior acque... ". [...J, t. I, pp. 93-1 14. 

Kadare I.. // viaggiatore venuto da lontano. 'il Corriere dell'Unesco", I, gennaio 1997, 

cit., pp. 20-21. 
Leicht P. S., Storia del diritto italiano. II diritto privato, P. I., Milano, GiufFre, 1960, pp. 

25-27. 
Luzi M.. i opera poetica. a cura e con un saggio introduttivo di Verdino S., Milano, A. 

Mondadori, "1 Meridiani", 1998. 
Luzi M.. L 'esilio, Dante, la poesia. in ID , Naturalezza del poeta. Saggi critici, a cura di 

Quiriconi G.. Milano, Garzanti. 1995. pp. 200-208. 
Luzi M., Parole pellegrine. Napoli. T. Pironti. 2001. 
Marchi C. Dante in esilio, Milano, Longanesi & C. 1976'. 
Mercuri R., Genesi della tradizione letteraria italiana in Dante, Petrarca e Boccaccio, in 

Letteratura italiana. Storia e geografia, I, L 'eta medievale, dir. da Asor Rosa A., 

Torino. Einaudi. 1987. pp. 229-455. 
Michelstaedter C. Epistolario, a cura di Campailla S., Milano, Adelphi, 1983. 
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prospettive degli studi danteschi alle soglie del nuovo millennio. Atti del Convegno 

di Verona- Ravenna 25-29 ottobre 1999, Roma, Salerno Editrice, 2001, t. I, pp. 41- 

55. 
Montale E., L 'opera in versi, a cura di Bettarini R. -Contini G.. Torino, Einaudi, "I 

Millenni". 1980. 
Mundula A.. Per mare, Cittadella (PD), Nuove Amadeus Edizioni, 1993. 
Nedelcovici B.. La letteratura come patria, I miti dell esilio, "11 Corriere dell'Unesco", I, 

gennaio 1997, pp. 17-18. 
Padoan G., // progetto di poema paradisiaco: 'Vita nuova". XLII (e I 'epistola di Ilaro), 

in ID,, // lungo cammino del 'Poema sacro" Studi danteschi, Firenze, Olschki, 

1993. pp. 5-23. 
Palma di Cesnola M.. Semiotica dantesca. Profetismo e diacronia. Ravenna, Longo, 

1995. 
Pasquini E.. La parabola dell 'esilio. in \D.. Dante e le figure del vero. Lafabbrica della 

Commedia. Milano. B. Mondadori, 2001, pp. 122-48. 
Pavese C, Poesie edite e inedite, a cura di Calvino I.. Torino, Einaudi, 1981. 
Petrarca F.. Canzoniere, a cura di Antonelli R. -Contini G. -Ponchiroli D., Torino, 

Einaudi. 1992. 
Petrocchi G.. Vita di Dante, Roma-Bari. Laterza. 1983. 
Rigo P., "Prendero 7 cappello", in EAD., Memoria classica e memoria biblica in Dante, 



54 Giuseppe De Marco 

Firenze. Olschki, 1994, pp. 135-63. 
Russo v.. Dante exul inmeritus: variazioni compositive sul /dal tema, "Esperienze 

letterarie". XVII, 2. 1992, pp. 3-17. 
Sbarbaro C. L'opera in versi e in prosa. a cura di Lagorio G. -Schewiller V.. Milano, 

Garzanti. 1985 
Sermonti V. (a cura di) La Divina Commedia, Inferno VI, Milano. Edizioni scolastiche 

B. Mondadori, 1996. vol. I. 
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1990. 
Ungaretti G.. \'ita d'un uomo. Tutte le poesie, a cura di Piccioni L., Milano, A. 

Mondadori. 1992. 
Villani G.. Nuova cronica, Edizione critica a cura di Porta G.. Parma, Fondazione Pietro 

Bembo. Guanda. 1991, vol. II. 



Robert Wilson 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid' 



Any list of exiled authors almost invariably includes Dante and Ovid, probably 
the two most famous exiled poets of all.' Indeed Ovidius exsul became virtually 
an exemplum of literary exile in the Middle Ages, and has been a point of 
reference for exiled writers since.^ Despite the fact that both are categorised as 
exiles Dante cannot be included among those who consciously position 
themselves in a line of descent from Ovid. 

There is no need to repeat here the numerous Ovidian references, echoes 
and allusions present in Dante's work, however we can still partly agree with 
Edward Moore's observation: "It does not appear, however, that Dante's 
familiarity with Ovid extended much beyond the Metamorphoses [...]" (Moore 
206).-^ There are no references to Ovid's exile poetry in Moore's list of 
quotations, and his conclusion requires some clarification.^ The paucity of 
Ovidian references outside of the Metamorphoses does not necessarily mean that 
Dante was unfamiliar with the rest of Ovid's work; it may rather indicate a 
choice not to refer to it.^ There are also suggestions that Dante did know and 



I thank my friends Ruth Unsworth, Carla Spadavecchia, Carlo Caruso, and Massimo 
Rizzante for help of different sorts with this study. The theme is an appropriate memorial 
for my father who died this year. 

' Seidel gives this short list: "Ovid, Dante, Swift, Rousseau, Madame de Stael, Hugo, 
Lawrence, Mann, Brecht" (x). Tdbori's historical survey includes Ovid (63-64), and 
Dante (69-71). Guillen's study of literature and exile also includes Ovid (30; 36-40; 47) 
and Dante (46-53). 

^ "[...] he [Ovid] stands at the head of a whole line of exiled artists, many of whom 
invoke him in their works" (Hexter 83). Hexter (83n2) includes a list of modern writers 
and examines medieval testimonia beginning with Jerome (89-97). See, too, Viarre on 
the same topic. 

•^ Brugnoli observes: "Fu autorevole conclusione di Edward Moore sia che I'Ovidio di 
Dante fosse in sostanza I'Ovidio delle Metamorfosi [...]" (141). 

'* Moore lists quotations as follows; 91 from the Metamorphoses, 5 from the Heroides, 1 
from the Ars amatoria, 2 from the Remedium Amoris (349-51). For a more recent 
indication see the index locorum in Jacoff and Schnapp (320-22) which lists references 
from the Ars, Fasti, Heroides, Metamorphoses, and the Remedium, but none from the 
Tristia or £jc Ponto. 

^ "Like the Aeneid, the Metamorphoses is a key text for the Commedia, but Dante does 
not make its author a significant character in the narrative, nor does he encourage us to 

Annali d'ltalianistica (2002) 20 



56 Robert Wilson 

refer to Ovid's exile poetry.^ Most obvious of all, however, is the simple fact 
that Ovid is never mentioned by Dante with reference to his exile. Horace is 
"Orazio satiro" {Inf. IV. 89), but Ovid is simply '"1 terzo" (Inf IV. 90). We 
might even be tempted to force out of this a concealed reference to the "terzo" 
Ovidio, i.e. the Ovid of the Tristia and Ex Ponto, coming after the first (Amores) 
and second (Metamorphoses) Ovids.^ Wouldn't it have been simple enough to 
make some reference to Ovid the exile, and what better figure than Ovid to start 
the series of predictions in the Commedia relating to Dante's own exile? Instead 
the presence of Ovid's exile poetry in Dante's work is at best slight, especially 
when compared to that of the Metamorphoses. 

It may be, as Moore suggested, that Dante did not know these works, 
although their notable presence in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries would 
have made them difficult to avoid.^ In view of the considerable non-exilic 
Ovidian presence in Dante's work, it is more likely that Dante did know these 
works as well. If this assumption were true, it would mean that he chose not to 
associate his exile with that of Ovid. 

In fact, there is a fundamental difference in the exile experiences of these 
two poets. Dante is exiled from Florence whilst Ovid is exiled to Tomis. My 
intention, in this brief consideration of the matter, is to draw attention to this 
basic difference in orientation and suggest that it determines certain features in 
the literary treatment of his exile by each poet.^ Other fundamental differences 
are to be borne in mind from the outset. Ovid's "exile poetry" is just that. The 
Tristia and Ex Ponto are written in and about exile, and their purpose is to effect 
their author's return to Rome or mitigation of his punishment through transfer to 
a more amenable location. For Dante, exile is a constant theme which appears 
not only throughout the Commedia, but in his letters, lyric poetry, Convivio and 



think biographically about Ovid — a pointed choice given the fate of exile both poets 

suffered" (Jacoff 9). 

" "Dante himself made use of the Tristia together with the other works of Ovid" 

(Wheeler xxxviii). Wheeler makes this rather general observation without providing any 

further explanation or supporting references to Ovid's or Dante's works. More specific 

references are given by Picone and Smarr. Smarr also notes Paratore's earlier suggestion 

that Dante used the Tristia (141n5). See Paratore (227, 229). 

' Picone notes these three images of Ovid found in medieval culture (7-8). Smarr 

suggests a more general parallel between these three Ovidian moments, in reverse order, 

and the three cantiche of the Commedia, characterised by exile, transformation and love 

(151). With regard to the particular description of Ovid as "terzo," Smarr proposes a link 

with Tristia IV. x. 53-55 where Ovid places himself "quartus" in a list of poetic 

predecessors and successors (149). See, too, Picone (8-9n5). 

° Hexter (86-88) mentions their popularity, especially in the 12th and 13th centuries, and 

their inclusion in manuscripts along with other of Ovid's works. 

^ In following this rather narrow question, I do not intend to provide an extensive 

bibliography on Ovid and Dante. For a further bibliography see Picone and Sowell. 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 57 

De vulgari eloquentia}^ However no work by Dante is solely devoted to this 
question, there is no "exile poetry" as such, and his aims are different to those of 
Ovid. Their attitudes to their respective situations are very different, so that they 
have been described almost as positive and negative exempla of exile (Smarr 
140). In particular the places of exile are treated very differently by each poet, 
and this stems from the basic difference in their types of exile. 

There are various dictionary definitions of the term "exile" and a common 
thread running through them is the idea of exclusion, normally exclusion from 
the place which the individual in exile regards as home." We can see this in one 
of the best known "dictionary" definitions so to speak. In the Etymologies 
Isidore of Seville describes exile, exilium, as follows: "Exilium dictum quasi 
extra solum. Nam exul dicitur qui extra solum est."^^ In this part of Isidore's 
definition the fundamental direction or orientation understood in the term 
exilium is one of exclusion from the soil or home. Home, solum, the soil, 
becomes the important place. The emphasis then is determined by this direction, 
the exile is in exile ^rom home. In the case of Ovid, however, things are slightly 
different. 

"Strictly speaking Ovid was punished not by exile but by relegation" 
(Thibault 1 1). Our main source of information for this fact remains Ovid himself, 
and there is no additional contemporary information. Although this has prompted 
some recent speculation as to whether it happened at all or is simply a pretext for 
his poetry, that issue need not concern us.'^ Ovid states: 

adde quod edictum, quamuis inmite minaxque, 
attamen in poenae nomine lene full: 
quippe relegatus, non exul, dicor in illo. 

{TristiaW.US-Zl)^^ 



^^ See De Marco for a list of some of the main passages ( 1 8-29). 

^ ' Paul Tabori considers a variety of definitions from dictionaries and other sources near 

the beginning of his study; see especially 23-24; 27. See also Seidel ix. 

'^ Etymologiarum, V. xxvii. 28. "Exile means, as it were, 'outside the soil' — extra 

solum. For he who is 'outside his own ground' is called an exile" (Stam 1). Stam 

suggests that Isidore's definition may come from Cassiodorus and ultimately be traced 

back to Cicero. This part of Isidore's definition is also quoted by Trone (362). Isidore 

gives this same definition in book I, though here as a guide to spelling: "'Exsul' addito S 

debet scribi, quia exsul dicitur qui extra solum est." 

•3 Williams 3-4; Claassen, Displaced Persons 34-35; 181; 269n90; 295n87-88. Both 

consider this position, giving the main bibliographical references. Whilst acknowledging 

the lack of historical basis for Ovid's relegation, they view the total fiction hypothesis as 

improbable for various reasons, and not strictly relevant to a literary discussion of Ovid's 

poetry. 

'4 "Moreover the decree, though harsh and threatening, / Was lenient when it named the 

penalty. / Not exile was pronounced but relegation" (trans. Melville 99). The Latin text is 



58 Robert Wilson 

He is even clearer in writing to his wife when he hears she has been insulted for 
being the wife of an exile: 

fallitur iste tamen, quo iudice nominor exul: 
mollior est culpam poena secuta meam. 

[...] nee uitam nee opes nee ius mihi eiuis ademit, 
quae merui uitio perdere cuncta meo, 
sed quia peccato facinus non adfuit ullum, 
nil nisi me patriis iussit abesse foeis, 

[...] ipse relegati, non exulis utitur in me 
nomine: [...] 

{ThstiaV. \i.9-\0; 15-18; 21)'5 

This is an important distinction and Ovid points out that it means he retains his 
property and some hope of return.*^ Despite these very clear statements, his final 
injunction to whoever was trying to insult his wife — "At tu fortuna, cuius uocor 
exul ab ore, / nomine mendaci parce grauate meam" {Tristia V. xi. 29-30) — has 
often gone unheeded by later generations of readers and commentators.'^ 
Medieval descriptions of the poet, lives of Ovid and various accessus to his 
works range from clarity to more indiscriminate uses of the terms exul and 
exilium}^ A lack of precision can even be found in legal treatments of the matter 



from Hall's edition. All translations of the Tristia are from Melville. Although based 

mainly on Wheeler's edition, Melville's translation of the lines quoted in this article is 

not affected by the changes in Hall's edition. 

'^ "Yet he is wrong who judges me an exile: / My fault received a milder punishment. 

[...] My life, my wealth, my eivie rights he left me, / All of which I could have lost 

deservedly; / But since when I transgressed, no crime was present, / Absence from home 

was all he ordered me. [...] Not 'exile' he pronounced but 'relegation'." 

'" In addition to the passages quoted, see e.g. "nee uitam nee opes nee ademit posse 

reuerti" {Ex Ponto I. vii 47). "He took from me neither life nor property nor the 

possibility of return" (trans. Wheeler 303). 

' ' "But you who call me 'exile', cease to burden / My lot with a description that's not 

true." The use of the term "exile" in secondary literature on Ovid is widespread and 

needs no repetition here, as a look at the list of works cited will show. 

'^ Thibault (24-27) gives 18 short quotations regarding the cause of Ovid's 

condemnation from sources dating from about the 5th to the 15th century. The term 

exsilium, or some form of it, is used in passages 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 14, 17, 18, whilst there 

is no use of any form of the term relegatio. The accessus quoted by Hexter explain the 

different forms which exile could take (220; 221-22; 227). Of the sixteen biographies 

included as appendices by Ghisalberti, one uses both relegatio and exilium and includes 

an explanation (G, 49-50); two use relegatus without explanation (M, 56; P, 59); two use 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 59 

by writers who might be expected to know better J^ It is perhaps harsh to be too 
critical of those describing Ovid as an exile, however, since he himself is not 
consistent in his use of terminology, and his text was the main source of 
information for his medieval commentators (Ghisalberti 25). His clear statements 
about being relegatus do not prevent him from taking on the identity of exul in a 
number of places in his "exile" poetry. Ovid uses forms of relegare and 
relegatus, five times in the Tristia and four times in the Ex Ponto?-^ He also uses 
the terms exul or exilium in clear statements that this is not his position six times 
in the Tristia?^ Against this are twenty uses of the terms exul or exilium directly 
applied by Ovid to himself or his punishment in the Tristia, and sixteen in the Ex 
Ponto?-^ To this we can add three uses in the Tristia and four in the Ex Ponto, 
where he compares himself to other exiles, concluding that he is worse off than 
they.^^ He speaks of exilium seven times in his requests for a milder place of 
exile.^^ Finally his wife, in joining him in exile, would herself become exul?^ 
Ovid is writing poetry of course, and apart from technical considerations, such as 
the influence of metrical constraints for example, a certain amount of freedom is 
to be expected. This portrayal of himself as an exile rather than a relegatus has 
also been interpreted as part of a deliberate general strategy of exaggerating his 
suffering to elicit sympathy .^^ Ovid's hopes and requests that he be "exiled" to a 
better place than Tomis are particularly telling, since in speaking of exile rather 
than relegation he may technically be asking for a more serious punishment. 

On the other hand, there are critics who choose their words more careftiUy, 
preferring to use terms such as banishment or simply relegation for the sake of 



relegatus and exilium without explanation (E, 47; I, 51); three use exilium (F, 49; N, 57; 

O, 58). 

^^ "In the third century exilium is used even by jurists for relegatio, e.g. by Marcianus 

{Digest, XLVIII. 22) though his contemporary, Paulus more correctly contrasts the two 

words" (Strachan-Davidson Vol. II 66-67n4 quoting Paulus 69nl). Although not a legal 

writer, Tacitus also refers to relegation as exile in his Annates (III. 24. 2-3) quoted by 

Baumann (54) as an example of the looser use of the term. 

20 Tristia I. vii. 8; II. 137; 201; V. ii. 21; xi. 21. £x Ponto I. vii 42; II. ii. 7; IV. xiii. 40; 

XV. 2. All are listed in Deferrari, Barry, and Maguire. 

2' Tristia II. 137; V. ii. 57; xi. 2; 9; 21; 29. Note that Deferrari et al., in the best 

Isidorean tradition, use the spellings exsul and exsilium. The concordance is based on the 

1922 Teubner editions. 

22 Tristia I. i. 3; ii. 37; 74; I. iii. 82; I. v. 66; II. 188; III. i. 1; iii. 36; 66; iv. 45; xi. 36 
(twice); xiii. 3; xiv. 30; IV. i. 3; 45; 49; x. 74; V. ix. 6; V. x. 40. £x Ponto I. i. 61; 65; I. 
iii. 43; I. v. 4; 8; I. viii. 7; II. vi. 3; II. vii. 63; 67; II. ix. 66; III. i. 10; 38; III. iii. 23; 39; 
III. vii. 34; IV. iv. 50. 

23 Tristia U. i. 188; III. xiv. 11; M.ExPontol. i. 22; I. ii. 109; I. iii. 75; 82. 

24 Tristia II. 185; 511; Ex Ponto I. ii. 104; II. viii. 72; IV. iv. 51. 

25 Tristia I. iii. 82. 

26 See Owen 44-45; Strachan-Davidson Vol. II 66n4; Dickinson 154. 



60 Robert Wilson 

greater precision.^^ The definition by Isidore we have noted above continues: 
"Dividitur autem exilium in relegatis et deportatis. Relegatus est, quern bona sua 
sequuntur: deportatus, quern non sequuntur." (Etymologiarum, V. xxvii. 28-29). 
So relegation is defined as a category, a sub-group of exile, and the emphasis is 
placed on the retention of property by the relegatus. A fialler explanation is 
provided by Arnulph of Orleans in his accessus to the Tristia: 

Quatuor quoque apud Romanos dicuntur fuisse genera exilii, proscriptio, inscriptio, 
relegatio, exilium. Proscriptus dicebatur cuius bona publicabantur et ipse sine aliqua spe 
revertendi missus est in exilium, inscriptus, cuius bona etiam publicabantur et ipse domi 
inter amicos retentus, relegatus, cuius bona non publicabantur et ipse sub spe redeundi in 
exilium missus, exul, cuius bona publicabantur et ipse sub aliqua spe revertendi in 
exilium missus.''" 

Arnulph's explanation draws attention to the same two aspects of relegation 
stressed by Ovid: the retention of property, and therefore no attendant poverty; 
and the possibility of return. His provision of an explanation implies that he 
expects to have to correct the sort of imprecision on the differences between 
exile and relegation which we have already noted. ^^ The hope of return is 
particularly important as this is, using Arnulph's terms, the cause of the intention 
of the work, and also relates to its purpose, utilitas, which is for Ovid to return 
home (Elliott, 34-35). He does not draw any special attention to the significant 
difference between relegation and exile in geographical terms, namely, that 
relegation in effect constitutes a form of imprisonment. Ovid is not subjected to 
wandering poverty and reliance on the charity or hospitality of others, as we will 
see in the case of Dante, but instead is limited in geographical terms to a place he 



^ ' For example, Thibault (4 f) takes care to use the term "relegation," despite the title of 
his book. Owen, who explains the difference (8-9; 43-44), then rather curiously translates 
Tristia II. 137 as "I am described as removed (relegatus) not banished (exul)" (Owen 99). 
^° "There are said to have been four types of exile among the Romans: proscription, 
inscription, relegation, and exile. Someone was said to be proscribed when his property 
was confiscated and he was sent into exile without any hope of returning; inscribed if his 
goods were also confiscated and when he was kept at home among his friends; relegated 
when his property was not confiscated and when he was exiled with hope of returning; 
exiled, the one whose goods were confiscated and who was sent into exile with no hope 
of returning" (trans. Elliott 35). Latin text from Elliott 34, also in Huygens 36. See too 
Ghisalberti 35; 43. 

^^ "Not only did medieval scholars, like their modern counterparts, feel it incumbent on 
them to explain the reason for Ovid's exile, but they wanted their students to learn the 
precise definitions of the different types of banishment from Rome — expecting more 
'historical' knowledge of their pupils, I would say, than instructors do today" (Hexter 
101-02). The accessus to the Ex Ponto given by Hexter (220) includes a similar 
explanation to that in Arnulph, with the addition of a memory aid in hexameters. See, 
too, 106-07. 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 6 1 

cannot leave. In short, he is exiled to as well as from, and for Ovid it is this 
aspect of the experience which looms largest. 

Obviously the treatment of the theme of exile by Ovid is an enormous 
subject about which much can be and has been said. My intention here is simply 
to refer to some general features in relation to the question of relegation. The 
following section of one of Ovid's elegies to his wife in book V of the Tristia 
will serve to illustrate some of the recurring points he makes concerning his 
situation. In this concluding part he addresses Augustus: 

Ira quidem moderata tua est, uitamque dedisti, 

nee mihi ius ciuis nee mihi nomen abest, 
nee mea eoneessa est aliis fortuna, nee exul 

edicti uerbis nominor ipse tui. 
omnia quae timui, quoniam meruisse uidebar; 

sed tua peeeato lenior ira meo est: 
arua relegatum iussisti uisere Ponti, 

et Seythieum profuga seindere puppe fretum. 
iussus ad Euxini deformia litora ueni 

aequoris — haec gelido terra sub axe iacet — 
nee me tam crucial numquam sine frigore caelum, 

glaebaque canenti semper obusta gelu, 
nesciaque est uocis quod barbara lingua Latinae, 

Graiaque quod Getico uicta loqueia sono est, 
quam quod finitimo cinctus premor undique Marte, ,^ 

uixque breuis tutum murus ab hoste facit. 
pax tamen interdum est, pacis fiducia numquam: 

sic nunc hie patitur, nunc timet arma locus, 
hinc ego dum muter, uel me Zanclaea Charybdis 

deuoret aque suis ad Styga mittat aquis, 
uel rapidae flammis urar patienter in Aetnae, 

uel freta Leucadio mittar in alta modo. 
Quod petimus, poena est: neque enim miser esse recuso, 

sed precor ut possim tutius esse miser." 

, {Tristia V. ii. 55-78)30 



^^ "Indeed your anger's mild: my life you've given me, / I'm still a citizen in rights and 
style, / My property has not been passed to others; / your edict did not name me an exile. 
/ All this I dreaded, thinking I deserved it, / But less than my offence your wrath decrees. 
/ To Pontus' land you had me relegated, / My fleeing vessel cleaving Scythian seas. / So 
on the Black sea's shapeless shores I landed / (Beneath the icy Pole that land is lost); / 
And I'm not so tormented by the freezing / Climate, the ground for ever white with frost, 
/ The barbarous tongue that's ignorant of Latin, / The Getic dialect destroying greek, / As 
on all sides war close by surrounds me, / And the low walls for safety are too weak. / 
Sometimes there's peace, but peace not to be trusted; / Either the place endures or dreads 
the foe. / Could I but leave here, let Charybdis swallow me, / Her waters wash me down 



62 Robert Wilson 

We can see then from the beginning of the section, lines 55-60, Ovid's 
recognition both of his own guilt {me meruisse uidebam) and the leniency of 
Caesar in the sentence of relegation, not exile. Ovid then retains property and 
citizenship, as we have seen in the case of relegation. He constantly accepts and 
admits his guilt, but pleading that he is guilty of a less serious misdeed, or 
mistake, error, rather than a crime, crimen}^ Although more recent critics 
recommend a more nuanced reading of the exile poetry, in which Augustus is 
criticised in indirect ways, nevertheless Ovid never explicitly attacks him or 
openly challenges his judgement.^2 Ovid is sent to Pontus (1. 61) and we may 
note that this is the emphasis he makes, rather than that of absence from Rome. 
Ovid's treatment of Rome is filled with his nostalgia and longing, perhaps for a 
way of life rather than a physical location, and it is frequently represented as the 
antithesis of Tomis. His attachment to Rome is not that of the native, whilst 
Sulmo does not feature greatly in the exile poetry.^^ In Ovid's poetry Rome and 
Caesar do not become confused, Caesar is always the cause of his relegation. It 
is sufficient to note here that Rome is always dear to Ovid and positively 
portrayed by him. I mention this because, as we will see, Dante does not always 
distinguish so carefiilly between his city and those in power there. Ovid's 
attention is focused on his place of exile (11. 61-72). It is far away and savage 
(62-64), and to emphasise this point he indulges in some poetic licence with his 
geography. Strictly speaking, Pontus is in Moesia rather than Scythia, but 
Scythia, stereotypically distant and savage, has much more resonance for his 
Roman readers. So Ovid has no hesitation in relocating Tomis there.-^'* 

The harshness of the climate (1. 65) and land itself, perpetually frozen (1. 



to Styx below, / Or let me plunge to Leucas' deeps or, fast in / Fierce Etna's flames, burn 

patiently away! / A punishment I seek: I'm set to suffer. / But just for safer suffering I 

pray." Hall's edition numbers these lines 2b. 1 1-34. 

^' For a clear example of his admission of blame, see Tristia I. ii. 95-100. Ovid's famous 

statement in Tristia II. 202-08 accepts his crimen, then re-classifies it as an error. For 

similar examples, see Tristia II. 240; 250; III. v. 52; III. vi. 35. 

'1') 

•^^ On the idea that Ovid's exile poetry contains criticisms of Augustus, see Nagle 8; 153- 

54; 173-74. Williams 154-58; 179-193. Claassen, Displaced Persons 147-153. Casali is 

probably the most insistent, with a call for more nuanced readings of Ovid and a 

suggestion that the attacks found in the Ibis are directed towards the emperor. 

^^ Tristia. IV. x. 3-4. Ovid names Sulmo, his birthplace, and immediately locates it in 

relation to Rome {Ex Ponto. IV. xiv. 49). Here Ovid compares the hospitality of the 

Tomitans to that of the inhabitants of his native Sulmo. Is it impossible for Ovid to put 

Rome and Tomis in the same category? Are the Romans less hospitable? This suggests 

some interesting questions outside the scope of this discussion. 

^'^ Williams (8) provides a detailed geographical and ethnographic analysis, as well as 

examines the literary stereotypes associated with Scythia (3-49). See, too, Claassen, 

Displaced Persons 190-204; and "Ovid's Poetic Pontus." 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 63 

66), is another recurrent theme in Ovid's complaints about Tomis.^^ He also 
complains of the barbaric nature of the culture in which he find himself (11. 67- 
68), which is an important component in his claims that his poetic ability and 
even his command of Latin is suffering as a result of this environment.-^^ These 
however would be bearable but for the constant insecurity in which he lives, 
under the continual threat of war (11. 69-72). If he could choose an alternative 
location, he names even places of certain death as preferable (II. 73-76). 

The identification of relegation to Tomis with death is another common 
theme, strongest possibly in Tristia I. iii., where his departure from Rome is 
likened to a funeral. Finally he concludes with a direct appeal for a change of 
location (1. 75), picking up the earlier introduction of the idea (1. 73) that he 
might exchange Tomis for another place, ever careful to accept his punishment 
(1. 77). This last aim of Ovid's is a direct result of the fact that he is relegatus, 
and therefore confined to a particular area. The choice of so distant a location 
does seem particularly harsh compared to other cases of relegation.-^^ Tomis then 
constitutes a constant preoccupation, obsession we might say, for Ovid in his 
exile poetry. His criticisms are extreme: "[...] suntque ultima uota / quolibet ex 
istis scilicet ire locis; / nulla mihi cura est, terra quo mittar ab ista" {Ex Ponto IV. 
xiv. 5-7).^^ This is the sort of thing, he tells us, which has incurred the wrath of 
the Tomitans and his apology which follows does at least recognise the 
hospitality and generosity of his hosts, as he attempts to explain the difference 
between his attacks on the place and his appreciation of its inhabitants.^^ Despite 
Ovid's attempts to be more positive about Tomis and its inhabitants his apology 
is a very small drop in a very large ocean of invective. What is most striking 
about the lines quoted above is their orientation. Ovid's last prayer, ultima uota, 
is not, as we might expect, seeking a return to Rome, but rather to get away from 
this wretched place, ex istis [...] locis, not caring where he goes. This statement 
exemplifies the way in which Ovid's orientation as a relegatus, as one exiled to a 
particular place, is a determining factor in his literary treatment of his exile. 

Dante's exile is very different. In the first place the various sentences are 



^^ Especially at Tristia V. x. 1-4. and Ex Ponto IV. x. 37-64 on the frozen Danube and 

Black Sea. Picone suggests a connection between Ovid's frozen sea and Dante's frozen 

Cocytus in the Inferno (16-19). 

3^ For example, Tristia I. i; III. xiv; V. i; vii. On this topic see Nagle 109-25; 169-171. 

Williams 50-99. 

^^ "Le lieu de relegation d'Ovide est exceptionnel" (Andre vi). He also mentions other 

instances of relegation to islands off the Italian coast, and that of Cassius Severus who 

was sent to Crete. See, too, Bauman 52. 

^^ "[...] my final prayer is to / to go anywhere away from this place; / 1 don't care where I 

am sent to from a place like this" (translation is mine). Wheeler's Latin text has "muter" 

instead of "mittar." 

3^ Ex Ponto IV. xiv. 23-24, 47-50, 59-60. See the comments at note 33 above. 



64 Robert Wilson 

documented, naming Dante along with some others. The first sentence, of the 
27th of January 1302, gives Dante and the others three days to present 
themselves and pay fines and restitution, promising, however, should they 
manage to do so, that they will still be condemned to a two-year period outside 
Tuscany."*^ Their failure to respond is followed up on the 10th of March with a 
sentence of death should they enter Florence.^ ^ As an action of the state of 
Florence against a group, Dante's exile does not have the same individual and 
personal element present in Ovid's relationship with Augustus. It has been noted 
that Ovid's sentence resulted in part from his poetic activity, he himself mentions 
his carmen, whilst Dante's is wholly political in nature (Guillen 48-49). Unlike 
Ovid's case, the charges against Dante, generally held to be spurious, are 
likewise a matter of record, and the underlying reason, a change in the political 
regime, is also clear.^^ Dante himself seems to have indicated his activities 
during his tenure as prior as the source of his troubles, although it is clear from 
the Commedia that he sees the political machinations of Pope Boniface VIII at 
the root of the changes which eventually led to his exile. "^^ 

In fact an alternative form of punishment, similar in some ways to 
relegation, was in use by the Florentines at this time. Confino imposed a short 
stay at a distance from Florence, and had been used to remove leading figures of 
both the Black and White Guelph factions from the city as recently as 1300. 
Among those sent to Sarzana was Dante's close friend Guido Cavalcanti , who 
sadly contracted malaria and died as a result after his return to Florence.'*'* 
Despite the obvious similarities however, there seems to have been no parallel 



^^ Document 90 in Piattoli 103-07. The wording "nichilominus stare debeat extra 

provinciam Tuscie ad confines duobus annis" (Piattoli 107) suggests possibly confino as 

the punishment. 

^' Document 91 in Piattoli 107-09. The wording here, "[...] ut si quis predictorum ullo 

tempore in fortiam dicti comunis [Florentie] pervenerit, talis perveniens comburatur sic 

quod moriatur [...]," is clearly exclusion under pain of death by burning yro/n Florence, 

and for an unlimited period. Document 115 (Piattoli 155-57) gives the condemnation of 

the 6th of November 1315. Stam describes step by step the procedure exiling Dante (67- 

76). 

"^2 starn 71-72; Bemrose 61-62. 

^^ Bruni quotes the part of the letter, now lost, in which Dante describes his election to 

the priorate as the cause of his misfortune (36). Toynbee (xx-xxi) quotes the passage 

from Bruni, and adds a further reference to the letter from Bruni 's Historiae Florentinae. 

Dante's views on Boniface need no repetition. Compagni, II. 2. takes a similar, albeit 

partisan, position. 

^'^ Bruni (39-40) and Compagni (I. 21.) both mention this incident, using the verb 

confinare. It is also noted by Bemrose 49-50; Stam 71-72; Toynbee xxi-xxii. 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 65 

drawn explicitly at the time between this punishment and relegation.'^^ 

Dante is exWed from Florentine territory, where he spends that exile is not 
determined by the sentence. This has been interpreted as an indication of the 
limited extent of Florentine power (Stam 66-67; 76-80). This is all the more 
apparent when compared to the situation of Augustus, whose imperium stretches 
far enough to allow him to banish Ovid to the "end of the world.'"^^ Dante was 
not limited to any particular location, which meant that he could remain in fairly 
close proximity to Florence, thus experiencing less of the cultural isolation 
described by Ovid."*^ Boccaccio tells us that he spent the early part of his exile in 
Tuscany, and his final resting place in Ravenna is concrete testimony to the more 
local nature of his exile."*^ 

Dante's wandering brings poverty with it, as he famously describes in the 
Convivio: 

Poi che fli piacere delli cittadini della bellissima e famosissima figlia di Roma, Fiorenza, 
di gittarmi fuori del suo dolce seno — nel quale nato e nutrito fui in fino al colmo della 
vita mia, e nel quale, con buona pace di quella, desidero con tutto lo core di riposare 
I'animo stancato e temiinare lo tempo che m'6 dato — , per le parti quasi tutte alle quali 
questa lingua si stende, peregrino, quasi mendicando, sono andato, mostrando contra mia 
voglia la piaga de la fortuna, che suole ingiustamente al piagato molte volte essere 
imputata. Veramente io sono stato legno sanza vela e sanza govemo, portato a diversi 
porti e foci e liti dal vento secco che vapora la dolorosa povertade [...]" 

{Convivio I. iii. 4-5) ^^ 

His love for Florence and pride in his city is still apparent and he separates 
it here from its citizens. Dante's attention is all on the place yrom which he has 
been exiled; where he then goes is unspecified and unimportant to him. The 
importance of Florence to Dante has prompted its description as "indubbia 



^^ Starn notes some of the differences between the two as a possible explanation why the 

Florentines did not take what he regards as the obvious course and seek a precedent for 

confine in the practice of relegatio (80-81). 

^^ Tristia I. i. 127-28. "[...] nobis habitabitur orbis / ultimus, a terra terra remota mea" 

Q...] I at the world's end / will dwell, in a land from my land far away"). 

^' Tabori notes an observation by the exiled postwar Polish writer, Joseph Wittlin, that 

the Spanish writers in the civil war period in exile in South America found themselves at 

least in a Hispanic culture (32). 

^^ "[...] andava vagando per Toscana" (Boccaccio 29). This quotation is from section 72 

of Boccaccio's first version of the Trattatello. In the second version, section 54, he adds 

details of Dante's poverty and time spent in Lombardy as well as Tuscany. Barbi's 

comment captures the main point: "L'esilio rallarg6 I'orizzonte di Dante e di fiorentino 

lo fece cittadino d'ltalia." (19). 

^^ Another clear indication of his poverty is given in the letter to Oberto and Guido da 

Romena, Epistola II in Toynbee's edition, where he complains of the "inopina paupertas 

quam fecit exilium," ("the unlooked-for poverty brought about by exile") (17-18). 



66 Robert Wilson 

deuteragonista della Commedia" (Ragni 920). His relationship with the city 
which exiled him moves continually between love and condemnation, nor is he 
always so careful to distinguish between the city and its inhabitants.^^ We can 
see immediately the differences between this form of exile and the relegatio 
which Ovid describes. 

Before continuing we should note a first attitude to exile on the part of 
Dante in which he is attempting to return to Florence and so takes a more 
conciliatory tone. He is reported as having written to a number of influential 
citizens in Florence in the early part of his exile in order to be recalled, although 
these letters are not now extant.^ ^ Bruni mentions in particular "un'epistola assai 
lunga, che incomincia: Popule mi, quid feci tibi?" (43). ^^ Dante's change of tone 
towards the Florentines is associated by Bruni in his Vita di Dante with the entry 
of Henry VII into Italy (43; Toynbee xxii). Be that as it may, it is certainly this 
second phase, so to speak, which typifies Dante's approach to his exile as it is 
commonly perceived today. 

The best known statement which Dante makes about his exile must be the 
prophecy which he puts in the mouth of his ancestor Cacciaguida: 

Qual si partio Ipolito d'Atene 

per la spietata e perfida noverca, 

tal di Fiorenza partir ti convene. 
Questo si vuole e questo gi^ si cerca, 

e tosto verra fatto a chi ci6 pensa 

1^ dove Cristo tutto di si merca. 
La colpa seguira la parte offensa 

in grido, come suol; ma la vendetta 

fia testimonio al ver che la dispensa. 
Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta 

piu caramente; e questo t quello strale 

che I'arco de lo essilio pria saetta. 
Tu proverai si come sa di sale 

lo pane altrui, e come h duro calle 



^^ E.g., the most famous condemnation of Florence must be the opening of Inferno 
XXVI, where the whole city is addressed. Then again Florence is still Dante's "bello 
ovile" as late as Paradiso XXV. 5. Dante's ambivalence towards Florence is well known 
and needs no further examination here. 

^' The canzone Tre donne intorno al cor mi son venute belongs to this first 
reconciliatory period, according to the interpretation of Foster and Boyde, II, 288-90. See 
too Toynbee xxii. 

^^ The opening line of the letter is from Micah 6: 3, and is the opening of a rather harsh 
rebuke by God directed towards Israel on account of the people's ungratefulness. It 
seems like an unpromising start by Dante; however, Bruni is very clear that his aim was 
to ingratiate himself with the Florentines, and Monti (vii) suggests that Bruni's mention 
of the letter's length indicates that he had had direct contact with it. 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 67 

lo scendere e '1 salir per I'altrui scale. 

[ ] 

Lo primo tuo refligio e '1 primo ostello 

sar^ la cortesia del gran Lombardo 

che 'n su la scala porta il santo uccello; 
ch'in te avr^ si benigno riguardo, 

che del fare e del chieder, tra voi due, 

fia primo quel che tra li altri k piii tardo." 

(Paradiso, XVII. 46-60; 70-74) 

Cacciaguida's prophecy is the culmination of a series of prophecies Dante 
personaggio has received regarding his exile, the most striking being those of 
Ciacco (Inf. VI), Farinata degli Uberti (Inf. X), and Brunetto Latini (Inf XV). 
These concentrate largely on the vice and factional violence rife in Florence and 
hint that their obscure meaning will be clarified later. Despite apparently 
referring to Beatrice, it is Cacciaguida who spells out for Dante what will 
happen. ^^ The lines given above reveal some of the main points regarding 
Dante's presentation of his exile. First Dante will be driven ^rom Florence, so 
immediately his exile is given its primary orientation. The reference to the story 
of Hippolytus is an interesting point of contact with Ovid, since Dante must be 
referring to the story in the Metamorphoses (Book XV). ^"^ Again we might note 
Dante's preference for a non-exilic Ovidian text, especially for reference to his 
own situation. The obvious points are the innocence of Hippolytus and Dante, 
and the cruelty and dishonesty of Phaedra and Florence. Florence as stepmother 
rather than real mother may be intended as an additional sting. The role of 
Boniface VIII is also noted (49-51), before Cacciaguida clarifies where the 
blame lies and underlines the injustice of Dante's punishment. The description of 
the very personal experience of exile which follows concentrates first on what is 
left behind (55-57) and then on what lies ahead (58-60). When Dante talks about 
pane altrui and altrui scale, this reveals his basic orientation in exile. This 
negative picture is geographically non-specific, which incidentally gives it a sort 
of universal resonance for any experience of exile. This contrasts rather sharply 
with Ovid's desperation to leave Tomis, when, as we have seen, he will happily 
go anywhere else. For Dante anywhere else but Florence will always entail a 
place he does not recognize as his own but altrui. The problem with the places 
where he will spend his exile is nothing specific to those places: what is wrong 
with them is simply that they are not Florence. 



^^ Dante refers to "donna che sapri" (Inf. XV. 90). This reference has been seen as a 

problem since the explanation he refers to appears to be provided by Cacciaguida, not 

Beatrice. The problem need not concern this discussion. 

^^ Starn sees Dante's phrase, exul immeritus, as taken from the same story in Ovid, 

although the reference to Metam. XV. 504 does not seem particularly close (128; 

192n34). 



68 Robert Wilson 

Cacciaguida delivers a harsh criticism of the other exiles among whom 
Dante will find himself and advises him to abandon their company (61-69, 
omitted above). He then praises the generosity of the exiled Dante's first host, 
who will provide a refugio and ostello. This reference seems to refer to 
Bartolommeo della Scala, but the important point for our discussion is the praise 
and gratitude Dante expresses towards the particular places where he spends his 
exile. Dante's position in exile is such that he cannot afford to be too critical 
since he is always a guest, and in general is mindful of his debt of gratitude 
towards his hosts. One of the most striking examples of this is his praise for the 
Malaspina family in Lunigiana, who appointed him procurator in 1306 
(Purgatorio VIII. 121-32).^^ As a corollary, we may note his warning to betrayers 
of guests, destined in his scheme of things for the penultimate division of Hell. 

Taken together, Dante's positive comments about geographically specific 
locations and actual individuals, and his negative, but geographically 
anonymous, picture of the bitter personal experience of exile, show that he 
locates his exile internally rather than externally. He is not restricted to any 
particular place and so does not associate his suffering specifically with any of 
the places where he spends his exile. Even if he changes his location, he carries 
the fact that he is excluded from Florence with him. This then requires an 
internal solution to the problem for Dante, who seeks to change the meaning of 
his exile, and widen his horizons. Ovid, on the other hand is, in effect, a prisoner, 
not free to move fi-om Tomis, and this fact dominates his treatment of his exile. 

Dante makes little use of Ovid's exile poetry and seems not to relate to him 
as a fellow exile. Understood as a deliberate choice by Dante, this may be 
because he was aware of the technical differences between his exile and Ovid's 
relegation. We have already seen that some of the medieval accessus contain 
explanations of this point, and the idea that Ovid is confined, or "imprisoned," 
actually appears in a passing reference in Brunetto Latini's Livres dou Tresor}^ 
Alternatively it may simply be that he found little in Ovid's experience to mirror 
his own. 

Neither poet returned from exile, although Dante did have a chance to do so. 
In 1315 he was offered the possibility of return to Florence under certain 
conditions, including the payment of fines and undergoing a humiliating 
penitential ritual (Bemrose 192-93; Stam 84-85). We may speculate on Ovid's 
likely response to such an opportunity; Dante's is recorded in a letter (Toynbee 



^^ The record of his appointment as procurator is given by Piattoli 11 8-25, document 99. 
On his positive treatment of Lunigiana in general, see Giannantonio. 
^" "Et sachez que Ovides li tres bon poetes, quant li empereres le mist em prison, [...]" 
(I. clx. 7, 146). This is also quoted by Casali 103. Latini appears to be referring here to 
the Ibis. 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 69 

Letter IX). ^^ Each of the three parts of the Commedia famously ends with 
reference to the stelle, and in the conclusion to his letter he explains what they 
mean to him as an exile: 

Non est haec via redeundi ad patriam, Pater mi; sed si alia per vos antecedenter, deinde 
per alios invenitur, quae famae Dantisque honori non deroget, illam non lentis passibus 
acceptabo. Quod si per nuilam talem Florentia introitur, nunquam Florentiam introibo. 
Quidni? nonne solis astrorumque specula ubique conspiciam? Nonne duicissimas 
veritates potero speculari ubique sub coelo, ni prius inglorium, immo ignominiosum 
populo Florentino civitati me reddam? Quippe nee panis deficiet. ^^ 

We may recall that Dante is still under Italian skies, whilst Ovid points out the 
foreign nature of the constellations above him in Tomis.^^ Nevertheless, there is 
a very clear difference in attitude when Ovid considers the stars: 

Siquis adhuc istic meminit Nasonis adempti, 
et superest sine me nomen in urbe meum. 
suppositum stellis numquam tangentibus aequor 
me sciat in media uiuere barbarie. 

{Tristiam.\.\-Af^ 

Dante looks at the stars and tries to console himself with the world beyond 
Florence. Ovid looks at the stars and they remind him that he is imprisoned in 
Tomis. 

University of St. Andrews 



^^ Some of Toynbee's comments are corrected by Bemrose (192-93). Stam (84) and 

Guilldn (52-53) also quote from it. 

^^ "This is no way to return to my native city, my father; but if some other way is found 

by you first or later by others which does not detract from the fame and honour of Dante, 

that I will accept with no slow steps; but if Florence cannot be entered by such a path, I 

will never enter Florence. What then? Can I not look at the face of the sun and stars 

anywhere? Will I not be able to contemplate the sweetest truths anywhere beneath the 

sky, without first giving myself up in disgrace, even dishonour, to the people and city of 

Florence? certainly I will not lack bread." The Latin text is from Toynbee's edition; the 

translation is mine. 

59 E.g. Tristia, V. iii. 7-8. 

^^ "If someone there remembers banished Ovid / And in the City my name without me / 

Lives, let him know I dwell among barbarians / Beneath the stars that never touch the 

sea." 



70 Robert Wilson 

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. Dante 's Lyric Poetry. Ed. Kenelm Foster and Patrick Boyde. 2 vols. Oxford: 

Clarendon Press, 1967. 
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lettori di Ovidio dall'antichita al Rinascimento. Ed. Italo Gallo and Luciano 

Nicastri. Napoli: Edizioni scientifiche italiane, 1995. 
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Guidolzzi, 1987. 
Casali, Sergio. "Quaerenti plura legendum: On the Necessity of 'Reading More' in 

Ovid's Exile Poetry." Ramus: Critical Studies in Greek and Roman Literature 22.1 

(1997): 80-1 12. 
. Displaced Persons: The Literature of Exile from Cicero to Boethius. London: 

Duckworth, 1999. 
Claassen, Jo-Marie. "Ovid's Poetic Pontus." Papers of the Leeds International Latin 

Seminar 6 (1990): 65-94. 
Compagni, Dino. La Cronica e la canzone morale ''Del Pregio.'" Ed. Isidoro Del Lungo. 

Firenze: Le Monnier, 1939. 
De Marco, Giuseppe. Mitografia delTesule: da Dante al Novecento. Napoli: Edizioni 

scientifiche italiane, 1996. 
Deferrari, Roy Joseph, M. Inviolata Barry, and Martin R. P. McGuire. A Concordance of 

Ovid. Washington, DC: The Catholic U of America P, 1939. 
Dickinson, R.J. "The Tristia: Poetry in Exile." Ovid. Ed. J. W. Binns. London: Routledge 

&KeganPaul, 1973. 154-90. 
Elliott, Alison G., trans. "Accessus ad Auctores: Twelfth-Century Introductions to Ovid." 

Allegorica: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Literature 5.1 (1980): 6-48. 
Enciclopedia dantesca. Ed. Umberto Bosco. 6 vols. Roma: Istituto della enciclopedia 

italiana fondata da Giovanni Treccani, 1970-78. 
Ghisalberti, Fausto. "Medieval Biographies of Ovid." Journal of the Warburg and 

Courtald Institute 9 (1946): 10-59. 



Exile and Relegation in Dante and Ovid 7 1 

Giannantonio, Pompeo. "Dante e la lunigiana." Dante e le citta dell'esilio. Ed. Guido Di 

Pino. Ravenna: Longo, 1989. 33-46. 
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TusQuets, 1998. 
Hexter, Ralph, J. Ovid and Medieval Schooling: Studies in Medieval School 

Commentaries on Ovid 's Ars amatoria, Epistulae ex Ponto, and Epistulae heroidum. 

Munich: Arbeo-Gesellschaft, 1986. 
Isidore of Seville. Etymologiarum sive originum: libri XX. Ed. W.M. Lindsay. Oxford: 

Clarendon Press, 1911. 
Jacoff, Rachel, "Introduction." Jacoff and Schnapp 1-15. 
Jacoff, Rachel, and Jeffrey T. Schnapp, eds. The Poetry of Allusion: Virgil and Ovid in 

Dante 's Commedia. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1991. 
Latini, Brunetto. Li Livres dou Tresor. Ed. Francis. J. Carmody. Geneva: Slatkine 

Reprints, 1998. Los Angeles: Berkeley, 1948. 
Moore, Edward. Studies in Dante. First Series. Scripture and Classical Authors in 

Dante. Ed. and intro. Colin Hardie. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969. 
Nagle, Betty Rose. The Poetics of Exile: Program and Polemic in the Tristia and 

Epistulae ex Ponto of Ovid. Brussells: Latomus, 1980. 
Ovid. Tristia. Ex Ponto. Ed. and trans A. L. Wheeler. Revised G. P. Goold. Cambridge: 

Harvard UP, 2002. Rpt. in Loeb Classical Library of 1988, 2nd ed. 

. Tristes. Ed. Jacques Andre. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1968. 

. Ex Ponto. Libri Quattuor. Ed. J. A. Richmond. Leipzig: Teubner, 1990. 

. Tristia. Ed. J. B. Hall. Leipzig: Teubner, 1995. 

. Tristium Liber Secundus. Ed. S. G. Owen. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924. 

. Sorrows of an Exile. Tristia. Trans. A. D. Melville. Intro, and notes E. J. 

Kenney. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992. 
Paratore, Ettore. "Ovidio." Enciclopedia dantesca. 

Piattoli, Renato. Codice diplomatico dantesco. 2nd ed. Firenze: Gonnelli, 1950. 
Picone, M. "Dante, Ovidio e la poesia dell'esilio." Rassegna europea di letteratura 

italiana 14 (1999): 7-23. 
Ragni, Eugenio. "Firenze." Enciclopedia dantesca. 

Seidel, Michael. Exile and the Narrative Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1986. 
Smarr, Janet Levarie. "Poets of Love and Exile." Dante and Ovid: Essays in 

Intertextuality. Ed. Madison U. Sowell. Binghamton, NY: Center for Medieval and 

Early Renaissance Studies, 1991. 139-51. 
Sowell, Madison U., ed. Dante and Ovid: Essays in Intertextuality. Binghamton, NY: 

Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1991. 153-72. 
Stam, Randolph. Contrary Commonwealth. The Theme of Exile in Medieval and 

Renaissance Italy. Berkeley: U of California P, 1982. 
Strachan-Davidson, James Leigh. Problems of the Roman Criminal Law. 2 vols. Oxford: 

Clarendon Press, 1912. 
Tabori, Paul. The Anatomy of Exile. A Semantic and Historical Study. London: Harrap, 

1972. 
Thibault, John C. The Mystery of Ovid's Exile. Berkeley: U of California P, 1964. 
Trone, George Andrew. "Exile." The Dante Encyclopedia. Ed. Richard Lansing. New 

York: Garland, 2000. 362-65. 



72 Robert Wilson 

Viarre, S. "Exil ovidien, exil medieval." Collogue Presence d'Ovide. Ed. R. Chevallier. 

Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1982. 261-71. 
Williams, Gareth, D. Banished Voices. Readings in Ovid's Exile Poetry. Cambridge: 

Cambridge UP, 1994. 



Guy Raffa 

Dante's Poetics of Exile 

"We will not complain of Dante's miseries: had all gone right with him as he wished 
it, he might have been Prior, Podesta, or whatsoever they call it, of Florence, well 
accepted among neighbours, — and the world had wanted one of the most notable 
words ever spoken or sung. Florence would have had another prosperous Lord 
Mayor; and the ten dumb centuries continued voiceless, and the ten other listening 
centuries (for there will be ten of them and more) had no Divina Commedia to 
. hear!" 

(Carlyle 195) 

Molto mi meraviglio, o messer Cante, 
podesta venerando e cavaliero, 
non v'abbia Italia ancor piantato intiero 
in marmo di Carrara e dritto stante 

sur una piazza, ove al bel ceffo austero 
vostro passeggi il popolo d'avante, 
o primo, o solo ispirator di Dante, 
quando ladro il dannaste e barattiero [...] 
(Carducci, Giambi ed epodi 194) 

Dante's experience of exile seven centuries ago and its representation in his 
works — principally the Commedia — place him at the center of a long, 
continuing tradition. It is one of history's fortuitous ironies that Dante's first- 
hand experience of the hardships of displacement and wandering should provide 
the very foundation for a literary home so hospitable and nourishing to later 
writers, artists, and intellectuals. The medieval Italian poet's representation of 
his exile looks back to biblical and classical precursors — including Adam, 
Moses, Ulysses, Aeneas, Jesus, Ovid, and Boethius — and forward to such 
"modem" avatars of expatriation and estrangement as Ugo Foscolo, Alexander 
Pushkin, Victor Hugo, Karl Marx, James Joyce, Osip Mandelstam, and Primo 
Levi, among many others. With this powerful influence, it is perhaps fitting that 
a recent collection of essays, many of which touch on exile in political, cultural, 
or literary terms, recognizes the continuing centrality of Dante's exilic narrative 
not only through important textual references but by literally wrapping itself in a 
dust-jacket illustration of the exiled Florentine poet.' 



' "Dante in Exile," by Domenico Peterlin (c. 1865), adorns Edward W. Said's Reflections 
on Exile and Other Essays. Dante's poem, for Said, illustrates how "Artists in exile are 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



74 GuyRaffa 

Dante was certainly well acquainted with the politics of exile from his years 
in Florence, not least through his acquaintance with older Florentines who had 
returned from exile (notably Brunetto Latini) and through his own vexed role in 
the banishment — ultimately fatal — of his best friend, Guido Cavalcanti, in the 
summer of 1300. But it was only through his personal experience of exile, 
rendered definitive in the Florentine decree of March 10, 1302, that Dante could 
frilly grasp the literal, material dimension of a condition that, like the allegory of 
poets, was frequently adorned with only a symbolic, moral patina of meaning.^ 
The brutal reality of permanent exile from Florence shocked Dante into 
reevaluating his place in the world and turning his loss into the realization of a 
singular artistic achievement. As both a socio-historical reality and a literary- 
mythological theme, exile provided a conceptual basis for Dante's use of figural 
hermeneutics and the allegory of theologians in the Commedia: individuals 
fulfilling in the poem their "prefigured" historical lives, and, more broadly, 
allegorical levels of meaning building on, not replacing, literal signification of 
the text. Dante's exile, thus conceived, is more metonymic than metaphoric, a 
marker of continuity with, not substitution for, the past, a catalyst for revision 
rather than repudiation. 

Herein lies what is arguably Dante's most original contribution and a source 
of his diffuse and lasting appeal: unlike the convert, one who, in the dominant 
Pauline-Augustinian model, must slay the old life to establish the new, Dante the 
exile crosses textual and theological boundaries to both reclaim and critique his 
past. Conflicted by the seemingly irreconcilable emotions of righteous anger and 
nostalgic affection arising from banishment, Dante learns to embrace and 
promote a worldview as difficult as it is essential to imagine. He comes to 
interpret the world — reflected in his poetic universe — as a paradoxical site of 
"both-and" possibilities rather than the "either-or" dichotomies dictated by 
biblical and medieval conversion narratives. Rejecting both the absolutism of 
facile oppositional thought and the relativism of simplistic undifferentiation, 
Dante's poetics of exile coincides with a way of life that requires hard, 
responsible choices at every juncture. Exile is at best an uncomfortable 
experience, and the lessons it teaches are thus similarly uncomfortable if worthy 
ones. Indeed, in the case of the Commedia, the messy complications, in which 
dialectical paradoxes trump reductive oppositions and false equivalencies, are 
what make the poem such a meaningftil and pleasurable challenge to read, study, 
and teach. 

The conversion narrative, as famously championed by Augustine, 



decidedly unpleasant, and their stubbornness insinuates itself into even their exalted 
works [...]. Who but an exile like Dante, banished from Florence, would use eternity as a 
place for settling old scores?" (182). 

^ Stam discusses Dante's own exile (60-85) within a larger discussion of exile in 
medieval and Renaissance Italy. 



Dante 's Poetics of Exile 75 

encourages a violent rejection of one's past life to enable a new, better life to 
take hold: "[...] where I had offered my sacrifice, slaying my old man, and 
beginning the purpose of my newness in life, putting my hope in you — there 
did you begin to grow sweet to me, and to put gladness in my heart" 
{Confessions 9 A)? Predicated on the erasure of one's past ("slaying my old 
man") as a condition for "newness in life," conversion is an act of substitution or 
replacement, with a clean, if constructed, break between "before" and "after." 
As such, it accords rhetorically with the notion of metaphor, as conceived by 
Roman Jakobson and elucidated by David Lodge (73-81). Exile, on the other 
hand, more often than not engenders a metonymic situation insofar as metonymy 
— again following Jakobson and Lodge — describes a relationship (for 
instance, between past and present) in terms of contiguity. The exile, in other 
words, commonly adopts a perspective, at times blatantly contradictory, that 
must somehow encompass both past and present in terms of time, place, and 
people. The past may be lost but is not forgotten — often in the hope that it will 
be regained — while the present may appear provisional and fluid. Both 
narratives, conversion and exile, underpin the narrative structure of the 
Commedia and thus authorize distinct, if complementary, interpretive 
approaches to the poem and its relation to other texts as well as to the world of 
its author and that of its readers.'' 

From the conversion narrative, based on the metaphoric substitution of a 
better present and ftiture for a deleterious past, arises an oppositional 
hermeneutics for reading literary texts as well as the story of one's life. 
Consistent with the unbridgeable eschatological gap separating the damned from 
the blessed, this approach, applied to the Commedia, typically identifies an in 
bono figure from purgatory or paradise that "corrects" its in malo counterpart in 
hell. Based on metonymic contiguity between past and present, a hermeneutics 
of exile seeks rather to account for the dialectical dimension of Dante's poetic 
and theological imagination. Dialectic, from among its many incarnations, is 
here understood as the "dialectic of paradox" that is adumbrated in Plato's 
Parmenides, developed by Hegel and Kierkegaard, and occasionally used in 
contemporary literary studies, Dante criticism in particular. Stephen N. Dunning 
defines this "dialectic of paradox" as a transformational dialectic that 
"simultaneously affirms the theoretical dialectic of contradiction and the 
transactional dialectic of reciprocity." While "theoretical" thinkers thrive on 
oppositions and "transactional" ones aim at reconciliation, the 



■* "[...] ubi sacrificaveram mactans vetustatem meam, et inchoata meditatione 

renovationis meae, sperans in te, ibi mihi dulcescere coeperas et dederas laetitiam in 

corde meo." 

■* Freccero's work in particular demonstrates significant benefits, but also limitations, to 

viewing Dante's poetry primarily through the lens of this Pauline-Augustinian conversion 

perspective. 



76 GuyRaffa 

"transformational" type imagines the paradoxical embrace of both dialectical 
relationships at once. "The dialectic of transformation," according to Dunning, 
"is paradoxical through and through. It wants to have things both ways at once" 
(7). Dante certainly warrants inclusion among the broad range of influential 
practitioners of this transformational dialect of paradox discussed in Dunning' s 
study. 

Dante's poetics of exile, consistent with this dialectic of paradox, draws on 
and combines the two interpretive procedures perhaps most followed in Dante 
criticism: the oppositional in malo I in bono model of conversion described 
above, and a modified version of Erich Auerbach's influential articulation of 
figural reading as "a connection between two events or persons, the first of 
which signifies not only itself but also the second, while the second 
encompasses or flilfills the first" (53). Although Auerbach limits his approach to 
historical figures — for instance, Cato, Virgil, and Beatrice — who are fulfilled 
sub specie aeternitatis as characters in the poem, his interpretive operation can 
yield sound results when used to gloss characters and events within the poem's 
own "historical" unfolding. Strategic use of figural fulfillment within the poem 
recognizes continuity as well as opposition between certain damned and saved 
souls in Dante's afterworlds. This hermeneutics is ultimately truer to the poet's 
robust vision precisely because it is paradoxical. Many important figures and 
episodes across the textual and theological divisions of the three cantiche could 
be discussed as manifestations of this dialectical hermeneutics: one could 
plausibly argue for both opposition and continuity between Francesca from the 
infernal circle of lust and Cunizza in the sphere of Venus; between the heretic 
Farinata and, based on proud devotion to one's native city, the troubadour 
Sordello in Purgatory; between the suicide Pier della Vigna and his celestial 
counterpart Romeo, both falsely accused servants of their royal masters; 
between the rhetorically gifted Ulysses and the overly ambitious emperor 
Justinian, who appears in Mercury, and certainly between Ulysses and Adam, 
the prototypical human rebel. It should come as no surprise that one of the most 
significant and illuminating cases to explore in light of Dante's paradoxical 
hermeneutics of exile is the theme of exile itself' 

Although Dante raises the issue of his unmerited exile from Florence 
indirectly in the Convivio, this oblique context provocatively joins the medieval 
trailblazers for Dante's understanding of exile and conversion: Boethius and 



^ In Divine Dialectic, I discuss several of these episodes and characters through the 
interpretive lens of this dialectic of paradox, which I develop there primarily in relation to 
medieval incarnational theology. Mazzotta articulates the "both-and" function of Dante's 
exile: it provides "a necessary perspective from which to speak to the world and from 
which he can challenge its expectations and assumptions" even as this perspective is 
"what further alienates him from the world he has already lost" {Dante 's Vision 179). 



Dante 's Poetics of Exile 11 

Augustine.^ Listing the two most obvious cases in which it is appropriate to 
speak of oneself, Dante first cites a situation in which great infamy or harm 
could come from not defending oneself Here Boethius serves as Dante's model 
for one compelled to speak in the first person to prevent "la perpetuale infamia 
del suo essilio, mostrando quello essere ingiusto, poi che altro escusatore non si 
levava" (1.2.13). The second common reason for speaking in the first person is 
didactic, the use of one's personal experience as an example for others to follow. 
Augustine's account, in the Confessions, of his progression toward a virtuous 
life here serves as Dante's illustration {Conv. 1.2.14). The first-person narrator 
of the Convivio thus affirms that his procedure satisfies the conditions allowing 
both Boethius and Augustine to speak of themselves. He fears that the amorous 
language of his poems might give rise to disrepute if such passion were not 
shown to be an allegorical cover for the true, virtuous meaning of his verses 
(1.2.16-17). 

But the weight that Dante assigns to Boethius and Augustine is equal in 
appearance only. By characterizing Boethius's fall from favor — his 
imprisonment resulting from the false accusations of envious political enemies 
— specifically as exile, Dante creates an affinity between his own experience 
and that of Boethius that goes far beyond a legitimate reason to speak of oneself. 
Dante's strong identification with Boethius, as Augustine's presence fades 
away, is reinforced in the very next chapter. There, Dante provides what is 
arguably the most elaborate and emotional representation, outside the 
Commedia, of his banishment from Florence: 

Ahi, piaciuto fosse al dispensatore de I'universo che la cagione de la mia scusa mai non 
fosse stata! ch6 n6 altri contra me avria fallato, n6 io sofferto avria pena ingiustamente, 
pena, dico, d'essilio e di povertate. Poi che fti piacere de li cittadini de la bellissima e 
famosissima figlia di Roma, Fiorenza, di gittarmi fuori del suo dolce seno — nel quale 
nato e nutrito fui in fino al colmo de la vita mia, e nel quale, con buona pace di quella, 
desidero con tutto Io cuore di riposare I'animo stancato e terminare lo tempo che m't 
dato — , per le parti quasi tutte a le quali questa lingua si stende, peregrino, quasi 
mendicando, sono andato, mostrando contra mia voglia la piaga de la fortuna, che suole 
ingiustamente al piagato molte volte essere imputata. 

(Conv. 1.3.3-4) 

With the injustice of Boethius's exile from the previous chapter still fresh in the 
reader's mind, Dante dramatizes his own painfiil experience "d'essilio e di 
povertate" as both unjust and cruel. A disowned child reduced to a life of 
wandering and begging, the exile suffers the fiirther indignity of appearing even 
more wretched to those who are familiar with his good reputation (1.3.5). 

Dante's privileging of the exile Boethius over the convert Augustine at this 



^ Ovid's poetry, as Smarr shows, is an important classical influence on Dante's 
representation of his exile. 



78 GuyRaffa 

key moment in the Convivio anticipates their disproportionate representational 
significance in the Commedia, the Paradiso in particular. While Augustine 
strikingly receives only cursory mention as one of the churchmen — third after 
Francis and Benedict — seated below John the Baptist in the celestial rose {Par. 
32.35), Boethius enjoys more textual attention than all the other wise spirits in 
his group, including Solomon, when they are introduced by Thomas Aquinas in 
the sphere of the Sun {Par. 10.97-138). There are surely multiple reasons for 
Dante's apparent slighting of Augustine in the Commedia, not least the 
theologian's hostility toward classical Rome and thus his incompatibility with 
Dante's admiration for Virgil.^ Another important reason may be the poet's 
displacement of an oppositional hermeneutics of conversion in favor of a 
dialectical hermeneutics of exile. As in the Convivio, exile is prominent in 
Dante's portrayal of Boethius, this time in the three tercets celebrating his 
presence in Thomas' circle of wise spirits: 

Or se tu I'occhio de la mente Irani 
di luce in luce dietro a le mie lode, 
gii de I'ottava con sete rimani. 

Per vedere ogne ben dentro vi gode 
Tanima santa che '1 mondo fallace 
fa manifesto a chi di lei ben ode. 

Lo corpo ond' ella fii cacciata giace 
giuso in Cieldauro; ed essa da martiro 
e da essilio venne a questa pace. 

{Par. 10.121-29) 

If "essilio" in the Convivio, both Boethius's and Dante's, was limited to its 
political context, here in the Paradiso, which represents the realm of 
humankind's "true home" for eternity, exile necessarily wears layers of meaning 
in addition to that of physical banishment from one's native city or civic 
position. In this instance, Boethius's exile is closely paired with his execution, 
redefined here as his martyrdom ("da martiro / e da essilio"). He has thus come 
to the peace of eternal blessedness in heaven from the experience of political 
exile and persecution within the larger exilic experience of his entire life-time on 
earth.^ The unjust political exile suffered by Boethius and Dante undoubtedly 



' Hawkins shows how Dante "corrects" Augustine's anti-imperial bias by having Virgil 
articulate the theologian's ideas in the central cantos of the Purgatorio, thus effecting a 
"harmonization of Augustine and Vergil" (479). 

* Alan of Lille similarly describes Christ as a "soldier" who "triumphs in heaven" but 
"campaigns on earth an exile" ["quo rege triumphat / In celo miles, in terris militat exul"] 
(5.519-20). Alan further remarks that he "suffered every pain of exile" to "bring back the 
miserable from exile" ["exulis omne / Passus ut exilio miseros subduceret exul"] (5.525- 
26). 



Dante 's Poetics of Exile 79 

inspired them to reflect on this much broader conception of exile at the same 
time that it served as the catalyst for their most inspired and influential works, 
the Consolation of Philosophy and the Commedia. 

The metaphoric dimension of exile, specifically its relation to martyrdom, is 
reinforced by Dante's doubling of Boethius with Cacciaguida, the poet's great- 
great-grandfather. Boethius's trajectory from earthly suffering to heavenly peace 
— "da martiro / e da essilio venne a questa pace" {Par. 10.128-29) — is 
repeated nearly verbatim in Cacciaguida's depiction of his death and salvation: 
"venni dal martiro a questa pace" (15.148). Dante's pairing of Boethius and 
Cacciaguida, reinforced by a series of verbal parallels and repetitions,' serves as 
commentary on his own situation insofar as the poet himself identifies closely 
both with the political intellectual who was unjustly persecuted and with his 
"martyred" warrior ancestor. If Boethius is Dante's exilic double, Cacciaguida is 
the blood relative — the poet's "radice" (15.89) — charged with the 
monumental task of glossing his descendant's future exile as a catalyst for both 
hardship and reward, martyrdom and mission. Only from the accumulation of 
ominous signs in the prophecies pronounced by shades in hell and purgatory is 
Dante prepared for Cacciaguida's vivid and unsparing characterization of 
impending adversity: 

Tu lascerai ogne cosa diletta 
piu caramente; e questo b quelle strale 
che I'arco de lo essilio pria saetta. 

Tu proverai si come sa di sale 
lo pane altrui, e come t duro calle 
lo scendere e '1 salir per 1 'altrui scale. 

{Par. 17.55-60) 

Consistent with his lament in the Convivio for having to endure the unjust 
punishment "d'essilio e di povertate" (1.3.3), Dante here paints a portrait of 
himself as a pitiful victim. The culprits in this case are Boniface VIII — one 
who plots "1^ dove Cristo tutto df si merca" (17.50-51) — and the black guelphs 
(assisted by Charles of Valois, sent by Boniface), though Dante and his fellow 
exiles will be blamed for their own misfortune (17.52-53). Even worse, the 
ineptitude and unfaithftilness of Dante's comrades in exile, "la compagnia 
malvagia e scempia," will uhimately compel the exiled poet to become a party 
unto himself (17.61-69), an "exile among the exiled" (Paolucci 122). 

However, a positive side to the story of Dante's exile begins to take shape 



^ They are each an "anima santa" (10.125; 17.101); Boethius's "vi gode" (10.124) is 
matched by Cacciaguida's "si godeva" (18.1); Boethius reveals the world to be a "mondo 
fallace" (10.125), while Cacciaguida was freed from this same "mondo fallace" (15.146). 
I elsewhere discuss this doubling as a sign of Dante's union of contemplation and action 
{Divine Dialectic 178-86). 



80 GuyRaffa 

even against this bleak backdrop. Following the infernal dictum that "Qui vive 
la pieta quand' b ben morta" (Inf. 20.28), Dante can at least find comfort in the 
knowledge that his adversaries' deeds will not go unpunished even on earth: 
Boniface and his black guelph supporters, notably Corso Donati, will suffer their 
own setbacks in the early years of Dante's exile (Par. 17.53-54; 97-99), and the 
exiled white guelphs who turned against Dante will experience a string of 
defeats between 1302 and 1306 (17.65-66). In a more charitable vein, 
Cacciaguida confirms for Dante that his poetic voice, when it recounts the 
extraordinary journey of the Commedia that in so many ways is the product of 
the poet's exile, will itself bring "vital nodrimento" to its readers and listeners 
down through the ages (17.130-33). Through the experience and representation 
of his exile, Dante thus emerges as both victim and victor, one whose unjust 
suffering and hardship will provide the motivation and material not only for self- 
vindication but, most important of all, for realizing a unique ethical and aesthetic 
achievement. '° 

Critical reactions to Dante's exile understandably tend to underscore the 
hardship it entailed and to downplay its creative and hermeneutic potential. 
Boccaccio, at one extreme, appears almost to blame Dante for his own 
misfortune when he criticizes his illustrious precursor for pursuing "la 
lusinghevole gloria de' publici ofici" {Trattatello par. 60). Exile is therefore the 
price Dante pays for meddling in politics and not devoting full attention to 
philosophical contemplation. Boccaccio certainly posits no intrinsic connection 
between Dante's cruel banishment and his subsequent literary success. If 
anything, he considers Dante's exile an impediment to, rather than the catalyst 
for, his achievement. At the other end of the spectrum are the positions of 
Giosue Carducci and Thomas Carlyle cited as the epigraphs to this essay. Both 
writers — Carlyle in a lecture, Carducci in a poem — give thanks that Dante 
suffered the misfortune of banishment from Florence. Carducci goes so far as to 
praise the public official who sentenced Dante to exile. In 1301 Cante de' 
Gabrielli came to Florence from Gubbio at the time of the coup d'etat by the 
black guelphs, who were supported in their efforts by Charles of Valois's 
"peacemaking" mission on behalf of Pope Boniface VIII. Elected to the post of 
podestd by the newly installed Florentine priors, Cante, according to the 
chronicler Dino Compagni, "riparo a molti mali e a molte accuse fatte, e molte 
ne consenti" (Cronaca 2.19). Cante also leveled a few charges of his own, 
notably those contained in the two declarations that effectively prevented Dante 
— perhaps still en route from his unsuccessftil diplomatic mission to Rome — 
from ever returning to Florence. The first sentence, dated January 27, 1302, 



'° Couching Dante's victimization in terms of foundation sacrifice, Quinones remarks 
that "the very same qualities that made Dante so visible and thus vulnerable to being 
made the scapegoat, are the very qualities of courageous and bold speech, of brave 
conviction, that made him triumph over his enemies" (129). 



Dante 's Poetics of Exile 8 1 

charged Dante, as one of several named white guelph leaders, with a host of 
crimes ("baractarias, lucra illicita, iniquas extorsiones in pecunia vel in rebus") 
allegedly committed during his priorship in the spring of 1300, and gave him 
three days to defend himself in person and pay an exorbitant fine of five- 
hundred florins (Piattoli 105). The penalty in this document includes banishment 
from Florence for a period of two years. Within two months (March 10, 1302) 
Cante issued a second, definitive sentence that condemned Dante (with fourteen 
others) to an incendiary death should he be caught in Florentine territory ("ingne 
[sic] comburatur sic quod moriatur" Piattoli 109) because he failed to answer the 
initial charges. 

Despite the suffering caused by these unjust sentences, Carlyle 
provocatively insists, "We will not complain of Dante's miseries: had all gone 
right with him as he wished it, he might have been Prior, Podesta, or whatsoever 
they call it, of Florence, well accepted among neighbours, — and the world had 
wanted one of the most notable words ever spoken or sung" (195). If not for 
Dante's experience of exile, he continues, "Florence would have had another 
prosperous Lord Mayor; and the ten dumb centuries continued voiceless, and the 
ten other listening centuries (for there will be ten of them and more) had no 
Divina Commedia to hear!" (195). Pitiless as they may sound, these words attest 
to a likely if unpleasant truth: no exile, no Commedia, certainly not as we know 
it in terms of themes, characters, and the allegorical relationship, historically 
grounded, between the world and the afterlife. Carlyle aptly views Dante's 
political banishment as his essential experience, the occasion for both 
martyrdom and mission: "A nobler destiny was appointed for this Dante; and he, 
struggling like a man led towards death and crucifixion, could not help ftilfilling 
it" (195). 

Even more audacious is Carducci's poem, "A messer Cante Gabrielli da 
Gubbio" {Giambi ed epodi 194-95). These verses, both sarcastic and serious, 
honor the man who exiled Dante: he becomes the chief stimulus ("O primo, o 
solo ispirator") for the artistic expression of "gloria e vendetta" that is the 
Commedia. By exiling Dante on trumped-up charges ("Quando ladro il dannaste 
e barattiero"), Cante de' Gabrielli confributed so much to Italy's cultural 
patrimony that his likeness, in the form of a marble statue, should rightly stand 
tall in an Italian piazza. 

Molto mi meraviglio, o messer Cante, 
Podesti venerando e cavaliero, 
Non v'abbia Italia ancor piantato intiero 
In marmo di Carrara e dritto stante 

Sur una piazza, ove al be! ceffo austero 

Vostro passeggi il popolo d'avante, 

O primo, o solo ispirator di Dante, 

Quando ladro il dannaste e barattiero [. . . ] {Giambi ed epodi 1 94) 



82 GuyRaffa 

Carducci declares even more clearly and eloquently in prose his conviction that 
Dante's banishment from Florence, as the necessary condition for the 
Commedia, deserves not reproach but universal gratitude: "Quanto mai devono 
ritalia e I'arte e il mondo a quell'esilio, che d'un priore fiorentino, d'un poeta 
elegiaco, d'un trattatista scolastico, fece I'uomo fatale [...]" (Dello svolgimento 
delta letteratura nazionale 11). With the hindsight of posterity, then, the profits 
of Dante's exile from Florence far exceed the cost of the difficulties he endured. 
By the time he rejected the conditions of return required by the Florentine 
amnesty (1315), the poet himself may have begun to appreciate this possibility. 
Dante may have been forced to adapt to the taste of unfamiliar bread, ("come sa 
di sale / lo pane altrui" Par. 17.58-59), but at least by this point in his exile such 
bread was not lacking: "Quippe nee panis deficiet" (Epistole XII, 9). 

Dante's poetics of exile, and its accompanying dialectic of hardship and 
achievement, punishment and reward, unfolds in the Commedia not only 
through the protagonist's prophesied exile but also through representations of 
exile, both literal and metaphoric, attached to other characters in the poem. In 
the broadest sense, the basic narrative premise of the Commedia, the state of 
souls after death, follows biblical and classical ideas of mortal life as a period of 
exile that ends only with the soul's liberation from its corporeal prison and 
return to its divine maker. Dante uses the story of Exodus, with its pattern of 
liberation from bondage and movement toward the promised land, as the 
archetypal figure for this spiritual homecoming (Singleton); by extension. 
Exodus provides the figural basis for the poet's transformation of his experience 
of exile into the wayfarer's homeward journey through the realms of the afterlife 
(Mazzotta, Poet of the Desert 37-38 and passim). Whether or not Dante himself 
wrote the Letter to Cangrande della Scala, the Exodus paradigm (Psalm 114 
[113 in the Vulgate]) used by its author to exemplify the Commedia' s 
theological allegory indeed dramatizes the spiritual liberation of saved souls in 
the poem itself Newly freed souls appropriately sing this Psalm, beginning "In 
exitu Israel de Aegypto," as they arrive on the shores of Purgatory (Purg. 2.46- 
48), where they are met by Cato, one whose commitment to liberty was so 
complete that he willingly gave his life for it (Purg. \. 13-15). Spiritually seeking 
this liberty himself ("liberty va cercando" Purg. 1.71), the wayfarer completes 
the arduous journey up the mountain of Purgatory that makes one "puro e 
disposto a salire a le stelle" (Purg. 33.145). 

This idea of earthly life as spiritual exile reappears among the stars 
themselves, where Dante and Beatrice join the blessed in viewing the ascension 
of Christ and Mary to the Empyrean. Inspired by Psalm 137 (136 in the 
Vulgate), in which God's people weep in captivity "upon the rivers of Babylon" 
as they remember their true home in Sion (1-3), Dante expands the exilic 
dimension of this loss — "lo essilio / di Babill6n" (Par. 23.134-35) — to 
encompass the mortal lives of those who "return" home to God in Paradise. 
Dante remarks that the souls of the blessed now enjoy the treasure they earned 



Dante 's Poetics of Exile 83 

with their faithful lives. This "Babylonian exile" marks one of four instances in 
which the word essilio appears in rhyme position in the Commedia. Essilio here 
rhymes with Filio (Christ) and concilio. While the three other instances also 
rhyme essilio with concilio, the remaining rhyme in each case is not Filio but 
Virgilio. By choosing to rhyme exile three times with Virgil and the only other 
time with Christ, Dante poetically reinforces his overall portrayal of the Roman 
writer as a figure with whom he strongly identifies even as he consigns him to 
the first circle of hell for not knowing this Filio V Beloved despite his relegation 
to the same "ettemo essilio" of damnation {Purg. 21.18) as that of the hypocrite 
Caiaphas and the other infernal shades {Inf. 23.126), Virgil fittingly emerges as 
one of the most poignant examples of Dante's dialectical hermeneutics of exile. 

For the damned, then, earthly exile continues into the afterlife, where it 
becomes eternal. Nor are the saved souls exempt from a continuation of their 
earthly exile after death. For them, however, such prolonged banishment is 
necessarily provisional. Thus Adam's lengthy period of exile — "tanto essilio" 
{Par. 26.116) — includes both his long mortal life (930 years) following 
banishment from Eden (after less than seven hours) and his sojourn of 4,302 
years in Limbo before being liberated and brought "home" to heaven by Christ 
{Par. 26.118-23). Statius, representative of the purgatorial spirits, likewise 
understands his time on the purifying terraces of Purgatory as a finite if harsh 
extension of his mortal exile. After over nine hundred years on two terraces, he 
movingly insists that he would delay his release from exile, "uscir di bando," for 
yet another year to have had the privilege of living at the same time as the 
eternally exiled Virgil {Purg. 21.100-02), his poetic and spiritual inspiration. 
Dante thus envisions a true "homecoming" from exile, both earthly and in the 
afterlife, only before God in the Empyrean heaven. Qualifying the Platonic idea 
that the souls literally return to their stars (they "appear" in the spheres only for 
the wayfarer's edification: Par. 4.22-39), Dante represents and enacts a return 



" Based on these four rhyme clusters, Spillenger argues that Dante aims to posit his own 
entrance into the beato concilio in opposition to Virgil's condemnation to etterno essilio 
(57). For those familiar with Dante's use of proportional design in the Commedia, as 
demonstrated in studies by Thomas Hart, it may come as no surprise that these four 
clusters of "exile" rhymes are spaced in the poem so as to produce precise ratios. I have 
identified the following two examples, which together include all four rhyme clusters: A) 
the ratio between the distance (number of verses) from the beginning to the end of the 
Inferno and the distance from the beginning to the first essilio rhyme {Inf. 23.126) equals 
the ratio between the distance from the first essilio rhyme to the third essilio rhyme {Par. 
23.134) and the distance from the first essilio rhyme to the end of the Purgatorio: 4720 / 
3109 = 9666 / 6366 = 1.518; B) the ratio between the distance from the beginning to the 
end of the poem and the distance from the beginning to the fourth exile rhyme {Par. 
26.1 16) equals the ratio between the distance from the second exile rhyme {Purg. 21.18) 
to the fourth exile rhyme and the distance from the second exile rhyme to the third exile 
rhyme {Par. 23.134): 14233 / 13189 = 5599 / 5185 = 1.079. 



84 GuyRaffa 

from exile as a return to origins. 

These returns, from exile and to origins, are embedded in Dante's own 
"trial" homecoming, his journey though the realms of the afterlife. After 
encountering various sources and effects of eternal exile in hell, the wayfarer 
participates in the process of purgatorial renewal that culminates in the return to 
primal purity and wholeness in Eden. In this second realm, unique for its 
temporal dimension, the penitents and the wayfarer travel back in time to the 
original, prelapsarian site of humankind. Multiple originary moments occur 
along the way, including Dante's encounter with his poetic "father," Guido 
Guinizzelli (Purg. 26.91-99), and his reunion with Beatrice in the earthly 
paradise. The frequency of such moments increases during Dante's celestial 
"return" voyage to God in the Empyrean. Among the "origins" encoimtered in 
paradise are the first father (Adam), the first pope (Peter, as the first bishop of 
Rome), the founder of Western monasticism (Benedict), and Dante's ancesfral 
"root" (Cacciaguida). In a nod to the Platonic myth of return, the wayfarer enters 
the Fixed Stars precisely in the constellation of his birth (Gemini). The 
abundance of maternal and infantile images in the final cantos of the poem — 
from an "enwombing" neologism (21.84) and Beatrice's personal mothering 
(22.1-15; 23.1-15) to Mary's universal mothering (23.121-26) and a regression 
to nursing (30.82-87) — reinforces this idea of the wayfarer's journey to his 
creator as a journey back in time. This spiritual homecoming, if only as an 
imagined trial run, must compensate for the physical, earthly return from exile 
that Dante never enjoyed. 

For some, exile is a temporary setback: a trying ordeal, to be sure, but a 
period of displacement, whether imposed by oneself or by others, that is 
contained and may therefore become a point of reference for later adventures in 
the life of one who has returned. For others, as in Dante's case, no return is 
possible; the term of exile ends only with the end of life itself Worse still, the 
exile seldom achieves in death, even if only in a coffin, what was denied in life, 
a physical return home. The eeirth's surface is assuredly littered with the mortal 
remains of those whose expatriation is for all time. Here Dante's case is as 
complex and instructive as was his experience of exile, and its representation in 
his poetry, during the final two decades of his life. Following the poet's illness 
and death during a diplomatic mission to Venice and his burial in Ravenna in 
1321, the Florentines at times showed as much tenacity in bringing the dead poet 
back to his home city as some of their ancestors did in banishing him from 
Florence in the first place. 

Florence periodically laid claim to Dante's remains from the end of the 
fourteenth century to 1864, the year of their final formal request. His bones were 
removed from their tomb at least twice during this time. In the early sixteenth 
century Pope Leo X, the Florentine Giovanni de' Medici, granted permission to 
transfer Dante's remains from Ravenna, then under papal jurisdiction, to 
Florence. But by the time the pope's emissaries arrived in Ravenna, the 



Dante 's Poetics of Exile 85 

Franciscan custodians of the mausoleum had removed and hidden Dante's 
remains to prevent the "repatriation" from taking place. Pressure applied on 
behalf of Leo X and the next Medici pope, Clement VII, was unsuccessful in 
revealing the location of Dante's remains. Once the threat had passed, the poet's 
bones were placed back in the tomb, where they presumably stayed put for the 
next century and a half In 1677, fearing that city plans to rebuild the church 
would damage Dante's tomb, the Franciscans once again took matters into their 
own hands. This time Dante's remains were placed in a coffin that was then 
moved to a chapel and covered with a brick wall. This additional exile continued 
for nearly two centuries; the bones were rediscovered, scientifically examined, 
and returned to their original location in 1865 during the sexcentenary 
commemoration of the poet's birth. Ravenna cleverly exploited the atmosphere 
of Italian unification to claim that, with the newly unified Italy supplanting 
warring city-states, Dante's exile had in fact come to an end (Bemrose 218-20). 

But this was not the end of Dante's post-mortem exile. The case of the 
poet's earthly displacement remains open even today. Like Farinata, the exiled 
Ghibelline heretic tormented in hell by Florence's resolve to punish him and his 
family even after death {Inf. 10.73-84), Dante could legitimately bemoan his 
perpetual banishment from a final resting place. When the poet's bones were 
removed and hidden in 1677, some dust was evidently left behind in the original 
tomb. This dust was collected and divided into six sacks by the sculptor Enrico 
Pazzi in 1865, when Dante's bones were returned to the sarcophagus, but only 
two sacks have been accounted for thus far: one was found in 1987 in a 
medallion previously located in the ceiling of the Italian Senate building; the 
other sack was discovered in 1999 in the National Library in Florence 
(Hotinksi). Four sacks of Dante's ashes are sfill missing. This unsolved mystery 
may ultimately be viewed as a fitting tribute to the poet for whom exile was 
certainly a devastating experience but also an interpretive art for reading texts 
and the worlds they describe or imagine. As a constructive alternative to settling 
for reductive, opportunistic answers, the more challenging approach of critique, 
revision, and reform promoted by Dante's poetics of exile is in fact nothing less 
than revolutionary. 

The University of Texas at Austin 



86 GuyRaffa 

Works Cited 

Alan of Lille. Anticlaudianus . Ed. R. Bossuat. Paris: J. Vrin, 1955. 

. Anticlaudianus, or the Good and Perfect Man. Trans. James J. Sheridan. Toronto: 

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1973. 
Alighieri, Dante. Convivio. Ed. Cesare Vasoli and Domenico De Robertis. Opere 

minori. Tome 1, part 2. Milano: Ricciardi, 1988. 

. La divina commedia. Ed. Giorgio Petrocchi. Torino: Einaudi, 1975. 

. Epistole. Ed. Arsenio Frugoni and Giorgio Brugnoli. Opere minori. Tome 2. Milano: 

Ricciardi, 1979. 
Auerbach, Erich. "Figura." Trans. Ralph Manheim. Scenes from the Drama of European 

Literature: Six Essays. New York: Meridian, 1959. 1 1-76. 
Augustine. Confessions. Trans. W. Watts. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1979. 
Bemrose, Stephen. A New Life of Dante. Exeter: U of Exeter P, 2000. 
Boccaccio, Giovanni. Trattatello in laude di Dante. 2nd redaction. Ed. Pier Giorgio 

Ricci. Tutte le opere di Giovanni Boccaccio. Ed. Vittore Branca. Vol. 3. Verona: 

Mondadori, 1974.497-538. 10 vols. 1964-83. 
Carducci, Giosu^. Giambi ed epodi. Ed. Enzo Palmieri. Bologna: Zanichelli, 1960. 
. Dello svolgimento delta letteratura nazionale. Discorsi letterari e storici. Bologna: 

Zanichelli, 1957. 1-161. Vol. 7 of Edizione nazionale delle opere di Giosue 

Carducci. 30 vols. 1952-62. 
Carlyle, Thomas. "The Hero as Poet: Dante." Italian Poets and English Critics, 1755- 

1859: A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Beatrice Corrigan. Chicago: U of Chicago 

P, 1969. 188-207. 
Compagni, Dino. Cronaca delle cose occorrenti ne' tempi suoi. Cronisti del Trecento. 

Ed. Roberto Palmarocchi. Milano: Rizzoli, 1935. 23-150. 
Dunning, Stephen N. Dialectical Readings: Three Types of Interpretation. University 

Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1997. 
Freccero, John. Dante: The Poetics of Conversion. Ed. Rachel Jacoff. Cambridge: 

Harvard UP, 1986. 
Hart, Thomas Elwood. "Geometric Metaphor and Proportional Design in Dante's 

Commedia.'' The Divine Comedy and the Encyclopedia of Arts and Sciences. Ed. 

Giuseppe C. Di Scipio and Aldo Scaglione. Amsterdam: Benjamins, 1988. 95-146. 
Hawkins, Peter S. "Divide and Conquer: Augustine in the Divine Comedy.'' PMLA 

106.3 (1991): 471-82. 
Hotinksi, Robert. "Rescued from Purgatory." U.S. News & World Report. 2 Aug. 1999: 

56. 
Jakobsen, Roman, and Morris Halle. Fundamentals of Language. 2nd rev. ed. The 

Hague: Mouton, 1975. 
Lodge, David. The Modes of Modern Writing: Metaphor, Metonymy, and the Typology of 

Modern Literature. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1977. 
Mazzotta, Giuseppe. Dante, Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the "Divine 

Comedy." Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979. 

. Dante 's Vision and the Circle of Knowledge. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1993. 

Paolucci, Anne. "Exile Among Exiles: Dante's Party of One." Mosaic 8.3 (1975): 117- 

25. 



Dante 's Poetics of Exile 87 

Piattoli, Renato, ed. Codice diplomatico dantesco. Florence: Libreria Luigi Gonnelli &, 

Figli, 1950. 
Quinones, Ricardo J. Foundation Sacrifice in Dante's Commedia University Park: 

Pennsylvania State UP, 1994. 
Raffa, Guy P. Divine Dialectic: Dante 's Incarnational Poetry. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 

2000. 
Said, Edward W. Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000. 
Singleton, Charles S. "In Exitu Israel de Aegypto." Annual Report of the Dante Society of 

America n (1960): 1-24. 
Smarr, Janet Levarie. "Poets of Love and Exile." Dante and Ovid: Essays in 

Intertextuality. Ed. Madison U. Sowell. Binghampton: Medieval «& Renaissance 

Texts & Studies, 1991. 139-51. 
Spillenger, Paul W. "An Aspect of Vergil's Role in the Commedia." Romance Notes 24.1 

(1983): 55-58. 
Starn, Randolph. Contrary Commonwealth: The Theme of Exile in Medieval and 

Renaissance Italy. Berkeley: U of California P, 1982. 



Catherine M. Keen 

Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 



"Banditus reputatur rebellis reipublicae" ("Whoever is banished is viewed as a 
rebel of the republic"), Cino da Pistoia pronounced in a Consilium on a point of 
statute law on banishment.' These are the words of Cino the jurist, speaking 
with a confident authority based on his expertise — both as practitioner and as 
scholar — in matters of Roman law and of Italian municipal statute. The 
statement offers a clear-cut, categorical definition of how banishment, the 
medieval Italian Comune's equivalent to Roman exile, transforms the subject 
into a public enemy.^ The Consilium goes on to stress that responsibility for this 
change in status lies emphatically with the banished person: "factus est [...] 
diffidatus ut hostis." In speaking of exile in his professional capacity, Cino 
appears to be confident about categories and responsibilities. The citizen who 
becomes a banditus is classified as a rebel and enem.y to the respublica, and 
rigorously excluded from the social and legal order of his society of origin: in 
the terms of contemporary critical theory, the exiled citizen becomes an "Other," 
a disempowered and marginalized outsider whom the dominant society ignores, 
abuses or rejects.^ 

The law is preoccupied with labeling and definition, in its regulation of 
the relations between private individuals and the wider community surrounding 
them, and by its nature, it speaks on behalf of the collective. Cino's professional 
activity as a lawyer therefore ranged him habitually on the side of the public and 
the corporate. But besides his juristic acfivity, Cino was also a prolific poet, 
writing primarily on the theme of love, and hence concerned in verse with the 
uniqueness of individual experience and with the development of a personal 
voice.'* In his poetic activity, Cino frequently uses language and imagery that 
refer to banishment or exclusion, and which place himself, as the speaker saying 
"io" in the poems, in the position of an exile. As his legal writings show, Cino 



' Monti 148. Although the Consilium is not identified with a particular city, Monti 

surmises that it may refer to Perugia: Cino held legal office there for some time, and the 

codex contains a number of judgments by Umbrian lawyers. 

^ On statute law, see Starn 18-23, 61-84; Jones 370-82. 

^ A useful short description of this view of the Other is provided by Shankman under the 

heading 'alterity 2' (137); see also Smith, esp. 15-16, 45-48. 

■^ His pre-eminent achievements as a love poet were, famously, hailed by his 

contemporary Dante in De vulgari eloquentia II.ii.8. 

Annalid'Italianistica 20 (2002) 



90 Catherine Keen 

was well aware that banishment was a precarious and undesirable situation. 
Why, then, should he so often have represented himself in verse not only in a 
position of isolation fi-om surrounding society — this view after all was 
conventional in the medieval love tradition — but also have used concrete 
terminologies of exile and what we would call Otherness to do so? In the course 
of this essay, I wish to pursue this question in relation to a number of Cino's 
lyrics, asking how the language of exile or estrangement affects his authorial 
self-presentation to his audience. 

An obvious explanation for Cino's interest in exile could apparently be 
ftimished from his biography. His home Comune of Pistoia was dominated 
through much of his lifetime (c. 1270- 1336/37) by violent factional conflict, with 
banishment an often-used political weapon, and he appears personally to have 
experienced proscription from Pistoia as a young man.^ Can these biographical 
data explain why he was attracted to establishing a poetic persona as an exile? Is 
this self-portrait, in short, a simple matter of mimetic accommodation of well- 
known realities into his artistic activity, a reflection of external experience that 
his audience might reasonably expect to encounter? The answer, on many 
counts, has to be, "No." 

For one thing, Cino continued writing in exilic vein well into old age, 
when he occupied an honored position as a leading citizen of Pistoia, and 
enjoyed wide renown as both a poet and a lawyer. In 1330 or 1331, for instance, 
following a flattering invitation from Robert of Anjou, he visited Naples to offer 
a course of lectures on jurisprudence in the university. Although the visit proved 
unsatisfactory, the circumstances scarcely justify the self-consciously exilic 
opening to his satirical canzone on the experience, "Deh, quando rivedro M dolce 



' The debate over the circumstances of Cino's exile, with the related question of his 
faction membership, depends primarily on the evidence of the ambiguous references to 
Blacks and Whites in his verse. Barbi's case has been generally accepted as the most 
convincing: he presumes that Cino maintained his family's (the Sighibuldi or Sinibuldi) 
Black Guelf traditions, and suggests the probable date for his exile, which may have been 
voluntary, to be during Pistoia's domination by a White regime 1303-06 (see esp. 432- 
34). Others, including recently Graziosi (88-89), argue that Dante could not have felt the 
warm friendship shown to Cino in correspondence and in the De vulgari, precisely during 
the early 1300s, had he been a Black; they suggest that he absented himself from Pistoia 
in the early Trecento as a voluntary exile to avoid the turbulence in the city, violent 
enough to have endangered even White supporters. The issue is further complicated by 
the changes in Cino's attitude to the Holy Roman Empire between support for Henry VII 
and hostility to Ludwig of Bavaria, and by the history of his acceptance of positions and 
patronage from both pro-Papal and pro-Imperial sources. The scarcity of evidence makes 
any solution tentative, while Cino's rather promiscuous patronage career adds further 
complication, perhaps suggesting that his convictions were relatively weak; with due 
cautiousness, I lean towards accepting Barbi's theory for at least the early 1300s. On the 
Pistoian factions, see Herlihy 194-212. 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 9 1 

paese / di Toscana gentile?"^ With its suggestion that Cino feels uncertain of his 
ability to return to his native province, the incipit certainly does not reflect the 
realities of the situation; in fact, he returned to Tuscany rapidly, and is recorded 
in Perugia by 1332. Rather, it seems to allude to a well-known literary 
antecedent, Guido Cavalcanti's so-called exile ballata, with the incipit "Perch'i' 
no spero di tomar giammai, / ballatetta, in Toscana" — a lyric that itself, despite 
its apparent allusion to exile, has been shown to predate Cavalcanti's brief 
banishment to Sarzana/ As Calenda has argued, Cavalcanti's poem deals rather 
with a sense of psychological "esclusione" than with political "esilio": but, as he 
notes, the lyric's traditional labeling as "ballata dell'esilio" does in fact provide 
a useful indication of its emotional realities, as an articulation of Cavalcanti's 
wider tendency to pursue "una coerentissima poetica dell'esclusione" (47). 

As I have argued elsewhere ("Images of Exile"), Cino likewise seems to 
be attracted to a poetics of esclusione, using the figure of exile to maintain a 
consistent representation of his emotional biography that often bears little 
relation to external political realities. As we have already seen with the Naples 
satire, several lyrics where Cino strikes a pose of alienation can be shown from 
external or even internal evidence to bear no reference to civic exile, in the strict 
sense of personal banishment from Pistoia.^ On close investigation, the majority 
of his "exile" lyrics prove to deal with estrangement from love rather than from 
Pistoia, drawing on the topos of amor de lonh common in early Occitan verse 
and recurrent among the Sicilians and their successors in Italy.'" Besides this, 
Cino appears to be influenced by a well-established Tuscan tradition of political 
verse which borrowed heavily from the conventions of amorous discourse to 
dramatize the writers' problematic relationships with the female personification 
of a cittd or its gente}^ Often the two traditions melded together, loss of patria 
also comprising the loss of the human beloved who resided there. Cino 
frequently emphasizes that his exilic nostalgia in absences from Pistoia has an 
amorous as well as patriotic referent. 

However, if erotic concerns are often presented more prominently than 



^ Marti CLXV, 1-2. References to Cino's corpus and to the work of other stilnovisti are 

taken from this edition throughout. 

^ Marti XXXV, 1-2. See Calenda 46-47. 

^ Picone concurs that the label 'ballata dell'esilio' is 'da intendere appunto nella sua 

accezione non storica ma esistenziale' (733). 

' E.g. Gentili donne e donzelle amorose (LXXXIX), which describes the lady's rather 

than the lover's absence, and is set in Bologna (9) not Pistoia; also the poems on the 

death of Selvaggia, Oime. lasso, quelle trezze bionde (CXXIII) and lofu ' 'n sul'alto e 'n 

sul beato monte (CXXIV), which external tradition suggests took place when Cino was in 

Pistoia, but the lady's family in exile. For a longer analysis of the two latter, see Keen 33- 

36. 

'° See the numerous examples under the heading 'la lontananza' in Catenazzi 219-23. 

" See Picone, esp. 695-96, 707-09, 725-26. 



92 Catherine Keen 

political ones, Cino's deployment of the theme of amor de lonh also reveals a 
fascination with binary oppositions that does in turn seem influenced by political 
and social realities. His formation as a Comune citizen, and more specifically as 
a lawyer, leads him to divide the world according to likeness or Otherness so 
that, as this essay will show, he turns instinctively to concrete civic examples to 
illustrate his own senses of alienation even when he is describing exclusion from 
love rather than from the city. 

In the first section of the essay, I will offer brief discussion of how 
difference or Otherness was perceived in the world of the Italian Comuni, before 
going on in two further sections to investigate the representation of alterity in 
some of Cino's exilic verse. In section two, with the first set of Cinian examples, 
I will discuss a number of lyrics in which the poet explores conventional aspects 
of the Otherness of exile: faction rivalries, loss of citizenship, exclusion from 
access to a desired place and/or a desired woman. In these poems, the lyric "io" 
expresses anxiety about his situation in exile, but nonetheless generally retains a 
clear sense of personal identity in civic and in amorous matters and resists the 
depiction of himself as an Other that might seem obligatory given the legal 
realities articulated, for instance, in the Consilium cited above. In the final part 
of the article, I will turn to a group of works in which Cino's sense of identity is 
represented more ambiguously. In these poems, clear-cut oppositions are 
undermined, and identity takes on multiple, rather than simply binary, forms. To 
heal exile's wound to his civic persona, Cino envisages either assimilating 
himself to the Others of the world beyond home, or, counter-intuitively, using a 
disguise of Otherness in order to return there. Either solution forces him away 
from the straightforwardness of the ComunVs binary models of identity {civis or 
banditus, like or Other), into a world of experience where the familiar aspect of 
both public and private personae is undermined, and the self starts to transform 
into the Other. I will suggest, in conclusion, that Cino's legal fraining may 
influence his desire to taxonomize these experiences and to range himself within 
a larger collective, even when that collective is unfamiliar and undesirable by 
the normal standards of his society. 

1. Urbanity and Otherness 

The challenging impact of this blurring of sharp distinctions becomes clearer if 
we start by investigating how the medieval Italian citizen conceived of space 
and belonging. In reading Cino's verse, one becomes aware of a sense of sharp 
binary distinction that pervades his conception of space. He is obsessed with the 
topographical coordinates of place — the word "loco" appears repeatedly in his 
verse — and with the physical separations between one place and another 
imposed by manmade or natural barriers. His outlook is clearly shaped by the 
medieval Comune's physical, socio-political and cultural environment, and 
articulates what Jacques Le Goff has called "I'immaginario urbano" typical of 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 93 

medieval Italy. '^ Physically, the medieval cities that Cino knew were sharply 
demarcated from the surrounding countryside by defensive barriers of walls and 
gates, beyond which lay terrain and people rendered suspect by their visible 
distance from the city's urban sophistication.'^ This binary opposition between 
civilization and wilderness was not, to be sure, unique to the Italian Comuni: 
feudal Europe also drew sharp distinctions between the aristocratic elegance of 
the court, and the unpredictable, often dangerous, world beyond, where the 
questing hero of romance was put to the test.'" The sharpness of the visible 
division of the civilized and the non-civilized worlds was heightened by their 
spatial contiguity, with untamed nature pressing up close to the city's or castle's 
protective walls, and to the relatively limited stretches of cultivated contado 
beyond. Part of the danger of medieval Italian exile was that it cast the citizen 
out from the manmade safety of an urban environment or of the contado, forcing 
him into or across the hills and mountains that criss-crossed the central Italian 
landscape and which constituted clear-cut borderlines between one pocket of 
urban order and the next.'^ A sample of Cino's exile lyrics, for instance, fmds 
him expressing repugnance for the "aspri monti" and "duri sassi" of an exilic 
landscape, referring to the "monti" or "mont'Appennino" that separate him from 
his beloved; or lamenting a separation between lover and beloved who in the 
natural course of affairs ought both to remain inside the shelter of "li usci e' 
muri / de la contrata u' sono 'nnamorati."'^ 

The medieval city-dweller's distrust of the world outside the physical 
space of civilization extended also to its inhabitants: not only to the 
unpredictable thugs, bandits and lunatics who lived in the genuine wilderness, 
but also to the villani who cultivated the land in the contado}^ In medieval 
comments on the peasantry, their association with manual labor and their limited 
mental horizons make them almost an alien race, perceived as distinctly Other 



'^ See the definition provided in Le Goff, "Immaginario" 7-8. 
'^ See Harrison 13-14, Honess 10-13, Le Goff, "Immaginario" 12, 24-27. 
'" See Harrison 12, Ladner, esp. 246-48, Le Goff, "Wilderness", esp. pp. 52-58. 
" See Starn 3-6. 

'^ In order, these citations are taken from the following texts, all with a strong exilic 
component. 'Aspri monti,' 'duri sassi': Oime, lasso, quelle trezze bionde (CXXIII) 36-37, 
with reference to Selvaggia's death in the mountainous Sambuca area. 'Monti':C/o ch'io 
veggio di qua m 'e mortal duolo (XLIII) 5. 'Mont'Appennino': Signor, e ' non passd mat 
peregrino (CXXI) 5. 'Li usci. . . ': Deh, non mi domandar perche sospiri (LXXXVIII) 13- 
14, where again it is the lady, not the lover, who 'fuor de la terra [...] 6 gita' (7). The 
grammatical subject of 'sono 'nnamorati' is the lover's eyes. 

'^ There is insufficient space here to investigate the hermit tradition, where withdrawal to 
the wilderness becomes a mark of sanctity and a literal realization of Christian self- 
abnegating peregrinatio, a tradition discussed by Le Goff, "Wilderness," and Ladner in 
some detail. In any case, hermits always remained a minority among the imagined 
inhabitants of the medieval wilderness, and Cino never refers to them. 



94 Catherine Keen 

by the inhabitant of town or castle.'^ If the two spaces could be categorized 
contrastingly as "here" and "there" or "inside" and "outside," so also the two 
populations could be labeled "us" and "them." Dante, for instance, articulates a 
sharp awareness of this dichotomy in the De vulgari eloquentia, when he 
categorizes the languages of rural communities in terms that shadow the 
etymological connotations of barbarianism, as uncouth idioms that make no 
contribution to the civilized and civilizing volgare illustre of the best lyric 
poetry: "[...] montaninas [...] et rusticanas loquelas [...] que semper mediastinis 
civibus accentus enormitate dissonare videntur [...]" (I. xi. 6).'^ 

More disturbingly, though, similar cultural dichotomies could also be 
encountered even inside the protective walls of civilization: fellow-inhabitants 
could be identified as Others by their social rank, professional occupation, 
membership of a political faction, sexual mores, religious beliefs, and much 
more.^° Literary works indicate such Others by their rejection of prevailing 
cultural codes, whether in amorous or in military-political matters, a rejection 
that presents a threat to civilization which is highly dangerous precisely because 
it comes from within the apparent safety and consensus of the immediate 
community.^' Medieval love lyrics show a constant preoccupation with those 
members of the court or the city whose alienation from true amorous values is 
emphasized by calling them villani, metaphorically classing them among a rustic 
population of Others. Cino several times uses this or analogous terms to refer to 
those hostile to love or to the lover — in one self-pitying sonnet even accusing 
personified Love of having become its own opposite, a "lusingator" or "villano" 
— or to complain that his rivals' mistreatment reduces him undeservedly to the 
level of serf or peasant.^^ 

In the world of the Tuscan Comuni, moreover, very obvious division 
within the "insider" community was endemic for much of Cino's lifetime. The 
society that he knew was threatened by internal polarizations far graver than 
those between the gentili and villani of courtly convention, in the form of the 
political factions. The names Guelf and Ghibelline indicated all too well- 
established party rivalries, but as if their long-running hostility were not bad 



'* See Jones 158-59, 245-46, Le Goff"Immaginario" 25. 

'^ See Borst's comments, esp. 3-9, stressing that originally 'the word barbaros simply 

imitated the sound of an incomprehensible word' (4); similarly Monga 34, Smith 20. 

Maltby's Lexicon provides the following telling citation from Cassiodorus s.v. barbarus: 

'barbarus a barba et rare d ictus est, quod numquam in urbe vixerit, sed semper ut fera in 

agris habitasse noscatur.' 

^° See Honess 10, Moore. 

^' For instance, in politics/war, the treacherous Ganelon in the Charlemagne cycles, Kay 

and Mordred in the Arthurian world; in lyric verse on love, the stock figures of the gelos 

or the lauzengier. 

" The citations come from Si m 'hai di forza e di valor distrutto (XXXVI) 5-6; see also 

e.g. II, XLIII. 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 95 

enough, during Cino's youth the Guelf faction itself divided again into two sub- 
parties with names that stressed their members' polarization, as they split into 
Neri and Bianchi. By popular tradition, Pistoia could boast the dubious honor of 
being the city where those names originated, suggesting that this was a 
community where rivalry between factions was particularly sharply felt.^^ 
Faction fighting represented an attempt by each party to remove its polar 
opposite from the city by death or by expulsion, and to impose political and 
psychological unity by making the entire community uniformly monochrome 
rather than parti-coloured. 

Exiles banished beyond the city confines were not only labeled as moral 
opposites, metaphorical villani, by their victorious opponents, but also found 
themselves changed from citizens to villani in spatial terms. A comment from 
Dante, in his post-exile Convivio, sfresses how gravely spatial dislocation of a 
group of citizens beyond the city walls threatened their civic identity, when he 
comments that 

chiamare solemo la cittade quelli che la tengono, e non coioro che la combattono, 
avvegna che I 'uno e I 'allro sia cittadino. 

(II. vi. 8, emphasis mine) 

Dante notes that those who inhabit the city space are the only ones accorded the 
language of citizenship, perceived as forming "la cittade." Thanks to the 
frequency of faction fighting and mass expulsions, the Comuni in fact developed 
specialized political terminology to distinguish "quelli cha la tengono" as 
intrinseci, their exiled opponents as extrinseci or in the vernacular /moz-m^c/Y/, in 
another set of binary oppositions based on spatial separation: nonetheless, as 
Dante emphasizes, both groups share a common, undifferentiated origin as 
cittadini^"^ Exiles must thus struggle to reconcile their own understanding of 
themselves as citizens, with their enemies' stigmatization of them as extrinseci, 
sharply differentiated outsiders who have been declared unacceptable by their 
own community of origin, and who now see the city walls as hostile rather than 
protective. A long string of binary opposites — black and white, inside and 
outside, citizen and villein, cortese and villano — define the absolute conceptual 
differences between the exile's past and present identity. 

2. Cino as a Political Other 

Cino's exile poetry very frequently makes reference to the suffering that he 
experiences in consequence of his exclusion from the insider community of 
home, and of the risks associated with his unprotected, outsider position. In 



^^ The exact circumstances behind the split are unclear; the traditional accounts date the 

initiatory dispute to around 1286: see Herlihy 201-02. 

^'* On municipal exile terminology, see Graziosi 80, Stam 2, 17-23, 41. 



96 Catherine Keen 

many cases, though, Cino's exile poetry defiantly challenges the assumption that 
exile implies Otherness, and insists instead on his own civic/amorous probity, by 
the careful manipulation of his imagery and language (including the technical 
language of the law). There are close similarities between some of his 
pronouncements on exclusion from Pistoia and Dante's comments on his 
exclusion from Florence; the fact that several of Cino's exilic compositions are 
addressed to Dante creates a genuine dialogue of exclusion between the two, and 
a feeling of fellowship between exiles seems apparent at times in both Cino's 
and Dante's linguistic choices in several surviving exchanges. 

For instance, in a correspondence sonnet that Cino dedicated to the 
Florentine, Dante, quando per caso s 'abbandona (CXXVIII), its closing lines 
apparently refer to his friend's experience of exclusion: "te che sei stato dentro 
ed extra" (13). This political allusion is kept to the end of the lyric, while the 
main body of the sonnet presents a request for judgment in a troubling 
questions a situation reminiscent of the procedure by which legal Consilia were 
procured in Cino's professional sphere.^^ In this case, it is his interlocutor and 
not himself who is cast as the expert who will pass judgment on a questione 
d'amore rather than di diritto: the problem whether it is legitimate, following the 
loss of one love-object, to transfer amorous emotions to another. The question is 
an urgent one, since Cino states that he appears to have done just that (9-11), 
and he requests Dante to reply quickly, "prima che m'uccida il nero e il bianco" 
(12). Fortunately, Dante gave a very full reply, and his half of the 
correspondence helps shed light on how Cino's sonnet should be interpreted. 

The closing lines of Cino's sonnet apparently refer to Dante's position as 
a municipal /Morw5c/7o ("extra," 13), and to his own embroilment in Pistoian 
faction politics ("nero" and "bianco,"12). This interpretation is however 
disputed. As Mario Marti notes, critics have in the past suggested that Cino's 
apparently political language may in fact carry purely amorous references to the 
black iris and the white of the lady's eyes, and to Dante's "cittadinanza ideale (o 
alia sudditanza) nel regno d'Amore."^^ Elisabetta Graziosi, however, in a 



^^ Similarly, in his correspondence poem to Cecco d'Ascoli, Cecco, i' ti prego per virtu 
di quella (CXLVII), the quatrains present a request for advice based on his interlocutor's 
expertise (astrological rather than amorous), but exilic political material appears in the 
tercets. 

" Marti 735n4. The theory that 'il nero e il bianco' are the colours of the lady's eyes 
could be supported by comparison with lo guardo per li prati ognifior bianco (CXX). 
Here Cino employs the word bianco four times: twice to refer to the colour of flowers (1, 
10); once in a reference to 'de' begii occhi il dolce bianco' (11); and once, more 
ambiguously, when he speaks of the 'bianca parte / che fa col verdebrun la bella taglia, / 
la qual vestio Amore' (4-6). Critics have variously taken this latter reference to indicate 
the 'parte bianca' of Pistoian politics, or the whites and the iris of the eyes. Barbi, 
although he prefers to read 'parte bianca' as an optical reference, suggests that taken in 
conjunction with the three other references to the colour white, Cino additionally wishes 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 97 

detailed recent analysis of tlie correspondence, notes that "6 difficile non leggere 
in chiave politica" the closing lines of Cino's sonnet (82). A political 
interpretation is especially appealing in the light of the other half of the 
correspondence, where Dante's double reply — which confirms the possibility 
of changing one object of desire for another, both in the sonnet lo sono stato con 
Amore insieme (Contini 51a), and in the accompanying Latin letter {Epistle III) 
— is addressed to the "exulanti Pistoriensi" by the "Florentinus exul inmeritus," 
in direct reference to his own and to Cino's shared situation of exile.^' A 
political interpretation of Cino's original lyric should not be taken too far: for 
instance, the death that he fears from "il nero e il bianco" clearly does not imply 
political assassination. But the use of two paired terms normally associated with 
civic law and urban faction seems emphatic enough in the context of the 
correspondence to make a political and exilic reading plausible. The political 
content, however, plays a secondary role to the amorous: both correspondents 
are concerned primarily with their unchallenged expertise as insiders on matters 
of love, rather than on their spatial position "dentro" or "extra" a political 
community. 

The themes of exile and death, and the issue of amorous volatility, 
likewise appear in a second correspondence sonnet, Poi ch'i'fui, Dante, dal mio 
natal sito (CXXX). Here Cino opens with an evocation of exilic suffering, 
employing precise legal terms in his references to an "essilio" that has made him 
a "pellegrino": 

Poi ch'i' fui, Dante, dal mio natal sito 
fatto per greve essilio pellegrino, 
e lontanato dal piacer piii fino 
che mai formasse il Piacer infinito, 
io son piangendo per lo mondo gito 
sdegnato del morir come meschino. 

(1-6) 

After this politically charged opening, however, the concerns of Cino the 
citizen-lawyer give way to those of Cino the love-poet. Cino stresses that he 
feels an umbilical connection to his "natal sito," but, in fact, it is the loss of the 
lady who resides there rather than any civic feeling that makes him weep and 
long for death. By the end of the poem political issues have been left to one side, 
and even his amorous dilemma seems at least partially resolved, as he decides 
more light-heartedly that compensation for the loss of the one incomparable lady 



to indicate that his lady is from a White family: 428nl. To admit a double frame of 

reference is plausible, since in other cases too Cino frequently stresses the literal veracity 

of symbolic elements in his verse (e.g. Selvaggia's literal harshness). 

^' Graziosi highlights the legalistic construction and language of Dante's letter, esp. 77- 

79. 



98 Catherine Keen 

will be found when "in molte donne sparte mi diletti" (14). 

In Dante, quando per caso, Cino employed the technical terminology 
"dentro ed extra" borrowed from the language of civic statute law 
{intr ins ecus/ extr ins ecus), but in this sonnet he avoids the language used by the 
municipal factions. As we saw at the beginning of this essay, the city-states 
spoke of municipal exiles as banditi, rebelles or hostes. Here, Cino instead 
deliberately turns to the Roman codices to dignify his own situation (and 
implicitly, that of his destinatee likewise) as conforming to the norms of 
classical exilium as a patrician self-removal from accusation, a process that 
transforms him into the peregrinus who, despite non-citizen status, yet occupied 
a recognizable, and relatively dignified, position within the Roman social 
order.^^ The inhabitants of the Comuni were alive to the nuances of such 
politico-legal terminology, and Cino's decision to assimilate his condition to 
that of the classical exul implicitly elevates this from a matter of local disgrace 
to a more aristocratic plane. Similarly, Dante also preferred to name himself as 
"exul inmeritus" in his Latin letters, and to speak in the vernacular of an 
"essilio" that had made him a "peregrino."^^ 

In both poets, this linguistic choice avoids some of the cruder 
connotations of Otherness associated with municipal terminology: although the 
Roman terms also imply estrangement, they place it within a more dignified and 
culturally resonant context. On the one hand, they may evoke the classical Stoic 
doctrine that to an intellectual no community is Other but rather, as Seneca 
stated, "nihil [...] quod intra mundum est, alienum homini est" {Ad Helviam 
VIII. 5). On the other hand, Biblical tradition emphasizes the notion that all 
earthly existence is Other as long as we are, in St Paul's words, "peregrini et 
hospites [...] supra terram" {Ad Hebraeos 11. 13). The Stoic view that nowhere 
is Other can be reconciled with the Christian dictum that everywhere is, since 
both posit indifference to local patriotisms as the distinguishing mark of the 
virtuous individual who can live happily as an exul or peregrinus: and Dante and 



^* On Roman exile, see Edwards 17-18, Motto and Clark 110-12; on Cino's and Dante's 
choices of terminology, Graziosi 80-82. See also Cino's poem CXXI, which begins 
'Signor, e' non passo mai peregrino, / o ver d'altra manera viandante' (1-2): peregrino 
here manages to suggest the double sense of the classical peregrinus and the Christian 
pilgrim, both of whom could be understood as viandanti, travellers who have voluntarily 
left their homeland for alien territory, but whose topographical dislocation does not 
necessarily represent a threat to the social order (Keen 25-27). On the Christian meanings 
applied to the term peregrinus, see Edwards 18-20, Monga 10-11. 
^^ Even outside the Commedia, there are plenty of examples. He signs himself 'exul 
inmeritus' not only in Ep. Ill, but also Eps. V, VI and VII. In DVE I. vi. 3 he states that 
'exilium patiamur iniuste.' Tre donne intorno al cor mi son venule (Contini 47) refers to 
'I'essilio che m'6 dato' (76). In Convivio I. iii. 4 he calls himself a 'peregrino.' I leave 
aside references to the Commedia, where the eschatological context can create 
complexity. 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 99 

Cino are both well aware of this distinction when they avoid the over- 
determined and partisan tag of banditus to designate their position as civic 
outsiders. 

In the sonnets that he exchanges with Dante, then, Cino treats the conflict 
in his own city under fairly conventional headings. The presentation of the 
political references in Dante, quando per caso suggests that Cino takes the role 
of a non-partisan observer, equally saddened by the behavior of Blacks and of 
Whites, whose collective conduct brings him to the brink of death. Poi ch'i'fui 
engages more explicitly with the question of his altered identity in exile, but 
carefully chooses to present himself with the authoritative and orderly language 
of the classical world, rather than classing himself linguistically among the local 
undesirables of contemporary criminal statute. This sense of detachment or 
estrangement from the affairs of his own polity also reappears in a number of 
longer ballate and canzoni that make reference to the theme of exile. In these 
compositions, however, the issue of exilic Otherness appears more prominently, 
and is shown to be less easily susceptible of solution. Another change is that 
Cino's self-presentation in these lyrics is no longer directly conditioned by 
personae imposed upon him by his illustrious fellow-exile. In one sense this 
self-presentation diminishes his position, as the use of exile imagery and 
terminology seemed in connection with Dante to bolster civic status through 
assimilation of Cino to the "exul inmeritus." On the other hand, his position in 
their exchanges on love was weak: Dante classed him categorically as volatile, 
probably implying pejorative comparison with his own constancy to Beatrice, as 
in a further sonnet exchange where, writing in the name of Moroello Malaspina, 
he accuses Cino of possessing a "volgibile cor."^° Once the consfraining 
framework of correspondence with Dante is removed, Cino can move towards 
presenting himself in a far more Dantean mould, as a model of amorous 
constancy rather than the erotic lightweight of sonnets CXXVIII and CXXX. 

Si m 'ha conquiso la selvaggia gente (CIII) is the most strictly political of 
the longer exile lyrics: it applies amorous language to a very obviously political 
object, the personification of the Pistoian citizen body or "selvaggia gente" of 
the opening line.^' The ballata expresses the lament of a citizen-lover for the 
lack of happiness of his feminine beloved (the gente), diagnosing his sorrow in 
factional terms as springing from White-Black party conflict: 



«p 

^° Degnofa voi trovare ogni tesoro (Contini 51a) 3. 

^' A 'selvaggia gente' also appears in Cid ch 'i' veggio di qua m 'e mortal duolo (XLIII), 
but here Cino constructs a more normal exilic scenario of Otherness where the homeland 
remains civilized and desirable, but the presence of selvaggia gente' (2) outside the city 
renders separation more painful, through the exile's forced association with these ignoble 
'outsiders.' The sonnet focuses mainly on the disruption of a love relationship by 
absence, and also speaks of the conventional Other of love lyric (see above), who 
possesses a 'cor villano I d'Amor nemico ' (13-14, emphases mine). 



1 00 Catherine Keen 



Non mi fora pesanza 
lo viver tanto, se gaia ed aliegra 
vedesse questa gente d'un cor piano; 
ma eWt bianca e negra [...] 

(15-18) 

These lines suggest, once again, that Cino would under certain circumstances 
("se gaia ed aliegra / vedesse questa gente") be prepared to accept the role of an 
onlooker. What truly perturbs him is the Othering that the city has undergone. 
The Pistoian citizenry is divided against itself, "bianca e negra," which is 
disturbing enough for a commentator attempting to retain his own sense of 
citizenly integrity. Worse, it has radically denatured itself to become "selvaggia" 
— the opposite of urban or aristocratic.^^ The epithet appears twice in the 
opening five lines (1, 5), giving an emphatic force to this suggestion; later the 
list of anti-urban qualities that characterize the self-destroying polity is 
amplified by describing it as "crudel di se stessa e dispietata" (27), and 
"disperata" (29). But if the city has become Other, Cino has remained constant 
in his love, and can even urge his separation from the city as a mark of his 
loyalty to the original values which the altered city has come to reject. The 
closing lines express the fear — or rather, the desire — that death will provide 
an escape from amorous suffering caused by a separation from the love object. 
This love object has indeed rendered itself so unworthy of devotion by its self- 
destructive metamorphosis that the poet at last substitutes for the "selvaggia 
gente" the personification of Death, who promises in contrast to be a "piacente" 
focus for his affections: 

Aitro gi^ che tu, Morte, a! me' parvente, 

non credo che mi giovi. 

Adunque ora ti muovi: 

deh, vieni a me, che mi se' si piacente. 

(35-38) 

Two other longer lyrics adduce Cino's enforced separation from Pistoia 
as a source of suffering, in both of these cases because his departure disrupts a 
human love affair. La dolce vista e '/ bel guardo soave (CXI) makes direct 
reference to political faction-fighting, when Cino states of "lo gran contrario 
ch'6 dal bianco a! negro" (27) that "diviso / m'ha dal gioioso riso / e d'ogni stato 



^^ The adjective suggests some connection between the city and the Pistoian lady 
Selvaggia, herself notoriously dispietata, strengthening the suggestion of a quasi-erotic 
relationship between the writer and the city that shares the same paradoxical attractions 
of the lady towards whom he so frequently professes a despairing, masochistic attraction 
(Keen 28-29, 31-32). 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 1 1 

allegro" (24-26). Exile keeps the lovers physically distant from one another and 
there is no such happy solution envisaged as in Poi ch 7 ' fui. Rather, Cino 
stresses that his source of happiness is unique, and that comparison exacerbates 
rather than consoles his suffering: whenever "ver' bella donna levo li occhi 
alquanto" (29), her difference from the beloved makes him weep uncontrollably, 
"membrando di mia donna, a cui son tanto / lontan di veder lei" (32-33). As in 
the ballata discussed above (CIII), faction conflict is the absolute enemy of 
happiness, though here the happiness comes, primarily at least, from private 
rather than civic emotions. Similar too is the closing plea for death: but in this 
case, death offers not a curative oblivion of the beloved's misconduct, but a 
means of actively recuperating "gioia" (49), by releasing Cino's spirit "che ne 
vada [...] a Pistoia" (50), and so restoring him from outsider esfrangement to 
citizenship and to amorous consolation. 

Lo gran disio, che mi stringe cotanto (CXVIII), a canzone addressed to 
the lady Selvaggia rather than a "selvaggia" Pistoia, is more consistently 
pessimistic. Here too the lover is obsessed with the physical distance that 
divides him from Selvaggia and prevents his "occhi lontani" (4) from gazing at 
her directly. Only in the life-threatening disjunction of body and soul — as in 
the congedo to CXI — can he seek the visual satisfaction essential to his 
emotional survival: 



vien d'ogni tempo e riede 
lo spirito mio, donna, ove vol state; 
e questo e quel ch'accende piu M disio 
che m'uccidr^ tardando il reddir mio. 

(11-14) 

Although the poem stresses his "gran disio [...] / di riveder la vosfra gran 
bieltate" (1-2) by returning from his amorous exile, the motivation here is 
ambiguous, since we learn that the significantly named lady Selvaggia has only 
ever offered Cino "malvoler" (51) rather than the sweetness invoked in La dolce 
vista. Cino explains that the lady's name symbolically indicates her hostility not 
merely to reciprocation of his love, but even to pity: Selvaggia means "'strana / 
d'ogni piet^,' di cui siete lontana" (41-42). The lady herself thus comes to 
symbolize hostility and Otherness; clearly, Cino has been excluded from the 
consolations of love or of pity long before his exclusion from the city where his 
beloved resides. Now that he is in exile, his undeserved isolation is absolute, and 
the personifications of L ove and Death form his only companions: but whereas 
Love has to be distanced in order to act as Cino's ambassador to the lady (6-8, 
15-16), Death remains close even when all others treat him as an outcast ("mi 
disdegna," 22). 

However, if the lady occupies the emotional foreground of the canzone. 



102 Catherine Keen 

political obstacles are of some significance in reinforcing the lovers' separation. 
The congedo personifies the canzone, sending it (like the author's spirit) to 
Pistoia, where an intermediary is invited to offer protection to its amorous 
message. This intermediary, "quel di Pietramala" (58), is normally identified as 
the White podesta of 1303, Tommaso Tarlati, but in the congedo his political 
role as leader of a Comune apparently hostile to Cino is of little significance: in 
ethical matters, he is an ally, sharing Cino's understanding of love. The Others 
whom Cino fears in the congedo are those with a "cor malvagio" (62), villani or 
outsiders to the amorous codes that Cino and his destinatee share. 
(Paradoxically, Selvaggia's hostility to her devoted lover and to pieta, makes her 
something of a courtly outsider: is Tarlati to exclude her, too, from the 
canzone's audience?) Like the other "selvaggia" lyric, CIII, this canzone 
presents a compelling exploration of the ambiguities of the exile's desire for a 
beloved who seems denatured from the normal attributes of what could be 
lovable. The ideas about alienation and exclusion in this text are arguably more 
complex than those of the works analyzed above: but it certainly shares their 
interest in constructing identity, and in confronting the exile's problematic 
attempt to define the binary extremes of insider and outsider status as far as 
possible in his own favor. 

In the poems discussed thus far, then, Cino certainly expresses a sense of 
pain regarding his exile situation, but on political matters he seems in the main 
to have a fairly clear sense of his own position in relation to those who reject or 
exclude him. In correspondence with Dante, he employs precise political and 
legal terminology to dignify and define his position in "essilio," and to reflect on 
the binary conflicts of Blacks and Whites or intrinseci and extrinseci, but 
displays detachment from the harsher realities of Pistoian factionalism. La dolce 
vista is more concerned with erotic than political alterity, but once again implies 
that Cino's amorous exile does not make him an Other in any pejorative sense. 
The employment of the epithet "selvaggia" in two of the lyrics introduces the 
most serious uncertainty about Cino's emotions or identity. Both Lo gran disio 
and Si m 'ha conquiso find him exploring the paradoxes of his desire for a love 
object who is "selvaggia" and yet for whom he feels the ardor of conventional 
courtly desire, normally an ultra-civilized experience. In both cases the normal 
opposition between inside and outside is reversed, when the city proves to be a 
locus of selvatichezza while the lover who is excluded by the city walls still 
expresses his allegiance to the refined signoria of Love. In the third frill stanza 
of 5"/ m'ha conquiso, Cino represents himself as composing "piatosi lai" (31) 
about the denatured "gente" (25) that he sends to "mio signore" (32), who must 
be identified as Love personified. Lo gran disio refers repeatedly to the close 
relationship between Cino and "Amore" (6, 15, 27, 32), specifying that his soul 
"sempre andra seguendo Amore" (27), and finding common ground with even 
the leader of a hostile political regime in their common alliance against the 
uncourtly Otherness of the villani. 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 1 03 

3. Embracing Otherness: Exile, Disguise, and Return 

The poems explored thus far suggest that Cino's outlook on exile follows a 
binary division that tends to be constructed in his own favor to affirm the 
constancy of his inner identity whatever the vicissitudes of spatial dislocation. In 
this third section of my essay we will encounter a number of lyrics in which 
Cino probes further the ambiguities of his identity in exile, and questions more 
openly whether he himself may not be, or become, Other in consequence of his 
exclusion fi-om the city and/or from love. Self-Othering in these poems appears 
variously as an exacerbation to political and/or amorous suffering, or as a means 
of reconciliation with the lost object of desire. Almost always this rupture with 
previous notions of selfhood is figured by depicting the poet's internal faculties 
as personifications fragmented from one another and eluding his control. La 
dolce vista and Lo gran disio both used the image of the "spirito" leaving the 
lover's body and seeking to pursue the love relationship almost independently, 
by crossing the corporeal barriers that separate the lovers. However, despite 
causing physical self-fragmentation, the vagabond "spirito" in those lyrics at 
least shared the same desires as the lover: elsewhere, as we shall see, Cino and 
his internal faculties become estranged from one another, in processes that 
mimic the way that alterity is imposed on an individual's civic and social 
standing in the course of factual exile. 

The sonnet Ogn 'allegro penser ch 'alberga meco (LXIX) dramatizes this 
sense of self-alienation very clearly, and draws on the exilic topos of exclusion 
from amorous success or "allegrezza" (6). Although strictly speaking this sonnet 
makes no explicit reference to banishment or to physical separation between 
lover and beloved, the imagery applied to Cino's psychological condition places 
a central emphasis on the ideas of exclusion and distance, and on the changes 
imposed on an insider when he passes into the unfamiliar outside world. The 
locus of journeying or exile in the opening quatrain is Cino's own person: 

Ogn' allegro penser ch'alberga meco 
si come pelegrin giunge e va via, 
e se ragiona de la vita mia, 
intendol si con' fa 'I tedesco '1 greco. 

(1-4) 

So alien is happiness to Cino that he legalistically classes even the thought of it 
as a transient "peregrino," speaking an incomprehensible non-Romance 
language." Indeed, he is unable to conceive what it is: "I'allegrezza non so che 
si sia" (6). Both the intellectual precision of the lawyer and the linguistic and 



" Cino uses the peregrino image in similar fashion in LXI: 'L'anima mia, che si va 
peregrina / in quelle parti che ftiron gi^ sui' (1-2). In this case, though, the reference 
remains generic, and the soul is rejected by the lady rather than estranged from the poet. 



104 Catherine Keen 

emotional sensitivities of the love-poet are frozen by an experience that eludes 
his attempts at comprehension or description — and so Cino is cut off from the 
possibility of expression that might affirm his identity, unable to understand his 
own thoughts. 

Cino chooses to represent this experience of self-alienation through 
reference to the incomprehensibility of foreign languages, placing himself and 
"Amor" (5) on one side of a linguistic and conceptual divide, with happiness and 
the lady on the other.^'' Some of the elements in Cino's scenario recall aspects of 
Dante's Babel myth of linguistic exile in the De vulgari eloquentia; and given 
that friendship between the two poets flourished during the early years of 
Dante's exile to which the freatise is normally dated, it is possible that Cino's 
imagery might relate directly to the arguments that we know from the De 
vulgari eloquentiaP Dante's account of the population of Europe by Babel 
refugees stresses that these original settlers brought with them an "ydioma 
tripharium" {DVE 1. viii. 2), whose speakers settled separately in the northern, 
the south-eastern, and the southern parts of Europe {DVE, I. viii. 3-5). Their 
descendants include respectively speakers of German (Cino's "tedesco"), of 
Greek (Cino's "Greco"), and of the Romance languages whose common origins 
are revealed by the fact that "conven[iunt] in vocabulis multis," especially the 
word "amor" {DVE I. ix. 2-3) — and in the sonnet, Cino declares himself to be 
the close ally of "Amor" (5). The estrangement between Cino the lover and 
Italian vernacular poet, and the Greek- or German-speaking peregrini of his 
inner self, thus follows a fault line that can perhaps be traced back to Babel and 
to the dispersal of the human race into separate and mutually estranged peoples 
in a paradigmatic muhiple exile. 

Even if we discount the possible Dantean element, however, Cino's 
choice of examples still significantly emphasizes their Otherness. Greeks and 
Germans represent cultural fraditions that differ distinctively from those of 
southern Europe or Italy in broader terms. Although forming part of 
Christendom, and hence in one sense comprehensible "insiders" to an Italian 
Christian world view, the Greeks and the Germans represent the least familiar 
elements in this universe. The former stand for a largely alien form of 



^'' Following Marti, I take the 'lei' (7) of the second quatrain to be the lady, since the 
'aitra via' (7) that Cino attempts for his approach seems defined by its 'dolor' (8), its 
alterity to happiness. 

^' The De vulgari is normally dated between 1303-05. Cino's sonnet unfortunately offers 
no indications as to the date of its composition, leaving my hypothesis unprovable; but 
since Cino's lengthy poetic career is normally assumed to have begun not much earlier 
than 1290, and continued at least sporadically until the 1330s, there is no reason to 
assume that this sonnet could not have been composed after the beginning of his 
friendship with Dante and in awareness of the linguistic ideas that are put forward in De 
vulgari. 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 1 05 

Christianity, and belong to a tradition of political, social and cultural 
development that had taken a different path from that of more westerly Europe 
centuries before Cino's age.^^ The Germans, probably in many ways more 
familiar to a fourteenth-century Italian, had nonetheless also been long regarded 
as alien by their more southerly neighbors, aware of the ancient distinction 
between the civilized peoples of the Mediterranean and the barbarians of the 
north.^^ Even though the Roman imperial title that Cino (and Dante for that 
matter) saw very much as the guarantee of Italian and European unity and order 
was accepted in the Middle Ages as having been legitimately borne by Greek 
and German representatives at different historical moments, these remained 
largely alien cultures, whose unfamiliarity extended into many areas beyond the 
linguistic. Cino's choice of imagery thus strongly emphasizes the extent of his 
inner perturbation, in which his own faculties take on traits deeply foreign to his 
entire linguistic and cultural background. He is reduced to a bewildered 
bystander, unable to communicate with these alien transients: unable, that is, to 
achieve satisfactory rational control over, or even comprehension of, his own 
emotional experience. Poetic certainties alone remain to him, since his alliance 
with Amore means that he remains attached to the sanctities of the lyric 
tradition: but even in this sphere, Cino shows that he is aware of lacunae in his 
culture or understanding, as he states that "I'allegrezza non so che si sia" (6). At 
the same time as offering him association and identity, his devotion to Love 
exposes him to peril, since his master insists that he maintain a pursuit of the 
beloved "per altra via" (7), in journeys towards the beloved that he anticipates 
will conclude with the ultimate self-destruction of death (13-14). Although Cino 
insists on his constancy and integrity in love, this amorous commitment 
simultaneously undermines his sense of self, and splits his own faculties into 
opposing familiar and alien fragments. 

If Ogn 'allegro penser is populated with cultural and linguistic Others 
identified by their geographical origins, Cino's corpus also includes sonnets 
which refer to the most obvious Others of medieval Christendom, the religiously 
alien Jews and Muslims. The two examples represent different degrees of 
Otherness, Jews being far more familiar figures to a contemporary Italian 
Christian than Muslims. In the Italian cities, as in many other parts of Christian 



^^ The Otherness of the Greek church from the viewpoint of Latin Christendom in Cino's 
age is perhaps most famously exemplified by Aquinas's Contra errores Graecorum. It is 
noteworthy that Greek belief troubled Thomas sufficiently to merit additional refutation 
in the tract De rationibus fidei contra Saracenos, Graecos et Armenos, albeit only as a 
minor element in arguments aimed most directly against the more wide-ranging errors of 
the Muslim Saracens, Others par excellence from a medieval Christian viewpoint (see 
below). 

" Tacitus offered the classic formulation of the divide between Romans and 
barbarians/Germans in his Germania. See also Borst, esp. 4-8, Monga 33-35. 



1 06 Catherine Keen 

Europe, there were well-established Jewish communities, and despite decrees 
that their alterity from the Christian community should be made visible by 
distinctions in dress, segregation measures appear not to have been strictly 
enforced during the fourteenth century.^* Muslims by contrast were literal as 
well as metaphorical outsiders, inhabiting spaces outside — indeed, 
symbolically defining — the borders of Christendom. And whereas Judaism was 
Christianity's ancestor faith, Islam was commonly understood to be a heretical 
bastardization of Christianity. Both faiths, however, were definitively rejected as 
erroneous, and so Cino is making a very clear statement about the alterity of 
exile when he plays with the idea that, in banishment, he may assume the 
identity of a Jew or a Muslim. 

The term "giudeo" in medieval vernacular Italian is frequently employed 
as a catch-all pejorative, its true religious connotations all but erased in 
consequence of the unthinking anti-semitism of the Christian majority.^' Cino 
uses the term twice: and while in one case, where he names his enemies 
"giudei," the term seems to follow a fairly conventional strategy of Othering the 
opponents of the lyric "io," in the exile sonnet where he applies the name 
"giudeo" to himself the connotations of Otherness are more strongly and 
disturbingly marked. In the first case, Cino's sonnet is addressed to an audience 
that is called "Jewish" because of its unwillingness to believe the lyric persona's 
experience: O voi che siete ver' me si giudei (CI). The identifying trait of this 
audience is its suspicious nature — "non credete il meo dir senza prova" (2) — 
and since this is displayed in their refusal to believe his amorous assertions, we 
may take it that they are villani as well as giudei, insofar as they are unwilling to 
believe him, and so doubly Other. The accusation of skepticism is based on one 
of the stock antisemitic stereotypes about the Jews' lack of trust, commonly 
associated with secular, especially financial, situations, although obviously and 
more seriously also in religious matters with a lack of belief in the Christian 
mystery of the Resurrection and the refusal to abandon the rigidities of the Old 
Law. In Cino's sonnet, the lover, like a Christian martyr, can only convince the 
audience of his devotion to a true cause by exposing himself to the mutilation 
that will provide them with visible evidence, as when "si rinfresca e si rinova / 



■** Toaff, 173, discusses the 1215 Fourth Lateran Council's decrees on the use of badges 
to identify infidels (Jews and also Muslims); also the issue of Jewish neighborhoods prior 
to the establishment of formal ghettos, 187-89. 

^^ Examples of such use in lyric verse can be found in the Sicilians (Cielo d'Alcamo, 
Stefano Protonotaro), in Guittone, and several times in Cecco Angiolieri. Its use by the 
Sicilians provides a useful counterweight to more extreme assertions about the avant la 
lettre multiculturalism of Frederick II's kingdom. Moore and Toaff provide a useful 
survey of medieval attitudes to Judaism and of antisemitic stereotyping; similarly 
Chazan, though his study deals predominantly with the Ashkenazi Jews of northern 
Europe. 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 107 

quella feruta" (7-8) inflicted on him by the sight of "madonna" (3). In forcing 
the poet to mount a form of trial against himself, the incredulous giudeo public 
displays an inhumanly sadistic streak that stresses its alien qualities — but Cino, 
as not only the victim but also the lawyer who furnishes the painful proof 
demanded, emphatically confirms his own identity both as jurist and as lover. 

In Cino's other use of the "giudeo" figure, however, it is he himself who 
takes on the identity of the religious alien, in a poem which also emphasizes the 
political estrangement of exile. Con gravosi sospir' traendo guai (XLVIII). This 
poem is addressed not to the wider public but to his "donna gentil" (2) alone. 
Cino opens with an exilic lament over his enforced exclusion from her presence; 
in the second quatrain, however, his return from physical absence serves 
unexpectedly to reinforce his suffering and alienation, as the woman changes 
from "gentil" to "fera": 

Con gravosi sospir' traendo guai, 
donna gentil, de la vostra rivera, 
contro lo mio voiere, m'alungai, 
e '1 dimorar peggio che morte m'era; 
ma per la speme del tomar campai, 
e ritornai veder voi, donna fera. 
Cos! non foss'io ritomato mail 

(1-7) 

The woman's harshness suggests that she is probably Selvaggia, whom Cino 
frequently depicts as a/era.'*" As in the lyrics reviewed earlier, he presents us 
with a paradoxical picture of his courtly yearning for a figure who is alienated 
from amorous sympathy; and he underlines the ambiguity of the situation in his 
closing lines, where he stresses that the lady is "umile e plana" (13) to all but 
himself In this case, then, the lady is not, or not entirely, an outsider to civilized 
courtliness (as she was in CXVIII); rather, it is Cino who occupies the position 
of the alien, physically estranged from her in her gentile incarnation in the first 
quatrain, and emotionally from her /era persona in the second. In the latter part 
of the sonnet, this self-depiction as the exile within the community, a moral if 
not topographical outsider, is made concrete by the Jewish reference: "Or 
dolente tapin, son io giudeo / che nulla val per me mercede umana?" (10-11). 
Christian reliance on "mercede umana" is denied to him as strictly, and 
automatically, as to an archetypal unbeliever, the giudeo whom both Cino and 
his audience instinctively understand to be excluded from certain kinds of basic 
human rights and sympathies. The unquestioned assumption that Jews are so 
profoundly Other that ordinary human decencies no longer apply tellingly 
underlines Cino's point that more than physical distance has brought about 



E.g. LII, LIII, which both use the term in conjunction with the epithet 'selvaggia'. 



108 Catherine Keen 

alienation between lover and beloved, and left Cino quite as much an outsider on 
his return to "la vostra rivera" (2) as he was in his exclusion from it. While the 
question form — "son io giudeo?" — suggests resistance to such labeling, it also 
introduces an element of uncertainty, implying that the situation has indeed 
damaged his sense of identity. 

The final poem of exilic Otherness that 1 shall consider here brings 
together in highly emphatic form all of the elements of alienation — political, 
amorous, and religious — that we have reviewed thus far. The sonnet Lasso, 
pensando a la distrutta valle (CXIX) makes it clear from the opening lines that 
it is concerned with political factionalism in Pistoia, which has brought chaos to 
Cino's "natio suole" (2) — and indeed, not only the city, but the whole "valle" 
of the contado have been engulfed in the destruction. Grief over this disaster 
makes Cino weep, but his greatest suffering, as we have by now come to expect, 
is ascribed an amorous as much as a political cause. Although thoughts of civic 
disorder bring tears "dal cor fin agli occhi" (4), it is love that brings about self- 
fragmentation, to the point that "piu meco I'alma dimorar non vole, / si la 
speranza del tomar mi falle" (7-8). Cino is outside the city — but "ivi" (6), 
inside, are "le nove talle /[...] de le piante di Vergiole" (5-6), i.e. Selvaggia, a 
young shoot on the Vergiolesi family tree. Once again, we are reminded of the 
existential alienation that appears to subsist between Cino and his beloved: she 
is always elsewhere, physically, emotionally, and (as this sonnet makes clear) 
politically, leaving her at one and Cino at the other pole of the Black- White 
division between occupying and exiled factions. Whichever part of Selvaggia's 
name Cino mentions, its symbolic connotations in political as in courtly matters 
guarantee that a hostile distance will be maintained between them. 

The close of the sonnet shows how well Cino understands this separation, 
but also reveals the tension that it creates between his identities as virtuous 
citizen and as devoted lover. The closing three lines find him contemplating the 
problematic issue of how he may from exile bolster his "speranza del tomar" 
(8): 

Oh, credere' per lor [i.e. le piante di Vergiole] nel Macometto! 
Dunque, parte crudel, perch6 mi fai 
pena sentir del mal ch'io non commetto? 

(12-14) 

There is a practical realism in his recognition that political hostility has little to 
do with the true legality of right and wrong — "pena" is exacted regardless of 
culpability, and faction enemies incur punishment pour cause, so that as in his 
exchanges with Dante, references to political exclusion need not imply any 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 1 09 

actual guilt/' The epithet "crudel" applied to the hostile faction has an alienating 
effect, reminiscent of Si m 'ha conquiso, and shows that the city is becoming 
uncivilized and Other. This time, however, Cino's amorous impulses override 
his repugnance, and he desires to return even to this denatured city in order to 
regain access to the beloved. He is prepared to make himself Other too in the 
process, and if the city has become cruel and strange, then Cino is prepared to 
accommodate himself to the change. He will disguise himself in a manner that 
will avoid persecution by the radically altered polity and its ruling party, and 
commit himself to their alien mode of life, a drastic alteration that is figured as 
tantamount to conversion to Islam. 

The fear and hatred frequently expressed towards Islam in medieval 
Christendom is what gives Cino's hyperbole its force: he claims to be so 
instinctively motivated by the courtly codes of love that he is prepared to 
become the ultimate outsider, an infidel and apostate, in order to achieve access 
to his beloved."*^ Although the sonnet seems constructed broadly according to 
the conventions of amor de lonh, these closing lines in fact stand that tradition 
on its head. The normal protestations of constancy are maintained seamlessly 
through the first 1 1 lines, only to be undermined by the absolute metamorphosis 
imagined in the final tercet — constancy in love apparently entails mutability of 
religious and political identity. Even the most famous text of distant love, Jaufr6 
Rudel's Lanquand lijorn son lone en mai, despite its extravagant protestations, 
does not go so far. There, the poet is prepared perhaps to accept capture by the 
Saracens, but not adoption of their faith, when he wishes "que lai el renc dels 
Sarrazis / fos eu, per lieis, chaitius clamatz!" (13-14: the reference may of 
course simply indicate his "imprisonment" by love). Jaufr^'s corpus has often 
been associated with crusade, as in the highly romantic Vida narrative 
culminating in his death en route to crusade at Tripoli. This crusading context 
sets the Occitan poet, and his paradigmatic medieval text of distant love, at the 
opposite extreme to the apostasy that Cino apparently contemplates.'*^ 



"' As Starn's analysis of the legal procedures surrounding Dante's trial makes plain — 
and presumably the same holds true of Cino's Pistoia — they were permeated by faction 
bias: the judges represented "the good state of the city of Florence and of the Guelph 
party" (66, emphasis Starn's), and a guilty verdict of a Black court on a White (or vice 
versa) was virtually inevitable (71-72). 

"^ Cardini's analysis of the stereotyping of Islam by the medieval West, with extensive 
reference to representations in epic and romance, offers a telling survey of the headings 
of Muslim Otherness: paganism and devil-worship; bodily deformation or monstrosity; 
lechery and inclinations to sexual perversion; sorcery (78-85, 105-10). 
"*' The Vida stresses that Jaufre 'se croset' before embarking on his ill-fated journey, but 
indicates that his motivation was primarily amorous — 'per voluntat de leis [i.e. the 
Countess of Tripoli] vezer' — rather than religious. Vida and canso are quoted from the 
texts edited by Lejeune in Hamlin, Ricketts and Hathaway, although the notorious 
instability of the canso text offers variations in stanza order between editions. 



1 1 Catherine Keen 

The chain of contradictions in Cino's sonnet is endlessly complex, and 
expresses very clearly the dilemmas and dissatisfactions of political and 
amorous exile. Outside the city, he is still an insider to political righteousness as 
well as to love, whereas inside the city he would become an adherent to partisan 
cruelty and injustice. Outside the city, he is physically estranged from his 
beloved, but even should he return, she is a Selvaggia and a Vergiolesi who 
embodies political and amorous hostility. Outside the city, he is a Christian 
insider, but inside the city would become a Muslim infidel outsider. By closing 
the sonnet on the question that he addresses to the "parte crudel," Cino leaves 
these tensions and ambiguities unresolved — and this in itself reveals how 
problematic and disturbing they are. The terms that he uses are clear and precise, 
showing that he has a full awareness of the city's alien qualities when occupied 
by the unjust, cruel and destructive forces of his enemies. But if the language is 
crisply accusatory, the question has a supplicatory element, while the 
conditional form crederei applied to his contemplated apostasy suggests a 
certain hesitation over the gravity of such a sacrifice, even in the cause of love. 

In this sonnet, and in the three preceding lyrics, Cino uses reference to 
outsiders from the Italian/Christian community to express his frustrations in 
love. In pursuit of his perpetually thwarted desires, Cino himself becomes 
partially or wholly an outsider whose distance from the normal community is 
expressed in his self-depiction as a foreigner or an infidel who can scarcely be 
assimilated by the normal community — or only on condition that the 
community in turn become abnormal and Other. My earlier work on Cino 
showed me that his involvement with the theme of exclusion allowed him 
perpetually to re-plot the co-ordinates of physical distance on a politico-amorous 
map, shifting his figural topographies through many positions (Keen, esp. 23- 
24). Not only does he represent himself outside Pistoia, in civic as well as 
amorous exile, but he also reverses this image to depict his lady in exile outside 
Pistoia, and extends the exilic topos to speak of exclusions or separations in 
relation to other cities such as Naples or Bologna, displaying an exilic obsession 
with distance and loss. In the lyrics investigated here, especially the final set of 
examples, the lover contemplates situations of still more profound psychological 
alienation and difference, suggesting that he shares a Cavalcantian "poetica 
deH'esclusione," to revert to Calenda's terminology (47). But although there are 
evident similarities with Cavalcanti's exilic outlook, Cino never commits 
himself as totally as Cavalcanti, for he prefers Otherness to self-dissolution. 
However beset by psychological turmoil, Cino is always able to taxonomize his 
condition, selecting a label that offers him a precise identity, even if a 
profoundly alien one. Traces of the professional confidence with which he 
pronounced his Consilium on municipal banditi seem to remain in his 
determination to classify himself among particular political, cultural or religious 
groups, even when these alternative identities are unfamiliar or dangerous. In the 
end, Cino is reluctant to represent himself in the isolation of a Cavalcantian 



Cino da Pistoia and the Otherness of Exile 1 1 1 

position, and seeks to retain the shelter of a larger collective — even if his 
companions should be as insubstantial as the personifications of Love and 
Death, or as undesirable as the foreigners or infidels of the last set of poems. 
Even though his psychological attachment to binary pairings means that he may 
have to represent his exilic transitions as an adoption of Otherness, he still 
prefers to exist as a nameable outsider than to probe the ambiguities of exile too 
far, and so risk Cavalcantian self-annihilation. 

University of Leeds 



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112 Catherine Keen 

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Fabian Alfie 



Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Cecco Angiolieri, 
Pietro de' Faitinelli, and Pieraccio Tedaldi' 

For several decades, scholarship has recognized the thematic similarities among 
the various poeti giocosi. In the introductions to their respective anthologies, 
Mario Marti and Maurizio Vitale enumerate some of the motifs shared by those 
poets, such as the complaints against fortune and poverty, the insult of others, 
misogynist statements, sensual loves, and political assertions.^ At the same time, 
Marti and Vitale note the impact of earlier and highly influential jocose poets, 
such as Cecco Angiolieri, on subsequent writers of that style. For example, in 
his explanatory footnotes, Marti points out the similarities of several of Cecco 
Nuccoli's verses to those by Angiolieri.' Moreover, Vitale finds reminiscences 
of Angiolieri's "Senno non vale a cui fortuna e conta" in Giuntino Lanfredi's 
sonnet "Vento a levante e di meridiana" {Rimatori comico-realistici 537). One 
area not studied in depth by scholars, however, is the topic of exile. Several 
poets write about their own cases of banishment. Cecco Angiolieri, Pietro de' 
Faitinelli and Pieraccio Tedaldi all complain about their current situations and 
envision their happiness, should they ever be allowed to return to their native 
cities. Beyond the particular personal, biographical circumstances that may have 
inspired these sonnets, stylistic elements suggest a chain of direct influence 
among the poets in question. Intertextualities among the three writers suggest 
awareness of the poetic tradition of Tuscany at the time. They may express 
personal sentiments in their poetry but they are also self-conscious participants 
in a literary movement. 

While other poets such as Rustic© Filippi and Folgore da San Gimignano 



' I would like to acknowledge the receipt of a Small Grant from the University of Arizona 
Foundation and from the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of 
Arizona in 1998 that made it possible for me to study on site the Siena H X 47 
manuscript. I would like to thank the staff" of the Biblioteca Comunale degli Intronati of 
Siena for its assistance. 

^ Vitale {Rimatori comico-realistici 18-26); Marti {I poeti giocosi 12-19). See also Vitale 
{Lingua dei poeti realistico-giocosi 14-23). 

■' For instance, Marti notes the similarity between verses 10 and 11 of Nuccoli's "El mi 
rincresce si lo star di fuore," which read "el ciamprolino e '1 dado/ e la tavema," with 
Angiolieri's statement "la donna, la tavema, e '1 dado" ("Tre cose solamente mi so' in 
grado" V. 2). He also notes the resemblance of verse 6 of Nuccoli's "Ogni pensier, ch'i' 
ho 'n te, se dispera," "Or va, che tu sie ucciso!," to that of v. 14 in Angiolieri's "Babb'e 
Becchin, amor e mia madre" (Marti, 1 poeti giocosi 695; 705). 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



114 Fabian Alfie 

dedicate several sonnets each to political matters/ the Sienese poet Cecco 
Angiolieri (ca. 1260-1312) almost never brings up contemporary politics in his 
verse. Yet Angiolieri alludes to some sort of estrangement from Siena in the 
following lyric: 

Se Die m'aiuti, a le sante guagnele, 
s'i' veggio '1 di sia 'n Siena ribandito, 
dato mi foss'entro I'occhio col dito, 
a soffrire mi parri latt'e mdle. 

E parrd un Colombo senza ftle, 
tanto staro di bon core gecchito, 

per6 ch'i' abbo tanto mal patito . 

che pieti n'avrebb'ogni crudele. 

E tutto questo mal mi parrebb'oro 
sed i' avesse pur tanta speranza 
quant'han color che stanno 'n Purgatoro. 

Ma elli e tanta la mie sciaguranza 
ch'ivi farabb'a quell'otta dimoro 
che babb'ed i' saremo in accordanza.' 

(66-67) 

The exact cause of Angiolieri's exile, whether for political or economic reasons, 
is not currently known. Perhaps he imitates the goliardic motif of the clerici 
vagantes in this sonnet (Waddell, 177-191); the twelfth-century Latin poets 
frequently used their positions as impoverished outsiders to castigate vice and 
the corruption of social and political institutions.* Angiolieri's appropriation of 
goliardic topoi has been well documented by scholarship (Marti, "Cecco 
Angiolieri" 85-94). While the possibility exists that Angiolieri had in mind the 
goliardic literary movement when he wrote this sonnet, he also reiterates the 
idea of banishment in other poems. In his sonnet, "Dante Alighier, s'i' so' buon 
begolardo," he seems to confrast Dante's meanderings to his own current 
condition: "s'io so' fatto romano, e tu lombardo" (v. 8). Cecco's assertion of 
Dante being a "Lombard" probably refers to the residence of the great poet in 
Verona at the court of Can Grande della Scala (1303-04). Thus, it appears that 
Angiolieri found himself in Rome during the first years of the fourteenth 



" See, for instance, Rustico's poems "A voi, che ve ne andaste per paura" and "Pastel, 

messer, fastidio de la cazza," and Polgore's "Guelfi, per fare scudo de le reni," "Cos! 

faceste voi o guerra o pace," and "Piu lichisati siete ch'ermellini." 

' Cecco Angiolieri is cited from Lanza's edition of Le rime. Pietro de' Faitinelli and 

Pieraccio Tedaldi are cited from Maurizio Vitale's Rimatori comico-realistici. 

^ See, for instance, Hugh Primas's poem "Dives eram et delictus," about which Charles 

Witke states: "There is symbolic value to the poet who stands outside the church starving 

and who cries for the expulsion of injustice and weeps for the remembrance of past 

kindness" {Latin Satire 23 1-32). 



Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Angiolieri, de ' Faitinelli, and Tedaldi 1 1 5 

century. Additionally, the sixteenth-century scholar and descendent of 
Angiolieri, Celso Cittadini, who was responsible for compiling the manuscript 
Siena H X 47, annotates therein the sonnet addressed to Dante. He adds an 
explanatory note, which both expands upon Angiolieri' s exile and relates it to 
the events narrated by Boccaccio {Decameron 9: 4). Cittadini writes: "[...] 
perch6 Cecco ando a Roma a stare in casa del Con(te) Riccardo Petroni sanese 
molto suo sign(ore) [other ink: "e parente"] come tocca il Bocc° [Boccaccio] 
nella 87n. [...]" (f 7v).' It is not clear how much merit to give to Cittadini's 
marginal comment; he does not provide the source of his information, and Siena 
H X 47 was written in 1597, almost three centuries after Angiolieri's death. 
Furthermore, Boccaccio says nothing about Angiolieri visiting Rome after the 
events narrated in the Decameron. Nonetheless, Cittadini's indication of 
Angiolieri's possible reftige at the house of a powerful relative constitutes a 
precious biographical datum about the life of the poet. From the information 
possessed, we can reasonably deduce both the approximate date of Angiolieri's 
banishment and the fact that he probably took shelter in Rome. 

Angiolieri constructs the sonnet "Se Die m'aiuti, a le sante guagnele" 
around the use — or abuse — of religious terminology. He opens the poem with 
an appeal to God's assistance, but immediately follows it with a blasphemous 
interjection (v. 1). He then explains that, if he lives to see the day when his 
banishment fi-om Siena is lifted, all pain, even that of a finger in the eye, will 
feel joyful to him (vv. 2-4). The description of being poked in the eye seems to 
recall distantly Christ's admonition: "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge 
it out and throw it away" (Matthew 5:29). If the echo of the Gospel is deliberate, 
then Angiolieri envisions his return to Siena as like a cleansing of the flesh of 
sin. In the following verse, the poet employs much clearer biblical language to 
express his imagined happiness, saying that it will be like milk and honey 
("latt'e m^le," v. 4). The latter, more direct citation of the Bible reinforces the 
interpretation of the previous verse as being based upon the Gospel of Matthew. 
In the book of Exodus, the Lord describes the Promised Land to Moses as 
"flowing with milk and honey" (8:8). In other words, Cecco's current condition 
is akin to that of the Israelites' servitude in Egypt. He establishes a parallel 
between his current banishment and that of the ancient Jews. More generally, 
since during the Middle Ages the story of Exodus was frequently read as an 
analogue to humankind's state of sinfulness prior to Christ's advent,* Cecco 



' The annotation of Siena H X 47 is transcribed diplomatically and in ftjll here. The only 

intervention is that of expanding contractions, and that material appears within 

parentheses. 

* See, for instance, Dante's Epistle to Cangrande where he reads the story of Exodus as 

both the liberation of the ancient Israelites from slavery and as the redemption of 

humankind from sin to salvation by Christ's crucifixion: "[...] si ad allegoriam, nobis 



116 Fabian Alfie 

likens his exile to a state of permanent sinfulness and punishment. Through the 
use of biblical and spiritual terminology, the opening quatrain suggests a sinful 
quality to Angiolieri's current situation and contrasts it with the idea that to 
return will be like paradise. 

In the second quatrain, he explains that he will be like a dove without 
bitterness (v. 5); Antonio Lanza notes that those birds were described in the 
bestiaries as lacking bile (66n4). Furthermore, the image of the dove 
corresponds to the appropriation of mystical terminology already seen in the 
first quatrain. It recollects the story of Noah who knew the flood had ended 
when the dove returned to the ark with an olive branch in its beak (Genesis 
8:11). Again, by recalling the biblical flood, Angiolieri instills into this sonnet 
the comparison of his future return to Siena with the arrival at a Promised Land 
or paradise. He thus reiterates the notion of the cleansing from sin. Cecco 
continues by promising that he will live humbly and asserts that his suffering 
will soften the hearts of even the most cruel (w. 6-8). In the first tercet, the 
rationale for the poet's borrowing of biblical and spiritual language comes into 
sharp focus. He claims that all his suffering would seem as pure as gold if he 
only had the hope of those in purgatory (vv. 9-11). By phrasing the latter 
statement as a hypothesis of impossibility, Angiolieri makes clear that he has no 
hope of ever returning home. But the poet's reference to purgatory implies more 
than despair. At this point, the reader becomes aware that Angiolieri sets up two 
structural parallels in the poem: between exile and hell, and between Siena and 
an unattainable paradise. Hence, images of current sinfulness and future, or 
rather, hypothetical redemption act in concert to underscore the notion that 
Cecco has lost all hope and that his exile is more than a temporary purgatory but 
rather a permanent damnation. 

In the final tercet, Angiolieri draws a second element of the sonnet into 
focus. In a previous study, I noted that Angiolieri foregrounds his self- 
presentation in this sonnet (170-74). At that time, I argued that Cecco's poetic 
persona is not necessarily an accurate representation of Angiolieri, the historical 
person. While Angiolieri may utilize some biographical data to give 
verisimilitude to his self-portrait, it is ultimately a literary construct carefully 
crafted for artistic objectives. In this sonnet, he employs the persona to make a 
statement about the banished. If exile is like hell, then Angiolieri draws a natural 
conclusion about the nature of the exiled individual. He explains that he will 
never return to his native city by sarcastically stating that it will occur when he 
and his father are in agreement (vv. 12-14). Antipatemal hatred is a topos of 
Angiolieri's poetics but it also functions within the economy of the sonnet to 
establish an unreliable narrating voice. In the sixth commandment, God instructs 
human beings to "Honor your father and your mother" (Exodus 20:12). In 

significatur nostra redemptio facta per Christum; si ad moralem sensum, significatur 
nobis conversio anime de luctu et miseria peccati ad statum gratie [...] " (Epistole 13: 21). 



Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Angiolieri, de' Faitinelli, and Tedaldi 1 17 

almost all of his poems, Angiolieri constructs a deliberately negative poetic 
persona and this sonnet is no exception.' By publicly writing of his animus 
towards his father, Angiolieri portrays himself to be a sinner who violates at 
least one of the biblical commandments. Indeed, since he describes himself 
throughout the poem as a damned soul, he consciously undercuts the sympathy 
evoked for his situation. After all, as Virgil explains to Dante in Inferno, since 
God's justice is infallible, a person should not have pity for those condemned to 
hell: "Qui vive la pieta quand'd ben morta" (20:28).'" Throughout the sonnet, 
Angiolieri deliberately casts himself as responsible for his unfortunate 
circumstances. Hence, he blasphemes in the incipit verse, he postpones purging 
himself of sin until some unspecified future date (w. 3, 5, 6) and recalls for the 
reader that he is not an obedient son (vv. 12-14). The poet writes an internally 
consistent sonnet in which exile is depicted as a sinful hell on earth and the 
banished individual is a sinner deserving of such punishment. Angiolieri's 
poetic acumen was not missed by the readers of the fourteenth century for, as 
shall be shown below, his sonnet became a type of palimpsest for other writers. 

The poet from Lucca, Pietro de' Faitinelli (b. ca. 1280-1290; d. 1349), has a 
corpus of some eighteen poems, ten of which deal explicitly with political 
struggles. In 1313, Pisa, the Tuscan stronghold of the Ghibellines, named 
Uguccione della Faggiuola as captain and on 5 November of that year 
Uguccione invaded the Lucchese territories. On 13 December 1313, the Pisan 
army entered Lucca proper and massacred its citizens. On 14 June 1314, 
Uguccione's forces again entered Lucca and the chronicles speak of them setting 
fire to over one hundred houses and sacking the cathedral of San Frediano." 
Subsequently, Faitinelli, a Black Guelph, was exiled for seventeen years; he was 
not allowed back into Lucca until 1331 (Vitale, Rimatori comico-realistici 650). 
He lived for a long period of time in the Veneto, perhaps even meeting the poet 
Nicolo de' Rossi (Marti, "Pietro dei Faitinelli" 164). In his political poetry, 
Pietro speaks openly about his anger at the Pisan Ghibellines and at Uguccione 
in particular ("Veder mi par gi^ quel da la Faggiuola/ re di Toscana: io dico 
d'Uguccione," vv. 1-2). He chastises the Guelphs for their weakness ("Poi rotti 
sete a scoglio presso a riva,/ guelfi [...]," vv. 1-2) and reproofs their prideftil 
boasting ("Gi^ per minacce guerra non si venze," v. 1 ; "Voi gite molto arditi a 
far la mostra," v. 1). Hence, unlike Angiolieri, Faitinelli focuses on the events of 
the day in his lyric production and comments upon them. 

Pietro also writes frankly about his experiences as an exile. Paolo Orvieto 
and Lucia Brestolini mention that the poeti giocosi frequently compose marginal 



' For more in-depth discussions of Angiolieri's poetic persona, see Alfie (165-92) and 

Barrett (48-59). 

'° The Commedia is cited in conformity with Petrocchi's edition. 

" Information about Uguccione della Faggiuola's war against Lucca is culled from 

Cappuccio (80-81). 



118 Fabian Alfie 

and dejected poetic personae through the careful selection and exaggeration of 
particular biographical traits (127). Those scholars' general description about the 
group of comic writers appears appropriate for Faitinelli in particular. In one 
sonnet, he puns on the name of Uguccione's lieutenant, Castruccio, and utilizes 
it to comment on his own personal humiliation. He describes his 
disempowerment as if a literal emasculation and speaks of Castruccio as the one 
who castrated him: "Si mi castro, per ch'io non sia castrone,/ Castruccio, quando 
Lucca fli tradita,/ che de' miei lombi 6 la lussuria uscita/ e vivo in castita per sua 
cagione" (vv. 1 -4). Another sonnet begins with two quatrains which express the 
sadness of living estranged from one's native city: "Onde mi dee venir giochi e 
sollazzi?/ onde mi dee venir motti con risa?/ onde, se non tormenti d'ogni 
guisa?/ onde mi dee venir, se non ch'io impazzi?" (w. 1-4). In that poem, he 
portrays the psychological state of the banished as one of depression and 
anguish. He despairs, he writes, for he sees Lucca in the hands of the Pisans (vv. 
7-8) and he describes the city in part in terms of a raped woman: "Veggiola 
ontata, nuda ed abitata,/ non da lo suo antico abitatore,/ ma da color che I'hanno 
si guidata" (vv. 9-11).'^ Like Cecco, Pietro creates self-portraits in his verse. 
More so than Angiolieri, however, Faitinelli appears to base them on actual 
personal sentiments, opinions and experiences. 

In still another sonnet, Faitinelli envisions his return to Lucca and writes: 

S'io veggio in Lucca bella mio ritorno, 
che fi' quando la pera fie ben mezza, 
in nullo cuore uman tant'allegrezza 
gia mai non fu, quant'io avr6 quel giomo. 

Le mura andr6 ieccando d'ogni intorno 
e gli uomini, piangendo d'allegrezza; 
odio, rancore, guerra ed ogni empiezza 
porr6 giu contra quel che mi cacciomo. 

E qui me' voglio '1 bretto castagniccio, 
'nanzi ch'altrove pan di gran calvello; 
'nanzi ch'altrove pium qui il graticcio. 

Ch'i' ho provato si amaro morsello, 
e provo e prover6, stando esiticcio, 
che '1 bianco e '1 ghibellin vo' per fratello. 

(674-75) 

Antonio Lanza points out the similarity between the incipit verse of 
Faitinelli's poem and the second line of Angiolieri's sonnet ("5'/' veggio '1 di sia 



'^ The language of the latter verses, it should be noted, seem to echo distantly the passage 
from the Book of Lamentations cited by Dante to suggest Beatrice's death: "Quomodo 
sedet sola civitas plena populo! facta est quasi vidua domina gentium" (28: 1). The Vita 
nuova is cited from De Robertis's edition. 



Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Angiolieri, de ' Faitinelli, and Tedaldi 1 19 

'a7 Siena ribandito") (66n2). Like Cecco (vv. 3-4), Faitinelli imagines his 
happiness on the day when he will be allowed back into Lucca (vv. 3-4) and he 
claims that he will make peace with his former enemies (vv. 7-8; v. 14). 
Faitinelli's reminiscences of Angiolieri seem to comprise another case of 
Cecco's influence on another jocose writer. Pietro's exile occurred after 
Uguccione's triumph over Lucca, which itself took place several years after 
Angiolieri's death. There is some reason to believe, therefore, that Faitinelli may 
have been familiar with Angiolieri's sonnet and may have recollected it for 
artistic reasons. 

Faitinelli's lyric differs somewhat fi"om Angiolieri's antecedent. 
Angiolieri's poem emphasizes the pain of being forced out of Siena; Pietro's, in 
contrast, stresses the joy of an eventual return. Faitinelli does not dedicate much 
attention in the poem to the depiction of life in exile. Instead, he positions his 
sonnet as dependent upon Angiolieri's description. He takes for granted that the 
readers are familiar with Cecco's portrait of the dreariness of living under 
banishment; the literary precedent provides the backdrop for Pietro's imagined 
happy return to Lucca. Faitinelli writes that such a day will be long overdue in 
coming (v. 2); he employs the metaphor of an overripe pear to underscore the 
length of time spent outside of his city. He then asserts that no other human 
heart will have felt such felicity (vv. 3-4) and exemplifies the emotion by 
describing his actions on that day: he will lick the walls of Lucca (v. 5) and 
other men will weep for joy (v. 6). The poet stresses the happiness of his return 
by twice placing the word "allegrezza" in the rhyming position at the end of a 
verse (vv. 3, 6). Faitinelli closes the second quatrain by stating that he will set 
aside all rancor, hostility and bitterness against those who have had him 
banished (vv. 7-8). The opening octave establishes a jubilant tone, one which is 
projected out onto a hypothetical ftiture and which contrasts in an understated 
manner with the pain of the present situation. 

In the tercets, Pietro explicitly spells out the opposition between life in 
Lucca and that in banishment. He says that he would rather eat the coarse bread 
of the humble in his native town than to have highly refined bread elsewhere 
(vv. 9-10). It is possible that Pietro's reference to the distinction between the 
bread of Tuscany and that of other parts of Italy is an oblique reminscence of 
Dante's description of exile in Paradiso: "Tu proverai si come sa di sale/ lo pane 
altrui" (17: 58-59). Pietro then reiterates the preference for Lucca in the 
following line when he writes that he would rather sleep on a hard bed in that 
city than on a fine feather mattress elsewhere (v. 11). In the final tercet, he 
explains the reason for the opinions expressed in the previous three lines and, in 
so doing, he underscores the two structures of the sonnet. He says that he wishes 
to return to Lucca for he has suffered so much by being banished (vv. 12-13). 
He compares his torment to eating a bitter morsel (v. 12), drawing the readers' 
attention to a network of food imagery running throughout the lyric. In the last 
line, he mentions that he will be the brother of Ghibellines and White Guelphs 



120 Fabian Alfie 

(v. 1 4). The closing verse, with its promise of an end to the political infighting 
and interpersonal hatreds, recalls the earlier statement that he will renounce 
rancor against those who banished him (vv. 7-8). Thus, Pietro completes a 
second thread running through the sonnet, that of eventually pardoning his 
enemies. By introducing these two structures, Pietro provides internal 
consistency to the lyric. Faitinelli focuses on the desire to return home in this 
sonnet, leaving the torment of banishment as subtext. Faitinelli 's poem, 
however, will not be the last word on the subject. 

The Florentine poet Pieraccio Tedaldi (b. ca. 1285-1290; d. ca. 1350) 
composes some forty-two sonnets during his lifetime. His poetry deals with 
various topics, including misogyny," the complaint against poverty,'^ the 
promotion of morality," and contemptus mundi.'^ He also writes of personal 
matters in several poems. For example, in two sonnets he speaks, apparently as 
an old man, about the loss of eyesight. In "Se parte del veder i' ho mancato" he 
explains his visual problems as being the result of his sinfulness: "deh come mi 
sta ben, in veritade,/ per che con gli occhi molta vanitade,/ con ciascun d'essi, 
lasso! ho gia mirato" (vv. 2-4). In another, he turns to Saint Lucy for assistance: 
"Santa Lucia, per tua verginitate/ i' priego che per me pregh'Iddio / che lui mi 
sani ciascun occhio mio,/ dov'i' ho tant'amara scuritate" (vv. 1-4). In one other 
sonnet, he directs his attention to another apparently personal issue: 

S'io veggio il di, che io disio e spero, 
di ritomare a star dentro a Firenza, 
e che io facci la mia risidenza, 
avr6 salute al mio voler sincere. 

E se di ci6 adempio il mio pensiero, 
per la virtij di Dio che n'ha potenza, 
e ci6 confermo e dico daddivero, 
e non credo far di la mai dispartenza. 

Questo egli t, ch6 i' sono oggimai sazio 
del tanto dimorare qui in Romagna, 
che a considerallo t uno strazio. 

Vorrei partir omai d'esta campagna 
e ritornar nel dilettoso spazio 
de la nobil dtth gioiosa e magna. (714-15) 



'^ For example, see the sonnets "S'io veggo il di che io mai mi dispigli," "El maladetto di 

ch'io pensai," and "Qualunque m'arrecassi la novella." 

''• For example, see the sonnets "Tal si solea per me levare in piede," "E' piccoli fiorin 

d'argento e d'oro," "O me, che io mi sento si smarrito," and "F truovo molti amici di 

starnuto." 

" See, for example, the sonnets "S'io veggo il di ch'i' vinca me medesimo," "Corretto 

son del tutto e gastigato," and "Io vo in me gramo spesso ripetendo." 

'^ See, for example, the sonnets "O uom che vivi assai in questo mondo," "Amico, il 

mondo t oggi a tal venuto," and "Io non trovo omo che viva contento." 



Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Angiolieri, de ' Faitinelli, and Tedaldi 121 

As with Angiolieri, the cause of Tedaldi's banishment is not known. The 
manuscript containing the sonnet, Vaticano Latino 3213 {unicus), presents a 
rubric which reads: "Del detto [Tedaldi], sendo stato anni 25 ftiori di Firenza, e 
avendo grande desiderio di ritomare [...]."" To what extent the rubric can be 
trusted is not certain; if it is accurate, then it establishes the basis for reading the 
sonnet biographically at least in part. 

The manuscript rubric not only allows readers to interpret Tedaldi's 
sonnet in light of historical factors but also gives an indication of its relationship 
to the previously studied works. Pieraccio's incipit verse, "S'io veggio il di, che 
io disio e spero," recalls that of Faitinelli ("S"/o veggio in Lucca bella mio 
ritomo") as well as, even more strongly, the second line of Angiolieri's poem 
("5'/' veggio 7 dl sia 'n Siena ribandito"). In other words, by opening the sonnet 
in that manner, Pieraccio seems to position himself as receiving the example set 
by Angiolieri and, quite possibly, negotiating it with the influence of Faitinelli.'* 
Given that Tedaldi was probably bom in the last two decades of the Trecento, 
his sonnet certainly came after that by Angiolieri. If Pieraccio wrote his sonnet 
after twenty-five years of exile, as Vaticano Latino 3213 states, then the date of 
composition occurred most likely after the seventeen years of Faitinelli's 
banishment (1314-1331); this conclusion, however, is not certain. Tedaldi seems 
to constitute the third link in a chain, metaphorically speaking, which began with 
Angiolieri around the year of 1304. 

Like both Faitinelli and Angiolieri, Tedaldi emphasizes his self-depiction in 
the sormet. He neither stresses his abject condition like Cecco, nor envisions a 
joyftil return to his native land like Pietro; instead, he crafts a psychological 
poem which highlights his hopes and wants as a banished individual. He studs 
the two quatrains with terminology suggestive of the psyche of the poetic 
persona: "disio e spero" (v. 1), "voler" (v. 4), "pensiero," (v. 5), "non credo" (v. 
8). Tedaldi begins structuring the sonnet around the wishes of the narrating 
voice in the incipit verse. He writes in the first quatrain that if he resides once 
again in Florence, his sincere desire will be fiilfilled (w. 1-4). He states that his 
will, at that time, will be healthy ("avr6 salute al mio voler sincero," v. 4), 
implying that his unsatisfied yearnings have left him unbalanced in some way. 
Pieraccio's understated implication of mental anguish recollects Angiolieri's 
more thorough examination of the psychology of the exiled. Perhaps the poet 
relies on the reader's recognition of the intertextualities with the other poet to 



'"^ The rubric and information about Vaticano Latino 3213 are cited from Morpurgo (74). 
'* It should be noted that Pieraccio uses the formula "S'i vegg(i)o il di" in other poems as 
well (see the incipit verses listed in notes 13 and 15). I find it interesting that in the other 
sonnets, Tedaldi uses a different form oivedere ("veggo") than in the sonnet about exile. 
While I would not want to read too much into such a minor linguistic variation, I wonder 
if the option to use "veggio" in the sonnet about banishment were a further indication of 
the intertextuality with Angiolieri and/or Faitinelli. 



122 Fabian Alfie 

fill in the informational gaps in the sonnet and understand already Pieraccio's 
tragic conditions. 

In the second quatrain, Pieraccio continues speaking psychologically by 
stating that he fills his thoughts with God's virtue and power (w. 5-6). He says 
truthfully that he does not believe his mind deviates from the contemplation of 
the Lord (vv. 7-8). He does not clarify whether he hopes that Christ will lift his 
banishment or if, rather, his torment has made him a better Christian. Owing to 
the other references to his psyche in these verses, I am inclined to believe the 
latter, although the former interpretation is not out of the question. Giuseppe 
Mazzotta characterizes Dante's conception of exile as linked to a poetic act 
which transmits the Truth to the people (138). In some respects — although, to 
be sure, in a far less systematic manner than in the Commedia — Pieraccio's 
verse corresponds to Mazzotta's suggestion. In Tedaldi's poem, too, exile may 
cause a spiritual conversion in the poet that is subsequently communicated to the 
reading community. In this respect, Tedaldi seems to echo another work by 
Dante in which the great poet speaks of banishment. In the canzone "Tre donne 
intomo al cor mi son venute," Alighieri first explains that his suffering has 
caused him to feel as if he had been burned in a flame: "Ma questo foco m'have 
/ gi^ consumato si I'ossa e la polpa,/ che Morte al petto m'ha posto la chiave" 
(vv. 85-88).'' Immediately thereafter, however, Dante spells out that whatever 
blame he may have had in causing his exile has been washed away through 
contrition: "Onde, s'io ebbi colpa,/ piii lune ha volto il sol poi che fu spenta,/ se 
colpa muore perch6 I'uom si penta" (w. 89-90). Tedaldi's poem can be read as 
taking Dante's assertions one step further. Not only has the sin of the exiled 
individual been cleansed, as Dante asserts in the canzone, but the process of 
seeking forgiveness has brought Pieraccio closer to God than formerly. 
Tedaldi's sonnet is almost a corrective to Cecco's. Moreover, while in the latter 
the exiled are viewed as sinful and deserving of their torment, in the former, the 
punishment can affect a renewed faith in God. 

In the first tercet, Pieraccio explains that he has had his fill with living in 
Romagna to such an extent that even considering it is a torture (vv. 9-11). The 
verb "considerallo" (v. 11) links the first tercet with the network of 
psychological terminology in the opening octave. The mere thought of 
banishment is excruciating ("strazio," v. 11), and the punishment of exile 
represents the only overt statement in the sonnet of his dismay about his current 
situation. Pieraccio constructs the sextet, however, around a second structure: 
the contrast between here (banishment in Romagna) and there (Florence). The 
poet had foregrounded the structural polarity in the opening octave by referring 
to the city of Florence (v. 2) and by using words like "ritomare" (v. 2) and "1^" 
(v. 3). But the focus on the distinction between exile and Tedaldi's native city is 
accentuated in the tercets as he expresses his desire to return home (vv. 12-14). 



'^ Dante's canzone is cited from Cudini's edition of the rime. 



Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Angiolieri, de ' Faitinelli, and Tedaldi 123 

Romagna itself, not just banishment, is presented in a distinctly negative light. 
He mentions that he is "sated" with his residence there ("sazio," v. 9) and 
depicts that region as a rustic countryside ("campagna," v. 12). Conversely, he 
states that he wishes to return to Florence (v. 13), calling it a delightful space 
("dilettoso spazio," v. 1 1) and a noble, joyful and great city ("nobil citta gioiosa 
e magna," v. 14). In these verses, the poet does more than simply contrast two 
geographical regions. Rather, he taps into the medieval cultural dualism between 
the urban and the rural: the former was generally viewed positively while the 
latter was thought of negatively (Cadden 2). Through his lexical choices, 
Pieraccio clearly associates the positive valences of urbanitas with Florence and 
the negative connotations of rusticitas with the Romagna. Thus, the internal 
structure of here/there is joined to a greater cultural perspective. By doing so, 
Pieraccio gives depth to his expressions of hatred for his status as an exile and 
highlights his wishes to be allowed back in his native land. 

In conclusion, Cecco Angiolieri, Pietro de' Faitinelli, and Pieraccio Tedaldi 
all apparently found themselves forced to reside involuntarily outside their home 
cities. For Faitinelli, documentation attests to the fact that he was actually 
banished from Lucca because of the internecine warfare; for Angiolieri and 
Tedaldi, both the evidence internal to their poetic productions and the 
manuscript marginalia suggest estrangement from Siena and Florence, 
respectively. To varying degrees, all three of the sonnets examined illustrate the 
personal impact of exile. Yet we should avoid reading the poetry as merely the 
simple "primitive" expressions of the private pain of those three individuals. 
Rather, they all craft the sonnets in line with literary precedents and artistic 
exigencies. Angiolieri, in keeping with his artistic modus operandi, crafts a self- 
denigrating poetic persona in his depiction of life away from Siena as a hell on 
earth. Possibly building upon Angiolieri's characterization of banishment, 
Faitinelli emphasizes the happiness he will feel upon his eventual return to 
Lucca. He uses food imagery to contrast with the "bitter morsel" of exile he has 
been forced to ingest. Tedaldi, in contrast, utilizes the intertextuality with 
Angiolieri and possibly also with Faitinelli to speak of his own personal spiritual 
transformation. He too constructs a poetic persona and imbues it with the 
psychology of the outcast. The examples of Faitinelli and Tedaldi underscore 
fiirther the influence that Angiolieri had on subsequent writers of poesia 
giocosa. The sonnets of all three authors, however, also assist in dispelling a 
long-held opinion about the comic poets of the Due and Trecento. Scholars of 
the early twentieth century frequently labeled those writers as "burlesque" and 
explained their poetry as the writings of bizarre individuals.^" By foregrounding 
the figure of the irascible poet in the interpretation of the poetry, scholarship 



^° For characteristic readings of jocose poetry as evidence of the pathological nature of 
the poets, see the following: Sapegno 380; Russo, ''La critica modema" 205; Rho 499- 
500; and Russo, "Cecco Fortarrighi" (319). 



124 Fabian Alfie 

seemed to suggest that the lyrics lacked substance. In other words, a critical 
tendency developed of interpreting their lyrics as devoid of any significant 
meaning. The three sonnets studied above, however, to a great degree give the 
lie to the impression created by the earlier criticism. Far from being merely the 
utterances of scoundrels, the three poems demonstrate the engagement of the 
respective writers in the events of their society at large. They illustrate that 
Cecco Angiolieri, Pietro de' Faitinelli, and Pieraccio Tedaldi, while still writing 
in the style of comic literature, composed verses about circumstances of 
personal and social relevance. 

The University of Arizona, Tucson 



Cast Out: The Topos of Exile in Angiolieri, de ' Faitinelli, and Tedaldi 125 



Works Cited 

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Society. Leeds: Northern Universities Press, 2001. 
Alighieri, Dante. La divina commedia secondo I'antica vulgata. 4 vols. Ed. Giorgio 

Petrocchi. Milano: Mondadori, 1966-67. 
. Opere minori. Vol. 3, Tome 3. Ed. Arsenio Frugoni, Giorgio Brugnoli, Enzo 

Cecchini, Francesco Mazzoni. Milano: Ricciardi, 1995. 

. Le rime. Ed. Piero Cudini. Milano: Garzanti, 1979. 

. Vita nuova. Ed. Domenico De Robertis. Milano: Ricciardi, 1980. 



Angiolieri, Cecco. Le rime. Ed. Antonio Lanza. Roma: Guido Izzi, 1990. 

Barrett, Tracy. "The Poetic Persona of Cecco Angiolieri." Medieval Perspectives 3:1 

(1988): 48-59. 
Cadden, Joan. Meanings of Sex Differences in the Middle Ages: Medicine, Science, and 

Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1993. 
Cappuccio, Carmelo. Folgore da San Gimignano e Cene da la Chitarra. Siracusa: 

Santoro, 1924. 
Marti, Mario. Cultura e stile nei poeti giocosi del tempo di Dante. Pisa: Nistri, 1953. 

. I poeti giocosi del tempo di Dante. Milano: Rizzoli, 1956. 

Mazzotta, Giuseppe. Dante, Poet of the Desert: History and Allegory in the Divine 

Comedy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1979. 
Morpurgo, Salomone, ed. Le rime di Pieraccio Tedaldi. Firenze: Alia libreria Dante, 

1885. 
Orvieto, Paolo, and Lucia Brestolini. La poesia comico-realistica. Dalle origini al 

Cinquecento. Roma: Carocci, 2001. 
Rho, Edmondo. "Cecco Angiolieri." Civilta moderna 3 (1931): 499-512. 
Russo, Luigi. "Cecco Fortarrighi e Cecco Angiulieri." Letture critiche del Decameron. 

Bari: Laterza, 1956.314-20. 
. "La critica moderna e gli italiani." Problemi di metodo critico. Bari: Laterza, 

1929. 195-205. 
Sapegno, Natalino. "La lingua e Parte di Cecco Angiolieri." Convivium 1 (1929): 371-82. 
Vitale, Maurizio. Lingua dei poeti realistico-giocosi del '200 e '300. Milano: La 

Goliardica, 1955. 

. Rimatori comico-realistici del Due e Trecento. Torino: UTET, 1956. 

Waddell, Helen. The Wandering Scholars. London: Constable, 1934. 

Witke, Charles. Latin Satire: The Structure of Persuasion. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1970. 



Thomas E. Peterson 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 

[... ] agnos in uinculis, Christum denique exulem [...]' 



Tasso's debts to Petrarch are manifest, as is clear from the Discorsi del poema 
eroico, "La Cavaletta overo delia poesia toscana," and other works in which 
references to the Rerum vulgarium fragmenta (hereafter RVF) and Trionfi 
abound.^ The same is also apparent to any reader of Tasso's Rime, whose 
Petrarchism surpasses what Bembo formulated as a Petrarchan model to imitate 
in the field of lyric poetry.^ But our concern here is a different one: it is the 
dynamic and dramatic sharing in the Gerusalemme liberata (hereafter GL) of 
Petrarch's moral and poetic itinerary in the RVF, as is revealed by a study of the 
theme of exile. 

The reality of exile and the metaphor of exile are intertwined in both works. 
Such a metaphor embraces reality; though it speaks of an experience that is 
fictional, it carries with it the pain and stigma, and the opportunities, of real 
exile. In both the RVF and GL one finds a thematics of redemptive and 
progressive cleansing and elevation of the principal characters of both 
masterpieces according to the figural connotations Auerbach explored.'* The 
Christian and specifically Augustinean dimension of both works imbues their 



' Petrarca, Sine nomine (220-2 In 19), "gli agnelli in gabbia, e infine I'esilio di Cristo" 
refers to the degradation of papal Avignon 

^ Sozzi, "II Tasso estimatore del Petrarca," writes, "La diretta usufruizione delicatissima 
del Petrarca nella poesia del Tasso si estende [...] anzi dalle Rime dWAminta, alia 
Gerusalemme Liberata, a! Torrismondo, e piu oltre" (45). We refer in this article to the 
following editions and translations: F. Petrarca, Canzoniere, ed. M. Santagata; Petrarch 's 
Songbook. Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta, trans. James Wyatt Cook [abbreviated here as 
PS]; T. Tasso, Gerusalemme liberata, ed. C. Varese and G. Arbizzoni; T. Tasso, 
Jerusalem Delivered, trans. A. Esolen [abbreviated here as JD]. For a comprehensive 
study of Tasso's debts to Petrarch in his lyric poetry, see Brand. 

^ For a discussion of the religiously wan but stylistically accomplished derivation from 
Petrarch by Tasso in his lyric poetry see Brand. 

* Auerbach, "Figura": "[Augustine] took the view — which had long ago become part of 
the tradition— that the Old Testament was pure phenomenal prophecy, and he laid more 
stress than others on certain passages in the Pauline epistles. [...] The observances of the 
law [...] and the sacraments quae habuerunt promissivas figuras ('which served as figures 
of promise'), are the letter of Scripture, precisely in the sense that their undoubted carnal 
and historical reality has, no less historically, been revealed and spiritually interpreted by 
the Christian fulfillment [...]" (39-40). 
Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002) 



128 Thomas E. Peterson 

narratives, guiding them to a unified resolution (though this unity is more 
implicit in the lyric sequence, more explicit in the epic). In this tradition the Old 
Testament is a prophetic prefiguration of the New; the incarnation of God in 
Christ is actual, a lived experience of salvation and all of the bible is viewed in 
light of this providential history. (It is significant that while the term exilium 
does not occur in the New Testament, the concept remains alive, and is 
translated as "here on earth," "away from heaven," etc.) The present life is an 
exile from the life to come, as both poets certainly believed as part of their 
Christian faith. By the same token, in the historical climate of humanism which 
the two poets' lifetimes effectively circumscribe, the experience of salvation and 
transcendence are available in this life. Botn poets advance a sense of prophetic 
prefiguration that is wholly Augustinean, syncretic and neoplatonist. In their 
religious practice, the sanctity of Christ's incarnation is recreated in prayer, in 
the liturgy and Holy Offices, and in poetry.^ 

In a late letter to a friend who had been exiled by the Visconti of Milan, 
Petrarch writes that he should feel fortunate for his "exile" because he is free of 
the jealousies and avidity; in closing he refers to exile in a way that is common 
throughout his work, citing Cicero's notion of this mortal life as an exile, and 
our bodies as prisons.^ The notion of exile as a test in life, even an opportunity 
to attain honor, is presented by Petrarch in the De Remediis utriusque Fortune, 
in which Reason explains to Sorrow that "Many have been honored by their 
exile — many have become, through the powers of misfortune and outrage, as it 
were, better known and more respected."^ The honor of exile — because of the 
political and religious upheavals of both the 14'*' and 16* centuries — will be a 
challenge for either poet to attain, in solitude and ultimately in religious retreat. 

Another layer in either poet's use of the topos of exile is provided by the 
amor de lonh of the trobadors, the exile from the beloved. This convention 
requires the minstrel to compose a song for a distant and unrequited love: one is 
on a relative plane, of absolute — in the sense of unbridgeable — distances. And 
there is added pertinence to this syncretic fact when one considers that among 



^ Pozzi "Petrarca, i Padri e soprattutto la Bibbia," analyzes Petrarch's progressive 
adoption of a "Davidic" poetic voice in terms of an increase in the images of weeping and 
water, and in his practice of biblical citation: "Ora il lavoro centonario del poeta si 
concentra con un'insistenza singolare suH'elemento acqueo. Prevalenza di elemento 
acqueo in un contesto del genere fa tutt'uno con le lacrime che definiscono la poesia di 
Davide, nonchd con quelle bibliche, sparse nei RVF [...]" (183). 

^ Petrarca, Lettere disperse, "Piacesse per ultimo al cielo, ci6 che m'avete augurato nelle 
lettere vostre, che dopo questo esilio, non vostro soltanto, ma da noi tutti condiviso, che 
in questa morte che si dice vita ci troviamo trattenuti dai lacci e dalla prigione del corpo, 
ci vedessimo alia fine liberi nella patria e nella terra dei viventi" (463). A. Pancheri 
comments, ibid, "La sentenza ciceroniana (Tusc, I 31, 75) e la definizione della vita 
come esilio e del corpo come carcere ricorrono spesso nell'opera petrarchesca" (462). 
^ Petrarca, Petrarch 's Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul 3: 1 52. 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 129 

the continuators of the amor de lonh tradition in the poets of the dolce stil 
nuovo, the most prominent were also political exiles — Cavalcanti, Cino da 
Pistoia and the illustrious Florentine who wrote, "I'essilio che m'6 dato onor mi 
tegno."' 

Comparing Petrarch to Dante, Contini contrasts the "transcendental" 
character of Dante's Florentine-ness to the civic identity of Petrarch, bom into 
exile: "la fiorentinit^ di questo fiorentino della Diaspora bianca, nato esule e 
stato giusto a balia in Valdamo, cresciuto in quel Laterano super flumina 
Babylonis che fli Avignone: la medesima Avignone di dove il suo amico Simon 
Martini gettera il seme del gotico intemazionale" (102). By referring to his 
"Babylonian" upbringing, Contini adopts the poet's chosen metaphor of exile 
and seems to suggest the fluvial currents that circulate through the RVF as well 
as the importance there of pictorial and figurative-iconic means of 
representation. As we argue below, the liquid element in the RVF ultimately 
comes to signify the tears of exile and redemption. 

Just as the relationship between Dante and Petrarch remains fertile ground 
for study, so too that between Petrarch and Tasso; and here too one must draw 
some immediate distinctions. In order to grasp the work of Petrarch one is 
obliged to comb the epistolary and other writings, and naturally dwell with the 
poems. Even more than an exquisite synthesis of the Provencal and Siculo- 
Tuscan traditions, one has a culmination in Petrarch and the initiation of 
something entirely new, beginning with the genre of the canzoniere. The writing 
is begun around 1336, when Petrarch is thirty-two years old, and is continued 
until 1368. The contrast with Tasso, who had completed the GL by age thirty- 
one, is distinct. The GL is a work by a genius whose seriousness and vigor in 
formulating and applying his largely Aristotelian precepts is only matched by 
his creative freedom. The biography in question is an early one, before mental 
problems begin to afflict the author, though he suffers from melancholia. 
Torquato is forced to leave his native Naples at age nine, when his father's 
patron Ferrante Sanseverino, is driven out by the Spanish Viceroy. The boy will 
never see his mother again. This uprooting and exile give rise to Tasso's alter- 
ego of the Dialoghi, the "Forestiero Napoletano," the figure of a pilgrim in life. 

The figure of exile then is best viewed in its composite — as metaphor and 
actual experience, literary topos and historical fact, as voluntary and 
involuntary, secular and religious in its connotations. We pursue a parallel 
itinerary between the two works and are guided primarily by lexical and 
thematic comparisons; we hope the juxtaposition will lead to a greater 
understanding of the two poets' literary commonality of the works and their 
shared salvific or soteriological dimension.^ Our focus is on the dynamics of the 



* Alighieri, "Tre donne intomo al cor mi son venute," Dante's Lyric Poetry 180-81: "I 

count as an honour the exile imposed on me." 

' We acknowledge the difficulties in such a study, as suggested by Mengaldo, Giudizi di 



130 Thomas E. Peterson 

texts, their outward exploration of stories and histories, and their inward song — 
the "divine inbreathing" of the poet — for the sake of constructing a universe of 
the text that reflects the spiritual and moral order of the cosmos.'" The embrace 
of metaphor and symbol is what enables this mimesis to occur within a 
rhetorical dispositio that is common to both poets, despite differences in genre. 
Scarpati traces Tasso's adaptation of the stylistic "forces of disjunction" of 
Petrarch to the rhetoric and narrative plan of his epic: 

II Tasso trasporta I'idea della disgiunzione dal piano retorico a quello narrativo e da 
luogo a una costruzione epica abbracciabile con un solo sguardo perchd fortemente 
geometrizzata. [...] da Petrarca [il Tasso] semb'-a accogliere il suggerimento vitale della 
dispositio, intesa come principio costruttivo, come interna legge regolante il moto 
narrativo. 

(Scarpati 8-9)" 

Given the negativity of exile and the positive moral pathways descried in 
the works, it is not surprising that lexical occurrences of exile are clustered in 
the earlier portions of the works, or that occurrences coming later serve to recast 
the worldly exile in a divine and sanctified light. The noun "essiglio" appears 
ten times in the GL and is distributed among diverse characters. All but one of 
the six poems in which "exilio" occurs in the RVF are in the first centenary (21, 



valore: "[...] paragonare un poema narrativo-didattico a un canzoniere amoroso non t del 
tutto lecito neppure linguisticamente," and we concur that scholars of the literary 
language must adopt a relational view between genres, remembering "che le osservazioni 
in materia andrebbero sempre messe in relazione [...] con le questioni di 'genere'" (41). 
For an example of such cross-genre criticism see Gibbons. 

'° Petrarca, Opere latine, vol. 2: "poetam natura ipsa valere et mentis viribus excitari et 
quasi divino quodam spiritu afflari" (1258). In his "Coronation Oration," in Wilkins, 
Studies in the Life and Works of Petrarch, Petrarch cites Cicero concerning the inward 
voice of poets: "We have it upon the authority of the most learned men that whereas 
attainment in other activities depends upon talent, learning, and skill, the poet attains 
through his very nature, is moved by the energy that is within his mind, and is as it were 
inspired by a divine inbreathing [...]" (301). 

" The citation continues as follows: "Questa b. probabilmente la sostanza del 
petrarchismo tassiano, che va ben al di 1^ della modulazione petrarchesca del linguaggio 
epico, anche se necessariamente la include. La Liberata appare sorretta da un disegno 
petrarchesco, da geometric petrarchesche che non sono anacronistico ripristino: il nesso 
Tasso-Petrarca si instaura in un quadro aggiomatissimo [...]" (9-10). Della Terza provides 
insights on this same issue of "the course Tasso's experience of Petrarch takes in the 
GL": "[...] we have two complementary movements, one simplifying and centrifugal, 
which tends to reduce Petrarch's amplification and color to mere points in the landscape 
of the narrative, and one which tends centripetally to suddenly condense and order in one 
line the strong sensations revelatory of the baroque opening to the world of all the poet's 
senses" (185). 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 1 3 1 

37, 45, 80, 94), the other coming in poem 130; "exiglio" appears in 285 and 
"exilii"in331.'^ 

The metaphor of exile is accompanied by a host of semantic indicators 
(err are, s mar r ire, vergogna, peccato, prigione, giogo, laccio, Babilonia, Babel) 
along with those that set the lost soul on the road to salvation {peregrine, 
voltare, Elicona, Gerusalemme); for both Tasso and Petrarch, Neoplatonism and 
St. Augustine play a role in the figurative language employed. And while the 
training of the will is a central concern, the distinction between "voluntary" and 
"involuntary" exile is ultimately effaced in the recognition of humanity's 
common plight and need for grace in order to free itself through the practice of 
the Word: "audi et tu: verbum ipsum clamat, ut redeas [...]," writes Augustine.'^ 

When the GL begins, the epic material is announced; the Muse is invoked 
— "O Musa, tu che di caduchi allori / non circondi la fronte in Elicona" (GL I, 
2) — in a Petrarchan reference to the poet's site of solace and inspiration; the 
reader is considered; and the patron Alfonso d'Este is addressed. When we meet 
the Saracen hierarchy in Canto II, Ismeno the magician assures the Muslim King 
Aladino that he will gather the "exiled" angels to assist in defeating the 
Christian forces; the use of the tactical metaphor in the celestial context 
bespeaks the apostate Ismeno's blindness, and the banality and guile of Satan 
and the other rebel angels: 

[ ■■■] 

cio che puo dar di vecchia eta consiglio, 
tutto prometto, e ci6 che magica arte. 
Gli angeli che dal Cielo ebbero essiglio 
constringer6 de le fatiche a parte. 

(GL II, 4.3-6)'" 



'^ RVF 45 is the first-written of these (probably in 1336), coming in the "Prima raccolta" 
of 1342; all of the others, except for RVF 331 are present in the "Redazione Correggio" 
of 1357-58; RVF 331 is first present ten years later in the "Forma Malatesta" (1367-68). 
For the history of the drafts of the canzoniere, beginning with the "Prima raccolta," see 
Santagata, Iframmenti dell'anima (137-41). 

'^ Confessionum IV. 11 (66). Concerning Petrarch's practice of prayer and recitation of 
the Holy Offices and Scripture, Pozzi writes: "La Bibbia diventava attraverso questi usi 
liturgici esperienza di parola reinventata, cui faceva riscontro, riformulata su quel 
modello, la preghiera privata, sia orale che mentale. Era un circuito ininterrotto cui era 
chiamato I'uomo nella sua interezza di came e di spirito. La recita consegnava alia 
memoria il testo attraverso la vista e I'udito, ma interveniva, metaforicamente, anche il 
gusto: era definita un masticar parole, cui faceva seguito nella meditazione quel 
rivolgimento dei detti che con vocabolo corrispondente veniva chiamato 'ruminare'. 
L'esercizio, se impegnava la mente, mirava per6 al cuore [...]" (150-51). 
'" "'I vow to give all of my long years' sage / counsel, with all that magic arts can do. / 
The angels banished by the Almighty's rage / shall do our errands — my obedient crew'" 
(JD 36). 



132 Thomas E. Peterson 



Later in the canto, Aladino accedes to Clorinda's request to spare the 
Christian heroine Sofronia, who claims falsely to have stolen the missing icon of 
Mary and burned it; though fearful of her virtue, Aladine dispatches her and her 
suitor Olindo into exile outside of Palestine (Tasso's source for the exiling of 
Christians from Jerusalem is William of Tyre): 

Ma 11 sospettoso re stim6 periglio 
tanta virtu congiunta aver vicina; 
onde, com'egli volse, ambo in essiglio 
oitra i termini andir di Palertina. 
Ei, pur seguendo il suo crudel consiglio, 
bandisce altri fedeli, aitri confina. 

(GL 11, 54.1-6)'^ 

With this scene Tasso has introduced the iconic or sacramental dimension, 
he has displayed his manneristic mastery of antithesis and introduced, through a 
strong female character and virgin, what Fortini calls the "erotica religiosa" of 
the poem.'^ The following incidence, in which Armida appeals to Goffredo's 
piety and compassion by claiming to have been a voluntary exile ("volontario / 
essiglio") in order to save her life, is a perversion not only of the eros and 
religion of the Sophronia episode, but of all worthy "voluntary exiles," such as 
monks and religious contemplatives: 

■ Ma che giovava, oim^!, che del periglio 
vicino omai fosse presago il core, 
s'irresoluta in ritrovar consiglio 
la mia tenera eti rendea il timore? 
Prender fuggendo volontario essiglio, 
e ignuda uscir del patrio regno fxiore, 
grave era si ch'io fea minore stima 
di chiuder gli occhi ove gli apersi in prima. 

{GL IV, 50; my emph.)" 

No less dramatic in soliciting pity than Sophronia, but but of the inverse 



'* "But the king, wary of dangers that might grow / if such joint virtue should too clearly 
sine, / gave orders that the two be forced to go / settle beyond the bounds of Palestine. / 
He carries out his cruel counsel, to / banish some of the faithful, or confine" (JD 46). 
'* Fortini, Dialoghi col Tasso 79. Sozzi defends the scene from certain reductive critical 
estimations, and does so in the name of Tasso's mannerism and mastery of antithesis. 
'^ "But oh, what did it profit, that my heart / could now divine the danger drawing near, / 
if my tender youth in reaching a decision / was rendered so irresolute by fear? / To flee, 
naked, in self-banishment / and wander from my fatherland so dear, / saddened me so that 
it must seem less grim / to shut my eyes where I first opened them" {JD 82). 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 133 

moral order, is Armida, whose lies and fetching tears captivate the Christian 
forces (of 49 instances of "pianto," 9 refer to Armida' s simulated tears in this 
Canto). Delia Terza cites this episode as ample proof of Tasso's inventiveness: 
"A poet who was able to invent the story of Armida' s pretended persecution by 
a non-existent uncle, as Tasso did, practically from scratch {GL IV, 43-65) could 
not be accused without contradiction of lacking the gift of a strong imaginative 
drive" (31). Tasso's desire to encompass the whole experience of the Crusaders, 
to contain history even as he deviated from its particulars, resulted in a new 
syntax, rhetoric and style that the Florentine cruscanti resisted.' Armida's 
petition is denied by Goffredo, who says he cannot divide his troops until the 
city is liberated and the Holy Tomb of Christ regained; but his men persuade 
him that a small company sent to accompany Armida will not harm the cause; 
the pliability of the soldiers' will corresponds to a vulnerability in Goffredo: 
"Ma d'altra parte in lui pietoso affetto / si desta, che non dorme in nobil petto" 
{GL IV, 65.7-8).'^ As C. H. Bowra writes, "His natural courtesy and respect for 
the feelings of his officers impair his judgement and make him forget that his 
first and only task is to lead the army against Jerusalem" (157). Thus we witness 
to the Christian soldiers' undoing, a sort of self-exile into a place of moral and 
physical paralysis. 

Just as the soldiers are frapped by the mirror of their own desire, so is the 
Petrarchan lover in the conceit of RVF 45, "II mio adversario in cui veder 
solete," when the Mirror counsels Laura to refiise the lover, to "exile" him: 

Per consiglio di lui, donna, m'avete 
scacciato del mio dolce albergo fora: 
misero exilio, avegna ch'i' non fora 
d'abitar degno ove vol sola siete. 
Ma s'io v'era con saldi chiovi fisso, 
non devea specchio farvi per mio danno, 
a voi stessa piacendo, aspra et superba. 



{RVFA5,A-\\) 



,20 



'* About Tasso's novelty in this regard, see Barilli, "11 Tasso, nello stendere il suo poema, 

e ossessionato da! problema della realta, della verosimiglianza, e sta proprio in cio il suo 

doiorso approdo a! continente del modemo. Egli conduce in ritardo quell 'unificazione 

deilo spazio e deii'agire che i pittori della grande generazione di Raffaello avevano gii 

attuato, ma non i narrator! correspondenti, a cominciare dall'Ariosto [...]" (21). 

" "but there stirred in him from another part, / pity which never sleeps in the gentle 

heart" {JD 85). 

^° "On his advice, my Lady, from my sweet / Abode you drove me forth, sent me away / 

A wretched exile, since I was unfit / To sojourn where you now abide alone. / But if there 

I were fixed with massive nails, / You'd need no glass to make you haughty, stem / To 

my undoing while you please yourself {PS, 83). 



134 Thomas E. Peterson 

Such narcissism marks the initial stage of a moral situation, in which, 
according to Santagata, "I'essere scacciati dal cuore dell'amata b come essere 
banditi dalla propria patria [...]" {Camoniere 237n7). This is evident in the 
analogy between the mirror and the lady, the poet and her image, but also in the 
imagery that communicates laterally, such as the "saldi chiovi" of line 9 with 
their Christological and Dantean references. We are witnesses not simply to a 
sentimental state in flux, but of an acute self-consciousness and stylization of 
that condition in a way that belies any superficial interpretative formula for 
Petrarch's lyrics. In RVF 21 the "unhappy exile" is the poet's heart, cast away 
by him, leaving him to speculate on the error of Laura's rejection of him and the 
unhappiness she will cause all concerned if she does not offer hospice to the 
heart. Once again the complexity of the conceit is remarkable: 

Mille fiate, o dolce mia guerrera, 
per aver co' begli occhi vostri pace 
v'aggio proferto il cor; ma vol non place 
mirar si basso colla mente altera 

[ ] 

Or s'io lo scaccio, et e' non trova in vol 

ne / 'exilio infelice alcun soccorso, 

nd sa star sol, n6 gire ov'altri il chiama, 

poria smarrire il suo natural corso: 
che grave colpa fia d'ambeduo noi, 
et tanto piu de voi, quanto piu v'ama. 

(/?FF 21, 1-4, 9-14)^' 

Tasso's borrowing of "I'exilio infelice," in order to refer to the pagan 
heroine Erminia and her "core," the heart separated from the body (the body 
now "free" because of Tancredi's noble intervention), duplicates the Petrarchan 
situation and phrase: 

Venne a Gierusalemme, e quivi accolta 

fu dal tiranno del paese ebreo; 

ma tosto pianse in nere spoglie avolta 

de la sua genitrice il fato reo. 

Pur ne '1 duol che le sia per morte tolta, 

n6 / 'essiglio infelice, unqua poteo 

I 'amoroso desio sveller dal core, 

ni favilla ammorzar di tanto ardore. {GL VI, 59)^^ 



^' "I've proffered you my Heart; but you despise / With your proud mind to cast your 
gaze so low; / ... / Thus, if I banish him, and he find not / In you, in his sad exile, some 
relief, / And cannot learn to live alone or go / Where others call, he'll miss his natural 
course. / For us, what a grave error that will be, / And greater far for you, whom he loves 
more" (^5 45). 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 135 

Erminia, her heart ablaze, gazes from the battlements at Tancredi, 
feminizing the figure of the faithful lover in Petrarch. 

In Canto VII Raimondo tells Goffredo that as "head" of the Christian forces 
he should not risk himself in a duel with Argante, volunteering himself to the 
duel; the speech includes one of four references to Babel: 

In te la it s'appoggia e '1 santo impero, 
per te fia 11 regno di Babdl distrutto. (GL VII, 62.5-6) 
^-- Goffredo responds with a second reference: 

Oh! pur avessi fra Pelade acerba 
diece altri di valor al tuo simile, 
come ardirei vincer Babel superba 
e la Croce spiegar da Battro a Tile. 

(GL VII, 69.1-4) 

In the opening of Canto 8, Sveno's fatal mission to the Holy Land is 
recounted by a messenger to Goffredo whose great fame is evident in the 
periphrasis: 

Egli inchinollo, e I'onorata mano 
volea baciar che fa tremar Babelle. 

{GL VIII, 5.3-4) 

As Esolen writes in a note on GL VII, 62: "Baghdad was so called 
["Babylon"] in the Middle Ages. But Tasso's view is eschatalogical, as he is 
thinking of the final defeat of Babylon foretold in Revelations 18."" 

The same imagery prevails in RVF 37, a canzone rich in references to Cino 
da Pistoia, in which the lover's "duro exilio" corresponds to the sin of accidia; 
but we also note that the secular genre of the amor de lonh is taking on sacred 
values: 

Ogni loco m'atrista ov'io non veggio 

quei begli occhi soavi 

che portaron le chiavi 

de' miei dolci pensier, mentre a Dio piacque; 

et perche 'I duro exilio piiJ m'aggravi, 

s'io dormo vado o seggio, 

altro gia mai non cheggio. 



" "To Jerusalem she came, and was received / by the tyrant ruler of the Hebrew state. / 

But soon, enshrouded in the black of mourning, / Erminia wept her mother's bitter fate. / 

But neither the sorrow of death nor her unhappy / exile could in the least eradicated / 

from her true hear her amorous desire, / nor could it douse one spark of such a fire" {JD, 

122). 

^^ Esolen, JD, 457. The translations in this paragraph are from Esolen, JD, 146, 147, 160. 



136 Thomas E. Peterson 

et ci6 ch'i' vidi dopo lor mi spiacque. 



iRVF37,33-40f 



Though the lover's capacity to fully recognize his condition is only at an 
incipient stage, his "exile" is presented as an opportunity for growth, its ultimate 
cause not being Laura's cruelty but God's will. RVF 80 is a sestina on a 
religious theme, remarkable because the tradition and Petrarch himself had 
limited that genre to an amorous subject matter: 

S'io esca vivo de' dubbiosi scogli, 
et arrive il mio exilio ad un bel fine, 
ch'i' sarei vago di voltar la vela, 
et I'anchore gittar in qualche porto! 
Se non ch'i' ardo come acceso legno, 
si m'd dure a lassar I'usata vita. 

(/?rF 80, 31-36)^^ 

The fire and water metaphors speak to an arch-symbol of both the RVF and 
GL. We contend that in either work the passions of the flesh associated with fire 
and ice, tears and ardor, have their ultimate significance as signs of contrition 
and joy, the inner flame and the solace of being at one with God. As Pozzi 
writes, "I'accensione del fuoco intemo h opera a sua volta delle lacrime" (183).^^ 
Since we have mentioned Cino da Pistoia, it is opportune to cite in this context 
the conclusion of Petrarch's sonnet on his death in 1336-37: 

Pianga Pistoia, e i citadin perversi 



^■^ "Each place I fail to seejhose lovely eyes / So gentle, I grow sad; / They bore with 
them the keys / Of all my sweetest thoughts, while it pleased God. / And since hard exile 
grieves me much, though I / May sleep, or pace, or sit, /I'll beg not other eyes; / Since 
hers, all eyes I've looked upon displease" {PS 73). 

^' "If, living, I escape those doubtful shoals, / And if my exile comes to a fair end, / How 
happy I should be to furl the sail / And then let down my anchor in some port! / Unless I 
bum as does a flaming craft, / 1 find it hard to leave my wonted life" (/*5 131). 
^^ I cite the broader context of Pozzi 's remarks in which he discusses "I'elaborazione 
teorica che la spirituality medievale aveva sviluppato intomo al motivo delle lacrime 
bibliche," citing Augustine""Le lacrime scorrono nelle Confession^ — and Gregorio 
Magno's Dialoghi, in which the figure of Axa knows two types of weeping — 'Urriguum 
superius'^ and '"irriguum inferius": "Ma I'accensione del fiioco interno t opera a sua volta 
delle lacrime, secondo quanto insegna il libro dei Maccabei (2 Mace. 1:22): di ritomo 
dall'esilio i sacerdoti scavarono nel pozzo dove avevano nascosto il fuoco e vi trovarono 
acqua crassa; con quest'acqua aspersero la legna pronta per il sacrificio e allora "sol 
refulsit qui prius erat in nubilo et accensus est ignis magnus ita ut omnes mirarentur" 
(183-84). Tasso employs "pianto" 49 times, fully 9 of them in Canto IV, all in reference 
to the wiles of Armida. 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 137 



che perduto ^no si dolce vicino; 
et rallegresi il cielo, ov'ello t gito. 



{RFV 92, 12-14)" 



Cino was the first among the poets of the preceding generation to employ 
such "Petrarchan" locutions such as "dolce morte"; here, as Santagata advises, 
the "citadin perversi" are those responsible for Cino's exile, due to the same 
communal politics that exiled Dante and Petrarch's father. The uniqueness of the 
death sonnet in this context pays highest respect to Cino, just as it accords value 
to the privilege of exile. Mario Luzi has written of Petrarch's poetics of solitude 
and memory in this regard as the construction of a "personal universe": "Nasce 
cosi quell'universo personale, non opposto ma speculare rispetto a quello 
violento e contraddittorio della comunit^ e della storia dove il poeta che I'ha 
creato prova simultaneamente la frustrazione e il privilegio dell'esilio" (102). 

The privilege of exile is suggested two sonnets later when, though exiled 
from his lady, the lover is still able to recognize the joy of love: 

Quando giugne per gli occhi al cor profondo 
rimagin donna, ogni altra indi si parte, 
et le vertu che Tanima comparte 
lascian le membra, quasi immobil pondo. 
Et del primo miracolo il secondo 
nasce talor, che la scacciata parte 
da se stessa fiiggendo arriva in parte 
che fa vendetta e i suo exilio giocondo. 

{RVF94, 1-8)^* 

Though he dwells on the particulars of the lovelorn sentiment, the "demone 
meridiano" that had plagued him does not constitute an ultimate impediment. 



^^ "Pistoia weep — you citizens perverse — / That you have such a genial townsman lost; / 
Let Heaven, where he's gone, be filled with joy" (PS 139). 

^* "When through my eyes into my inmost heart / There comes that ruling image, all else 
thence / Departs, and so those powers the soul bestows / Desert the limbs, as if they were 
fixed weights; / And then from that first miracle, sometimes / The next is bom, because 
the banished power, / In fleeing from itself, comes to a place / That takes revenge, and 
makes its exile blithe" (PS 141). 

^' On the "demone meridiano" Pozzi writes: "Adire il Petrarca biblico comporta questo 
itinerario: ripercorrere cioe le vie collaudate dalla liturgia e dalla letteratura spirituale, 
salire dalle tracce impresse nella lettera ai concetti che informavano la sua poetica 
teologica, auscultando gli scatti di una memoria che nutriva tanto la poesia quanto 
I'anelito di perfezione cristiana. Innegabile quest'anelito in lui, nonostante I'impaccio 
dell'incontinenza, e, piu grave, dell'accidia, vizio capitale, non gia equivalente della 
pigrizia secondo I'edulcorata verslone modema, n6 crisi depressiva come intendono i 
parametri laicisti, ma demonio meridiano che intorpidisce il libero arbitrio e ostacola la 



138 Thomas E. Peterson 

The next incidence of "essiglio" in the GL concerns Argillano, the 
passionate Christian soldier who is put under a spell by the fury Alecto to mount 
a mutiny; this passage has the effect of denying the prescience of the pagan 
deities and agents, as if Alecto were only capable of inciting sedition in a weak 
and sleep-starved, exile-scarred victim like Argillano, whose name speaks 
metonymically of mortal man made of clay (argilla): 

Costui pronto di man, di lingua ardito, 
impetuoso e fervido d'ingegno, 
nacque in riva del Tronto e fu nutrito 
ne le risse civil d'odio e di sdegno; 
poscia in essiglio spinto, i colli e M lito 
empi6 di sangue e depred6 quel regno, 
sin che ne I'Asia a guerreggiar se 'n venne 
e per fama miglior chiaro divenne. 

(GL VIII, 58)'° 

The noun "sangue" — the blood spilled in Argillano's past (the Petrarchan 
verb "spargere" is usually used with "sangue" in Tasso) — occurs 128 times in 
the GL, 13 in end-rhyme; the verb "langue" appears 19 times, 12 in end-rhyme, 
always with "sangue."^' The connection we draw with Petrarch below with 
regard to this lexical and rhyme cluster — which Fortini has chosen to highlight 
in Tasso — involves the biblical agent, "angue," and has clear sacramental 
resonances. 

Canto 9 of GL is a tour de force of violence and the stylistics of excess.^^ 
Here the great Turk Solimano is introduced. This singular Sultan, whose name 
and title suggest the sun, represents an anomaly, as attested to by octaves 5-7 
(added only in 1575) which detail his history and exile, as well as his 
uncertainty about the future. The opening octaves stand in counterpoint to the 

grazia operante, perchd supremo nella scala dei peccati maggiori" ( 1 52). 
'° "bom on the banks of the Tronto, fed when young / with civil conflict, hatred, 
indignation, / then driven into exile, where he clung / to his old ways of blood and 
depradation, slaughtering his own country till he came / to Asia and acquired a better 
name"(JD 170). 

'' Fortini writes of Tasso's predilection for "orrore" and "languore" as follows: "Due le 
parole tematiche della Gerusalemme: 'orrore' e Manguire'. 'Orrore' 6 la paura e il 
desiderio della paura, la volutti dei fantasmi e del peccato: sono la notte, le fiamme, le 
selve, gli spazi delle caverne e dei cieli, le catastrofi naturali, le lontananze nordiche, le 
antichiti di Giudea e d'Egitto. 'Languire' t il desiderio e la paura del desiderio, il 
serpeggiare della morte, la caducity delle giovinezze e dei fiori, la nostalgia dell'et^ 
dell'oro. [...] Le passioni amorose o le diaboliche potenze che disviano i cavalieri non 
sono che I'involontaria allegoria del sogno di dolcezza o d'angoscia, di orrore o di 
languore che disvia il poeta dalla costruzione del proprio monumento epico" (21-22). 
'^ See Peterson, "Tasso bellico," for a discussion of GZ, IX. 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 139 

end of the canto in which the defeated hero ponders suicide before regaining his 
resolve. In the opening we hear the facts concerning Solimano's exile, his being 
cast into another nation whence he becomes the military leader of the "popol 
misto": 

Ma riprovata avendo in van la sorte 
e spinto a forza dal natio paese, 
ricover6 del re d'Egitto in corte [...] 

(GZ, IX, 5.1-3)" 

The fliry Alecto then masquerades as Solimano's counselor, Araspe, 
spurring him to battle against Goffredo, "il barbaro tiranno": 

Ardisci, ardisci; entro a i ripari suoi 
di notte opprimi il barbaro tiranno. 
Credi al tuo vecchio Araspe, il cui consiglio 
e nel regno provasti e ne I'essiglio. 

(GZ- IX, 10.4-8)" 

Then Alecto changes identity again to warn the pagans' other flank of the 
planned attack. As the battle concludes in favor of the Christians, Solimano 
witnesses Argillano's slaying of the defenseless page Lesbino (whose purple and 
gold attire ironically suggests the Christian vestments). The Turk weeps 
profusely in pity before slaying Argillano. His scorn, like his worthiness, recall 
those of Rinaldo in retreat in GL V, 42: 

"Veggia il nemico le mie spalle, e schema 
di novo ancora il nostro essiglio indegno, 
pur che di novo armato indi mi scema 
turbar sua pace e '1 non mai stabil regno. 
Non cedo io, no; fia con memoria etema 
de le mie offese etemo anco il mio sdegno. 
Risorgero nemico ognor piu crudo, 
cenere anco sepolto e spirto ignudo." 

(GZ- IX, 99)" 



" "Having thus cast the die and come up short, / and thrust by force out of his native 

land, he found himself at the Egyptian court" {JD 178). 

" '"Be bold, be bold! At night and by surprise / strike the tyrannical barbarian! / Trust 

your old friend Araspe, for you've found, / in exile and in rule, my counsel sound" {JD, 

179). 

" '"Let the foe see my shoulders, let him laugh, / mock our unworthy banishment again, / 

but he will wake to see me armed once more / to shake his peace and his unsteady reign. / 

1 do not yiled, no! Everlasting hate / with everlasting memory of pain / be mine! Bury this 

flesh, let my soul go / naked — but I shall rise the cruder foe'" {JD 196). 



140 Thomas E. Peterson 



In Canto X, a concealed Solimano will hear himself and his "exile" belittled 
before Aladino by the counselor Orcano: 

"Ma 11 Soldano ostinato o morto or giace, 
or pur servil catena il pit gli preme, 
o ne Tessiglio timido e ftigace 
si va serbando a le miserie estreme." 

{GL X, 47.2-5)^^ 

Like the other uses of "essiglio" in the first half of the GL, this use concerns 
the pagans' strategy: to call down the exiled rebel angels, to exile the virtuous 
Olindo and Sofronia, to deceive the Crusaders by guile, to incite a susceptible 
Argillano, and especially to introduce the great stoic character Solimano. 

A similarly negative figuration of exile has been discovered in the early 
portions the RVF, but we have also seen in them the glimmer of a moral 
corrective. The last of these early references, RVF 130, provides Tasso the 
model for Solimano's "essiglio indegno." Here Petrarch names the most extreme 
locales of exile, Scythia and Numidia, in what is again a Christianized form of 
the Provencal amor de lonh. The first eight lines of the sonnet overflow with 
redemptive tears. In the sextet the poet refers to the "painting" of the beloved in 
his heart, citing St. Jerome on the tenacity of Envy that pursues the sinner into 
the most remote of exiles: 

Et sol ad una imagine m'attegno, 
che fe' non Zeusi, o Prasitele, o Fidia, 
ma miglior mastro, et di piu aho ingegno. 
Qua! Scithia m'assicura, o qua! Numidia, 
s'anchor non satia del mio exilio indegno, 
COS! nascosto mi ritrova Invidia? 

(/?FF 130, 9-14)" 

Petrarch's figure of Envy also suggests the Avignon papacy, which reaches 
the poet even in the most remote of pastoral havens. The search for safe harbor 
is the focus of the epistola metrica "Exul ab Italia," written in 1346, which 
delineates the features of the Vaucluse retreat as a refijge from the conflicts that 



^* "But the Sultan now lies dead for stubbornness, / or drags his legs along in a slave's 
chain, / or flees and skulks as someone's hanger-on, / his life saved for indignity and 
pain" {JD 206). 

" "To just one image I pay heed, not made / By Zeuxis, Phidias, or Praxiteles, / But by a 
master greater, with more skill. / What Scythia or what Numidia / Can save me if, not 
sated yet with my / Base exile. Envy finds me hidden so?" {PS 191). Santagata, 
Canzoniere, dlil, cites St. Jerome, Liber hebraicorum questionum in Genesim: "O 
multiplices et ineffabiles insidiae diaboli, sic quoque me latitantem invenit invidia." 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 141 

rage in Italy, in particular the factionalism and contentious struggles of Naples 
and Parma: 

Hie tibi Parthenope, dulcis mihi reddita Parma, 
Quas non insidiae quatiant, nee clamor ad arma.^* 

Petrarch foresees sharing his pastoral Helicon with his old friend Philippe 
de Cabassoles, who returned to Provence in 1346, but his time there will be 
limited. The aversion to "Babylon" will grow so strong that even this Vaucluse 
paradise will be rejected, and the poet will exile to Italy. This is anticipated by 
the references in the writings to Avignon as Babylon, a theme treated in RVF 
136-38.^^ Here the poet's disdain for the Avignon papacy, a "putta sfacciata," is 
apparent in the linguistic violence and expressionism; but it also connects 
thematically to the entire collection. In RVF 139, the narrator announces to his 
friends his desire to return to "quella valle aprica, / ove '1 mar nostro piu la terra 
implica"; the reference is probably to his brother's monastery at Montrieux, 
though the exilic imagery has also been interpreted in terms of an exile to Italy. 
The poet assures his friends that he has dispatched his "cor" to them; though he 
has been forced to remain in Babylon, Gherardo is in Jerusalem: "egli in 
lerusalem, et io in Egipto" (139, 11). 

In her chapter "The Babylonian Captive," Marjorie O'Rourke Boyle 
explicates Petrarch's sense of residing in an exilic age because of the papacy's 
absence from Rome: 

For Petrarch the city [of Rome] was not vaguely or vastly sacred [...] but endowed with 
specifically Christian meaning. [...] It was thus to Christ that Petrarch looked for 
compassion on the sacred city. [...] The gross social disorder that confuted the blessed 
oracles of peace once uttered by Hebrew and Roman prophets alike now impelled him to 
compose oracles of malediction. The yokes, chains, and nets of love that bound him to 
the lady of his vernacular verse were symbols of the captivity of an entire people. His 
miserable exile from her sweet abodes was a conceit for the exile of the papacy from 
Rome. "Scattered rhymes" he titled his verse, a fitting summons to dispersed citizens.''^ 

Boyle's civic and historical integration with the religious thematics of the RVF 
is refreshing and is in contrast to what one often reads of the lover's "yokes" or 



^* Quoted by Wilkins, "Petrarch's Exul ab Italia" (456), fi-om Petrarch's Poemata 
minora, ed. Domenico Rossetti, II (Milano, 1831), 60-64. Wilkins argues convincingly 
for the 1346 date. 

" RVF 117 ("Se '1 sasso, ond'6 piii chiusa questa valle") and 166 ("S'i' flissi stato fermo 
a la spelunca") are suggestive sonnets concerning this migration, and triangulation of 
exiles, to and from Italy, as it were, but are beyond the scope of our present discussion. 
"^ Boyle 80. Boyle's references here are to RVF 37, 37; 45, 7; 80, 32; 130, 13; 285, 5; 
331,5. 



142 Thomas E. Peterson 

the reasons for his voluntary exile. 

The prose works De otio religiosorum (begun in 1347, completed in 1357) 
and De vita solitaria (mostly from 1346) mark a decisive new beginning. With 
reference to Petrarch's new orientation, Ann Hallock judges he has 
"subordinated his earthly pursuits to his spiritual concerns and has made a 
distinct separation between the temporal and spiritual halves of his life" (29 1 ). 
Book 2 of De vita solitaria begins with a discussion of those "voluntary exiles" 
who are religious hermits and "i santi, che, condannando le citt^ con un esilio 
volontario, resero famosa la solitudine con la loro veneranda presenza."'*' The 
most important of these for us, because of his importance to the GL, is Peter the 
Hermit, who, according to the legend, was sent directly by Christ to the Holy 
Land. Petrarch follows the legend: 

E infatti Cristo, che g\k aveva incominciato a dolersi e ad adirarsi per 11 fatto che la sua 
credit^ fosse da tempo calpestata dai suoi e nostri nemici, non a qualcuno del re cristiani 
che dormivano del la grossa tra le piume e la porpora manifestd la sua volonta, non al 
pontefice Urbano, persona senz'altro nobile e degna di stima ma indaffarata, bensi al 
povero Pietro, che se ne stava tranquillo e solitario in piu modesto giaciglio.''^ 

Once in Jerusalem, having witnessed the depradation of the holy sites of 
Christendom, Peter is visited again by Christ and ordered to commence the 
Crusade. 

Peter's importance to Tasso is stated by C. H. Bowra: "It is he who fiirthers 
the divine decision that Goffredo shall command the army and calls for 
obedience in words which not only echo the need for a united Christendom 
against the heathen but show the hierarchical view of society as the Church had 
always advocated it" (145). Peter belongs almost exclusively to the second, 
liberating and redemptive half of the poem. After Rinaldo's grievous crime that 
results in his self-exile, only Peter can prophesy his return and the great feats he 
will accomplish; only Peter can communicate the Lord's desire to Goffredo that 
Rinaldo disenchant the forest where Tancredi fell prey to horrible hallucinations. 
Once the devout Goffredo has been instructed in a dream by the ghost of dead 
French leader Ugone to free Rinaldo from his "essiglio," Peter will make it 
possible by directing the rescue party of Carlo and Ubaldo to the Wise Man of 
Ascalon: 



"' Petrarca, Opere latine 1:383-84: "Sanctis et vulgatior et notion et longior, qui urbes 
spontaneo damnantes exilio, sacra sui presentia solitudinem illustrarunt." 
*^ Petrarca, Opere latine 1:458-59: "Dum enim indignari et irasci iam Cristus inciperet 
hereditatem propriam tam diu suis et nostris ab hostibus conculcari, non ulli regum 
cristianorum pingues somnos in plumis purpuraque captantium, non Romano Pontifici 
Urbano, gravi licet omatoque viro occupato tamen, sed Petro inopi, otioso, solitario et 
humiliore grabatulo quiescenti, quid fieri vellet aperuit." 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 143 

"E" replicogli Ugon "la via verace 
questa che tieni; indi non torcer rorme: 
sol che richiami dal lontano essiglio 
il figliuol di Bertoldo io ti consiglio" 

(GLXW, 12)"' 

The rhyming of "essiglio" and "consiglio" in the couplet connects the 
predicates of justice and reason; the same match occurs in the poem's final use 
of "essiglio" (and in RVFISS below). Once Rinaldo is free, he must be educated 
to his lineage. In the Wise Man of Ascalon's ekphrastic account of the Este 
(based on Pigna's 1570 Histoia de' principi d'Este), we hear of Actius I who 
was exiled, then returned, just as Rinaldo has now returned to his mission: 

Cader seco Alforisio, ire in essiglio 
Azzo si vede e '1 suo fratel con esso, 
e ritomar con I'arme e co '1 consiglio, 
dapoi che fu il tiranno erulo oppresso. 

(GL XVII, 72.1-4)'" 

As we have suggested, the themes of error and errancy are mitigated in both 
the RVF and GL by those of navigation, wisdom, pilgrimage and worship, 
steeling the heart of the virtuous lover against what is below his or her true 
needs, and guiding the faithful Christians to unity. This figural reading requires 
that we plumb the depths of symbolic and religious reference. Fredi Chiappelli 
urges that we go beyond the functional traits of Tasso's characters "on the level 
of the historical narrative": "But this is the surface, the immediate referential 
plane. On a deeper referential level, the paradigm of machia en te psyche 
dominates the inspiration; by means of the chronicle of the Jerusalem enterprise 
the poet follows a development of moral situations, the series of internal 
experiences, which lead to the recuperation of a state of grace" (132). 

We turn now, to conclude our remarks on Petrarch's figural and prophetic 
understanding of the Babylon/Jerusalem opposition, to the Canzone of the 
Visions {RVF 323), "Standomi un giomo solo a la fenestra."''^ In the last of six 



"' "And Hugh replied, / You are already going the true way. / Hold to it well, and do not 

turn aside. / Only in this I counsel: be content, / recall Bertoldo's son from banishment" 

(JZ) 272). 

"^ "Alforisius / his brother fell with him; and here you see / Actius in exile, then returning 

with / armies and counsel, when that tyranny / was overthrown" {JD, 330). It should be 

added that the two fountains found on the Islands of Fortune — including the Fountain of 

Laughter whose water is lethal {GL XIV, 74 and XV, 57) — are a direct caique from 

Petrarch (/?KF 135, 77). 

"* We note the unusual lexis and rhymes in "angue" discussed with reference to Tasso; 

see note 31 above. Here the third and final occurrence of "langue" is in rhyme with the 

hapax "angue." In the RVF "sangue" occurs 15 times, twice in rhyme, both times with 



144 Thomas E. Peterson 

visions, a snake's bite on the heel kills the Laura-Eurydice figure, derived from 
Ovid: 

[ ] 

ma le parti supreme 

eran avolte d'una nebbia oscura: 

punta poi nel tallon d'un picciol angue, 

come fior colto langue, 

lieta si dipartio, nonchd secura. 

Ahi, nulla, altro che pianto, al mondo dura! 

Canzon, tu puoi ben dire: 

— Queste sei visioni al signer mio 

kn fatto un dolce di morir desio. — 

(RVF 322, 67-75)^^ 

Boyle's commentary on this late poem (October, 1368) culminates her 
chapter on Petrarch's incorporation of the Babylonian captivity of Israel into his 
lyric sequence. In this vision one has the "ecclesial bride, bitten by a snake in 
the grass, succumbed to death, just as the Church had perished in her other 
guises. [...] All of these figures Petrarch adapted from the oracles of Ezekiel, the 
prophet of the Babylonian Captivity, to symbolize the destruction of the Church 
in its repetition of Israel's political exile" (109).'*' Santagata has argued — in 
fiction and in commentary — that Petrarch's first draft shows his desperation 
over a Laura-Eurydice who had died with a horrible finality and no rebirth. (The 
poet is depicted in // copista as downing a bottle of wine as he writes!) (// 
copista 112-15; 130-33). But in the final draft, the poet's faith has returned: 
"Nella redazione definitiva la morte della donna ha invece I'aspetto di una morte 
santa, inscritta nell'ordine prowidenziale" {Canzoniere 1242n71). We would 
only add that the abundant tears in response to the serpent's mortal bite ("Ahi, 
nulla, altro che pianto, al mondo dura!") has Augustinean overtones. As Pozzi 
states, "Le Confessioni gli fomivano un capitolo della propria autobiografia, 
ch'egli contrassegnava col simbolo del pianto, lo stesso che riconosceva nel 
duolo del poeta e profeta Davide. [...] II motivo della lacrime bibliche [...] era 
diventato un simbolo col quale interpretare I'esistenza umana in rapporto a Dio" 



"langue"; the one time it appears in Part II (358, 5), it concerns Christ's death on the 

Cross. 

'^^ "But yet her crowning parts / We all enfolded in a mist obscure; / Then a small serpent 

pricked her heel, and as / A gathered flower wilts, / She passed not only certain, but in 

joy. /Woe! Nothing, save for tears, in this world lasts" {PS, 361, 363). 

""^ Boyle 109. Elsewhere, Boyle writes: "This exilic age, memorialized in the apocalyptic 

literature of the priest and prophet Ezekiel Jind in the oracles of Deutero-lsaiah, became a 

prototype for Christian political and social bondage. It furnished Petrarch with the poetic 

and historic symbol for his own prophetic protest" (81). 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 145 

(182).'*^ In the theological sense we are exiled from our God, on this terrene 
sphere, so that our return to God in death shall be sweet ("un dolce di morir 
desio"). Petrarch's final two references to exile in the RVF breathe the new and 
transformed air of Part II: in the following octave the lover describes the figure 
of Laura as a Virgin Mary gazing on the dead Christ (the "caro figlio" of line 1 
being a forward reference to RVF 366, 24). The "grave exiglio" is that of a poet- 
lover now enjoying the double pity of Laura, both as sacred mother and lover: 

N6 mai pietosa madre al caro figlio 
n^ donna accesa al suo sposo dilecto 
die' con tanti sospir', con tal sospetto 
in dubbio stato si fedel consiglio, 
come a me quella che '1 mio grave exiglio 
mirando da! suo etemo alto ricetto, 
spesso a me toma co I'usato affecto, 
et di doppia pietate omata il ciglio [...]. 

(RVF 2S5, 1-8)"' 

The final occurrence is in the plural, "bitter exiles," a recollection of the 
poet's migrations away from the lover. Laura is remembered in her lifetime 
through her eyes, the "fountain" of the poet's life, when, as now in her death, the 
poet overcomes his grief by feeding on her memory: 

Solea da la fontana di mia vita 
allontanarme, et cercar terre et mari, 
non mio voler, ma mia Stella seguendo; 
et sempre andai, tal Amor diemmi aita, 
in quelli exilii quanto e' vide amari, 
di memoria et di speme il cor pascendo. 

(RVF 331, \-6f° 



''* The practice of "un masticar parole" and of "ruminare" nurture the heart more than or 
at least as much as the head. Unlike the Familiari and other prose sources in which 
biblical citations are used to "prove" assertions, those in the RVF operate by means of 
replicating the "esperienza di parola ricevuta": "La Bibbia diventava attraverso questi usi 
liturgici esperienza di parola reinventata, cui faceva riscontro, riformulata su quel 
modello, la preghiera privata, sia orale che mentale" (182). 

■*' "Never did pious mother to dear son, / Nor blushing lady to beloved spouse / With 
greater sighs and with such diffidence, / Give surer counsel in a doubtfiil state / Than she 
gave me, who sees my exile grave / From her eternal refuge high; to me / She oft returns 
with her accustomed care; / And has with double pity graced her brow" {PS 33 1 ). 
^^ "Far distant from the fountain of my life / 1 used to wander, searching lands and seas, / 
Not my desire pursuing, but my star. / And love so helped me that I ever went / Into that 
exile (grievous as he sees) / Feeding my heart on memory and hope" {PS, 371; 373). 



146 Thomas E. Peterson 

The theme of exile is imbued with history; it is founded in memory and the 
practice of recitation. We find these words of Anna Banti concerning Manzoni 
suggestive in this regard: "[...] se c'6 alta forma di memoria, questa 6 la storica, 
una forma quasi trascendente, che per minimi appelli e quasi segni rabdomantici 
di una trapassata realty la interpreta, la ricompone, la restituisce a una costante 
morale che dal buon senso alle passioni estreme, abbraccia le azioni e i 
sentimenti umani, in ogni tempo" (59). One hears an echo perhaps of Petrarch's 
words to the brothers at Montrieux in De otio religiosorum: "Ora esuli dalla 
patria etema, 'erranti lontano da Dio, gettati fuori dal suo volto e dai suoi 
sguardi', quale felicity cerchiamo, quale gioia sogniamo noi 'che se ci 
ricordiamo di te, Sion, sediamo e piangiamo lungo i fiumi di Babilonia e 
appendiamo sugli amari salici le nostre cetre?'"'' 

University of Georgia 



Works Cited 

Alighieri, Dante. Dante 's Lyric Poetry. 2 vols. Ed. and trans. K. Foster and P. Boyde. 

Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967. 
Auerbach, Erich. Scenes from the Drama of European Literature. New York: Meridian 

Books, 1959. 
Augustine, Saint. Confessionum libri XIII. Editit Martinus Skutella (1934). Editionem 

correctiorem curaverunt H. Juergens et W. Schaub. Stutgardiae: In aedibus B.G. 

Teubneri, 1969. 
Banti, Anna, "Manzoni e noi." Opinioni. Milano: II Saggiatore, 1961. 53-65. 
Barilli, Renato. "La dolorosa modernity di Torquato Tasso" Corriere delta sera 

(September 10, 1995): 21. 
Boyle, Marjorie O'Rourke. Petrarch 's Genius. Pentimento and Prophecy. Berkeley: U of 

California P. 
Bowra, C. M. From Virgil to Milton. London: Macmillan, 1945. 
Brand, C. P. "Petrarch and Petrarchism in Torquato Tasso's Lyric Poetry." Modern 

Language Review 62 (1967): 256-66. 
Chiappelll, Fredi, "A Possible Source-Fission for Two Tasso Characters." Stanford 

Italian Review 1.1 (1979): 121-32. 
Contini, Gianfranco, "La lingua del Petrarca." // Trecento. Firenze: Sansoni, 1953. 93- 

120. 
Delia Terza, Dante, "Tasso's Experience of Petrarch." Studies in the Renaissance 10 

(1963): 175-91. 



^' Petrarca, Opere latine, 1:786-87: "Nunc vero ab etema patria exuiantes et 
'peregrinantes a Domino proiectique a facie oculorum eius,' quam felicitatem querimus, 
quod gaudium somniamus, 'qui si recordamur tui, Syon, inter flumina Babilonis sedemus 
et flemus inque amaris salicibus organa nostgra suspendimus'?" Petrarch cites here 2 
Cor. 5:6, Ps. 30:23 and Ps. 136:1-2. 



Out of Babylon: The Figura of Exile in Tasso and Petrarch 147 

Fortini, Franco. Dialoghi col Tasso. Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1999. 

Gibbons, David. "Tasso 'Petroso': Beyond Petrarchan and Dantean Metaphor in the 

Gerusalemme liberata" Italian Studies 55 (2000): 83-98. 
Hallock, Ann H., "The Pre-eminent Role of Petrarch's Babilonia." Italica 54.1 (1977): 

290-97. 
Luzi, Mario. "Padre mite e dispotico." Discorso naturale. Milano: Garzanti, 1984. 
Mengaldo, Pier Vincenzo. Giudizi di valore. Torino: Einaudi 1999. 
Peterson, Thomas E. "Tasso bellico." Interpreting the Italian Renaissance. Literary 

Perspectives. Ed. A. Toscano. Filibrary Series of Forum italicum 1 (1991): 163-77. 
Petrarca, Franceso. Canzoniere. Ed. Marco Santagata. Milano: Mondadori, 1996. 
. Lettere disperse: varie e miscellanee. Ed. Alessandro Panchieri. Parma: 

Fondazione Pietro Bembo, 1994. 
. Opere latine. Ed. Antonietta Bufanno. Introd. Manlio Pastore Stocchi. 2 vols. 

Torino: U.T.E.T., 1975. 
. Petrarch's Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul. A Modem English Translation 

of De Remediis Utriusque Fortune. Commentary by Conrad H. Rawski. 3 vols. 

Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991. 
. Petrarch 's Songbook Rerum Vulgarium Fragmenta. Trans. James Wyatt Cook. 

Introd. Germaine Warkentin. Binghamton, NY: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & 

Studies, 1995. 
. Sine nomine. Lettere polemiche e politiche. Ed. Ugo Dotti. Roma: Laterza, 1974. 



Pozzi, Giovanni, "Petrarca, i padri e soprattutto la Bibbia," Alternatim. Milano: Adelphi, 

1996. 143-89. 
Santagata, Marco. // copista. Palermo: Sellerio, 2000. 
. Iframmenti dell 'anima. Storia e racconto nel Canzoniere di Petrarca. Bologna: 

II Mulino, 1993. 
Scarpati, Claudio. Tasso, i classici e i moderni. Padova: Antenore, 1995. 
Sozzi, Bortolo, "Nota sull'episodio di Olindo e Sofronia." Studi tassiani 10 (1960): 5-9. 

. Studi sul Tasso. Pisa: Nistri-Lischi, 1954. 

. "II Tasso estimatore del Petrarca." Studi tassiani 11 (1961): 45-48. 

Tasso, Torquato. Gerusalemme liberata. Ed. Claudio Varese and Guido Arbizzoni. 

Milano: Mursia, 1972. 
. Jerusalem Delivered. Gerusalemme liberata. Ed. and trans. Anthony M. Esolen. 

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2000. 
Wilkins, Ernest H. "Petrarch's Exulab Italia" Speculum 38 (1963): 453-60. 
. Studies in the Life and Works of Petrarch. Cambridge, Mass: Mediaeval 

Academy of America, 1955. 



Armando Maggi 



The Skies of the Soul's Exile: 

Devotional Language and Baroque Rhetoric 

in Guido Casoni's Ragionamenti interni 



In a perfect silence of a dark night we cannot help but walk out and climb that 
mountain there, which seems to elevate the earth up toward the sky. See, 
thousands of bright eyes stare down on us. If this night's thick shadows weaken 
our external sight, they also render our inner eyes more alert and penetrating. In 
this visible blindness our soul longs for another and more real sky, heaven, 
God's residence and the angels' shelter. Whereas the sky we are contemplating 
now is a chasm of harmonious but transient forms, the other, invisible, sky is a 
superb theater of divine presences. As the earth is the center of the universe 
upon which this nocturnal spectacle unfolds its infinite gems, so is our soul the 
vantage point whence we are reminded of the majestic abode of the divinity. 

These are, in synthesis, the opening pages of Guido Casoni's Ragionamenti 
interni, a series of seven religious meditations published in the first quarter of 
the seventeenth century according to the guidelines of Catholic Counter- 
reformation.' As we will see later, echoes fi-om Roberto Bellarmino's and 
Franfois de Sales's mystical texts are detectable in the Ragionamenti, whose 
seven chapters have the following titles: "Delle grandezze di Dio"; "Delia 
solitudine"; "Delia mutazione delle cose" (two parts); "Delle ricchezze"; "Delia 
virginita"; "Delia bellezza umana." Casoni's Ragionamenti has a distinct 
circular structure, which will become apparent at the end of this essay. Whereas 
the first section dwells on the mystical meanings of God's creation, the last 
narrows its focus on the beauties of the author's beloved. In particular, the first 
chapter on the infinite spaces of the sky plays a pivotal role within the entire 
Ragionamenti and lays out the essential points of the author's devotional 



' Casoni, "Delle grandezze di Dio," Ragionamenti interni, in Opere (1626, first edition 
1623), 240-41. Casoni was bom in Serravalle (Treviso) in 1561. After his father's death 
(around 1590), he had to take care of his family. He worked as a notary in Serravalle. 
Member of the Venetian Academy of the Unknown (Academia degli Incogniti), Casoni 
befriended Giovan Francesco Loredan and Tomaso Garzoni, the author of the Piazza 
Universale, which influenced Casoni's first important text, De la magia d'amore (first 
edition in 1591). Casoni published Ode in 1602, a series of thirty-eight poems, and 
Emblemi politici in 1622. His collected works were printed first in 1623 and again in 
1626. Casoni also edited Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata. He died in 1642. 

Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002) 



1 50 Armando Maggi 

poetics.^ Casoni initiates his seven-step process of self-discovery by engaging 
his soul in a dialogue on the meaning of a "bella notte sotto sereno cielo" 
(Casoni, Ragionamenti 240). 

This essay studies how, in Casoni's devotional text, "cielo" at once signifies 
God's presence in the creation and man's exile from God. Paradoxically, the 
world and its imposing skies are the locus where God approaches us and 
distances himself from us. "Cielo" is indeed a complex signifier. It testifies both 
to a presence and a radical absence. 

Casoni is certainly one of the least known and most original authors of 
Italian seventeenth-century literature. As Giovanni Pozzi sfresses in La parola 
dipinta, Casoni still awaits an adequate critical analysis, although he has been 
the object of some noteworthy, albeit brief, studies.^ Casoni is primarily known 
for two radically different texts, which seem the product of two distinct authors. 
In 1591, the young Casoni publishes Delia magia d'amore, one of the last and 
most erudite treatises on love of the Italian Renaissance in the tradition of 
Ficino's De amore.^ Some thirty years later, in his collection of devotional 
works {Opere: first edition 1623, second edition 1626), Casoni abjures the 
rhetoric of sixteenth-century Neoplatonism and becomes a spokesman of 
baroque devotional thought. In other words, Casoni is an author between two 
worlds and two idioms. Unlike any other Italian writer active at the turn of the 
century, Casoni testifies to the death of a glorious culture and rhetoric, the 
Renaissance, and the imposition of a new expression, the ideology of the 
Catholic Reformation. These two elements are clearly present in his Opere. 

The most famous piece in Opere is certainly La passione di Crista, a visual 
poem divided into twelve symbolic forms, each of them synthesizing an 
essential moment of the incarnate Word's passion: the column, two scourges, 
the cross, the hammer, three nails, the sponge, the spear, the stair, two dice.^ In 
Opere (1626), La passione directly precedes Ragionamenti interni and is an 
important introduction to Casoni's devotional poetics. Written as a visual and 
verbal spiritual exercise. La passione is a sermon that the author delivers to his 
own soul so that it may transcend the forms of the world and attain the inner 
manifestations of the Word's biography, which was first written in heaven and 
then became visible to us through the Word's incarnation. Of particular 
significance is Casoni's initial statement in prose in which he opposes Christian 



^ It is important to bear in mind that the Italian "cielo" or "cieli" express the English 

distinction between "sky" (or "skies") and "heaven" (or "heavens"). 

^ In La parola dipinta, Pozzi synthesizes this point as follows: "II Casoni, autore 

fondamentale nell'affermarsi di nuove forme poetiche sull'inizio del secolo, ancora 

attende uno studio adeguato" (206). On the same issue, see Guaragnella 125. 

" On Casoni's use of metaphor, see Corradini. On music in De la magia d'amore, see 

Harran. 

^ On La passione, see Portier; Molinari; Pozzi, La parola dipinta 206-14. 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 1 5 1 

truth to pagan false images: 

Simmia poeta greco fomi6 co' suoi versi un uovo, due ali, una scure e una siringa [...] e 
in esse vers6 intorno I'antiche deit^ favolose. Ma I'autore, levando la poesia dalle tenebre 
di queste favole e alzandola alia luce della verity ha formato con versi gli stromenti della 
passione di Cristo.* 

{Lapassione 225) 

Casoni here compares La passione to the figurative poems of the Greek Simmia. 
Whereas the forms of classical poetry evoked false and depraved mythic 
narratives, Casoni's Catholic poem manifests the world's true forms, which 
coincide with the final moments of Christ's biography (column, hammer, nails, 
cross, blood). Pagan myths were external reflections, visual distortions.^ The 
ancients saw their immoral myths reflected in the vault of a night sky, which 
served as a luminous tapestry of infinite and variable stories. Thanks to the 
Word's revelation. Christians know that truth exists as an inner manifestation 



^ I find Simmia's poems in Theocriti aliorvmqve poetarvm idyllia 386-87. Simmia's first 
poem in the form of an egg {ovum) is dedicated to Diana and relates the story of 
Mercury's invention of music. As we read in the Homeric hymns, Hermes killed a 
tortoise, "cut off its limbs, and scooped out [its] marrow" ("To Hermes" in Hesiod. 
Homeric Hymns 41-42, 367). Then, Hermes added nine strings to the emptied shell. The 
image of the egg signifies both the birth of music and Hermes's tortoise. Simmia explains 
that the wings do not belong to Cupid, Venus's son, but rather to Eros who, according to 
Hesiod 's Theogony, came to be after Chaos (Simmiae Rhodii Ouum 408-09; Hesiod, 
Theogony in Hesiod. Homeric Hymns 115-20). The ax refers to Epeus who, following 
Athena's instructions, built the Trojan horse {Simmiae Rhodii Ouum 416-17). Finally, the 
syringe is a reference to Pan {Simmiae Rhodii Ouum 426-27). My transcriptions from 
Casoni's texts present only some basic corrections. I modify the syntax according to our 
modem style. I eliminate the Latin "h" ("huomo," "Christo") and correct other Latin 
graphic forms such as "ti" plus vocal {silentio, contemplatione, satiare). I maintain all 
possible phonetic variants. 

^ Let us remember, however, that in a fundamental section of La magia d'amore, which 
he wrote before turning thirty, the young Neoplatonic Casoni had praised the beauty of 
the stories deployed on the canvas of a night sky. By contemplating how the myths 
unfold in the sky, Casoni perceived the harmony that holds the universe together. See, for 
instance, how Casoni analyzes the love relationship between the planets and the signs of 
the Zodiac: "Conobbe parimente quanto amore sia tra i pianeti e i segni celesti, li quali 
albergano nel zodiaco e sono visitati uno al mese dal Sole, poich^ la Luna porta 
sviscerato amore al Cancro, il quale gi^ morsic6 Ercole nella Lema palude. Onde mentre 
ella viene da lui gratamente accolta per darli liberale segno dell'amor suo, sparge piij 
amplamente e con maggior virtii e potere gli influssi suoi ch'in altro loco faccia, onde 
meritamente b chiamato casa della Luna. Come anco nell'istesso modo ama Mercurio la 
Vergine, che gii f\i chiamata Erigone, figlia di Icario, e i Gemini Castore e Poluce, che 
tanto seppero e tanto vissero" (ch. 3, 23v). I have completed the first modem edition of 
De la magia d'amore (Palermo: Sellerio, forthcoming). 



152 Armando Maggi 

whose forms echo the moments of Christ's sacrifice and death. In other words, 
the sky of the ancients is now an internal landscape of spiritual forms recounting 
a story of sacrifice, violence, and death. The Christian forms of truth are in fact 
forms of mourning. 

Casoni, however, underscores that our visible sky has not ceased to speak 
divine truth. In the first poetic section of La passione, whose form outlines a 
column, the poet invites his soul to weep and see the "high piety" that once 
descended from heaven (cielo) and was later offended by our human impiety: 

Alma pietosa lagrimando mira 

I'altaPiet^dal ciel discesa, ^ _^ 

da impieta terrena offesa. 

Vedi lacero il Pio, 

uomo innocente e Dio. 

Deh, contempla e rimira 

la colonna che il ciel sostiene 

tutta pene e di sangue tinta. 

(La passione 1-8, 227) 

The Word, says Casoni, came down from heaven (// cielo) and as a column still 
sustains the heaven and connects it to the earth's destiny. The Word, who keeps 
the heaven as a mantle, is now bloodstained: 

Mira, mira dolente 

[ ] 

Lui, che ha il cielo per manto, 
addobato di sangue; 
Lui, che da moto al cielo, 
Ora immoto e legato. 

(La passione 10; 18-22, 227) 

How does our visible sky manifest the Word's wounded being? The 
contamination between "cielo" as sky and "cielo" as heaven seems to allude to a 
biographical mark within the creation itself, as if the creation retained and 
manifested the existence of the incarnate Word, as if our visible firmament were 
in fact the mantle of the crucified Son. What is the relationship, if any, between 
"cielo" as heaven and "cielo" as sky? And what is the meaning of a heaven/sky 
stained with the Word's blood? One could simply dismiss these questions by 
saying that the visible "cielo" is a metaphor of the other, superior and invisible 
"cielo." The two skies are certainly linked to one another through some sort of 
similitude; namely, we imagine that heaven is somehow like the firmament, but 
a merely metaphorical association misses the historical mark of the Word's 
bleeding body, which is somehow inscribed in our visible heaven. 

In book twelve of the Confessions, a dense analysis of the creation 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intern i 1 53 

according to Genesis, Augustine, commenting on Psalm 115:16, had asked 
himself the same question: 

Sed ubi est coelum coeli, Domine, de quo audivimus in voce Psalmi: Coelum coeli 
Domino; terram autem dedit filiis hominum (Psal. CXIII, 16)? Ubi est coelum quod 
cemimus, cui terra est hoc omne quod cemimus? [...] sed ad illud coelum coeli, etiam 
terrae nostrae coelum terra est. Et hoc utrumque magnum corpus non absurde terra est, ad 
illud nescio quale coelum quod Domino est, non filiis hominum. Et nimirum haec terra 
erat invisibilis et incomposita, et nescio quae profunditas abyssi super quam non erat lux 
[...]. Super itaque erant tenebrae, quia lux super aberat [...]. 

([...] where is that Heaven of Heavens, O Lord, which we hear of in the words of the 
psalmist: The heaven of heavens is the Lord's; but the earth hath he given to the children 
of men. Where art thou, O heaven, which we see not? [...] In comparison of that Heaven 
of Heavens, even the heaven of this our earth is but earth: yea, both these great bodies 
may not absurdly be called earth, in comparison of that I know not what manner of 
heaven, which is the Lord's, and not given to the sons of men. And now was this earth 
invisible and without form, and there was, I know not what profoundness of the deep, 
upon which there was no light [...]. Darkness therefore was all over hitherto, because 
light was not upon it [...].) 

{Confessions, vol. 2, bk. 12, ch. 2, 289-91; ch. 3, 291) 

In the beginning, Augustine writes, was darkness and absence of form. Invisible 
and formless ("informe"), the real was a profoundness of the deep ("profimditas 
abyssi"). God granted form as light. During the third day of the creation, the 
Lord gave a "visible figure" ("speciem visibilem") both to the earth and "the 
heaven to this earth" ("coelum terrae"). As we read in Genesis, "Dixit autem 
Deus: Fiant luminaria in firmamento caeli, et dividant diem ac noctem [...] ut 
luceant in firmamento caeli, et illuminent terram" ("God said, 'Let there be 
lights in the vault of heaven to divide day from night. [...] Let them be lights in 
the vault of heaven to shine on the earth'" (Gen. 1:14-15). God made the 
"figure" of the firmament to limit the profoundness of the deep, which was the 
creation. The creation was and is an abyss. The "figure" of the sky works both 
as a limit to the abyss (the vault that divides day from night) and a reminder of 
that very abyss. The firmament sheds light over the profoundness of the creation 
and thus contains it, limits it. However, Augustine also remarks that God used 
the same word "coelum" both for the firmament ("firmamentum vocasti 
coelum") and the "heaven of heavens" ("coelum coeli"), which he had created 
before creating the world {Confessions, vol. 2, bk. 12, ch. 8, 301). By using the same 
word, God alluded to some similarity between our visible heaven and his heaven 
of heavens. The expression "heaven of heavens" itself sounds like an echo, a 
reminder. We could read the word "heaven" as an index, that is, a mark of 
remembrance, just as a hole in a wall may signify that someone shot a bullet in 



1 54 Armando Maggi 

the past.^ 

We have seen that Ragionamenti interni, which in Opere directly follows 
La passione, opens with the description of a starry sky during a night walk up 
the slopes of a mountain. Reminiscent of Petrarch's famous letter on his ascent 
of Mount Ventoux {Rerum familiarum libri, 4.1), the first section of Casoni's 
volume by the title "Delle grandezze di Dio" begins with a meditation on the 
central divergence between outer and inner sight. While he is admiring the 
beauty of the night sky, Casoni is reminded of what Augustine calls "heaven of 
heavens": 

Vagheggio 11 cielo, sede di Dio, musico canoro delle sue grandezze, albergo de gll angeli, 
stanza de' beati, purissima regione tutta stelleggiata di lumi, palchi divini adomi di rose 
d'oro, piagge beate, ove i ruscelli della gloria con dolce mormorio spiegano le lodi del 
Creatore; e veggio ch'egli infaticabile nel continue girarsi, inquieto senza fine di quiete, 
ha I'essere senza nodrimento, il corpo senza compositione, it moto senza stanchezza, e 
simile a se stesso in ogni sua parte non b generabile e pure ha parte nella generatione 
delle cose inferiori, t semplice e nondimeno co'l suo moto b operatore dei misti, contiene 
in se il tutto. 

{Ragionamenti 243) 

By looking at the stars, the author embarks on an imaginary description of the 
heaven of heavens divided into two subsequent rhetorical phases. Casoni first 
imagines ("vagheggio") a sort of luxurious baroque landscape, made of 
comforting interiors ("albergo de gli angeli," "stanza de' beati") and a 
sumptuous nature ("palchi divini," "piagge beate," "ruscelli della gloria"). 
Casoni finally concludes with a theoretical definition of the divinity, who at 
once inhabits the heaven of heavens and identifies with it. The above passage 
from the first chapter of the Ragionamenti thus details a three-part metaphorical 
expression, which Giovanni Pozzi explains as follows: 

Nella metafora il significante [...] che funge da figurante, evoca in toto, oltre il figurato, 
anche il significato [...] che gli b connesso, comprendendovi pure quegli elementi che non 
sono comunicabili all'altro termine dell'analogia [...]. Cos! avviene perchd gli effetti del 
senso letterale prodotti dal figurante non sono esclusi dal processo che permette la 
riunione dei due significati in un solo significante. 

{La rosa 15) 



* Philosophical Writings of Peirce: "An index is a sign which would, at once, lose the 
character which makes it a sign if its object were removed, but would not lose that 
character if there were no interpretant. Such, for instance, is a piece of mould with a 
bullet-hole in it as a sign of a shot [...] An index is a sign which refers to its object not so 
much because of any similarity or analogy with it [...] as because it is in dynamical 
(including spatial) connection both with the individual object, on the one hand, and with 
the senses or memory of the person for whom it serves as a sign ( 1 04 and 1 07). 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 155 

Let us apply Pozzi's analysis to Casoni's Ragionamenti. A night sky (figurante) 
helps us imagine the heaven of heavens (figurato), whose meaning is God. 
These two distinct facets ("figurato" and "significato," in Pozzi's words) are 
contained in a visual and verbal signifier (the word "cielo" and the actual night 
sky). Language and nature have an intrinsically metaphorical character, which 
may trigger a chain of rhetorical procedures. To meditate upon a night sky 
means to bring to the fore its potential linguistic senses. It is almost superfluous 
to point out that, in this three-phase rhetorical process (reality spurs an act of the 
imagination, which ends in an intellectual and spiritual insight), Casoni 
formulates a form of literary meditation akin to Saint Ignatius's spiritual 
exercises. Starting off from a given signifier (the stars in the sky, a passage from 
the scriptures), one goes on to explore its infinite visual similes (from sky to 
heaven of heavens, from a biblical episode to its echoes in our biography). This 
process of rhetorical expansion leads to a cathartic perception of the truth on 
which both the signifier and its similes are founded.^ 

We have said that the opening chapter of Ragionamenti intemi 
certainly alludes to Petrarch's well-known epistle on Mount Ventoux. The two 
texts, however, present differences of great relevance. Whereas Petrarch travels 
with his younger brother and two servants in the morning, Casoni comes out at 
night alone in an undefined landscape dominated by the imposmg vision of the 
sky. More importantly, in Petrarch's account, the slow and difficult ascension 
results more enlightening than the vision from the mountain itself In fact, once 
he reaches the peak, Pefrarch stands there like a dazed person. Rather than 
rejoicing in his accomplishment, he recalls that, in book ten of the Confessions, 
Augustine had criticized those who "eunt [...] mirari alta montium, et ingentes 
fluctus maris [...] et gyros siderum, et relinquunt se ipsos [...]" ("go abroad to 
wonder at the heights of mountains, the lofty billows of the sea [...] and the 
circular motions of the stars, and yet pass themselves by [...]" {Confessions, bk. 
10, ch. 8, 99-101). Ashamed of himself, Petrarch descends from the mountain in 
silence. The lesson he has learned from his ascension is the refusal of the 
ascension itself True spiritual enlightenment can only occur in the blindness of 



' In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius dedicates the first day of the second week to the 
mystery of the Word's incarnation. This meditation, which is performed at midnight, 
regards the visualization of "the Three Divine Persons, seated, so to speak, on the royal 
throne of their divine Majesty. They are gazing on the whole face and circuit of the earth; 
and they see all the peoples in such great blindness, and how they are dying and going 
down to hell" {Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works 149). At the beginning of each 
contemplation, a "prelude" stresses the historical aspect of this particular visualization. 
Ignatius writes: "The First Prelude is to survey the history of the matter I am to 
contemplate. Here is how the Three Divine Persons gazed on the whole surface or circuit 
of the world, full of people" (148). 



156 Armando Maggi 

one's soul.*° 

In the baroque Ragionamenti, on the other hand, the imposing beauties of a 
night landscape are the very source of the traveler's enlightenment. We have 
seen that Casoni's spiritual process of rhetorical purification is based on three 
basic moments, whose conclusion sees the soul arise to a mystical insight on 
divine being: 

[...] se t'alzerai, anima mia, sopra te stessa e sopra la natura umana, fatta quasi simile a 
gli angeli, ti nodrirai di contemplare Dio, e nella contemplatione d'amarlo goderai in terra 
una certa sembianza del Paradise. Cosi la menfe angelica adoma della bellezza ideale, fu 
da gli antichi detta paradise e Zoroastre invitando I'anima a sublimarsi co'l mezo della 
contemplatione alia divina bellezza, esclama, cerca il Paradise e altrove, estendi gli occhi, 
e dricciali in su. 

{Ragionamenti 246) 

Reminiscent of his past Neoplatonic formation, Casoni contaminates baroque 
devotional culture with a reference to sixteenth-century hermetic tradition, 
whose insistence on the mind's solipsistic enlightenment seems similar to 
Casoni's solitary nocturnal musings." But the connection with Renaissance 
Neoplatonism is here merely rhetorical. Both traditions speak of some spiritual 
rapture, but their modalities are deeply different. In fact, the above passage and 
the whole first chapter of Ragionamenti must be read in the light of basic tenets 
of seventeenth-century Catholic mysticism. 

A first plausible reference is to Roberto Bellarmino's De ascensione mentis 
in Deum ("The Mind's Ascent to God"), first published in Latin in 1615.'^ 
Written in the tradition of Bonaventure and John Climacus, this treatise became 
an instant success, with five Latin editions in the first year of publication plus an 
Italian translation by Angelo della Ciana, Bellarmino's nephew. The Jesuit 
Bellarmino (1542-1621), whose influential catechism Dottrina cristiana breve 
was used by Jesuit missionaries for more than three centuries, is a key figure of 
seventeenth-century Catholic culture. Bellarmino's religious treatises exerted a 
decisive influence on the seventeenth-century Jesuit Daniello Bartoli, author, 
among other texts, of the important La ricreazione del savio and L 'uomo di 



'" The Dominican Ignazie Del Nente, ene ef the most interesting figures of seventeenth- 
century Italian spirituality, discusses this point in his fascinating Eremo interna del cuore, 
a dialogue between Jesus and the seul. Per instance: "Quando dunque tu vuoi aderare Die 
in spirito e veriti, non b necessarie che ti rivelga col pensiero sepra le stelle, o sopra i 
cieli, ma basta che ti raccolga nel tuo interne e nella cella del tue cuore" (110). 
' ' Patrizi, Magia philosophica, hoc est Zoroaster et eius 320 oracula chaldaica: "Oportet 
te festinare ad lucem et patris lumina" (40r); "Ducat animae profunditas immertalis, 
eculesque affatim. Omnes sursum extende" (41r). 

'^ On Bellarmino's De ascensione, see Gentili and Ragazzeni 326-27. The authors define 
this treatise as "un autentice gioielle della letteratura ascetica" (326). 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti interni 1 57 

lettere. Divided into fifteen steps, De ascensione opens with an analysis of the 
relationship between the soul and the divinity. Our ascent to the divinity can 
only start, Bellarmino states in the fourth section of step one, with the essential 
realization that our soul is in fact an image of God: "Lift up your mind, my soul, 
to your exemplar and consider that the whole excellence of an image lies in its 
similarity to its exemplar."'^ 

Just as the soul is an image of a divine exemplar, so does the creation mirror 
God's incommensurable greatness, which is the topic of the second step of 
Bellarmino's De ascensione. Similar to Casoni's first meditation ("Delle 
grandezze di Dio"), this section of Bellarmino's treatise opens with a contrast 
between the earth and the sky: "What, I ask, is the size of the earth in 
comparison with the vastness of the heaven above? [...] Who can grasp in 
thought the size of the heavens where so many thousands of stars shine?" 
(Bellarmino, The Mind's Ascent 67; De ascensione 21). Although the earth is 
nothing but a grain of sand in comparison to the vastness of the heavens, both 
Bellarmino and Casoni underscore that, just as our soul is an image of the 
divinity's infinite greatness, so too does the earth reflect the vast beauty of the 
heavens. Quoting fi-om Psalm 1 15:16, which we have already found in a passage 
fi-om Augustine's Confessions, Bellarmino states: "Throughout the Holy 
Scriptures we read that God made the heavens and the earth as the principal 
parts of the world [...]. 'The heaven of heaven is for God,' says the Prophet, 'but 
the earth he gave to the sons of men.' This is the reason why heaven is ftill of 
glittering stars and the earth abounds with the immense riches of metals, 
precious stones, grasses, trees, and many kinds of animals" (Bellarmino, The 
Mind's Ascent 11; De ascensione 39-40).''' Casoni formulates this point as 
follows: 

[...] vedo questa machina grande della terra essere centro de' cieli, base del mondo, vaso 
del mare, genitrice de' frutti, vestita d'erbe e trappunta di fiori, nodrice de gli animali e 
patria dell'uomo [...]. Diviso meco in qual maniera i vegetabili con odorato parte de' 
fiori, fatti ricchi di fronde e abondanti di frutti, servono airuomo non meno di vaghezza 



'^ Bellarmino, De ascensione 10: "Erige nunc, anima mea, mentem ad exemplar tuum, et 
cogita, omne bonum imaginis in similitudine ad exemplar suum positum esse" {The 
Mind's Ascent to God, in Spiritual Writings 60). Like Bellarmino, in the first part of 
"Delle grandezze di Dio" Casoni speaks of the human being as a microcosm made in the 
image of God: "Ammiro la gloriosa fattura delle mani divine, la nobilissima creatura 
dell'uomo, imagine di Dio, illuminate dalla ragione, nuovo mondo al mondo, onore della 
natura, nodo ch'unisce il mortale con Timmortale, re delle cose inferiori" {Ragionamenti 
242-43). 

'" Bellarmino dwells on the infinite wealth of the earth in step two, chapter 3: "How 
much variety there is in the individual grain, plants, flowers, and fruits! Do not their 
shapes, colors, odors, and tastes differ in almost infinite ways? Is this not equally true 
among the animals?" (77ie Mind's Ascent 70; De ascensione 27). 



158 Armando Maggi 

che d'alimento. Considero la variety de gli animali, albergatori della terra, abitatori 
dell'acque e cittadini dell'aria. 

{Ragionamenti 241-42) 

God, we could say, envisioned his creation as a set of perfect reflections. Since 
the creatures, as Bellarmino and Casoni insist, are mirrors of a divine exemplar, 
so too the earth and the sky reflect God's heaven of heavens.'^ In other words, 
the creation manifests God's existence and his presence. God lives in and 
around his creatures. It is now evident that a night ascent of a mountain that 
seems to touch the heavens is similar to the soul's ascent toward the divinity.'^ 
In chapter four of step seven, which is a meditation "on the heavens, sun, moon, 
and stars," Bellarmino writes: "I now come to nighttime, when the heavens 
through the moon and the stars provide us a step for climbing to God."'^ 

But the above harmonious reflection among similes (earth, soul, sky, and 
heavens) is predicated upon an essential paradox. Both Bellarmino and Casoni 
reiterate that human beings are pilgrims on earth, for this world is the place of 
their exile from the divinity (Bellarmino, De ascensione 28). In Casoni's words, 
the creation is at once the "orma" (mark, sign) of its Creator and the 
"illusione" (illusion) that prevents us from ascending to the divinity: "[...] questa 
vita mortale b un lampo che svanisce e un'aura che ftigge [...] alfro non h che 
sogno" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 253). I have already explained that in Casoni's 
baroque religiosity "cielo" works as an index, as a sign of absence and 
remembrance. "Cielo" is a figure or image (the firmament) that in fact hides a 
withdrawn presence (the divinity and his heaven of heavens). "Cielo," we could 
say, is a visible figure of speech based on dissimulation, because its beautiftil 
appearance in fact hides a divine absence.'^ The act of contemplating a night sky 



'* Casoni, Ragionamenti 253: "[...] nel mondo le creature sono specchio di Dio, e nel 

cielo sar^ Dio specchio delle creature." 

'^ In Eremo interna, Del Nente writes a marvelous chapter on the "solitudo montis," 

where he describes how Jesus invites the soul to ascend to a solitary mountain: "lo ti 

chiamo, o mia cara e redenta, alia solitudine d'un monte alpestre nel quale non si vedono 

mai orme n6 di uomo ne di donna, acci6 viva in questo mondo sola a me, e non vegga 

altro bene in tutta la tua vita che il cielo e Dio" (67). 

'^ Bellarmino, De ascensione 108 and 1 18; The Mind's Ascent 125. Bartoli, Dell'huomo 

di lettere, pt. 1, ch. 2, likens the sky to a text written in a secret language. Only a wise and 

pious intellectual can decode its message: "Tutti mirano il cielo, ma non tutti I'intendono: 

e v'6 fra chi I'intende e chi no quel divario che corre fra due de' quali I'uno d'una 

scrittura arabica tratteggiata d'oro e miniata d'azzurro altro non vede che il lavorio di ben 

composti caratteri, 1 'altro di piii ne legge i periodi e ne intende i sensi" (10). Bartoli also 

echoes Bellarmino's analysis of the heavens in La ricreazione del savio (bk. 1, ch. 9, 

152-75). 

'* Accetto writes inspired pages on this subject in Delia dissimulazione onesta: "[...] tutto 

il bello non 6 altro che una gentil dissimulazione [...]. Giova [...] una certa dissimulazione 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 1 59 

thus summons a form of intellectual blindness, a sense of inner obscurity: 

O anima contemplatrice, vedi com'egli [Dio], non essendo natura intellettuale i\6 
Intelligente, supera ogni intelligenza e eccede ogni cognizione, si come la tua cognizione 
resta adombrata e'l tuo discorso offuscato, mentre sollevi te stessa ad una nobile 
meraviglia. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 250) 

The soul's beclouded discourse ("discorso offuscato"), its shadowy knowledge 
("cognizione adombrata") is the clearest insight granted to the soul. A pleasant 
feeling of sleepiness and fatigue accompanies this conclusive awareness. The 
night wanderer is ready to go back home and rest: 

Ma gii il sonno, misteriosa imagine della morte, pace deH'animo, alta quiete della viata 
umana, scherzando tra I'ombre dense della notte profonda, m'invita a scendere a piedi del 
monte per ritomare alia stanza che posta nel piu vicino colle mi s'6 preparata al riposo. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 253) 

Sleep signifies that the soul has exhausted its linguistic potentials, that its 
attempt to respond to the divinity's absence through reasoning has come to a 
conclusion. Being a form of prayer, this night ascent can only end with a sense 
of calm suspension, of hopeful expectation. As some critics have pointed out, 
Casoni's texts seem to echo Fran9ois de Sales's mystical views (Pozzi, Laparola 
dipinta 214; Guaragnella 176-77). In Traite de I 'amour de Dieu (first edition 1616), 
Francois de Sales (1567-1622) distinguishes between meditation and 
contemplation. Meditation, says the French mystic, is the mother of love, 
whereas contemplation is her child (Oeuvres, bk. 6, ch. 3a, 617). If meditation is a 
synonym for prayer (the night ascent of a mountain, the vision of a night sky), 
contemplation makes the soul curl up like a flower exposed to the sun's rays 
(Traite de I 'amour de Dieu bk. 6, ch. 7a, 631). In this condition of pleasant solitude, 
the soul rests as if it were asleep (Traite de i 'amour de Dieu, bk. 6, ch. 8, 632-35). 

della natura, per quanto si contiene tra lo spazio degli elementi, dov'6 molto vera quella 
proposizione che afferma di non esser tutt'oro quello che luce; ma ci6 che luce nel Cielo 
ben corrisponde sempre" (ch. 9, 31-32). Dissimulation, Accetto holds, will come to an 
end when "la verity stessa aprir^ le finestre del Cielo" (ch. 23, 64). 
'^ Francois rephrases this concept in a letter written on January 16, 1610: "Staying in 
God's presence and placing ourselves in God's presence are, to my mind, two different 
things. In order to place ourselves in His presence, we have to withdraw our soul from 
every other object and make it attentive to that presence at this very moment [...]. But 
once we are there, we remain there, as long as either our intellect or our will is active in 
regard of God [...]. For my part, I think we remain in God's presence even while we are 
asleep, because we fall asleep in His sight, as He pleases, and according to His will, and 
He puts us down on our bed like a statue in its niche" (Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal, 
Letters of Spiritual Directions 151-53). 



1 60 Armando Maggi 

What is the meaning of this form of contemplation? The night wanderer 
perceives his exile from the divinity as an essential part of the creation itself 
God resides both in the firmament and in the human race's exile from Him. 
Exile is the core of the wanderer's existence. This paradoxical awareness 
follows the wanderer from the slopes of the mountain back to his solitary room, 
where he will spend the rest of the night. 

However, as Bellarmino underscores in the seventh step of De ascensione 
mentis, "[t]here are two times — day and night — by which we ascend from 
heaven to God on the wings of contemplation" (Bellarmino, The Mind's Ascent 
\\9\ De ascensione 109). One is the "harmony of the stars," the other is the sun 
as "the dwelling place of God." Both skies are equal sources of contemplation. 
If a night sky compels us to look upwards, the sun's light invites us to turn our 
gaze downwards at the earth' beauty. I have already stressed that, according to 
Casoni, a sense of mirroring in fact exists between sky and earth. In the second 
chapter of Ragionamenti interni ("Delia solitudine"), Casoni walks back to the 
anonymous mountain in the morning and contemplates the nature that lies 
hidden in the shadows of the night. This new section opens as follows: 

lo pure a passo lento, involto in placidi pensieri sono giunto al tuo piede, o verdeggiante 
Sentino, che sorgendo sovra le nubi pretend! quasi con la cima di baciare il cielo. Ma 
poichd t'avvedi essere un picciolo granello d'arena rispetto alia di lui inaccessibile 
altezza, negletto ti stilli per dolore in iagrime interne, le quali, dalle caveme del tuo seno 
gocciolando, a' tuoi piedi formano questo fonte, il quale [...] manda fijori I'acque iimpide 
e chiare che I...] scorrono in grembo al lago vicino, ove il fiume mischiando le sue con 
I'acque di lui esce piu copioso d'onde e acquista il nome di Mischio. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 255) 

In the first chapter of Ragionamenti, the mountain had no name because the 
focus of the wanderer's gaze was on the firmament and the earth was deprived 
of light. In this new section, Casoni enlightens the previously dark landscape 
with a biographical connotation. We now learn that his Ragionamenti are taking 
place in his native town of Serravalle, at the feet of the mount Sentino, from 
which springs the river Mischio.^° 

Echoing the first sentence of "Delle grandezze di Dio," this new description 



^° Casoni mentions the mountain Sentino and the river Mischio in other texts. In De la 
magia d 'amore, he speaks of the "lucide onde del Mischio" and the "ninfe del famoso 
Sentino" (8r). Casoni also dedicates an entire poem to the Mischio in Ode 69-73. The 
introductory note explains: "II fiume Mischio, detto da' poeti latini Mesulus [...1 scorre 
con placido corso per Serravalle, patria dell'autore, e t, celebrato da Marc'Antonio 
Flaminio, poeta serravallese [...] e da Nicol6 Rinucci" (69). The second stanza states: "Tu 
da gemino fonte,/ a pid del gran Sentino / negli aiti gioghi suoi fiorito monte,/ sorgendo 
cristallino,/ con graziosi error! / nutr! novello Eurota etem! allot!" (70). Casoni praises the 
beauty of the Mischio in Emblemi politici (42). 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 1 6 1 

of a morning walk reiterates that the Sentino is a mountain that leads man's gaze 
up to the sky. As in La passione di Cristo the figure of a column unites the earth 
with the heavens, so does mount Sentino manifest that a mystical connection 
exists between the earth and the abyss of the skies. In this second chapter on 
solitude, Casoni makes the Sentino into a metaphor for a contrite Catholic who, 
by shedding tears of deep regret, gives life to the Mischio, the river of the town 
of Serravalle. In other words, the wanderer's exile and isolation from the 
divinity is here a universal awareness and concern. Mount Sentino is also the 
column on which the incarnate Word was flogged and through which we can 
ascend from our earthly condition to the heavens. The creation is marked with 
the memory of the Word's passion and death. 

Casoni also underscores that the tears of the Sentino are a spring that 
enlivens this peaceftil landscape. As in chapter one Casoni had acquired a sense 
of inner peace by fathoming and embracing his radical exile from the Creator, so 
do the tears of the Sentino make the countryside a place for inner understanding 
and acceptance. Metaphorically speaking, Casoni states that this landscape 
makes him appreciate "la soavit^ che distilla dal dolcissimo fonte della vita 
solitaria" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 256). 

Let us summarize Casoni's complex series of metaphorical 
transliterations. Mount Sentino is like a human being that has perceived his or 
her personal responsibility for the Word's sacrifice. By mourning the Word's 
death, the mountain manifests tears of repentance which fructify in an outer 
landscape, which is like the inner landscape of a soul that has devoted itself to 
solitude. Casoni phrases this point as follows: 

O solitudine[...] instromento per fabbricare neiranima un paradiso, scala per ascendere al 
cielo, tu fai che I'uomo fligge la compagnia de gli altri uomini per avere la conversatione 
de gli angeli [...] giace tra I'erbe per sollevarsi tra le stelle; riposa all'ombra per fruire la 
luce dell'etemo sole. Sono gli antri i suoi palagi, le fronde i suoi riposi, le foreste i suoi 
giardini. Osserva la velocity del vento come figura della vita nostra fligace. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 257) 

Solitude is thus the condition that makes visible the reflection between earth and 
sky, between outer and inner landscape, between the event of the Word's 
suffering and death, and our exile and atonement.^' Solitude, we could say, is 
like the column of the Word's torture and of the soul's ascent ("O solitudine [...] 



^' Augustine, De libera arbitrio 3.5.13. Petrarca's De otic religioso is another important 
source of Casoni's book. I quote from: De otic religioso, in Opere latine. For Petrarca, 
the soul is exposed to infinite demonic assaults ("violenti spirituum incursus" 654), 
which shows the soul's intrinsic nothingness (bk 1, 658). Petrarca contends that, since the 
earth is immensely distant from the sky, the soul must strive to reunite them. Only the sky 
can save the earth ("[...] fingite animis ut terra salva sit necessarium esse coelo illam 
iungi" bk. 1, 660). 



1 62 Armando Maggi 

scala per ascendere al cielo"). Solitude is the inner condition of a mountain 
mourning its sins and distance from the persecuted Word. 

The column of the soul's solitude, on which the marks of the Word's blood 
are imprinted, enables the dialogue between earth and sky, between our exile 
and divine abode. In the following chapter ("Delia mutazione delle cose," part 
one), Casoni stresses that the mutations of our visible sky remind us of the 
world's instability and transience. In other words, the sky serves as a mirror of 
our human condition. The sky is not only a visible echo of the heaven of 
heavens (God used the word "coelum" to indicate both his dwelling and the 
firmament); it also compels us to face our impermanence: 

[...] aprendosi il cielo e lampeggiando sosteneva co i focosi baleni la vece del sole che, 
cinto da nebbia torbida e oscura, compartiva a' mortali poca e incerta luce; fremeano i 
tuoni, uscendo da! guazzoso seno delle nubi squarciate [...]. Vedi anima mia come 
facilmente s'6 cangiata la prospettiva del cielo, come repente s't mutata questa scena del 
mondo. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 267) 

The sky is like an immense stage, whose "perspective" opens on mutable 
settings. The sky, we could say, gives perspective to the scenes of the world. At 
the beginning of this essay, I stated that the opposition and dialogue between 
earth and sky ("terra" and "cielo") is an essential topos of Casoni's poetics. In 
Ode in onor della sacratissima Sindone, the highest poetic meditation on the 
shroud of Turin ever written, Casoni contends that, by holding the marks of the 
Word's death, the "Sindone" is the mirror of the heavens' eternal beauties: 

O sacra spoglia, o prezioso velo, 

paradiso terreno, 

eletto in terra a gareggiar col cielo 



Tu sei tela celeste, alle supeme 

menti pompa e tesoro, 

Specchio divino delle bellezze eterne. 

Nelle tue filad'oro 

fa lucido riflesso 

il sol di gloria, al sol di gloria istesso. 

Cosi talora in densa nube suole 

col pennel della luce 

quasi pittor del sol ritrarsi il sole.^^ 



^^ I find this poem at the end of Solaro's Sindone evangelica, istorica e teologica. The 
three pages of this poem are not numbered. Solaro quotes from Casoni's poem on pages 
31 and 34 o^ Sindone evangelica. On page 5, like Casoni, Solaro calls the shroud "earthly 
paradise" {paradiso terreno). Doglio mentions Casoni's text in her detailed article 
"'Grandezze e meraviglie' della Sindone nella letteratura del Seicento" (19-20). In 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 1 63 



In the shroud of Turin, the moment of the incarnate Word's death exists as an 
everlasting remembrance of a renewed alHance between earth and heaven, as 
Paul writes in the Epistle to the Colossians (1:20). The shroud, Casoni writes, 
"competes with heaven" (gareggia col cielo) because it retains here, on earth, the 
visible sign of the Word's human biography.^^ The Word lives with the Father 
and the Holy Spirit in the heaven of heavens, but his human biography, the 
outline of his corpse, is preserved here on earth. This admirable figure, Casoni 
writes in this poem, sees even though it does not have eyes ("non ha lumi e pur 
mira"). As a relic or official statement of a new pact between earth and heaven, 
the shroud guards the dialogue between humans and the divine. 

The concept of the Word's bloodstained corpse as a unifying image, as the 
figure of a new speech of salvation, is particularly dear to Casoni. In Teatro 
poetico, a series of brief compositions each made of two parts, a narrative prose 
and a subsequent poem often in the form of a monologue, Casoni expresses this 
point in a poem in six octaves ("La croce"), in which he addresses the cross of 
Christ.^"* The first four verses of octave five read as follows: 

Cosi in mezo de I'aria in te sospeso 



seventeenth-century Italian devotional literature, the shroud of Turin expresses a cluster 
of metaphors. In the popular but not very original Esplicatione del lenzuolo ovefu involto 
it Signore, the Archbishop of Bologna Paleotti holds that the outlined body of the 
incarnate Word is a hieroglyphic text: "Vuol dunque il Salvatore col mezzo di quella 
Sindone darci ad intendere i sentimenti suoi nella maniera che scrivevano gli egizii i 
concetti loro, scolpendo o dipingendo figure d'animali diversi, ed usandole per lettere" 
(56). The shroud as mirror is a topos of the devotional literature. In the lengthy 
Ragionamenti sopra la Sacra Sindone, the Dominican Balliani writes: "[La Sindone] sar^ 
mirabilissimo specchio per contemplare, e contemplando conformarci alia Santissima e 
innocentissima umanita di Cristo per noi morta e sepolta" ("Ragionamento I" 39-40). The 
shroud, Balliani explains in a later chapter, is a "compendio della legge evangelica scritta 
con lettere di sangue" ("Ragionamento X" 373). 

^^ Casoni must have been familiar with the poetry of the monk Angelo Grillo on the holy 
shroud. See, in particular, the opening lines of the following poem: "N6 stelle in ciel 
d' immortal lume accese / si miran mai con si benigno aspetto / quando talor qualche 
felice effetto / producon I'alte e generose imprese,/ come nel sacro LIN I'opposte e stese / 
figure sante con perpetuo affetto / si miran, e n'avien ch'empian difetto / d'alma contrita, 
e spengan I'alte offese/ [...]/ E non t lino il sacro LIN, ma il cielo/ che, benche nebbia il 
renda fosco, e '1 viso / gli copra d'atro e sanguinoso velo" (Grillo, "Delle rime," in Rime 
di diversi celebri poeti 91). In Dicerie sacre, Marino calls the shroud "un Cielo": "Dir6 
che tu sia un Cielo [...]. Chi vuol vedere il cerchio del Sole, miri quella corona di spine: 
chi vuol vedere la meza Luna, miri I'apertura di quel costato" (part one, chapter three, 
182). 

^^ The main topic of Teatro poetico is love's contradictory forms: "Amore, che nato co 'I 
natale del mondo [...] sparge co '1 volo dell'ali sue porporine vari influssi" {Opere 172). 



1 64 Armando Maggi 

sta chi congiunge in un la terra e'l cielo, 
che muore etemo e visto, e non inteso, 
e Dio vivente in lacerato velo. 

(Casoni, Teatro poetico 217) 

The "torn veil" of verse four is both the veil of the sanctuary that was split in 
two from top to bottom at the moment of the Word's death {Matthew 27:51) and 
the tormented body of the living God murdered on the cross as it is recorded on 
the shroud. Lying "suspended" in the air, the dead Word is a veil over the skies. 
The shroud in which he was buried both covers and enlightens the skies. 

We have said that, according to Casoni 's Ragionamenti, God paradoxically 
posits his dialogue with us as a form of radical exile. God is and is not in the 
creation. He exists among us as the memorial of his Word's death. We are 
pilgrims, Casoni reiterates throughout his Opere, and as a pilgrim the Son of 
God lived among us. Let us remember that the Word's last words on the cross 
spoke of solitude and abandonment (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Being God's 
creation, the earth cannot help but express the solitude and exile that the Word 
voiced at the moment of his death. Exile is in fact what connects humans and the 
divine, since the Word himself shared our condition of outcast. The final section 
of Teatro poetico ("Clemenza divina") is "the most spectacular" expression of 
Casoni's interpretation of the earth-heaven reflection (Pozzi, La parola dipinta 
209).^^ Unlike the previous chapters of the Teatro, this conclusive part on God's 
amorous clemency is divided into two subchapters, both revolving around the 
Virgin mother of the Word and her contemplation of his corpse. In the first 
poetic section, composed of five octaves, Mary intercedes with the Word on 
behalf of the created world.^^ Opening her arms, the Virgin offers her naked 
breast as shield to protect the creation against the Word's wrath.^' Through 
Mary the Word became incarnate and saved his own creation from the 
decadence of sin. The fleeting forms of the skies, Mary reminds the Word, eire 
also products of his creation. In octave four, one of the most inspired 
expressions of seventeenth-century Italian devotional literature, Casoni gives a 
poetic form to the concepts expressed in the first part of Ragionamenti interni: 

Le fiamme lucidissime e divine, 



^^ Pozzi refers to the second section of this final chapter. 

^^ Casoni, Teatro poetico 219: "Cos! gia Cristo nostro Signore si mostr6 cinto dalle nubi 

del suo giusto sdegno co M fulmine in mano per purgare con I'incendio il mondo delle sue 

colpe quando, per intercessione della Beata Vergine, rifulse il lampo della sua 

misericordia, si rasseren6 il cielo e respird il mondo." 

^^ Casoni, Teatro poetico 220: "O del gran Padre etemo etema prole,/ Figlio concetto in 

cielo e in terra nato,/ mio vivo sol, ond'ha la luce il sole,/ mio caro parto, ond'6 il mio sen 

beato,/ Tu minacciante, io supplice? E pur suole / esser lo sdegno tuo da me placato./ 

Apro le braccia, e questo petto ignudo / Ti scopro, al mondo intercessore o scudo." 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 1 65 

in cui riflette il tuo gran lume un poco, 
i cieli che finiti e senza fine 
ne' vari moti lor non mutan loco, 
tant'alme e tante forme pellegrine, 
I'uomo, tua imago, I'invisibil foco, 
I'immobil terra, I'acqua e I 'aria pura 
son pur del tuo amor parti e fattura. 

(Casoni, Teatro poetico 22 1 f^ 

Just as the flames of a starry night are a vague reflection of the Word's abode, so 
are human beings mirrors of the Son. This essential concept finds a final 
formulation in the second part of this chapter, in which Casoni reiterates that the 
Word descended from heaven to earth so that these two halves of his creation 
could be reunited. In its poetic section, which is similar to a medieval laude, an 
anonymous speaker engages Mary in a dialogue on the mystery of her son's 
birth, death, and resurrection. Made of seven octaves entirely structured on the 
word rhymes "terra" and "cielo," this second poem focuses on the meaning of 
the Word's human biography.^' Echoing Jacopone of Todi, the first two verses 
of the first octave read as follows: 

Maria, chi b quel bambin ch'd in terra? Terra. 
Dissi chi b quel ch'6 ignudo al cielo? Cielo. 

(Casoni, Teatro poetico 223) 

In these two hendecasyllables, Casoni has synthesized the whole parable of the 
Word's experience. The Word came to us as a baby bom from a woman's 
womb. Like every other human being, he was made of earth {Genesis 2:7). But, 
dying naked on the cross, the Word, made of earth, arose to heaven. Casoni 
offers a final rendition of this fundamental theme in the closing octave, a poetic 
tour de force: 

Patira questo Dio fatt'uomo in terra, 
perch6 I'uom farsi Dio bram6 nel cielo. 
Egli, ch'e nume e sacerdote in terra 



^* Casoni repeats the same words and concepts in Le battaglie pacifiche, a complex and 
long work that has received no critical attention: "Se la variety e bellezza della natura, la 
quale ha fatti vari i cieli, diversi i loro moti, e differenti i loro purissimi lumi, che ha 
diversificati gli elementi, rese mutabili le stagioni, variati gli animanti e abbellito Tuomo 
con la diversity de' membri, di potenze dell'anima, de gli affetti, e di mille altre variabili 
eccellenze, che lo rendono un mondo maraviglioso al mondo, chi sari che possa lodare la 
lealta in amore?" {Opere 28). 

^^ Grilio writes a sonnet on the shroud of Turin entirely based on the word rhymes 
"spoglie" and "spoglia": "In questa santa ed onorata spoglia / sacra e piu degna di 
qual'altre spoglie" (Rime di diversi celebri poeti 83). 



1 66 Armando Maggi 



fara di sangue un sacrificio al cielo. 
Ei la vittima sia penosa in terra, 
caro olocausto, ostia amorosa al cielo, 
lacero, morto, al fin sepolto in terra, 
placheri il cielo, e salver^ la terra. 

(Casoni, Teatro poetico 224)'° 

The Word buried in the earth and arisen to heaven saves the earth from the exile 
it embodies since the fall. The Word has granted a meaning to the exile that 
rules over the creation after the original sin. Exile is now a means through which 
the pilgrims of the earth walk toward the Word, since the Word was made of 
earth and from the earth arose back to the Father. 

The theme of exile and reconciliation runs through the rest of Ragionamenti 
interni. In its fourth section ("Delia mutazione delle cose," part two), Casoni 
likens the interaction between the soul in exile and the heavens to the interplay 
between the moon and the sun. In Bellarmino's De ascensione, we find a very 
similar treatment of this allegory. After offering an astronomical description of 
this natural occurrence,^' both Bellarmino's De ascensione and Casoni's 
Ragionamenti explain how the intercourse between the two planets signifies the 
soul's relationship with the divinity. Bellarmino writes: 

The moon stands for man; the sun stands for God; when the moon is opposite the sun, 
then the light borrowed from the sun looks only at the earth and in a way turns its back to 
heaven [...]. On the other hand, when the moon is in conjunction with the sun, it is 
perfectly subordinated to the sun; it is entirely bright on its upper side and looks toward 
heaven alone and turns its back after a fashion on the earth and disappears completely 
from human eyes. 

[...] If you, my soul, under the inspiration of his grace find yourself subordinated to the 
Father of lights [...] do not imitate fools who change like the moon. 

(Bellarmino, The Mind's Ascent 125-26; De ascensione 120) 

Casoni addresses the soul at the beginning of his exegesis: 

Rivolgiti anima mia alia considerazione di te medesima, perch6 vedrai come tu sia il 
ritratto di questo pianeta, poscia che mentre ricevi nella tua parte superiore il lume da 
Dio, tuo sole eterno, e a lui t'unisci, miri, vagheggi e contempli le cose celesti e sei 
parimente lucido spettacolo al cielo, stando con aspetto felice in congiunzione con Dio, 
ma se conversa alle sensuality [...] nella parte superiore tutta ombrosa ti mostri al cielo, 
allora [...] sei in opposizione co'l celeste tuo sole. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 282-83)'^ 



'°Guaragnella 177-78. 

'' Bellarmino, De ascensione, step seven, ch. four, 1 19; Casoni, Ragionamenti 282. 

'^ The dialogue between the sun, the moon, and the other planets had been the subject of 

the third chapter of Delia magia d'amore ("Come amore sia astrologo"), a dense and at 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 1 67 

Like the moon in conjunction with the sun, the soul enlightened by the Word's 
death understands that its distance from the divinity is not a mark of 
abandonment, but rather a paradoxical sign of closeness. According to Casoni, a 
soul in conjunction with its sun is a luminous surface that reflects the sky's rays 
("lucido spettacolo al cielo"). Some sort of luminosity inhabits the soul's exile. 

The light lying dormant in the created world, in its forms doomed to decay 
and oblivion and in its creatures exiled from the heaven of heavens, is the core 
of chapter five of the Ragionamenti, called "Delle ricchezze." Some readers 
could assume that such a cliched title would infroduce a trite confrast between 
spiritual and worldly wealth. In fact, this brief section is one of the most inspired 
parts of the Ragionamenti. Walking out at dawn toward the mountain 
encountered in the first and the second chapters, Casoni sees that the sun is 
shining through the morning dew. At dawn, dew grants a layer of golden 
radiance to nature. Addressing dawn as he were speaking to his soul, Casoni 
writes: 

Contempla [...] questo colle, com'ei lentamente s'inalza, quasi bramoso di salutarti per 
ricevere le stille della tua rugiada, con la quale inargenti i suoi fiori. Vedi quest'erba tutta 
fiorita, vedila trappunta e stelleggiata di fiori, si che pare seminata di stelle. 

{Ragionamenti 288) 

Dawn is the awareness that visits the soul at the moment of its conjunction with 
its inner sun. Thanks to this enlightenment, the created world acquires a 
luminosity that makes it a reflection of the skies. Stars, Casoni says, seem to 
shine in the grass. This goldlike presence in the air at dawn brings to the fore the 
clarity within things themselves. Dawn's visible clarity is similar to the clarity 
that visits the soul during its contemplation of the skies/heavens: 

Contempla, dico, il cielo, per natura semplice, per essenza sottile, per quality lucido e per 
materia purissimo, ch'ogn'ora movendosi non mai dal suo luogo si muove, finito senza 
fine, tutto suo, tutto in se, sempre a se stesso simigliante, vita del mondo, padre delle 
stagioni [...]. Non altro che la purissima rugiada che sUlla dalla contemplatione delle cose 
celesti e dall'abborrimento delle ricchezze terrene puo estinguere la sete quasi che 



times convoluted analysis based on Renaissance astronomy and Florentine Neoplatonism. 
Casoni merges astronomy and devotional rhetoric in the second part of this lengthy 
chapter of Ragionamenti. After having posited the moon as a symbol of the soul's 
instability, Casoni goes on to prove that the sun itself is variable (283-85). Casoni's 
extensive astrological discussion opens as follows: "E non meno variabile il sole, 
poich'egli ogni giorno cangia I'Oriente co 'I meriggio e 'I meriggio con I'occaso; muta 
casa ogni mese co 'I mutare un segno celeste e va cambiando gli anni co 'I naturale suo 
corso; compare nell'oriente e cangia la notte in giorno; cade nell'occidente e tramuta il 
giorno in notte" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 283). 



168 Armando Maggi 

inestinguibile dell'oro [...] chi vuole avere ricchezze bisogna prima avere se stesso. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 290-93) 

This passage, which directly echoes the first page of the Ragionamenti on the 
contemplation of a nighttime sky, unmistakably blends the two meanings of the 
word "cielo." By contemplating the heavens, the soul understands that it does 
not possess itself. The "dew" that flows down from the heavens is an inner gift 
that sheds light over the soul's nothingness. Nothingness is the soul's 
luminosity. The "dawn" of the soul's awareness manifests an inner and outer 
world enlightened by nothingness. Let us bear in mind that, as Augustine states 
in the Confessions, light was the form that God gave to the abyss of the creation. 

The light at dawn is also the setting of the next chapter, "Delia virginity," 
which compares the light descending from the heavens to the inner light of the 
virginal soul: "Quella [la luce dell'alba] manifesta il corpo lucido distinguendolo 
dall'opaco; questa sparge da gli occhi i raggi dell'animo casto e luminoso, e lo 
disceme da quello che di terrene e tenebrose macchie h oscurato. La luce 6 
porpora del cielo; la virginity h il lume della vita" (Casoni, Ragionamenti 295). 
One could say that Casoni's Ragionamenti does not consist of seven meditations 
loosely connected to each other through some metaphorical and thematic 
recurrences, for it describes a process of inner enlightenment in which the author 
literally and metaphorically "walks outside" of himself and meditates upon the 
relationship among created world, human soul, and the Word. In a condition of 
inner and outer solitude, the subject understands that exile is the sense of his 
existence. But exile from the Word is also the place where the subject perceives 
the presence of the incarnate Word as a form of remembrance (the Word's 
isolation, suffering, and death). Exile is a luminous presence within the creation 
and human beings. The name of this inner brilliance is "virginity," in the sense 
that virginity is a clear state of purity that mirrors the purity of the heavens. 

The seventh and final chapter ("Della bellezza umana") describes a spiritual 
closure. From the vault of the firmament and the light of a luminous dawn, 
Casoni finally focuses on the face of his beloved Lauretta. Like a night sky, her 
beauty is a reflection of God's beauty: 

[...] ti prego per quel celeste lume dell'ldeale bellezza ch'in te risplende, per quelle 
dolcissime tue luci, che sono nel cielo del tuo bel volto I'oriente di due Soli amorosi, che 
tu riceva neirorecchie invisibiii deH'anima tua queste voci, testimoni addolorati delle mie 
sciagure, e della tua perfidia. 

(Casoni, Ragionamenti 300) 

This opening section sounds like a trite formulation of baroque love poetry. The 
beloved woman's cruelty causes deep sorrow in her lover. But why and how is 
Lauretta cruel? She is not cruel because she denies her sexual favors to the 
author, something that would contradict the previous chapter on the importance 
of virginity. Offering a unique interpretation of some essential topoi of baroque 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti interni 169 

love poetry, Casoni believes that Lauretta is cruel because her physical beauty, 
which echoes the harmony of the heavens, testifies to the distance between his 
soul and the divinity. In other words, Lauretta is cruel because she manifests the 
author's exile from God. Summarizing all the themes covered throughout the 
first six chapters of the Ragionamenti, Casoni states that Lauretta's visible 
beauty transcends the harmony of every possible aspect of the created world, 
including the firmament: 

[...] x\t 11 canto de gli uccelli, nd 11 susurro delle fronde, n6 11 mormorio dell'acque, n6 11 
concento del mondo, n6 il concento delle sue parti, ne la musica delle sfere celesti, ni 
I'armonia di te stessa [anima] arrivano alia soavit^ della melodia che dalla pellegrina 
belti della mia Lauretta dolcemente risulta. (Casoni, Ragionamenti 304) 

If in chapter one the vision of the firmament had made the wanderer perceive the 
created world as a place at once inhabited and abandoned by the divinity, in this 
final analysis of his beloved's beautiful forms the author concludes that no 
solace derives from the visible world. In our analysis of chapter one, we saw that 
a certain comfort or pleasant fatigue overwhelmed the author at the end of his 
night walk and compelled him to go back to his bedroom. Here, at the 
conclusion of the entire book, the solitary Casoni realizes that to seek solace in 
the contemplation of the visible beauties (the firmament, dawn, the forms of 
Lauretta) is a misleading experience. Exile from the "cruel" Lauretta is the core 
of the human condition. No bedroom awaits the writer at the end of the 
Ragionamenti. A cave is the place where he will bury his lament. The last two 
sentences of the entire Ragionamenti read as follows: 

[...] il giorno gi^ cadente se ne fligge all'occaso, la speranza di rivedere in questo luogo la 
mia sospirata Lauretta b g\k fuggita. Portano seco I'aure fugaci i miei giusti lamenti. 
Fuggiro dunque ancor io quest'antro, e piangendo turber6 con le mie voci dogliose il 
silenzio di queste selve. (Casoni, Ragionamenti 310) 

At the beginning of this essay I stated that Casoni's Ragionamenti interni has a 
circular structure. If in the first chapter the author walks out at night, while 
chapters two through six take place at dawn and during the day. At the end of 
the final chapter, it is dusk time and night is approaching. Unlike the conclusion 
of chapter one, however, the end of the book does not describe a reassuring 
experience. The author walks back to a cave, the symbol of a solitary, monastic 
form of self-scrutiny. Casoni will trouble the "silence of these woods" with his 
cries. If the last word of a book has any meaning, "selve" and its singular 
"selva" have a special place in the Italian tradition. No clarity accompanies the 
wanderer back to his abode. "Selve" visualizes a sense of perdition, of utter 
confusion. It signifies exile. , ,^ 

University of Chicago 



1 70 Armando Maggi 



Works Cited 

Accetto, Torquato. Delia dissimulazione onesta. Ed. Salvatore Silvano Nigro. Torino: 

Einaudi, 1997. 
Augustine, St. Confessions. Trans. William Watts. 2 vols. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1997. 
Balliani, Camillo. Ragionamenti sopra la Sacra Sindone. Torino: Pizzamiglio, 1646. 
Bartoli, Daniello. DeH'huomo di lettere difeso e emendato. Firenze: Stamperia di S.A.S. 

alia Condotta, 1645. 

. La ricreatione del savio. Venezia: Prodocimo, 1676. 

Bellarmino, Roberto. De ascensione mentis in Deum. Antverpiae: Ex Officina Platiniana, 

1615. 
. Spiritual Writings. Trans. John Patrick Donnelly and Roland J. Teske. New 

York: Paul ist Press, 1989. 
Casoni, Guido. De la magia d'amore. Venezia: Zoppini, 1592. 

. Ode. Venezia: Ciotti, 1602. 

. Opere. Venezia: Baglioni, 1626. 

. Emblemi politici. Venezia: Baglioni, 1632. 

Corradini, Marco. "La ricerca metaforica di Guido Casoni." .4evM/« 61. 3 (1987): 503-16. 

Del Nente, Ignazio. Eremo interno del cuore. Firenze: Borghigiani, 

1642. 

Doglio, Maria Luisa. "'Grandezze e meraviglie' della Sindone nella letteratura del 

Seicento." II potere e la devozione. La Sindone e la biblioteca reale di Torino. Ed. 

Vera Comoli and Giovanna Giacobello Bernard. Milano: Electa, 2000. 17-28. 
Fran9ois de Sales. Oeuvres. Paris: Gallimard, 1969. 
, and Jane de Chantal. Letters of Spiritual Directions. Trans. Pdronne Marie 

Thibert. New York: Paulist Press, 1988. 
Gentiii, Antonio, and Mauro Ragazzoni. La spiritualita della riforma cattolica. Vol. 5/C. 

Bologna: Centro Editoriale Dehoniano, 1993. 
Guaragnella, Pasquale. Gli occhi della mente. Stili nel Seicento italiano. Bari: Palomar, 

1997. 
Harran, Don. "Guido Casoni on Love and Music: A Theme 'for All Ages and Studies.'" 

Renaissance Quarterly 54.3 (2001): 883-913. 
Hesiod. Homeric Hymns. Epic Cycle. Homerica. Trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White. 

Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2000. 
Ignatius of Loyola. Spiritual Exercises and Selected Works. Trans. George E. Ganss. 

New York: Paulist Press, 1991. 
Marino, Giovanbattista. Dicerie sacre e la strage de gl'innocenti. Ed. Giovanni Pozzi. 

Torino: Einaudi, 1960. 
Molinari, Donatella. "Per un'idea dei rapporti fra poesia e iconismo. La passione di 

Christo di Guido Casoni." Lingua e stile 14 (1979): 431-35. 
The New Jerusalem Bible. New York: Doubleday, 1998. 
Paleotti, Alfonso. Esplicatione del lenzuolo ove fu involto il Signore. Bologna: Rossi, 

1598. 
Patrizi, Francesco. Magia philosophica, hoc est Zoroaster et eius 320 oracula chaldaica. 

Hamburgi: Biblioteca Ranzoviana, 1593. 



The Skies of the Soul 's Exile in Casoni 's Ragionamenti intemi 1 7 1 

Petrarca, Francesco. Opere latine. Ed. Antonietta Fubano. Torino: Utet, 1987. 
Philosophical Writings of Peirce. Ed. Justus Buchler. New York: Dover Publications, 

1955. 
Portier, Lucienne. "Les caiiigrammes de Guido Casoni." Revue des etudes italiennes 

43.1-2 (1997): 67-77. 
Pozzi, Giovanni. La rosa in mono al profess ore. Freiburg: Edizioni 
universitarie, 1974. 

. Laparola dipinta. Milano: Adelphi, 1981. 

Rime di diversi celebri poeti dell 'eta nostra. Ed. Giovanbattista Licino. Bergamo: 

Comino Ventura, 1587. 
Solaro, Agaffino. Sindone evangelica, istorica e teologica. Torino: Cavalleris, 1627. 
Theocriti aliorvmqve poetarvm idyllia: eiusdem epigrammata. Simmiae Rhodii Ouum, 

Alae, Securis, Fistula. Geneva: Stephanus, 1579. 



Luigi Monga 

"Doom'd to Wander": 

Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 



In the course of human history individuals in power rarely failed to use every 
means at their disposal to dispatch their political adversaries. Whenever 
execution, the most customary solution, was inconvenient or unfeasible, legal 
ouster or threats leading to voluntary exile became bloodless alternatives,' 
forcing dissenters to find a new home abroad.^ At the origin of this predicament 
there is the problem of "alterity": an inexplicably visceral feeling, borne by the 
realization that other social groups are different. Because of its collective 
strength, the most powerful group considers itself better than others and 
therefore rules. 

As early as the 6th century B.C., in several cities of Greece, casting ostraka 
was a constitutional safeguard that allowed civic leaders to remove unwanted 
citizens from the community for ten years (hence the modem verb "to 
ostracize").' Military victories and reversals of fortunes have usually culminated 
in dispatching members of the opposition or shipping off entire religious or 
ethnic minorities. 

In A.D. 8, Ovid, one of the most famous Roman exiles, guilty of some un- 
named error against the emperor, was banished to the eastern outpost of Tomis, 
on the Pontus Euxinus. Despite the poet's repeated assurances of allegiance and 
submission, Augustus refused to commute his sentence. Ovid sought to keep 
writing poetry, building a monumentum to his fame as a national poet and 
implicitly a proud memoir for his unfair treatment. As for many other 
intellectuals after him, Ovid found in writing a positive answer to the tyrant's 
wickedness.'* 



' Deportation became a common form of exile in modem times. From 1617 to 1776, 
England dumped common criminals and "dissolute persons" to America, and, eventually, 
to Australia; France established penal colonies in Africa, New Caledonia, and Guiana; 
Russia deported her undesirable citizens to Siberia. Later on, the brutality of penal 
colonies was abandoned, and modem states prefer to jail or execute their dissenters. 
^ Hunger is another catalyst for generations of desperate human beings who choose a self- 
imposed exile, emigrating with no hope of returning home. 

' In his early- 16th-century encyclopedic Ojjicina, under the heading "In exilium missi," 
Jean Tixier de Ravisy (Johannes Ravisius Textor) collected a number of names of 
prominent Athenians exiled for dissenting with the local authorities. 
"* Cellini's Vita could be considered a last resort solution, writing about himself, building 
a monument to consolidate his life achievement, at the very moment the grand duke has 
forced him into artistic inactivity. 

Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002) 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 174 

The history of the Jews is particularly dramatic in this respect. From the 
10th century B.C., when Jerusalem was sacked for the first time, this people was 
marked by a series of deportations and expulsions. Ezekiel was carried off to 
Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar with the king and a large body of the Jewish 
population. The prophet spent the rest of his life in exile, as an interested 
observer of affairs among his brethren, deploring the immorality of his own 
people and the just punishment it deserved. 

In Roman times, the first crises between Christ's followers and the 
traditional Jews were solved by the expulsion of the minority from cities that 
maintained a powerful Jewish community, as happened to Paul and Barnabas in 
Antioch (Acts 13:50). Conversely, in the early centuries of Christianity, councils 
of the Church fulminated anathemas and ousted heretics; it was a complete 
severance of minorities from the mainstream group, akin to pruning a dead 
branch of a living tree (Matt. 3:10; 7:19). Sanctioning their own ideas, political 
authorities went as far as to organize their own national churches to emphasize 
an ever-present connection between religion and politics. More recently, the 
Holocaust taught the world a dramatic lesson about hatred and intolerance; 
standards of ethnic superiority disguised under philosophical tenets were used as 
excuses to drive out and punish unwelcome "others," justifying, directly or 
surreptitiously, some of the crudest tragedies in recent history. 

Fleeing Florence, where an unjust death sentence had been imposed on him 
by the Black Guelphs' faction in January 1302, Dante, "florentinus et exul 
inmeritus," began a political odyssey, a "pena d'essilio e di povertate" (Conv. 
1:3.2) that taught him, painfully, "si come sa di sale / lo pane altrui, e come 6 
duro calle / lo scendere e '1 salir per I'altrui scale" (Par. 17: 58-60). Petrarch's 
maternal grandfather, a notary, falsely accused of corruption, was exiled from 
Florence a few months after Dante. The government of this factious and 
turbulent city, enmeshed in continuous internecine squabbles, used death and 
exile to keep the opposition in check as late as the Quattrocento. The influence 
of local political struggles on the lives of Machiavelli^ and Savonarola^ is well 



' Yet, Machiavelli wrote bitterly negative pages against Dante, downplaying the poet's 
exile and portraying him as a vindictive, unpatriotic individual who "in ogni parte mostr6 
d'essere, per ingegno, per dottrina e per giudizio, uomo eccellente, eccetto che dove ebbe 
a ragionare della patria sua; la quale, fuori d'ogni umanit^ e filosofico instituto, 
perseguit6 con ogni specie d'ingiuria. E non potendo altro fare che infamarla, accus6 
questa d'ogni vizio, dannd gli uomini, biasimd il sito, disse male de' costumi e delle 
leggi di lei [...]. E se per sorte, de' mali ch'egli li predisse, le ne fxisse accaduto alcuno, 
Firenze arebbe piii da dolersi d'aver nutrito quell'uomo che d'alcuna altra sua rovina" 
(Discorso sulla lingua 9). 

Ironically, one of Cellini's evictions from Florence was caused by a mob of fanatics 
("aronzinati cappuccinetti" Vita I, 17) who wanted him jailed for being involved in a 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 175 

known; but other cities, in Italy and abroad, fared no better. Kings and 
commoners were united in the same fate. Louis XI of France had to seek refuge 
in Burgundy from 1456 to 1461 before regaining his throne. At the same time in 
England, Henry VI had to flee to Scotland, a recurrent destiny in his family, for 
Henry IV, his grandfather and Edward IV, his successor, regained power after 
being forced into exile (Shaw 5). And in the name of the gods of reformers and 
counter-reformers, many individuals were forced to seek abroad a place that 
would allow them freedom of worship. As soon as the victims regained power, 
however, they often took their turn to exact violent retribution against their own 
religious foes. 

Ousting of people preceded and followed banishment of their books. 
Luther's works were publicly burned in Cologne and Louvain while he 
organized similar bonfires of papal edicts in Wittenberg and persuaded the 
Elector of Saxony to proscribe works written by fellow Protestants with whom 
he disagreed. And Calvin's Geneva, a city of refiige for religious exiles, soon 
turned into a theocratic system that imposed serious restraints on the liberty of 
the citizenry, enforcing a sfrict discipline that cut off dissenters from all social 
intercourse and turned them to an inflexible authority made of preachers and 
elders to be put to death.^ Meanwhile, censorship to preserve the established 
faith lead the Council of Trent to the publication of the Index librorum 
prohibitorum (1564), the standard list of books banned from Catholic libraries,^ 
while more Christian thinkers, fled their homes or were burned by the 
Inquisition. Civility and orderliness proved impossible to legislate and 
controversies raged among Christians, until the Peace of Augsburg (1555) put in 
effect a Solomonic compromise {cujus regio ejus religio) that tied for centuries 
geography and religious freedom, maintaining uniformity of cult and political 
allegiance by "freeing" individuals to leave their country in order to practice 
their faith somewhere else. 

At the end of the 16* century, numerous young men left a France divided 
by the religious wars; half a century later, British aristocrats fled the disarray of 
the civil war, completing their studies in the Continent while waiting for the re- 
brawl. They probably were the remnants of Savonarola's coterie, bouncing back to 
political power after their leader was burned at the stake in 1498. 
'^ Such was the case of Miguel Serveto, who was tried and condemned by Calvin to be 
burned (27 October 1553) for his theological opinions. This practice went against the 
rules of separation between Church and State originally outlined by Calvin in his 
Institutio christianae religionis (IV, XI, 5). 

* The Index was suppressed in 1966. Iconoclastic activity, a form of censorship (and 
metaphorical dispatching of images), has a long history. From the primitive Christians to 
Islamic and Renaissance purists (Catholic and Protestants alike) to the most recent 
vandalism on Buddhist statuary by Afghanistan's Talibans, the world's cultural 
landscape is ftiU of "bonfires of vanities" and broken artifacts. 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 76 

establishment of a better political climate at home. In the Italian Renaissance 
artists such as Leonardo and Cellini had to leave the inevitable squabbles among 
confreres and the political turmoil of their home town to seek a peaceful 
environment in more stable European courts. Elsewhere, the astronomer Tycho 
Brahe, leaving in disgrace his native Denmark for Vienna, bitterly complained 
in his "Elegia ad Daniam" ("Elegy to Denmark," 1597),^ that Norway and 
Sweden were ready to honor his achievements ("Dania, si taceas, Norici 
Swecique loquentur," 51). And John Florio, whose family was persecuted in 
Italy for its Protestant beliefs, eventually found a positive environment in 
London, where his linguistic abilities opened for him a literary career. 

Self-imposed exile to avoid persecution continued: Recusants, non-Con- 
formists, and Puritans in 16th-century England; Quakers before the passing of 
the Toleration Act (1689); French Huguenots after the revocation of the Edict of 
Nantes (1685) brought their faith to new shores, while aristocrats or wealthy 
bourgeois escaped the political unrest of their countries. A synopsis of the 
political history of England in the 17* century was sketched in the ironical 
account "of the affairs [of England] during the last century" that Jonathan Swift, 
disguised as Gulliver, gave the king of Brobdingnag: "[...] a heap of 
conspiracies, rebellions, murders, massacres, revolutions, banishments, the very 
worst effects that avarice, faction, hypocrisy, [...] hatred, envy, lust, malice, and 
ambitions could produce" {Gulliver 's Travels ii, 6). 

In the 18'*' century, the bigotry of the Venetian civil and religious authorities 
forced Casanova to seek abroad fame and more adventures, and the rabid 
revenge and bloody feuds of French revolutionaries caused Chateaubriand and 
other aristocrats to emigrate to save their lives. A few years later, the Austrian 
regime in northern Italy, fighting all forms of intellectual fi-eedom, jailed in the 
infamous Spielberg fortress the patriots it did not execute, stirring among its 
more independent citizens a longing for emigrating to America. '° Yet Milanese 
^migr^s, patriots "che ramingavano in terre straniere" (Pellico, Le mie prigioni, 
ch. 95), crossed the Atlantic to settle in a free country that, alas, was not immune 
from vicious occurrences of intolerance against minorities. Paradoxically, 
Naples, a city governed by a rabid reactionary establishment that banned and 
executed young intellectuals and carbonari, was hailed as the "Paradise of 



Opera omnia, ed. I. L. E. Dreyer (Hauniae: Libraria Gyndendaliana, 1913-1929), 
13:102-04. 

'° As William Berrian noted in 1818, the United Stated, a newly formed country, soon 
had become "the common subject of conversation at the coffeehouses" in Milan (Berrian 
349). From 1835 to the unification ofltaly, Austrian oppression in Milan by Ferdinand I 
and the failure of the 1 848 uprising forced the brightest citizens to seek abroad freedom 
and economic improvement. See my essay "Pier Giuseppe Bertarelli: A Milanese 
Wayfarer to Eldorado, 1849-1853." 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 77 

Exiles" by some Romantic poets and became a playground where foreign 
travelers found the last remnants of classical beauty. 

And, if it were a need to prove that personal freedom remains an impossible 
dream for much of humanity even at the dawn of the 2 1 ^' century, more victims 
of persecutions based on race, religion or sexual preference still have to flee 
their homes to seek a peaceful life. Not an exclusive appanage of Christians, 
casting out or even executing dissenters is still a legitimate solution in some 
societies, when difatwa is issued by religious authorities. The masses of faceless 
victims of more discriminations and genocides that have escaped intransigence, 
poverty, and violence in the Balkans and Middle East, in Indonesia and Africa at 
the turn of the second millennium, are a sad reminder that exile and 
discrimination are a chronological constant in the political discourse. 

Whatever Machiavelli thought about Dante, the fate the "Ghibellin 
fliggiasco" (Foscolo, / sepolcri 174) remains a tragic paradigm of the 
victimization of the most vibrant elements in society. Centuries later, Foscolo's 
own "vita raminga" (/ sepolcri 12), spent "in lungo esilio fra spergiure genti" 
{Sonetti 6:6), or Solzhenitzin or Salman Rushdie's hiding from death threats of 
religious zealots, proved the existence of a disturbing continuum between 
Dante's fate and the wandering of intellectuals of past and recent history. 

France's mirabilis annus and the Italian Journey 

Five civil wars between 1562 and 1576 had left France in disarray. Catholics 
and Protestants were divided not just by theological viewpoints but also by 
private resentments, personal ambition, and political intrigues. In the late 1580s 
the political situation in France had reached its nadir: the king was run out of 
Paris, the mob had built barricades in the capital, and the Queen Mother, 
Catherine de' Medici, still considered a foreigner, was hated by the populace. 
Europe at large was in no better shape; and a German astronomer from 
Konigsberg, Johann Muller (called "Regiomontanus") had prognosticated 1588 
as an extraordinary year ("mirabilis annus") of bloodcurdling events ("trista 
fata") and general mourning ("undique luctus").'^ In the courts of Paris and 



" "Thou, Paradise of Exiles, Italy" (Percy B. Shelley, "Julian and Maddalo" 57). 
'^ Mullet's predictions quickly spread throughout Europe; fascinating the emperor 
Rudolph II, an amateur astronomer, panicking Philip ii to jail astrologers and 
rumormongers, and causing the sailors preparing the invasion of England to desert the 
Spanish fleet. A Latin translation of Muller's text was quoted in a letter by Etienne 
Pasquier to M. de Sainte-Marthe {Oeuvres, Amsterdam, 1723, II, 331): "Post mille 
elapsos a partu Virginis annos, / Et post quingentos rursus in orbe datos, / Octuagesimus 
octavus mirabilis annus / Ingruet, et secum tristia fata feret. / Si non hoc anno totus malus 
occidit orbis, / Si non hoc anno terra fretumque ruunt, / Cuncta tamen sursum volventur, 
et alta deorsum / Imperia, atque ingens undique luctus erit." (A Latin translation of some 
of Muller's astrological writings had been published by Gryphius in Lyons in 1553.) 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 178 

Blois a series of murders made Muller's predictions grimly accurate. The 
assassination of Henri de Lorraine, Duke of Guise, and his brother, Louis 
Cardinal de Lorraine, was ordered in Blois by Henri III (December 23 and 24, 
1588); soon, the Queen Mother, Catherine de' Medici, died of natural causes, 
and the king himself was killed by a deranged monk a few months later. Other 
European rulers were getting close to their end: the Valois dynasty in France; 
the reign of Philip II in Spain, with the debacle of the Armada; and soon a fracas 
in England with the murder of a king. 

The end of the 16* century saw a generation of French young men, 
bourgeois and aristocrats, looking for peace and quiet in Italy. Montaigne's 
journey to Italy (1580-81) was undertaken for the same reason, as he confessed 
in his Essais: "L[a] cause qui me convie ^ ces promenades c'est la 
disconvenance aux meurs presentes de notre estat. [...] Dieu en chasse loing nos 
divisions!" (Ill, 9). 

After the Italian Wars, the loss at Pavia (1525) and the setting of the pax 
hispanica, the Spanish supremacy in Italy after the peace of Cambrai (1530) and 
the treaty of Cateau-Cambr^sis (1559), French travelers did not immediately 
start a widespread pilgrimage to Italy. The repository of political wisdom, even 
in her saddest days, Italy was still an effective teacher of high esthetic doctrine 
and subtle political games, in an ambiance made dangerous by a fragile balance 
of power and interfering international powers. The presence of French citizens 
in Italy was not well accepted, particularly in Spain-dominated areas, and bad 
blood among denizens of the rival countries was still common. But other 
elements were at play. The presence of the Inquisition on most of the Italian 
territory spurred an overwhelming mistrust for citizens from Protestant countries 
or countries like France, where the religious debate was still being fought long 
after Henri iv had renounced his Protestant affiliation to gain the crown. In a 
Rome dominated by distrust for foreign visitors, many travelers felt closely 
watched and in danger, wrote Villamont: 

[...] il ne faut nullement parler des choses concemant I'Eglise, la foye et le 
Pape, sur peine d'encourir le peril d'estre mis en inquisition, en laquelle estant 
entr^ une fois on a moyen de s'y reposer longuement auparavant qu'on demande 
pourquoy on y a est^ mis, de maniere que celuy qui veut eviter cest inconvenient 
doit estre modeste en son parler, signamment des choses susdites, d'autant qu'il 
y a des espies en Rome, qui rapportent tout ce qui se fait k Sa Saintet^. 

(Voyages SS-S9) 

It was, indeed, a theological mistrust for the foreigners that could lead to 
imprisormient. Life in Rome was still reasonably safe and enjoyable, provided 
that the traveler had enough money and savvy: "[...] vivez," concluded 



■" • y^" Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 179 

Villamont, "hantez les putains, joUez, blasphemez et commettez toutes sortes de 
pechez, personne ne vous dira rien" (89). 

In Spanish-dominated areas of the Peninsula, however, there was still a 
clear, although not life-threatening, danger. French travelers, Spain's traditional 
enemies, were kept away from castles and fortified areas in Milan'^ and verbally 
abused whenever they encountered Spanish troops on southern roads. The fact 
that there was a strong contingent of French residents in Naples and Palermo at 
the end of 1588 appears to prove that their presence there was at least tolerated 
by the Spanish authorities. For a couple of centuries southern Italy had seen a 
seesaw of French and Spanish rulers, and the volatile political discourse of 
southern Italy consisted in regretting the demise of previous rulers. On February 
11, 1588, on their way to Naples, the journal of a group of Frenchmen reported 
the verbal abused they received from some Spanish soldiers, but no bodily harm 
was suffered: 

[...] nous trouvasmes une compagnie d'espagnolz qui s'en alloient k Gaiette, desquelz 
nous receumes beaucoup d'indignit^s de parolles, nous appelant Luteriens et aultres 
injures. 

(Discours viatiques 88) '"^ 

Spaniards generalized their hatred for the French by defining them as Protestant, 
yet many of the French fravelers in Italy were victims of the social instability 
caused by the Protestant uprising. 

An implicit fear of identifying themselves with one religious belief is 
common in some of the fravel narratives of these years. Some French fravelers 
writing their journal in Italy hid their religious background because it was easy 
to fit with the Catholic majority. Perhaps, they were afraid that someone could 
read their travel journals and denounce them to the Inquisition. A few years 
later, Jean- Jacques Bouchard hid under Greek fransliteration names and words 



'^ The Milanese branch of the Inquisition under the Spanish domination was particularly 
severe for Protestant expatriates under the Borromeo cardinals, Carlo (1560-1584) and 
Federico (1595-1631). John Evelyn mentioned a widespread "dread of the Inquisition" at 
his approach of the city. He and his companions were received with respect by Fr. 
Francesco Bernardino Ferrari, the Prefetto of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, for whom they 
had letters of recommendation. However, when Alexander Burnett, an Englishman they 
befriended in Milan, died accidentally and was suspected to be a Protestant, Evelyn and 
his friends hastened to leave town the following morning, fearing that Burnett would be 
discovered under a systematic inquiry and all his acquaintances punished ("the 
Inquisition here being so cruelly formidable and inevitable on the least suspicion" 505). 
''' It was the same contingent of Spaniards who the next day reportedly met another group 
of French travelers on their way to Naples {Voyage de Provence et d'ltalie 78); the 
viceroy switched frequently his troops from one fortress to another to avoid a 
development of over-friendly relationship between them and the local citizenry. 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 80 

that could uncover his thoughts and activities. Had his autobiographical Journal, 
written in Italy, fallen into the wrong hands, the young abbe's blossoming 
career, and even his life, could have been imperiled. 

"England Is No Place for Me": The Great Rebellion and the Grand Tour 

Scholars disagree on the exact chronology of the social phenomenon called "the 
Grand Tour." To a certain extent, the pilgrimage of British young men to the 
Continent was enhanced by the political conditions in early seventeenth-century 
England, even though a few English travelers (Hoby, Moryson, Coryate, and 
Dallington, among others) had left their country in the course of the preceding 
century. Some of them were soldiers or merchants, and they had left England, as 
Edward, Earl of Clarendon, writes, "in that strict time of queen Elizabeth" {The 
Life i, 3). Many students chose Padua as their alma mater studiorum during the 
scholars' Grand Tour, for that "course of learning and ingenious studies" 
(Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew I, i, 9): a new curriculum studiorum set 
for the British youth in the 1 6* century. 

By and large, seventeenth-century tourism was motivated by political crisis. 
Whenever plague or hostilities developed in Europe, civilian travel was forced 
to abate, but the number of Englishmen who left their country increased 
whenever the political situation in Britain deteriorated. Many British travelers 
preferred not to take sides during the Civil Wars; rather than live under the 
Commonwealth and the protectorate or face punitive taxation, they waited 
patiently on the Continent for better times, sometimes even becoming permanent 
residents in foreign lands.'' Dissidents became tourists, wrote guidebooks, 
tutored or guided other exiled countrymen in their Grand Tour of the Continent. 

In early 1648, in the lull between England's first and second Civil War, 
John Raymond, who had returned home after a long European tour, composed a 
comprehensive English guidebook to Italy. It was the first of numerous accounts 
by British exiles to introduce the Grand Tour of Italy to their countrymen who 
prepared to flee the internal strife of what was soon to become "a Kingdome 
without a King.'^ Now more young men were doomed to wander abroad,'^ 
waiting for the return of better times and a more peaceftil climate in their 
country. John Reresby was very specific about the reasons why young British 



'^ Milton was a noteworthy exception to this predicament. In 1639, he left the Continent 

and returned to London and to "the sad tidings of civil war," thinking it reprehensible to 

travel abroad "while [his] fellow-citizens at home were fighting for liberty" (Complete 

Prose Works, ed. D. M. Wolfe, IV, pt. 1, p. 619) 

'^ Sir John Berkenhead's prophetic expression found its accomplishment a few years later 

with Charles 11 's execution. It is striking to see the similarities between England in the 

1640s and France in the 1580s. 

'^ "Twas usefully done [the Italian tour by Royalist exiles], since now so many of us are 

doom'd to wander" (John Raymond, // Mercuric Italico, or An Itinerary, f A6v). 



• i " Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 8 1 

men left their country between 1640 and 1660: the Puritan Revolution was a 
strong catalyst that made a forced Grand Tour very desirable: 

I left England [25 April 1654] in that unhappy time when honesty was reputed a crime, 
religion superstition, loyalty treason; when subjects were governors, servants masters, 
and no gentleman assured of any thing he possessed; the least jealousy of disaffection to 
the late erected commonwealth being offence sufficient to endanger the forfeiture of his 
estate, the only laws in force being those of the sword. The posture of affairs so changed 
the face of home, that to live there appeared worse than banishment; which caused most 
of our youth (especially such whose families had adhered to the late King) to travel; 
amongst others myself 

(Reresby 1) 

Or, as Richard Flecknoe wrote from Ghent in 1640, 

[...] there are diverse Birds that flie away, when Stormes and Winter comes, one of those 
Birds am I, for all prognosticks Mariners observe of ensuing Storms, and I have observed 
in England, the billows beginning to swell high, and those Porpoices which, were the 
Times fair and serene should be i' th' Bottom, dauncing on the Top. [...] Besides 
educated as I am in the Arts of Peace (Musick and Poetry) [...] England is no place for 
me. 

(quoted in Chaney 61) 

Italy, "the only Country now free from Wars and the miseries it brings in 
train of it" (Richard Flecknoe in Chaney 63), became the natural place for 
British exiles, at least after 1620, when the hazards and restrictions to English 
Protestants in territories held by Spain had abated. Italy was not exactly the 
peaceftil place Flecknoe claimed, but it had a universally acknowledged 
reputation of ancient and modem attractions for all intellectuals. One could 
therefore make a case of dating the starting of the Grand Tour at this 
troublesome moment in British history (Chaney 63-64). The exiting youth aimed 
to reach France, geographically closer to England, and whose language was 
better known to young scholars and aristocrats,'* but continued into Italy for a 
time of discovery, reshaping an entire generation of youngsters, who returned 
home and attempted to influence the cultural landscape of their country. 

Cardinal de Retz's Road to Exile: "Asile" and "Exil" * 

A memoir, still an ill-defined literary genre, often conftised with 
autobiographical narrative, has a definite character of an apologia pro vita sua. 



'* "The Covenant being press'd, which ensnared so many to take part with the rebells, & 
the longer escaping in the cause of my so frequent motions hitherto, I resolved a fresh on 
my journey into France [1643], so [...] we came before Calls [Calais]" (John Evelyn, De 
Vita propria. The Diary I, 555-56). 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 82 

Etymo logically related to memoire, it is a device intended to help the writer to 
remember {pro memoria) something that is dear and risks to be forgotten: a 
genre privileging the writer's subjectivity, selecting and emphasizing whatever 
fits a private agenda. Such a self-defense is "le produit de la reflexion d'un 
homme qui analyse, au soir de son age, ce qui a fait le sel de son existence" 
(Hipp, xx), exactly what Jean-Frangois-Paul de Gondi, cardinal de Retz, had in 
mind when, prodded by friends, he started penning his Memoires: the events of 
his political career and his constant fight against Louis XIV. 

"Un dangereux esprit," as the young abbe admittedly had been defined by 
Richelieu (136), he wanted to share with history his life and troubles. Positively 
partisan in his version of the political events of his time, de Retz is unabashedly 
honest when he describes his private life, and does not hide his liaisons and even 
his unspeakable motivations. A great part of de Retz's extensive and detailed 
autobiography deals with his exile from France, his vicissitudes at the court of 
Spain, and his humiliations in the Roman Curia by the cardinals financially 
supported by Louis XIV to oppose de Retz. As a travel narrative, this memorial 
is an unsurpassed example of seventeenth-century hodoeporics. 

"Petit, myope, noiraud, mal fait" (Bertiere 372), positively unattractive 
according to his own admission ("Mme de Carignan disait un jour, devant la 
Reine que j'^tais fort laid, et c'^tait peut-etre I'unique fois de sa vie oil elle 
n'avait pas menti" 718), de Retz had the aggressiveness of the short, un- 
seductive male who knows how to capitalize on his intellectual qualities to 
promote an oversized ego. 

As a young scholar, young de Retz had experienced his first exile, when he 
took the first place in an examination at the Sorbonne, beating the abbe de La 
Mothe-Houancourt, Richelieu's protege, and enraging the powerftil cardinal. To 
avoid the jealousy of the Parisian Academy and the ecclesiastical establishment, 
he left for Venice, a city where his amorous escapades forced him to seek reftige 
in Rome. The death of his second brother, destined to the ecclesiastical career, 
opened for him the door for a rapid advancement in the Church hierarchy, 
despite the little inclination he felt towards clerical life: "[...] mes occupations 
ecclesiastiques etaient diversifi^es et 6gay^es par d'autres, qui ^taient un peu 
plus agr^ables" (163). 

As a bishop coadjutor of his uncle, the old archbishop of Paris, and then his 
successor, de Retz acquired immediately great influence with the local 
bourgeoisie, gradually turning against Cardinal Mazarin and the king. Arrested 
and imprisoned (December 1652-August 1654), he escaped, beginning a long 
odyssey away from France (1654-62) which is at the core of his memoir. By the 
time he started writing it, the cardinal had undergone a radical conversion and 
had abandoned the glitter of his position. De Retz's Memoires cannot be 
dismissed simply as an act of revenge against his political enemies; it is also a 
courageous attempt to set the record straight in a momentous fight that set the 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 83 

Church against the king, who had slowly become a "princeps solutus legibus": a 
powerful individual who could legally and morally do anything he chose, in 
politics as well as in his private life. 

De Retz's road to exile brought him to Spain (September 12, 1654), a 
picaro disguised as a fisherman in a small boat full of sardines. Refusing Philip 
IV's generous offers to settle in Madrid, where he would have been, justifiably, 
considered a traitor to his king, he chose the court of Rome ("I'asile naturel d'un 
cardinal et d'un cardinal et d'un 6veque pers^cut6" 969), knowing very well its 
stinging internal intrigues ("je connaissais assez la cour de Rome pour savoir 
que le poste d'un r^fugi6 et d'un suppliant n'y est pas agr^able" 968). 

His voyage to Rome is typical of a roman de voyage: none of the usual 
adventures is missed. In Pamplona he fmd himself, incognito, in the middle of a 
revolution surrounded by a crowd of endemoniados (972); in Zaragoza he is 
confused for Charles II of England, and honored by "cent et cents galanteries" 
from the local ladies; only in Valencia, ready to embark on a galley for Rome, 
can he finally enjoy some pleasure: the exotic perfumes of the best garden in 
the world: 

[...] les grenadiers, les Grangers et ies limoniers y font les palissades des grands chemins. 
Les plus belles et les plus claires eaux du monde leur servent de canaux. Toute la 
campagne, qui est ^maillde d'un million de fleurs diff6rentes qui flattent la vue, y exhale 
un million d'odeurs diff^rentes qui charment I'odorat. 

(974) 

His fascination for the scenery conveys the grandiose elements he has admired 
in the backdrops of the best operas, as in his description of the harbor of 
Minorca, where his Spanish galley landed for the night: 

Son embouchure est fort 6troite et je ne crois pas que deux galores h la fois y puissent 
passer en voguant. II s'dlargit tout d'un coup et fait un bassin oblong, qui a une demi- 
lieue de large et une bonne lieue de long. Une grande montagne, qui I'environne de tous 
les cotds, fait un theatre qui, par la multitude et par la hauteur des arbres dont elle est 
couverte, et par des ruisseaux qu'elle jette avec une abondance prodigieuse, outre mille et 
milles scenes qui sont sans exag6ration plus surprenantes que celle de I'Op^ra. Cette 
meme montagne, ces arbres, ces rochers couvrent le port de tous les vents, et, dans les 
plus grandes tempetes, il est toujours aussi calme qu'un bassin de fontaine et aussi uni 
qu'une glace. 

(977-78) 

The sea voyage from Spain to Rome, undertaken during the dangerous winter 
season, is a compendium of the commonplaces of this genre, and de Retz's 
oversized ego offers his reader an anthology of mishaps from which he always 
emerges as a hero: encounters with enemy ships, battles with corsairs, and a 
terrible storm. Even the quarantine before entering Tuscany becomes "une 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 84 

legere quarantaine" of nine days, always "servi magnifiquement" by the grand 
duke's courtiers and entertained by the local aristocracy. But de Retz finds out 
soon that the political environment in Rome is not in his favor. He had known 
since his escape from Paris that his asylum was going to be nothing less than an 
exile: "[...] il y a des temps dans lesquels il n'est pas malais^ de pr^voir que ce 
qui devrait servir d'asile peut facilement devenir un lieu d'exile" (969). He had 
hoped that Alexander VII, a pope de Retz had helped elect, could moderate the 
powerful faction of the cardinals subservient to Louis XIV. Unfortunately, 
Alexander died very soon, and the cardinal's exile in Rome became unbearable. 

De Retz's sprezzatura leads him to portray himself as an individual who 
easily excels in whatever activity he chooses to engage in, from university 
examinations, to duels, to winning punctilious questions of pride; his victories 
include even amorous engagements with the ladies of the aristocracy. At times 
he likes to show his sfrength when tempted by the flesh, penniless but as 
generous as a prince, forgiving even his greedy and unforgiving ecclesiastic 
brothers. The heroic tone of his narrative is immediately set. De Retz is an 
individual who stands up to the king's powerftil prime ministers, his fellow 
cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin, and eventually challenges even the royals 
authority. But it is an uneven contest, one churchman against the political might 
of the most powerful prince in 17th-century Europe. Eventually, after his fall, de 
Retz turns to God and finally retires to a monastery, but he still fights to set the 
record straight. Many of his readers remember the facts, so any bending in de 
Retz's Memoirs is limited to the realm of his intentions. There may be errors in 
details, but historians agree that the whole of his memoir is faithfiil ("[...] 
I'erreur de detail ne doit pas dissimuler la verite de I'ensemble" Hipp xxviii). 
And de Retz charms the readers with his simplicity. 

The character who is denied an active role in the political discourse replaces 
acting with writing. The decision to write one's own life story changes an 
apparent loser into a winner, for it gives him not only an audience, but also the 
chance of continuing his involvement in the political arena. 

It is natural that de Retz's memorial, written by an old man thirty years after 
the facts, from a Benedictine monastery where he finally retired, aims at 
reshaping a life story in which fravels are only peripheral elements. 

The examples we have chosen show the variety of developments of a theme 
that goes beyond the traditional definition of exile as an expulsion from one's 
native land or home by authoritative decree. Some of the individuals we 
encountered were not expelled, but fled before an authoritative decree was even 
issued, certainly avoiding a harsher punishment. Others were "doom'd" by a 
political or religious environment to embark in a journey that concealed fear 
under a youthful desire to learn. It was, perhaps, the only positive element in an 
otherwise cruel world. The hard choice of leaving one's country in despair 
offered a generation of young fravelers the chance to open up to a new 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 85 

environment and come back to their society ready to apply the lessons of change 
they had learned. We could also have shown Cellini's psychological home exile 
after Cosimo I withdrew his patronage, forcing the artist to assume the new role 
of a writer. For writing was the best revenge for many exiles who created an 
everlasting image for themselves instead of accepting to be victimized in an 
otherwise bland career under the patronage of a tyrant. Cardinal de Retz is in a 
position similar to that of Cellini. Had he submitted to the king's despotic 
authority, he could have lived a peacefiil and honorable existence in Paris. His 
enormous pride, combined with Louis's self-aggrandizing, led him to engage in 
a continuous battle with the king, a losing political confrontation that allowed 
him the time to create his own heroic persona. From Ovid to Cellini and de Retz, 
the narrative of exile has often taken the shape of a memorial, the last chance to 
defend one's personal view, re-shape history, expose enemies, and build a 
monument of fame that would outlast a tyrant's reign. But it was also a chance 
to improve one's lot, open one's mind to a foreign culture, before returning 
home, like Dante's Ulysses, rich in "virtute e canoscenza." Their uprooting 
forced a poetic "re-creation" in their mind of a spiritual locus amoenus. built on 
a feeling of not belonging in the place of their exile. And their return home was 
a chance to apply all lessons learned abroad. 

Vanderbilt University 



Exile, Memoirs, and Early Modern Travel Narrative 1 86 



Works Cited 

Berrian, William. Travels in France and Italy in 1817 and 1818. New York: T. & J. 

Swords, 1821. 
Bertiere, Andrd. Le Cardinal de Retz mentor ialiste. Paris: Klincksieck, 1977. 
Bertrand, Gilles. Bibliographie des etudes sur le voyage en Italie: voyage en Italie, 

voyage en Europe: XVf-XX" siecle. Grenoble: CRHIPA, 2000. 
Chaney, Edward. The Grand Tour and the Great Rebellion: Richard Lassells and "The 

Voyage of Italy" in the Seventeenth Century. Gendve: Slatkine, 1985. 
Cervigni, Dino S. The "Vita" of Benvenuto Cellini: Literary Tradition and Genre. 

Ravenna: Longo, 1979. 
Edward, Earl of Clarendon. The Life of Edward Earl of Clarendon. Oxford, 1857. 
Evelyn, John. De vita propria. The Diary. Ed. E. S. de Beer. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 

1955. 
Hale, John. The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance. New York: Touchstone, 1993. 
Hipp, Marie-Th6r6se. "Introduction." Retz ix-xxxvi. 
Monga, Luigi. "Pier Giuseppe Bertarelli: A Milanese Wayfarer to Eldorado, 1849-1853." 

Southern California Quarterly 69.2 (1977): 129-38. 
. "C// hominibus singulis, sic populis suae laudes, suae tabes: visioni dell 'a//ro 

nell'apodemica europea del Rinascimento." Emanuele Kanceff, ed. "'Lo sguardo 

che viene di lontano': Talterita e le sue letture. Moncalieri: CIRVI (2001) 1: 373- 

96. 
Raymond, John. Memoirs and Travels. London, 1904. 
. // Mer curio Italico, or An Itinerary Contayning a Voyage Made through 

Italy in the Yeare 1646 and 1647. London: Humphrey Moseley, 1648. 
Reresby, John. The Memoirs of Sir J. R. Ed. J. J. Cartwright. London: Longmans, Green, 

1875. 
Retz, Pierre de Gondi, cardinal de. Memoires. Oeuvres. Ed. M-Th. Hipp and M. Pemot. 

Paris: Gallimard, 1984. 
Shaw, Christine. The Politics of Exile in Renaissance Italy. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 

2000. 
Stoye, John. English Travellers Abroad, 1604-1667. 1952. New Haven: Yale UP, 1989. 
Villamont, Jacques. Les Voyages du seigneur de Villamont. Paris: C. de Montr'oeil et J. 

Richer, 1600. 



Nicola Bietolini 



I "concatenati dolori": esilio, scrittura e censura 
nell'autobiografia letteraria e nel poema "L'esule" di 
Pietro Giannone 

Cominciarono in questo nuovo anno i miei concatenati dolori "a rendersi 
piu sensibili", i quali sempre piu esacerbandosi, per proprio esperimento 
mi fecer conoscere che la fortuna non comincia mai per poco. 

(Giannone, Vita 234) 

La vicenda umana e la parabola letteraria e filosofica in Giannone si intersecano 
e si corrispondono strettamente, entrambe segnate dallo spartiacque traumatico e 
decisivo dell'esilio.' La stessa impostazione edificante ed esemplare della 
autobiografia risente in misura determinante di una visione paradigmatica che 
interessa gli eventi chiave di un'esistenza travagliata dal trauma della 
separazione rispetto al contesto culturale ed affettivo originario, ma soprattutto 
segnata dal ripetersi costante ed inesorabile di una serie concatenata e ciclica di 
dolori, generati dall'esilio forzato iniziale, ma alimentati dalla incessante 
persecuzione ecclesiastica e curiale. II Proemio illustra in forma affastellata e 
caotica le tematiche essenziali orbitanti intomo all'esilio, che saramio sviluppate 
piu distesamente ed ordinatamente nel corso della trattazione, a cominciare dalla 
decisione di compilare 1' autobiografia in circostanze disagiate ed oppressive che 
impediscono di tramandare aU'estemo la propria esperienza intellettuale 
secondo i canali convenzionali, con I'intento di costruire sapientemente un 
documento letterario e umano che immortali la condizione universale del 
cittadino virtuoso oppresso dalla corruzione del sistema degradato e degradante 
che lo circonda. Si ahemano e si compongono a ritmo febbrile ed in ordine 
sparso, nell'incalzante flusso delle argomentazioni addotte dal recluso e 
sfiduciato Giannone, la consapevolezza di una vita non eccezionale o 
memorabile ma ordinaria e dignitosa, sottoposta tuttavia a vessazioni 
intollerabili ed emblematica di una determinata, sfavorevole e perigliosa, 
temperie storico-culturale; I'onta della congiura e della maldicenza; la necessity 
morale di ripristinare la verity storica e documentaria dei fatti, distort! dagli 
artificiosi commenti mistificatori dei suoi detrattori, basati su dati falsificati e 
spuri ed agevolati anche dalla irrimediabile perdita dei propri scritti, unici 



' P. Giannone, Vita 85-336. Per un approfondimento critico e bibliografico, si consulti 
Bertelli 340-66. 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



188 Nicola Bietolini 

depositari del vero pensiero dell'autore. 

Giannone evidenzia cosi il carattere esemplare delle vicissitudini di un 
proscritto, rivelatore deH'iniquit^ dell'italiano settecentesco che vanifica il 
desiderio di virtu e di conoscenza in studi sterili e superficiali; in ultima analisi, 
emerge prepotentemente alia ribalta la inquietante decadenza dei costumi morali 
che alimenta la schiavitu materiale e la sudditanza psicologica nei confronti del 
dominatore straniero: 

Prendo a scrivere la mia vita e quanto siami accaduto nel corso della medesima, non gi^ 
che io presuma di proporla a' lettori per esempio da imitare le virtu forse da me 
esercitate, o da sfliggire i vizi de' quali fiii contaminato; ovvero perchd contenesse fatti 
egregi e memorandi e ftior del corso ordinario delle umane cose adoperati — poichd son 
persuaso che, sicome in me non fiirono estreme virtii od estrema dottrina da imitare, cosi 
mi lusingo che non vi saran estremi vizi oppure estrema ignoranza da fiiggire. Prendo a 
scriverla perchd, trovandomi ritenuto fra le angustie d'un castello, dove privo di ogni 
umano commercio traggo miseramente i miei giomi; e dubitando, per la mia etk cadente, 
non dovessi quivi finirla [...]. Sono ancora a ci6 spinto dal riflettere che, avendomi il mio 
destine condannato ad esser bersaglio dell'invida maladicenza di molti miei nemici, i 
quali non meno presero a malmenare i miei libri che a detrarre e malignare le mie azioni, 
intendo che gli amatori della verity ne abbiano una sincera e fedele narrazione, e non si 
dia occasione a' maligni di oscurarle, o vividamente rapportarle. E poich6, dopo il mio 
naufragio, vari miei scritti andarono sparsi di qua e di Ik, perch6 tutti sappiano separare i 
veri da falsi, che potrebbero gli invidiosi, forse, a me ascrivere, manifesto qui fedelmente, 
uno per uno, quali fosser i miei propri e legittimi parti. Ma soprattutto prendo a scriverla 
perche sia a gli altri di documento, e specialmente a gli uomini probi ed onesti ed amanti 
del vero, quanto sia per essi dura e malagevole la strada che avran da calcare per passar la 
loro in questo mondo liberi e sicuri, fra la turba di gente improba ed infedele e tra 
I'infmito numero degli sciocchi e de' malvagi, massimamente a chi avri sortito la 
disgrazia di nascere sotto grave e pesante cielo, ed in terreno servo e soggetto e ferace di 
pungenti spine e d'inestricabili pruni e triboli [...] Forse potri anche riuscire di loro utile, 
in leggendo nel corso della medesima quanto gli uomini sovente si affatichino indamo fra 
studi vani ed inutili, e le preziose ore del tempo inutilmente consumino fra le ricerche di 
cose vane che niente conducono, n6 per reggere la nostra vita nella strada della virtij [...] 
n6 per illuminare le nostri menti nelle cognizioni delle scienze utili e necessarie; anzi per 
maggiormente invilupparle tra questioni vane ed astratte. Delle quali, doppo essersi 
lungamente affaticati, ne sapranno molto meno di prima, quando cominciarono ad 
investigarle. 

(Vita 3-4) 

Questo incombente ostacolo alia libera propagazione dei saggi storico-giuridici 
sfocia in una messa al bando non solo della persona fisica di Giannone, ma, 
luniliazione piu cogente, dei suoi scritti. Si instaura cosi il circolo vizioso 
cruciale che travaglia ed inibisce la produzione autobiografica e filosofico- 
giuridica del riformatore napoletano; tale reiterazione ossessiva della stessa 
sequenza di paradigmi culturali ed esistenziali ad un tempo viene rispecchiata 



/ " concatenati dolori ": il tema dell 'esilio in Pietro Giannone 1 89 

fedelmente, con I'aggiunta di una retrospettiva venatura fatalistica, nella 
rievocazione autobiografica. La costellazione di poll tematici emblematici si 
articola in una triade di categoric semantico-culturali onnipresenti e 
complementari. La scrittura consiste nella proposizione del proprio pensiero con 
fini pedagogici e morali e nella investigazione introspettiva delle ragioni 
esistenziali e psicologiche delle formulazioni teoretiche piu ardite e polemiche. 
La censura implica I'esclusione dal circuito comunicativo della cultura ufficiale 
tramite una proscrizione dispotica arbitraria e priva di riscontri probanti con il 
testo, seguita dalla pubblicazione su commissione curiale di opuscoli polemici e 
denigratori, che veicolano un'immagine deformante e palesemente scorretta sul 
piano filologico-ecdotico della originate fattura filosofica insita nelle opere di 
Giannone. La logica conseguenza degli stadi precedenti del calvario ideologico 
di Giannone e rappresentata dalla stampa clandestina, cio6 dalla circolazione 
limitata, occulta ed altemativa alia edizione corrente, di un numero esiguo di 
copie degli scritti composti durante I'esilio, sottoposti ad una sorta di 
autocensura preventiva per renderli meno indigesti all'inquisizione ecclesiastica 
e destinarli ad una cerchia di mentori ed amici; essi rivestono la duplice 
funzione di salvaguardare comunque un legame con la cultura italiana e di 
rettificare le calunnie e le estrapolazioni od interpolazioni infamanti compiute 
dagli estensori dell'Indice pontificio, e dai loro scrivani ideologicamente 
scorretti, per garantirsi una documentazione difensiva autentica e accurata, 
corredata anche da sorvegliate e certificate versioni in lingua straniera tese a 
ristabilire la propria reputazione etica e specialistica all'estero.^ Questa 
combinazione di fattori condizionanti esercita il suo influsso decisivo sulle 
teorie giannoniane, principalmente nefasto, ma in parte anche foriero di un 
ripensamento degli aspetti piu radicali della dottrina giurisdizionalista circa 
I'equilibrio gerarchico tra il primato politico e civile del potere temporale laico e 
lo statuto legittimo del potere spirituale ecclesiastico.^ Del resto, la tendenza a 



^ Per il continuo contessersi, con poche e scame variant! secondarie rispetto ad un 
denotninatore simbolico esplicito e costante, dei temi summenzionati e IMmportanza 
risolutiva della scelta di ricorrere ad edizioni tipografiche mirate per la diffiisione 
settoriale delle proprie teorie specialistiche, si passino in rassegna a titolo 
esemplificativo: Vita 70 sgg.; 90 sgg.; 97 sgg.; 1 17 sgg. 

^ Sull'evoluzione del pensiero di Giannone si veda un'illuminante riflessione del 
pensatore napoletano circa il carattere collaudato delle sue dottrine e la esplicita referenza 
alle font! storiografiche piu autorevoli: "Come se io insegnassi cose nuove, e non gii 
vecchie, scritte da' piu accurati, dotti, seri e gravi scrittori, che io, ftior del costume degli 
altri storici, additava nel margine, perch6 ciascuno potesse riscontrargii e non si 
abbandonasse alia sola mia narrazione; sicchd io soleva dire a coloro che mal riferivano, 
che mi mostrassero qual fosse questa nuova dottrina che io insegnava, giacchd mi 
riputavano capo d'una nuova setta" {Vita 132). Si consider! anche I'ammissione di una 
radicale svolta programmatica nello studio antropologico-filosofico, che slitta da una 
prospettiva esclusivamente teorica e tecnico-giuridica ad un piano piu eclettico. 



190 Nicola Bietolini 

discostarsi dalla tradizione di un insegnamento superficiale ed inadeguato ed a 
correggeme le mende piu vistose tramite integrazioni argute e personal! si 
evidenzia fin dal giudizio caustico espresso sul suo primo maestro; questi viene 
esplicitamente bollato da Giannone di incompetenza giuridica ed ottuso 
autoritarismo, ma soprattutto stigmatizzato per la mancanza di acribia filologica 
e di dimestichezza diretta con i testi primari affrontati impropriamente non sulia 
scorta dell 'originate ma tramite compendi arbitrari e denigratori, come lo 
studioso napoletano evince da un confronto sinottico e sistematico con altre 
fonti piu valide ed acclarate: 

Giunsi in Napoli ne' principi del mese di marzo 1694, da que' ai quali io fui 
raccomandato, non per mancanza di affetto, ma per poca conoscenza che aveano de' piu 
insigni professori di legge civile e canonica in casa d'un leUore, il quale, secondo che col 
progresso e piu per I'avvertimento di altri piu saggi conobbi dapoi, poco sapeva dell'una 
e meno dell'altra, del di cui nome io non voglio per ci6 ricordarmi; poich6, oltre ad 
insegnare sopra alcuni scritti da altri scipitamente composti, I'avea ripieni d'inutili 
question! [...] e se io le leggi ed i canoni che si allegavano voleva cercarli e riscontrargli 
nel Corpo del ius civile o canonico, o non le trovava affatto, o pure le ravvisava tutte mal 
a proposito alligate, guaste e non intese: ci6 che mi dava indizio che il mio maestro erasi 
poggiato su I'altrui fede, non ch'egli I'avesse mai lette ed osservate. Posto in questa 
confusione ed intrighi, da' quali, come poteva meglio, m'andava distrigando colla lettura 
de' testi originali e con comunicare le mie difficolta ad altri d'et^ e di dottrina piu 
avanzata, de' quali io cominciava ad acquistar conoscenza ed amicizia [...]. 

(F/ra8-9) 

II crocevia decisivo per I'allineamento dei poli della scrittura e della censura 
sul versante obbligato dell'esilio, cio6 dell'esclusione dalla liberty di espressione 
e di circolazione della propria persona e delle proprie idee nel contesto culturale 
d'appartenenza, coincide con la pubblicazione del trattato storico-politico Istoria 
civile del Regno di Napoli (1723, Vita 68-76). Giannone descrive 
dettagliatamente I'occasione e le circostanze della edizione dell'opera, 
delineando un modello rappresentativo che risulter^ costante e sar^ replicato a 
piu riprese nel corso dell'autobiografia ed assume quindi un carattere 
paradigmatico. Esso h costituito dalla stampa in tiratura limitata con dediche 
mirate; dalla censura ufficiale della Chiesa; dalla divulgazione clandestina, 
frammentaria e incompleta dell'opera, che esula dalla cerchia limitata dei 
destinatari indicati dall'autore e si sparge in infinite version! parzial! ed anomale 
presso un bacino di utenza abnorme ed incontrollabile; dalla conseguente 
proscrizione ecclesiastica dell'opera e del suo autore che innesca una nuova 
smentita da parte dell'interessato e riavvia I'intero process© circolare: 



frammisto di cognizioni storiche e cultural! mutuate dalle fonti documentarie antiche e di 
intuizioni illuministe {Vita 193 sgg.). 



/ "concatenati dolori": il tema dell'esilio in Pietro Giannone 191 

Compita la stampa, e fatti condurre gli essempiari in mia casa, al numero di mille — che 
tanti se ne imprimerono in carta ordinaria, ed altri cento in carta reale, col ritratto 
deU'imperadore, a chi I'opera era stata dedicata, e con mia divota lettera al medesimo 
consacrata, — ne feci di questi ligar uno nobilmente omato, e lo presentai al cardinal 
vicerd [...]. Di questi medesimi essempiari di carta reale ne feci ligar altri, e gli presentai, 
uno per uno, a tutti i reggenti del CoUaterale ed a gli altri supremi ministri a cui eran 
dovuti, i quali, oltre di cortesemente ricevergli, me ne rendettero molte grazie. Presentai 
de' consimili esempiari, uno per uno, a tutti gli Eletti della citti di Napoli, in nome della 
quale mi fiiron rese le grazie, accompagnate con un dono d'argento, in memoria della 
loro gratitudine, e con eleggermi avvocato ordinario della Citti. Altro esemplare, 
riccamente ornato, come quello che doveva presentarsi alia Maest^ di Cesare, fti disposto 
per I'imperial corte di Vienna, insieme con altri esempiari che doveano presentarsi al 
presidente, a' reggenti ed altri consiglieri, secretari e ministri, che componevano in 
Vienna il Consiglio di Spagna [...]. Non passarono quindici giomi, che leggendosi questa 
mia opera a pezzi, quasi tutti si arrestavano a gli ultimi capitoli de' libri ove trattasi della 
politica ecclesiastica; e dall'indice de' capitoli scoperta I'idea dell'opera, sembr6 nuova e 
da altri non ancora tentata. Alia plebe de' letterati e degli avvocati, ed a' mezzi dotti ci6 
rec6 invidia, e con lividi occhi cominciarono a leggerla, attenti a notare solamente ci6 che 
ne' capitoli della politica ecclesiastica sembrava loro di strano; poich^, ignari dell'origine 
e progressi di questo Stato, credevano che il mondo cosl fosse sempre stato, com'essi 
I'avean trovato: e sentendo da' profondi e dotti uomini lodaria, ci6 maggiormente aguzz6 
I'invida loro maladicenza. 

{Vita 10-1 \) 

Giannone accusa la plebe dei mediocri, accidentale ed indebita esaminatrice 
di uno scritto complesso e riservato ad un pubblico di specialisti, di un 
atteggiamento invidioso e astioso, dettato dal complesso di inferiority stimolato 
da un'opera pregevole, lodata da un consesso di illustri studiosi e apprezzata 
nelle alte sfere del potere imperiale e laico. Questa pregiudiziale si sposa 
perfettamente con la insinuazione e I'ipotesi forzata ed incongruente con il 
profilo intellettuale indipendente e solitario di Giannone che questi si sia 
umiliato a plagiare una fantomatica e non meglio identificata fonte manoscritta, 
ora attribuita all'Argento, ora all'Aulisio, entrambi ligi e compassati raccoglitori 
di dati archivistici, la cui statura culturale si situa certo ad un livello 
incomparabilmente inferiore rispetto a quella dell'inclito e accreditato esperto 
partenopeo di diritto civile e canonico {Vita 71-72). L'ambiguo carattere 
inquisitorio della censura curiale si manifesta nei due strumenti persecutori 
complementari della diffamazione e della falsificazione di prove a carico 
dell'indagato, mediante la dififlisione di una versione mistificata e spuria del 
testo in questione. Questa operazione di contraffazione semantica della matrice 
filosofica e teorica originaria della Istoria si rivela talmente stringente e 
soffocante da indurre I'autore ad una veemente smentita, ad una rettifica 
documentata e circostanziata, coincidente con la stesura e la pubblicazione di 
uno scritto apologetico del proprio pensiero. Tale strategia ha anche lo scopo 
parallelo di delineare le tesi incriminate e di smussame gli aspetti piu scabrosi in 



192 Nicola Bietolini 

accordo con una revisione tattica e diplomatica che ne ridefinisce piu 
oculatamente i contomi concettuali e ne rafforza i margini di ammissibilit^ 
all'intemo del codice culturale canonico vigente, dedito alia sistematica 
demonizzazione ed alia distorsione interpretativa premeditata di ogni atto 
eversivo, od omissione, da parte deH'imputato di eresia: 

E poich6 fra I'altre imposture si era dato a credere che io reputassi lecito il concubinato, 
non capendo — o non volendo intendere — che io parlava dell'antico concubinato de' 
Romani; alcuni, confondendo questo concubinato colla semplice fomicazione, riputarono 
che io non la tenessi per peccaminosa. La qual dottrina a molti, i quali forse n'eran 
contaminati, piaceva assai; onde uno di costoro, sedendo io a' tribunali, mi si accost6 e, 
presami forte la mano, me la strinse, dicendomi che finalmente avea io discoverta questa 
verity [...]. Allora, con riso anch'io, gli replicai [...] che io non parlava ivi della semplice 
fomicazione, ma del concubinato antico de' Romani, riputato lecita congiunzione, ch'era 
tutto altro di quello che a! presente si intende, e moito differente [...]. Da questa falsa 
credenza, e dall'aver i monaci, fra I'altre calunnie, addossatemi, sparso da per tutto che io 
riputassi lecito il concubinato presente, flii costretto, per disingannar i semplici, di dar 
fuori una dissertazione, non per6 data alle stampe: Dell'antico concubinato de' Romani 
ritenuto nell'Imperio anche doppo la conversione di Costantino Magno. 

(Vita 74) 

Lo schema generale dell'opera saggistica a carattere esplicativo, intesa 
come memoria difensiva e commento divulgativo ed esegetico al trattato 
specialistico accusato di eterodossia ed oscurit^, si mantiene inalterato in tutta la 
parabola letteraria susseguente aH'esilio e potrebbe essere eletto a contrassegno 
inconfondibile di tutta la produzione saggistica giannoniana a partire dal 1 723 in 
poi.'' Ad ogni riaffacciarsi della condanna dell'Indice, Giannone risponde 
puntualmente annunciando la realizzazione e la circolazione, circoscritta ad una 
elite di estimatori ed amici, di un nuovo trattato chiarificatore. 

La descrizione delle vicende tribolate che accompagnano la partenza 
affrettata per Vienna lascia trasparire la tipica predilezione dello studioso 
napoletano per la sua biblioteca personale. In questa fase iniziale del suo 
calvario itinerante per I'ltalia e I'Europa alia ricerca di una nuova identity 
geografica e culturale omogenea al suo status di intellettuale libero ed 
indipendente, la cura meticolosa nella salvaguardia delle proprie opere 
manoscritte riveste un significato quasi sacrale e salvifico, in grado di garantire 
un' immunity spirituale dalle imminenti bolle di scomunica artificiosamente 
sancite dalla corrotta e manipolatrice burocrazia curiale; le notizie calunniose sul 
suo conto vengono divulgate da fogli pubblici di sospetta inattendibilit^ perch^ 
diramati dal potere ufficiale, tanto da sollecitare una verifica sulla scrittura 
privata del fratello, in un paradossale e allarmante ribaltamento gerarchico di 
affidabilit^ tra comunicati statali contraffatti e missive personal! veritiere. La 



^ Vita 96-98; 123 sgg.; 132 sgg.; 148 sgg.; 197 sgg. 



/ "concatenati dolori": il tema dell'esilio in Pietro Giannone 193 

omissione censoria della partenza forzata di Giannone h finalizzata a spacciarlo 
per un transfliga ed a precludergli la possibility di elaborare una linea difensiva, 
tramite la mancata consegna della citazione che contiene il fantomatico ed 
insussistente dispositivo documentario del provvedimento, ragione per la quale 
il giurista argomenta il diritto di appellarsi in favore deU'annullamento della 
sentenza di scomunica. Nella rete intricata di corrispondenze negative tra vari 
livelli di scrittura ufficiale adulterata ed infamante, si innesta perfettamente la 
subdola maldicenza diffusa verbalmente, e quindi in una forma inconfutabile ed 
aleatoria, ma anche esiziale ed irreparabile, da monaci al servizio della 
Inquisizione, al fine di screditare la reputazione dello storico nella citt^ natale, di 
isolarlo dai suoi concittadini ed espellerlo alia stregua di un corpo estraneo dal 
tessuto socio-culturale di riferimento: 

Vedendo, adunque, il tutto riposto alia discrezione di que' curiali, pensai affrettar 
maggiormente la mia partenza per Vienna; tanto piu che si avvicinava il primo sabato di 
maggio, che in quest'anno 1723 veniva a cadere al primo di del mese [...] e fatti 
prestamente riporre piu essemplari dell'opera dentro una cassa, che portai meco, con 
quello g\h apparecchiato per Cesare, partii da Napoli, verso la fine di aprile, per 
Manfredonia, dove credeva trovar pronto imbarco per Fiume o Trieste. In questo mio 
viaggio da Napoli a Manfredonia fti d'uopo che io cambiassi nome, poich6, in passando 
per gli alberghi, non trovava osteria nella quale da' viandanti partiti da Napoli per loro 
affari non si parlasse che del fatto mio; e, se vi capitava qualche frate o monaco, i discorsi 
ed i contrast! erano piu lunghi e fervorosi, che io sovente sentiva colle proprie orecchie, 
chi prendendo un partito, e chi un altro; e con stupore, mi avvidi che i monaci ne aveano 
empite le province e tutti i loro convent! [...]. Giunsi a Vienna ne' princip! d! giugno [...] 
io era da molt! con impazienza aspettato, res! curios! non pur da' privat! avvisi venuti da 
Napoli della mia partenza, ma da piCi gazzette pubbliche che ne parlavano, che me le 
port6 a leggere; ed in quelle less! non pur la mia partenza, ma la scomunica, che la corte 
arcivescovile di Napoli aveam! lanciata appresso; e credendola una delle solite fole de' 
gazzettieri, m! affrettai ad aprir il piego, che mio fratello m! mandava da Napoli, e trovai 
che quelle dicevan vero. Poichd m'avvisava che il vicario, credendo che io stass! 
nascosto, non g!^ che fossi partito, mand6 un cursore della sua Curia in mia casa col 
monitorio, per intimarmelo; e dicendogl! mio fratello che io non vi era, gli rispose che 
avea ordine di lasciarlo a chiunque trovava in casa, e che stasse pur sicuro che avrebbe 
fatta sua relazione d'averlo cosi lasciato [...]. Ma poich6 II vicarlo avea In testa In tutte le 
manlere volermi scomunlcare, dicendo che nel mio caso non era bisogno di citazione, 
essendo notoria la mia trasgressione di non aver cercata llcenza della sua Curia dl 
stampar I'opera — [...] non si ristette, mentr'lo era in viaggio, contro un assente scagllar 
sua scomunica ed affigger cedoloni per tutti gli angoli della citti; e fu notato d'avergll 
affissi anche se ne' luoghl Insolltl piu bassi della citta, dove piu numerosa la vll plebe, 
perch6 anche per questa via mi rendesse piu odioso alia cleca multltudlne. 

(FjYa 79-80; 84-85) 

Si configura sempre piu chiaramente nella rappresentazione autobiografica 
un'antitesi irriducibile tra la sfera semantica a carattere geografico-culturale 



194 Nicola Bietolini 

della ostile e scostante patria, simulacro deH'oscurantismo dispotico, sottomessa 
al giogo pontificio dell'Inquisizione e mantenuta in stato di arretratezza culturale 
da un'oligarchia arbitraria di burocrati e censori, e I'ospitale ed accogliente 
territorio europeo, oasi di progresso civile e di indipendenza individuale, 
prototipo di cosmopolitismo ideale e di tolleranza universale e fucina di indomiti 
e liberi ingegni, in grado di sviluppare serenamente le proprie facolt^ creative e 
potenzialit^ conoscitive, in una paritetica comunit^ di intenti che si manifesta in 
uno spontaneo e solerte associazionismo intellettuale, sorretto da una proficua 
osmosi di stimoli culturali e dalla Concorde legittimazione ideologica dei suoi 
illustri sodali.^ II riscatto agognato dalle umiliazioni subite ad opera del 
complotto ecclesiastic© avviene all'insegna di un generale risveglio di interesse 
nei suoi confronti da parte delle piu importanti autorita politiche e culturali 
intemazionali che reclamano unanimi I'onore di apprezzare il trattato nella sua 
prestigiosa versione originale e sollecitano I'invio di altre opere specialistiche, 
caldeggiando di fatto la creazione di un circolo variegato ma autorevole di 
destinatari ideali del pensiero innovativo di Giannone.^ 

Se tuttavia sul piano della reputazione morale e intellettuale il soggiomo a 
Vienna e a Ginevra si rivela un trionfo indiscusso, per il consenso unanime e 
I'alta risonanza che riscuotono la dottrina e la personalita del pensatore 
partenopeo, ben diversamente si pone la questione spinosa relativa alia necessity 
impellente, mai soddisfatta completamente, di sottrarsi realmente alia 
giurisdizione ecclesiastica. La persecuzione dell'Inquisizione non conosce 
frontiere culturali o nazionali e prosegue incessante anche all'estero, riducendo 
progressivamente, ad un ritmo inesorabile, i margini gia assottigliati di liberty di 
pensiero e di azione, fmo ad annichilirli irrimediabilmente tramite I'arresto e la 
reclusione definitiva nel castello di Miolans, che sancisce I'irrevocabile 
condanna alia segregazione materiale e simbolica dal mondo della cultura 
europea, il troncamento netto dei legami con I'ambiente filosofico cosmopolita 
saggiato in precedenza e, soprattutto, la rescissione inappellabile dell'autore 
censurato, e dunque oscurato totalmente in patria, dal sistema editoriale 
intemazionale che regola il circuito pubblicistico e garantisce la difflisione delle 
opere stampate (Vita 325-36). Dopo I'incarcerazione Giannone lascia solo 
frammenti aneddotici e annotazioni quotidiane sparse e sconnesse di 
un'autobiografia ormai divenuta sterile ed improduttiva, che si riduce a 



^ In merito alia trionfale fortuna di Giannone all'estero, grazie alia diffusione capillare 
della Istoria in tutti i paesi piu avanzati culturalmente, ed al conseguente accentuarsi della 
sua prospettiva cosmopolita, aperta ed antidogmatica, si confrontino Vila 89-92; 1 10 sgg.; 
130 sgg., 155 sgg.; 172-73; 178 sgg. 

^ Tra gli estimator! piii ferventi si annoverano il Riccardi (Vita 89-92); I'lmperatore in 
persona (Vita 102-03); il cavalier Garelli, medico a Corte (Vita 108-10). Per un breve 
periodo si costituisce anche un cenacolo di ammiratori tra i letterati veneziani: Vita 257- 
58. 



/ "concatenati dolori": il tema dell'esilio in Pietro Giannone 195 

registrare unicamente il fallimento pragmatico — contrappunto doloroso del 
successo etico ed ideale che gli arride presso gli esperti del settore — del suo 
contenzioso secolare con Tarrogante ed accentratore potere religiose' 
Quest'ultimo giunge a vietargli di editare altri scritti o anche di sorvegliare le 
numerosi traduzioni in lingua straniera autorizzate, su commissione di acclarate 
istituzioni o incliti personaggi del mondo storico, politico, ma anche giuridico e 
filosofico, da lui in passato sempre curate scrupolosamente, con attenzione 
minuziosa alia fedele trasposizione del pensiero originale, in quanto riguardate 
come una sorta di testimonianze certificate per la posterity della obiettivit^ 
metodologica che sostanzia le sue investigazioni teoriche.^ 

L'ansia di evasione dagli angusti schemi dottrinari dominanti naufraga 
miseramente sullo scoglio insormontabile di una censura aprioristica e 
protocollare, sintetizzata nella formula latina sclerotizzata, deterrente per ogni 
barlume di confronto dialettico, adottata canonicamente dall'Indice per 
sottintendere, esimendosi dal comprovarlo con il riscontro testuale, il presunto 
carattere eterodosso ed ereticale delle tesi dell'inquisito; questa dicitura arcana e 
sentenziosa distende sul suo operato un velo di delegittimazione sistematica ed 
emarginante, destinato ad espungere dal repertorio letterario ogni scritto sospetto 
che si ispiri o contenga anche una semplice citazione occasionale dell'architesto 
proibito: 

Fu adunque proibita la mia opera, non gii che quella Congregazione di Roma istessa ed i 
suoi quaiificatori avesser potato ravvisare in essa alcuna preposizione ereticale, ma 
perche, secondo le ioro massime, la credettero contenere proposizioni erronee, empie, 
offensive, alle pie orecchie, calunniose, scismatiche, che rovesciavano la gerarchia 
ecclesiastica, ingiuriose alia Santa Sede e che sapessero d'eresia. Ciascun sa che in Roma 
si e introdotto formolario di queste proibizioni e non vi e libro, che si opponga alle sue 



' Si veda il passo premonitore in cui si adombra I'ineluttabiliti della detenzione e la 
dolorosa constatazione dell'isolamento culturale defmitivo: "Pochi giomi dopo il mio 
arrivo a Miolans ricevei dal general comandante Picon una gentilissima lettera de' 1 1 
aprile [...] nella quale [...] mi imponeva che le mie robe, scritture e quanto avea lasciato 
a Ginevra le facessi pervenire a Champdry, in sue mani, che avrebbe egli pensato di 
mandarmele. Compresi da ci6, che non si voleva che io piu pensassi al ritomo di Ginevra 
[...] scrissi a monsieur Fernet che que' miei pochi libri, scritture e il forziere [...] 
gl'inviasse a Champ^ry; e sopra tutto, aspettando io da Milano i manuscritti che dovean 
servire per la stampa del quindo tomo [...] gli mandasse pure a Champ6ry, al govematore 
[...] siccome Io stesso dicesse al Pellissari, che intomo alia traduzione francese pensasse 
ad altri, poich6 io non poteva piii pensarci, disciogliendo con ambidue ogni trattato [...]. 
Di questa e di altre mie lettere scritte a Milano non ebbi alcun riscontro; e avendomi detto 
il comandante Le Blanc che non occorreva scriver piii a Milano, non potendo ricever altre 
mie lettere, se non quelle che scriveva a Champ^ry ed a Ginevra, compresi che non si 
mandarono; n6 potei saper mai se i manuscritti che aspettavo da Milano si fosser mandati 
a Ginevra, ovvero fosser rimasti ivi, o capitati in altre mani" {Vita 328-29). i 

* Vita 155-56; 174-79; 270-71; 296 sgg.; 301; 307; 313-14. 



196 Nicola Bietolini 

massime, che non vi stia soggetto. E a' qualificatori costa poca fatica, cosi perchd non 
espongono le loro censure a gli autori, affinchd si difendano, ma si guardano bene di 
tenerle segrete ed ascose, come anche perch6 non sono astretti a separatamente 
manifestare quali fossero le proposizioni scismatiche, empie, ingiuriose, erronee, etc.; ma 
se ne sbrigano con una sola parola, respective, e cosi lasciano gli autori ed i lettori in 
maggior conftisione ed oscurit^ di prima.[...] A ci6 si aggiunge che, proibendo ogni libro, 
che non sia conforme alle sue idee, ne ricava, che se mai questo libro volesse in qualche 
contesa allegarsi, ancorchd scritto da persona cattolica, savia, dotta e di autorit^ e 
contenente dottrina sana, si sbrigano presto per la risposta e senza impegnarsi ad altro, 
basta, perchd non facci alcuna autorit^ e riesca di niun peso, che si dichi esser dottrina di 
libro proibito e dannato. 

(Vita 93-94) 

La stessa costellazione di fattori semantici orbitanti intomo al dilemma del 
nesso tra produzione culturale e censura durante I'infinito travaglio dell'esilio si 
definisce come espropriazione degli affetti personal! ed esclusione dall'ambiente 
sociale di appartenenza. Questa correlazione significativa si ritrova tradotta in 
un linguaggio piii sorvegliato e composto, levigato dall'adozione di un 
diaframma retorico di ascendenza illustre e radicato nella tradizione letteraria 
italiana, nel poemetto parenetico ed eroico di argomento storico-allegorico e di 
intonazione eroica e celebrativa intitolato scontatamente "L'esule" e composto 
nell'immediata reazione al trauma della dipartita precipitosa da Napoli.' Si 
riscontrano tuttavia due macroscopiche diversity strutturali ed estetiche. In 
primo luogo, risalta il trapasso dalla impostazione autobiografica oggettivante, 
che impone una sostanziale aderenza alia realty documentabile dei fatti e dei 
comportamenti propri ed altrui, ad una concezione poetica trasfigurante, che 
mette in secondo piano gli aspetti esteriori della vicenda e focalizza il piano 
dell'opera suUe tematiche chiave di ordine psicologico ed esistenziale, 
consentendo un'ampia liberty di invenzione creativa.'° In secondo luogo, si 
assiste alia amplificazione retorica della figura di Giannone che da vittima 
impotente dei soprusi del potere si tramuta nell'esule per antonomasia, nello 
strenuo difensore dei valori civili e morali che ritoma in una patria disegnata a 
tinte fosche e sinistre e devastata dall'impronta corruttrice dell'invasore, alio 
scopo di rivedere la famiglia per vendicarsi nel nome di un ideale di giustizia 
assoluto e incontrovertibile: 

Alia barchetta incontro i pescatori 
Tutti a gara concorrono, e agli estrani 
offron la preda di che il mar fu largo. 



^ D'ora in poi solo "L'esule", seguito dal numero romano del canto, da quello arabo del 
verso, ricostruito manualmente vista I'assenza di indicazioni nel testo originale, e da 
quello di pagina. Per un appro fond imento storico e documentario, Spallicci 43-58. 
'° "L'esule", I, w. 126-142, p.9; III, vv. 1-340, pp.37 sgg.; VI, vv.24-1 10, pp.1 10 sgg. 



/ "concatenati dolori ": il tema dell 'esilio in Pietro Giannone 1 97 

Soli Enrico e '1 figliuol, sebben curvati 

sovra i remi sudassero, piia tardi 

giunser perch6 piij lungi, e invan di pochi 

pesci fer mostra. I marinai stranieri, 

due forme erculee, azzurri i rai, le chiome 

bionde, alle offerte lor risposta fero 

con un sogghigno di pieti, schemendo 

o lor poca destrezza, o lor fortuna: 

mentre gli altri cantando, all'acque loro 

tomavano e balzar nella dischiusa 

mano facean I'avuto prezzo. Enrico 

profondamente respir6, con gli occhi 

fermi sovra gl'ignoti, e tanta il guardo 

spir6 mestizia, e si dolente all'aure 

schiuse il sospiro, che giurato avresti 

cagion diversa da cagion si leve 

I'un e I'altro eccitar. Come riscosso 

da sonno, allor si tolse onde giacea 

un terzo sconosciuto: ampio ed oscuro 

mantello aperse che il volgea, la manca 

mosse a fermar de' suoi I'impetuosa 

voga e dell'altra al pescator fe' cenno 

D'approssimarsi "Ecco, diss'ei con chiara 

Italica favella, allor che giunte 

fiir le due prode, eccovi in parte il prezzo 

delle vostre fatiche" ed al sospeso 

giovinetto la man prese, che grave 

d'oro a si la ritrasse. Alto stupore 

se gli dipinse in volto b ver, ma tanto 

non fu, che immota fra le fauci affissa 

gli ristesse la voce, e volse i lumi 

d'acuta gioia splendidi alia riva, 

questi mandando affettuosi accent! 

dal cor commosso. Oh madre, oh suora mia, 

bambinella innocente! lo lo dicea; 

veglia il Cielo su voi, veglia e da lunge 

nobil alma ne invia: questi d'aspetto 

e di cor generoso. [...]. 

Ah! Quella voce, quando ben s'ascolta, 

dolce suona all'orecchio, ed al pensiero 

sembra dir che non k. la prima volta. 

Straniero par, ma sar^ poi straniero 

I'uom che vedemmo, Edmondo? 

E tu sapresti in luce trar da si gran nebbia il vero? 

No; ma pur lo vorrei: che, sebben mesti 

gli atti, e mesto il sembiante, e mesto il suono 

della voce che nota a noi vorresti 



198 Nicola Bietolini 



tratto ver lui soavemente io sono; 

e certo Puom che gli infelici aita, 

noto o no, sia qual vuolsi, b sempre buono. 

Giovine e bello par, ma illanguidita 

sembrano aveme la belt^ primiera 

tutte le angosce d'una lunga vita. 

Pur su quel volto, che non fia quel ch'era, 

brilla un raggio di vivido splendore, 

segno d'un'alma indomita ed altera; [...]. 



Procellosa t la notte, inconsueta 
nella stagion che volge, e mal viaggio 
avra il nocchier, cui di bianca paura 
in volto spesso tingera I'aspetto 
della terra temuta, ove lo spinge 
libeccio impetuoso. — Oh! del nocchiero 
abbia pietade il ciel; ch'oltre ogni stima 
Fiera su I'onde fremer^ fortuna [...]. 
Vero t quel che ne udii? Cento infelici, 
che lui dicean cagion d'ogni sventura, 
ne deturpar la fama, ed il suo nome 
ne' lidi estrani un traditor gi^ suona, 
parla; t causa egli ancor del mio viaggio. 



Ma nell'istante che le spalle diede 

alia infelice, circondato e stretto 

da varia gente ei fii: d'Emilia in traccia 

la mandava la madre, paurosa 

del suo sparire e della sua dimora. 

Essi in veder la giovane prostrata, 

pallida, semiviva, e lui fuggente 

in atto d'uom, cui sdegno ad una, e tema 

e ribrezzo assaliscano, fur presi 

da strano error. Morte all'iniquo! grida 

ciascun di loro, all'assassino! E intomo 

schiamazzando lo serrano, rabbiosi 

e risoluti, come chi s'aizzi 

d'amata cosa a vendicar I'offesa. 

L'esule non s'arresta, e, da maggiore 

cagion sospinto, i piu vicini investe 

ferocemente e li rovescia, e s'apre 

un varco sui caduti. A tergo, a' fianchi 

prorompon gli altri, e per cammin, che certo 

seer non vorria, lo cacciano; e dovunque 

a' fianchi a tergo d'abbattuti t pieno 



(I,vv.54-96,pp.l2-l3) 



(II, vv.28-35, pp.24-25) 



/ "concatenati dolori ": il tema dell 'esilio in Pietro Giannone 1 99 

il calle indamo contrastato. [..,]. 

(VI, vv.1-23, pp.109-10) 

La proiezione avventurosa e mitica dello squallido e desolante episodic 
deH'arresto, trasformato in una memorabile impresa di resistenza epica, denota 
la volonta di non lasciarsi abbattere dalle sventure e di interporre I'assennato 
schermo della riflessione letteraria all'incalzare vertiginoso di un tragico destine 
persecutorio. Quasi a sinistro presagio, o, piii propriamente, presentimento della 
irrevocabilita della scomunica e della conseguente reiezione dal tessuto civile e 
culturale, Giannone trasferisce le sue strenue e trepidanti speranze di una 
riabilitazione umana e scientifica sul piano classico ed utopico insieme della 
fmzione estetica, che immortala il costante antagonismo filosofico con il suo 
inadeguato ambiente culturale e I'odissea patita a causa di una forza arcana e 
imperscrutabile che detta i ritmi del pellegrinaggio itinerante in terra straniera e 
lo incatena in una schiavitu prostrante, impedendogli la via dell'agognato 
nostos. 

II poemetto si qualifica nella sua funzione celebrativa come monumentum 
letterario di modesto spessore qualitativo, ma sufficientemente ben confezionato 
retoricamente e scaltrito formalmente grazie alio studio diligente e scrupoloso 
del genere classico da potersi inserire senza traumi nel repertorio ufficiale della 
letteratura d'occasione, per figurare come testimonianza culturale, piu che 
poetica, indelebile della statura morale e giuridica del suo artefice. Le allusive 
confidenze destinate agli amici nella dedica preliminare confermano questa 
ipotesi interpretativa che coinvolge non solo gli aspetti stilistici, ma la genesi 
ideale dell'opera, antidoto consolatorio dXVotium forzato ma anche credit^ 
culturale e soprattutto civile tangibile per la posterita elargita da uno scrittore 
ancora vivente, sovrastato tuttavia da un fato catastrofico che gli detta le volonta 
testamentarie morali attraverso un semplice ma emblematico componimento in 
versi. Questo scritto afferisce alia duplice dimensione pubblica e privata, 
personale ed universale, e viene eletto da Giannone a pretesto per ritagliarsi uno 
spazio riservato all'epigrafe commemorativa, che conceme non la sua infelice e 
marginale biografia esteriore e aleatoria, bensi 1' inter lore e quintessenziale 
paradigma etico della sua parabola umana e professionale, irrealizzabile in un 
determinato contesto storico-culturale, e quindi proiettata in un orizzonte 
utopico ed acronico: 

Quando vi ho detto aitre volte che nel comporre questo lavoro la mia mente volgevasi a 
vol quasi ogni momento, e godeva immaginare quello nel quale avrei potuto leggervelo, 
ed ottener, se non laude, almeno, un gradimento amichevole, v'e mai caduto in pensiero 
che volessi dedicarvelo un giomo? Che non oso mettere il vostro nome, scorgetene 
manifesto il perche e vogliate sapermene grado. Voi rivedrete la nostra bellissima patria, 
dove certo Tamicizia di un esule non sarebbe corteggio troppo sicuro per chi abbia fama 
ed elevatezza di sensi.[...] La mia gratitudine vorra ben darvi piu gran prova che questa 
non t; ma sebbene io duri ancora imperterrito contro i crudeli spasimi dell'animo e i non 



200 Nicola Bietolini 

minori della persona; sebbene Tamarezza deU'esilio non sia ancor giunta a tormi ogni 
dolce affezione dal cuore ed a renderlo inerte, e la sventura n6 abbattesse fin qui, ne sia 
per abbattere mai il mio ardire; tutte queste cose affievoliscono ad ogni modo 
quell'ingegno qualsiasi ch'ebbi in dono nascendo, e non posso perci6 offrirvi maggior 
cosa di questa.[...] Che se mai questi versi avessero in parte I'altezza del sentimento che 
gli ha dettati, e fama quindi e diutumiti, e la fortuna mi precludesse pur sempre il mio 
paese natale, mi resterebbe almeno un conforto; quello che i nostri nomi vivrebbero 
entrambi nella voce de' posted a provare ognor piii, che gli animi in cui arde veracemente 
I'amore del Bello, sono tratti a cercarsi per tutto, e si trovano spesso, e s'apprezzano 
anche nella perversity de' costumi e del secolo e in disparatissimo stato. Conforto che 

nessuno pu6 rapirmi sin d'ora, perchd Nella tomba, ove tacciono e le ire degli altri e 

le nostre paure, non riderete voi d'ogni persecuzione come io ne rido vivendo? 

("L'esule" v-viii) 

Giannone effettua, in definitiva, una commemorazione ideale e letteraria 
della patria negata, ricorrendo a scopo celebrativo ed a carattere solennizzante 
alia commistione tra scrittura pubblica documentaria e scrittura privata creativa, 
come risulta dalla esplicita inserzione della lettera di un patriota nel tessuto 
epico-lirico del componimento." 

Roma 



Opere citate 

Bertelli Saverio, "Introduzione a Giannone Pietro", Vita, Torino, Einaudi, 1977. 

Giannone Pietro, "L'esule: poema", Parigi, Delaforest, 1829. 

Giannone Pietro, Vita, a cura di S. Bertelli, Torino, Einaudi, 1977. 

Spallicci Anna, Pietro Giannone e il suo poema "L 'esule" , Torino, A.M. I., 1958. 



'L'esule", V, vv.36-58, p.73; pp.297-298. 



Robert A. Rushing 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscoio's "A Zacinto"' 

Introduction 

In his 1992 critical study entitled Travel As Metaphor: From Montaigne to 
Rousseau, Georges Van Den Abbeele understands travel as an economy: it 
promises the possibility of gain (monetary, experiential or epistemic) as well as 
loss (death, exile or disorientation). In order to make that loss or gain 
comprehensible, however, one must have some fixed point of reference by which 
the excess or penury produced by travel can be gauged, and Van Den Abbeele 
calls that point the oikos, the Greek word for home and, not coincidentally, the 
root of the word economy. He writes: 

The positing of an oikos, or domus (the Latin translation of oikos), is what (/omesticates 
the voyage by ascribing certain limits to it. The oikos defines or delimits the movement of 
travel [...]. Indeed travel can only be conceptualized in terms of the points of departure 
and destination and of the (spatial and temporal) distance between them [...]. While the 
oikos is most easily understood as that point from which the voyage begins and to which 
it circles back at the end, its function could theoretically be served by any particular point 
in the itinerary. That point then acts as a transcendental point of reference that organizes 
and domesticates a given area by defining all other points in relation to itself 

(Van Den Abbeele xviii). 

Thus, travel is understood as travel insofar as it is a departure from the 
home, and is generally understood by its distance and direction from home. 
"Home" and "voyage" reciprocally support and define each other, although it is 
clear which of the two occupies a privileged position. But Van Den Abbeele's 
analysis reveals that this mutually supportive relationship is fraught with 
difficulties. He writes that "the concept of a home is needed (and in fact it can 
only be thought) only after the home has ah-eady been left behind. In a strict 
sense, then, one has always aheady left home, since home can only exist as such 
at the price of its being losf ' (xix). This suggestion should seem familiar as the 
Derridean logic of the supplement: although we thought the home organized and 
made sensible the act of travel, we might just as easily turn the relationship on its 
head and say the reverse, that travel is a post facto attempt to establish and 
stabilize the home. Furthermore, the more the idea of the home orients and 
domesticates travel, the less it might "count" as travel. One thinks of the entu-e 
apparatus of guide books, tour guides, and interpreters, or hotel chains that bill 
themselves as a "home away from home," but, in a more grotesquely 



' A number of readers — Timothy Bahti, Margaret Brose, Antonino Musumeci, and 
Barbara Spackman — have read and helped improve this article, and I would like to 
thank them here. 
Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



202 Robert A. Rushing 

exaggerated example, I have also seen American tourists waiting in line to get 
into a Taco Bell on the Avenida de la Revoluci6n in Tijuana, Mexico. As Van 
Den Abbeele dryly observes, "a voyage that stays in the same place is not a 
voyage" (xiv). 

Worse still, the temporal dimension of travel leaves open the possibility 
that, by the time you return home, it may no longer be at all recognizable as the 
home that you left (for that matter, you may no longer be recognizable as the 
traveler who left). "The very condition of orientation, the oikos," comments Van 
Den Abbeele, "is paradoxically able to provoke the greatest disorientation" 
(xix). In short, travel offers, on the one hand, the possibility of an appropriation, 
domestication, and control of the space(s) of the other by binding and limiting 
the traveler's freedom of physical and cognitive movement (not to mention the 
binding and limiting of the places and people the traveler travels to). On the 
other hand, travel and exploration are key metaphors for a destabilization and 
contestation of those same limitations (going off the beaten path, the road less 
traveled, exploring new frontiers, and so on). Indeed, it is important to 
understand that travel probably always works simultaneously in both directions; 
even the much-despised tourist acquires at least some knowledge of another 
culture, landscape or language, a knowledge that (albeit perhaps minimally) 
enlarges his or her epistemic horizons. At the same time, one should not ignore 
the ways in which that same knowledge is limited and bound in order to 
reinforce stereotypes and ideas of national and/or racial superiority.^ 

The question of Italian travel merits particular attention for a number of 
historical reasons. For much of its modem history, Italy was not a unified 
country at all, but a conglomeration of small states, more or less controlled by 
the great European powers. "Italy" was a metaphor ic substitution, giving a 
geographic coherence to a territory that was politically fragmented. Thinking of 
Italy as the oikos posed problems that, say, France or England did not; a return to 
Venice for an early nineteenth-century Venetian, for example, meant an 
inevitable intellectual detour (and here we see that "Italy" may have had a 
metonymic value, as well as a metaphorical one) through Austria. Theodore 
Cachey (56) comments that "for most of its history Italy has existed as 'no place' 
to leave from or return to" — a rather ironic Utopia.^ (I don't mean to suggest 
that Italians did not have a sense of home, but rather that any identification of 
that home at the national level was problematic at best.) The situation was no 
less problematic for travel within Italy, since one needed a passport to go from 
Venice to Milan, or from Florence to Rome. As far as travel to Italy was 



^ The literature on this subject is certainly vast, but see, for example, Pratt and Greenblatt 
who treat the question of travel as both fostering and challenging pre-existing taxonomies 
and cognitive schemes. 

^ Cachey is also attempting to explain why "travel literature" has been marginalized or 
resisted by Italian literary criticism. 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 203 

concerned, Van Den Abbeele points out that "[...] the voyage to Italy was a 
cultural institution that accredited transalpine travelers [...] with a knowledge 
both exotic and familiar. No longer the religious, economic, or artistic center of 
Europe, post-Renaissance Italy became the continent's 'internal other,' a place 
where Northerners could come to gawk at the evidences of Roman decline, and 
thus feel smug in the superiority of their nationalities [...]" (xxix-xxx). Italy 
became, in a certain sense, the European country traveled to, rather than from. 
Van Den Abbeele, relying on the story of the Odyssey as a foundation of much 
Western thinking about travel, also notes that the discourse of travel encodes a 
set of gender assumptions: the orienting space of the oikos/domus is a female, 
domestic one (Penelope), while the male subject (Odysseus) is freed up for 
exploration. But while early nineteenth-century Italian writers do repeatedly 
make use of a female iconography for the motherland, it is a particular one 
engendered by a history of foreign domination: "Italia, terra prostituta" ('Italy, 
prostituted land'), writes Ugo Foscolo. Giacomo Leopardi chastises: "nuda la 
fronte e nudo il petto mosfri [...] formossisima donna" ('a naked brow and a bare 
chest you show, most shapely lady'), what Margaret Brose calls a fall from "ein 
original state of male Romanitas into that of an Italianicitd essentially feminine 
in nature" ("The Politics of Mourning" 1 ).'' This female iconography is certainly 
not the stabilizing and orienting figure of Penelope. 

Finally, Van Den Abbeele's analysis of fravel resonates with more general 
problems encountered in critical thinking, epistemology and textual analysis. 
That is, travel is a key figure for thinking about thought itself ("exploring new 
territories," "covering old ground," plus vast number of metaphors that make use 
of basic elements such as space, boundaries and movement).^ So, when fravel in 
its capacity as a metaphor for thinking, for mental exploration, is domesticated 
(by an insistence, say, on the safe, round frip, where one "always arrives at one's 
destination"), then signification itself "is reduced to a minimum in the 
conveyance without residue of 'full meaning'" (xx). On the other hand, less 



" For Foscolo, see Ultime lettere diJacopo Ortis 6. For Leopardi, "All'Italia." This figure 
of the prostituted motherland should not be taken purely figuratively in the 19'*' century, 
since the Grand Tour in Italy was often used (at least by the English) for a kind of sexual 
education. This was evidently especially true in Venice, Foscolo's (putative) native city, 
which Kirby calls the "Mecca of men of pleasure" at the time (61). Brose, in her article 
on Dei seoplch, makes a detailed and persuasive case that, at least in that poem, 
Foscolo's gendering of the Italian body politic is considerably more nuanced: mourning 
and memory (and to some degree, poetry) are gendered female. It is also worth noting 
that this figure — the motherland as prostitute, possessed by foreign powers — goes back 
considerably farther than the 19"" century in Italian letters. 

^ See, for instance, Lakoff and Johnson for some discussion of the importance of 
spatial/orientaUonal metaphors. • , . , ' 



204 Robert A. Rushing 

domesticated journeys of the mind (Van Den Abbeele has particularly in mind a 
destabilization of the primacy of the oikos) might ideally permit "an infinite or 
unbounded travel" (xx) where it is also always possible not to arrive, to be lost, 
to take a one-way trip/ Although such journeys are marked by a significant 
amount of risk, their potential cognitive rewards are similarly greater. So, there 
is much at stake in understanding (as well as practicing) travel in different ways, 
including a careful evaluation of travel literature. One immediately thinks, of 
course, of travel narratives (essays, diaries, and so forth, that describe actual 
journeys undertaken); but the same play between oikos and travel, solace and 
risk, domestication and possibility, can be seen in imaginary journeys as well, 
perhaps even more clearly: journeys which have often been no less influential in 
determining a given culture's understanding of travel. In the Italian context, 
where the real oikos is historically so problematic, it might not surprise us to find 
that the fictional voyage (or the imagined voyage, the voyage as fantasy) has a 
particular resonance, both historical and cognitive. One might think of texts as 
diverse as the Divine Comedy, stories from the Decameron (such as X, 9), 
Orlando Furioso, Gerusalemme liberata, I promessi sposi, up to Calvino's Le 
citta invisibili or Alessandro Baricco's Seta. Cachey goes so far as to say that 
"the entire [Italian] tradition comprises a literature of travel," a "series of 
idealized territories" which — as a consequence of "an original lack of 
geographical center" — are "uncannily disembodied and deterritorialized" (56).' 
It is in this context that I would like to examine the figure of Ugo Foscolo, and in 
particular, the sonnet describing an imagined return to his motherland, "A 
Zacinto." 

The oikos: A Greek Mother(land) 

Ugo Foscolo is the earliest of the trio of writers who are generally considered 
best to represent Italian Romanticism: Foscolo, Leopardi, and Manzoni. He was 
bom in 1778 on the island Zante, the Homeric Zacynthos, to a Greek mother, 
Diamantina Spathis, and an Italian father. Foscolo was a zealous opponent of 
foreign domination of Italy (for a time he nourished hopes that Napoleon would 
conquer, unify, and then somehow "liberate" the Italian peninsula), and was, 
throughout his life, an Italian patriot. At the same time, in a letter to Jakob 
Bartholdy from 1808, Foscolo expressed wrote that 

Quantunque italiano d'educazione e d'origine [...], io, finchd saro memore di me stesso, 



^ As to the possibility of arriving or not arriving at one's destination, see the essays by 
Lacan, Derrida, and Johnson in Muiier and Richardson. Zizek has a "New Lacanian" take 
on the subject (1-28). 

^ Cachey also writes that "Italian literature has from its founding 'exiles,' Dante and 
Petrarch, established itself as a tradition seeking to overcome its lack of original place, 
either to depart from, or to which return" (56). 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 205 

non oblierd mai che nacqui da madre greca, che fui allevato da greca nutrice, e che vidi il 
primo raggio di sole nella chiara e selvosa Zacinto, risonante ancora de' versi con che 
Omero e Teocrito la celebravano.* 

(However Italian in upbringing and in origin [...], I, as long as I shall be mindftil of 
myself, will never forget that I was bom of a Greek mother, that I was raised by a Greek 
nurse, and that I saw the first ray of sun on the bright and forested Zacinto, resonant still 
of the verses with which Homer and Theocritus celebrated her.) 

Foscolo refrains from precisely saying that his identity is Greek, but makes it 
clear that his italianita must always be arrived at through Greece:' not Greece 
understood so much geographically or politically, but rather "Greece" as a kind 
of shorthand for the mother's body (bom of a Greek mother, raised by a Greek 
nurse) and the origins of Western literature, specifically poetry. Greece was, 
appropriately enough, in some sense Foscolo's oikos. Or perhaps we might better 
say that the route to the oikos must always detour through Greece, or perhaps 
that it splits to follow two itineraries, one Italian, one Greek. Not surprisingly, 
the structure of Foscolo's claim is fetishistic, based on knowledge and its 
disavowal — "I know very well that I am Italian, but all the same the space of 
home is Greece" ("quantunque [io sia] d'educazione e d'origine [...] io [...] non 
oblierd"). '° Obviously, this is not the straightforward oikos that could 
"unproblematically" ground national identity and orient travel. Zante may have 
been historically Greek, but in a doubling of Van Den Abbeele's "internal 
other," it was under the control of the Republic of Venice at the time of 
Foscolo's birth. The mother's land was dominated by the father's land, so to 
speak. By the time Foscolo begins work on his sonnets, however, Venice will 
have been conquered by Napoleon and then handed over to Austria as part of the 
1 797 Treaty of Campoformio. Every recourse to the oikos, then, will have to 
make a series of destabilizing detours, following questions of historical 
circumstance. In fact, Foscolo's description of his national identity above 
demonstrates a pattern that, as we shall see, typifies his attempts to think the 



* Foscolo's letter to J. Bartholdy (Sept. 29, 1808), Opere 1 :2010 (emph. in the original). 
' Foscolo thinks even the name of the father through Greek, offering the specious 
etymology offos (light) + kotos (bile) (dell'Aquila 145). 

'° In fact, Foscolo's comments are a virtual mise-en-scene of the Freudian fetish. The boy 
glances at his castrated mother, fears for his own identity and integrity, and his gaze and 
attachment drift instead to what is nearby: shoes, feet, undergarments. In others words, 
recognizing the historically troubled, mediated relationship to the oikos is yet another 
form of recognizing one's troubled, mediated relationship to the phallus, and Foscolo, 
given his particular historical circumstance, is avoiding not only the mother's castration, 
but the father's symbolic castration as well. And intriguingly, Foscolo's fetish 
compensating for the lack of a clear oikos seems to be literature itself, since poetry is 
persistently where his gaze comes to rest (Freud 217). 



206 Robert A. Rushing 

oikos. Although it initially seems to be a recollection of the mother, it moves 
away from the mother(land), passing from the mother to the nurse, and then from 
those highly rooted, bodily relations to the first ray of sun, and finally to the 
verses of Homer and Theocritus. That is, it moves metonymically, not 
metaphorically. 

After Venice passed into Ausfrian hands, Foscolo was no longer a welcome 
figure there, and he essentially spent the rest of his life, from 1798 on, in exile. 
He moved between Milan, Bologna, Pavia, and Florence before leaving first for 
Switzerland and then England, where he spent the last eleven years of his life — 
ironically, the longest sojourn of his wandering biography." Aside from a brief 
period in 1814 when he toyed with the idea of collaborating with the Ausfrians 
— the government offered him the direction of a literary journal — Foscolo was 
not able to return to his "native" city of Venice. Not surprisingly, much of his 
work reflects this permanent exile, in particular his epistolary novel, Ultime 
lettere di Jacopo Ortis}^ His body was buried in the Chiswick village cemetery, 
but was disinterred and re-buried in Santa Croce in Florence in 1871.'^ 

Traveling by Metonymy 

In several of the sonnets, Foscolo calls attention to his long exile, notably in 
"All'amata," "In morte del fratello Giovanni," and especially the 1803 "A 
Zacinto."''* This last is generally considered, along with "Alia sera" and "In 
morte del fratello Giovanni," among Foscolo's best work, and it remains in a 
highly canonical position today. 

A Zacinto 

N6 piu mai toccher6 le sacre sponde 
ove il mio corpo fanciulletto giacque, 
Zacinto mia, che te speech! nell'onde 
del greeo mar da eui vergine naeque 

Venere, e fea quelle isole feconde 
col suo primo sorriso, onde non tacque 
le tue limpide nubi e le tue fronde 
I'inclito verso di colui che I'acque 

cant6 fatali, ed il diverso esiglio 
per cui bello di fama e di sventura 



" Foscolo also spent several years (1784-1787) in Spalato, a city of what was at the time 

Dalmatia (now Croatia). 

'^ See Costa's significant essay on the trope of the journey in Foscolo. 

'' For a more complete overview of Foscolo's works, see Cambon, or (in briefer form) 

Brose, "Back to the Body of the Mother: Foscolo's 'A Zacinto.'" Flamigni and 

Mangaroni's volume is a complete biography. 

''' Most of the sonnets were written in 1800-1803, during Foscolo's first stay in Milan. 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 207 

bacid la sua petrosa Itaca Ulisse. 

Tu non altro che il canto avrai del figlio, 
o matema mia terra; a noi prescrisse 
il fato illacrimata sepoltura. 

To Zacinto: 

Nor ever more shall I touch the sacred shores 
where my newborn body lay, 
my Zacinto, who are reflected in the waves 
of the Grecian sea from which, virgin, was bom 

Venus, and she made those isles fertile 
with her first smile, whence spoke 
of your limpid clouds and your fronds 
the lofty verse of the one who sang 

the fatal waters and the diverse exile 
for which, rich in fame and misfortune, 
Ulysses kissed his rocky Ithaca. 

You will have nothing of your son but his song, 
o my mother earth; for us fate 
prescribed an unmoumed burial. (my translation) 

Bearing in mind Georges Van Den Abbeele's analysis of travel as a kind of 
supplement to the home, and in particular the question of orientation and 
destabilization, I would like to look at "A Zacinto" as a travel poem. To begin 
with, the poem is predicated on absence and distance, on a voyage that has 
already taken place prior to its composition: Foscolo writes from exile to the 
island where he was bom — the Homeric Zacynthos mentioned in the Odyssey 
(1: 291; 9: 27; 16: 144, 297; 19: 155) — lamenting the impossibility of ever 
returning there. However, it would be a mistake to assert that the poem is 
exclusively about travel in the sense of exile. The poem depicts (at least) two 
imaginary journeys, not the imstructured wanderings of the exile, but clear 
itineraries. The first section (lines 1-11) maps out a chain of associations, a 
metonymic itinerary, leading from the figure of the poet to his presumed alter 
ego (Ulysses). The second section of the sonnet (lines 12-14) anticipates a 
different voyage: the poem itself will return to Foscolo's "matema mia terra," 
since the poet cannot. Although "A Zacinto" initially presents a high degree of 
stylistic and thematic coherence, seemingly progressing smoothly from origin to 
destination, it becomes clear that, with the orienting home lost or unreachable, 
these voyages are profoundly disoriented, their origins mis- or dis-placed and 
their destinations doubled. 

As I said, the poem initially presents a high degree of stylistic and thematic 
coherence. It is stmctured by the distinction between grammatical subordination 
(in the first section) and grammatical coordination (the second section, the final 



208 Robert A. Rushing 

tercet). The first section is remarkably hypotactic, where almost every 
conjunction is subordinating (ove — where; che — who; da cui — from which; 
onde — whence; colui che — he who; per cui — for which), so that it 
progressively moves to deeper and deeper levels of subordination. The 
awkwardness of the translation is (I hope) a by-product of my attempt to retain 
this technique in English. The second section has no conjunctions at all. This 
distinction in grammatical subordination matches exactly the two sentences, as 
well as a division in content: the first sentence, so hypotactic in form, also forms 
a metonymic chain of associations, beginning with the implied io of the poet in 
line 1 ("[io] toccher6"), and leading to his birthplace (Zacinto), which is situated 
in the Grecian sea, and which recalls the birth of Venus, who made the islands so 
fertile and lush that even the great poet Homer (the one who sang / the fatal 
waters) sang of them, and also of Ulysses, "rich in fame and misfortune." The 
obvious function of this metonymic chain is to connect the first term and the last, 
Foscolo and Ulysses, two great figures of exile and wandering, in a poem that 
deliberately plays up Foscolo's Greek credentials. It also indubitably forms a 
voyage, both temporal and spatial, from the poet's "here and now" to Greek 
mythical and literary precursors. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a figure of speech 
better suited to travel than metonymy, which is after all slippage along 
contiguous physical and/or cognitive spaces. 

The second, and much briefer, portion of the poem is devoid of metonymy, 
and its point seems to be to underscore that, no matter how much metonymic 
traveling the poet may do in the first part, "tu non altro che il canto avrai": he 
will never reach Zacinto. At best, it will be the poem itself that makes the 
journey to the motherland. Although Foscolo cannot reach the motherland, 
Zacinto, the oikos, still seems capable of orienting and directing a journey. This 
is pretty smooth sailing on the structural level as well, for the poem presents very 
neat divisions: hypotaxis, metonymy and the poet's journey in the first section; 
parataxis, relatively less tropological language, and poem's journey in the 
second. 

A Rough Voyage Toward Origins 

Neither trip is as smooth as it sounds, however. A careful diagramming of 
subordination and coordination in the first section indicates a voyage that 
mimetically resembles Ulysses's travels in the Odyssey. That is, it proceeds by 
fits and starts, moving to less subordmated levels (as in line 3, where "my 
Zacinto" re-surfaces from the previously subordinated "where my newborn body 
[...]" clause) or making more or less brief stops where it stays at the same level 
(as in lines 5 and 9, where the conjunctions are coordinating).'^ More crucially, 
both the first and second sections are marked by enjambment, particularly 



'^ Brose, following Cambon, notes that "the eleven verses actually perform the arduous 
joumey of the wanderer-exile, Foscolo-UIysses" ("Back to the Body of the Mother" 179). 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 209 

extensive in the first (across lines 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 7-8, and 8-9). Enjambment is a 
curious technique: on the one hand, it facilitates the smooth flow of reading, 
because it demands that the reader not pause at the end of a verse. '^ On the other 
hand, it disrupts the smooth flow of reading because it frustrates the reader's 
expectations, and spatially and temporally separates key grammatical and 
syntactical elements. The disruptive side is especially notable when the 
enjambment occurs across the boundary separating quatrain from quatrain, or 
quatrain from tercet (lines 4-5, and again in 8-9). A construction like "[...] da cui 
vergine nacque / Venere" (4-5), leaves the reader momentarily groping after the 
"vergine nacque," and tends to break up the metonymic chain being forged. 

Another issue that troubles the poem is the question of temporality. At first 
glance one is apt to say that the poem moves from the present (the poet's here 
and now) into the past, but consider the first two lines: "N6 piu mai toccherd le 
sacre sponde / ove il mio corpo fanciulletto giacque." In fact, the poem follows a 
trajectory from the poet's fiiture in some other, unknown space (the "illacrimata 
sepoltura") to a past that is also remote. It repeats this structure twice, once at the 
beginning, and again at the end: "tu non alfro che il canto avrai [...] a noi 
prescrisse [...]" (12-13). The poet's temporal and spatial disorientation is 
remarkable precisely for its Utopian (in the etymological sense) nature: only 
Zacinto is privileged with the present tense. This last point should not surprise 
us, since Zacinto is obviously intended as the stable origin that should ground 
and orient the poet's travel. What is perhaps surprising (or would be, outside of 
an Italian context) is that, with the oikos seemingly so clearly placed and 
recognized, the poet-fraveler is still not localizable within a coherent temporal or 
spatial matrix. 

Most obviously disruptive, however, is the poem's extraordinary first 
word: Ne. Like the English pair of neither/nor, in Italian the negative conjunction 
ne comes in pairs. '^ This partner-less ne of the poem's first line leaves the reader 
either anticipating some future matching ne or imagining an earlier negative 
clause that would precede the poem's opening.'* Since there is clearly no later 



'* Numerous readers (Valentini, Brose, Cambon) have isolated "liquid" as a dominant or 

the dominant register of the poem, and there is a general recognition that Foscolo uses 

the long, flowing clause of the first section to mime important lexical elements (such as 

onde, greco mar, I 'acque). Cambon, for example, describes the "one breathless sentence, 

in wave after wave of subordinate clauses," puns on the "Foscolian wave-length," and 

describes the cascade of subordinating clauses as water flowing downward across 

successive rock ledges (143-44). 

'^ As in English, one will also see single ne after a preceding negative clause, as in: non 

so se lei e partita, ne se partira (I don't know if she has left, nor if she will leave). 

'* Foscolo may also have been imitating the Latin ne [...] umquam construction here {ne 

pill mai): Italian Romanticism was, generally speaking, a pretty neo-classicist 



210 Robert A. Rushing 

ne, many readers prefer the former possibility, describing the poem as the written 
continuation of an internal monologue. In other words, the poem inscribes a 
terminal lack within its own structure, for it is missing either a beginning or an 
ending. 

The poem is clearly an expression of loss and yearning, the poet's desire to 
return to the land of his birth, a return that would bring with it some kind of 
solace. Brose has thoroughly analyzed this aspect of the poem in the context of a 
return to the maternal body. Indeed, the multiple births in the poem — Foscolo, 
Venus, the lush flora of the Grecian islands made "feconde" by Venus's smile — 
are quite striking, and the separation from the maternal figure is clearly one of 
the sources of the poet's sense of loss (Brose, "Back to the Body of the 
Mother").'^ The title of the poem, "A Zacinto," is naturally read as a dedication 
to this unfulfilled and unfulfillable desire, but it just as easily could indicate 
direction, in this case, the direction of the poet's desire, the direction of his 
imaginary travel.^" The poem expresses the desire to return "a Zacinto." And yet, 
if this is the case, what becomes striking about the poem is that Foscolo moves 
away from the home: he undertakes an imaginary voyage to his homeland, and 
arrives there only to begin moving metonymically away by the first quatrain. In 

Romanticism, as was especially true in Foscolo's case. In Italian, however, the 
construction is a novelty, and sounds odd and incomplete even to the classically educated 
reader. For example, the Ricciardi edition of Foscolo's works cites De Robertis: "Pare 
che 11 poeta, cominciando, continui un discorso fatto tra s6 e s6, e dia sfogo a una 
commozione g\k plena" ('It seems that the poet, in beginning, continues a conversation 
within himself, and releases an already fiili agitation'). Franco Gavazzeni, the editor of 
the Ricciardi edition of Foscolo's Opere, cites a half-dozen "precedent!" for the initial ne 
in Petrarch, Bembo and Costanzo, all of which are followed by a subsequent ne (235nl). 
The Zanichelli Vocabolario delta lingua italiana allows that the conjunction may be used 
alone with a "funzione negativa," but cites only one example: "N^ piu mai toccherd le 
sacre sponde [...]." 1 believe the construction may be unique, at least up until 1803. Brose 
reads the «e as a pointer to the subliminal or unconscious (the "already ftill agitation"), 
and notes Foscolo's "uncanny ability to project his voice from uncanny places: from the 
tomb [...] and from the womb" ("Back to the Body of the Mother" 180). 
'^ The poem, Brose writes, "provides an especially eloquent example of how the poet 
writes his way back to the womb" (175) via, of course, the minor detour of his own 
grave. Cambon nicely points out a re-duplication of the multiple births at the phonetic 
level, "whereby 'Fe'nere' projects Tea' and 'fea' generates Teconde'" (147). Insofar as 
the oikos represents the feminine and the domestic, the origin that can only be recognized 
after separation, it may be that every return is on some level a return to the mother's 
body, and every voyage a separation from it. 

^° The titles of the sonnets are not Foscolo's (with the exception of "Per la sentenza 
capitale"), but originated with Orlandini. For purposes of biography or psychobiography, 
interpreting a title that was not originally Foscolo's might be a problem for establishing 
his intention to write a travel poem (or at least his intention to have the title reflect such 
an intention). I am not, however, interested in establishing intent. 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 211 

fact, keeping in mind the partnerless initial ne, it might be better to say that 
Foscolo has already arrived by the first line, which is also already a declaration 
of separation. The movement proceeds by continguity: we begin on the shores 
(sponde) of Zacinto, move to its reflection in the water (che te specchi), to the 
waves (onde) and out into the general Grecian sea (Greco mar) before following 
the entire metonymic chain into an ever more remote mythic and literary past. In 
fact, we end up on an entirely different island, Ithaca, localized within a purely 
imaginary matrix. This movement is repeated in the second section, passing from 
materna mia terra to illacrimata sepoltura, an unmoumed burial that will be 
anywhere but the homeland. The poem's content suggests the yearning to return 
to the solace of home, while its form suggests that the poet is trying to move 
away from home as rapidly as possible. This confusion over direction marks the 
first of several multiple destinations or split itineraries that the poem contains. 
Let us examine the others. 

A Double Voyage And Its Destinations 

I noted earlier that the poem establishes a "metonymic itinerary" in the first 
section, moving from the poet's personal past (ove // mio corpo fanciulletto 
giacque) to a mythical one {da cui vergine nacque / Venere), and then on to a 
literary one {colui che I'acque / cantd fatali and Ulisse). This metonymic 
itinerary seems to satisfactorily answer the question of the first voyage's 
destination: from the poet to Ulysses. Such an identification through metonymy 
is not terribly surprising for a Romantic poet, since the figure of Ulysses nicely 
combines victimism and Titanism, two of the poles between which Romanticism 
constantly vacillates. Foscolo can thus move from a pathetic masochism in the 
section's first lines to an identification with one of the greatest heroes of Western 
literature in its last. 

As several readers have already noted, there are convincing reasons to 
believe that Ulysses is not the section's only destination, despite his structural 
position at the end of the metonymic voyage; this is another way in which this 
highly structured poem contests and ruptures its own structure. This first 
itinerary has multiple destinations, or perhaps simply an end that comes before 
the end. (Travel, as Van Den Abbeele has noted, is a risky proposition: one of its 
risks may be a meconnaissance with regard to the journey's proper ending: how 
many of us might not recognize the real end of our travel?) That destination is, 
of course. Homer (what Valentini terms the "latent" content of the poem (19)) 
and not Ulysses, and it is Homer who is the real model for the poetic self being 
constructed here. 

There are a number of reasons to make this identification between the poet 
and Homer. To begin with, they are linked through their common vocation of 
poetry, or song: Homer is "he who sang" while the poet reduces himself to pure 
song in the final tercet: "tu non alfro che il canto avrai del figlio" ('you will have 



212 Robert A. Rushing 

nothing of your son but his song'). Homer and Foscolo are also the only two 
subjects not properly named in the poem: Homer is only named through the 
figure of antonomasia (colui che I'acque / cantd fatali) while Foscolo is never 
named at all. The poet proclaims in the sonnet's final lines that "fate prescribed 
an unmoumed burial for us." If Foscolo is not using the noi to refer just to 
himself (which is certainly possible), then for whom? Besides the poet, who else 
is included in this noil It is surely not the island, nor can it be the poem. 
Foscolo' s whole point is that the poem will manage to return home, since he is 
certainly not condemning his own poem to oblivion. Does the noi include 
Ulysses? Well, here is the real reason that poem cannot be (exclusively) linking 
Foscolo and Ulysses: Ulysses makes it back home.^' 

So the itinerary that the poem traces back into a mythical and literary past 
leads to Ulysses on the one hand and Homer on the other. Brose (among others) 
has noted this associative doubling, writing: "Foscolo doubles himself here, 
becoming both his own protagonist, Ulysses, and his alter-ego's immortalizer, 
Homer" ("Back to the Body" 1 77). The uncertainty or splitting of ends is even 
mimicked and reproduced in the trope that Foscolo uses to describe Ulysses. He 
is "bello di fama e sventura," rich (literally, beautiful or handsome) in fame and 
misfortune. This is the figure of speech known as zeugma, in which one term 
{bello) is linked to two other terms {fama, sventura), but that linkage functions 
"properly" with only one of them. That is, you can be rich in fame (although this 
is already figurative language, of course) but you cannot be, properly speaking, 
rich in misfortune. One destination is proper {bello is linked to fama, Foscolo is 
linked to Ulysses), or arrived at directly; the other with difficulty {bello to 
sventura, Foscolo and Homer). This splitting of "proper" and "difficult" 
destinations is another manifestation of a sharp uncertainty in the poem: we are 
now faced with an originary lack (the initial ne) and a doubled ending (Ulysses, 
Homer). 

This doubling of endings appears in the poem's second, briefer section 
(lines 12-14) as well.^^ This section imagines two voyages, rather than a single 
one, and, as is typical of this much more laconic second section, the journeys are 
anticipated and not described in detail. On the one hand, this section imagines 
that the poem may one day arrive "A Zacinto," and, on the other hand, it 
imagines the poet's own fmal voyage, leading to the grave. Foscolo has 



^' The Odyssey is explicit on this point: Tiresias prophesied that Ulysses would die 
"when you are wearied out with rich old age, / your country folk in blessed peace around 
you" (11: 150-151). Ulysses's death will take place after Odysseus's final journey, 
according to the seer. It seems unlikely that Foscolo, so proud of his Greek origins and 
translating (or mistranslating) the Iliad, would take Dante's addition to the story in 
Inferno 26 d& gospel. 

^^ For that matter, even the journey of Foscolo's body after death repeats this doubling, 
with its double burial, first in England, then in Italy. 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 213 

beautifully made use of the image of "touching ground" in this poem: it begins 
the poem as an impossibility {ne piu mai toccherd le sacre sponde), appears 
again as a recollection {pve il mio corpo fanciulletto giacque), returns as the 
ultimate image of homecoming (bacio la sua petrosa Itaca Ulisse) and finally in 
the image of the poet's burial {illacrimata sepoltura)?^ No doubt, part of the 
function of this imagery is so that Foscolo could ironically contrast Ulysses's 
homecoming, which takes the erotically charged form of a kiss, to the 
"illacrimata sepoltura" that awaits the poet.^'' 

We might, however, look at the image from the standpoint of travel, where 
touching ground is a consummate image of orientation: it brings movement and 
wandering (at least temporarily) to rest, establishes up and down (perhaps 
especially important in a poem that plays itself out so prominently along the 
vertical axis of subordination) and, in this poem, repeatedly signifies a return 
home, whether successful or not. In other words, it establishes an oikos. 
Foscolo's burial is, on the one hand, an ironic homecoming, although also an 
opportunity to place himself in a common grave with Homer; and on the other, 
seen within the economy of travel, it is an exchange. 1 have suggested that the 
poem thematizes the mapping out of a route and the motif of the voyage, while at 
the same time thematizing disorientation: lost origins, multiple destinations, the 
figure of zeugma. What about this final image of grounding? 

Touching Ground 

Van Den Abbeele conceives of travel as an economy of loss and gain, structured 
by what is normally an unchallenged point of reference: the home. Within the 
economy of travel, every grounding, every orientation, is produced by a 
concomitant wandering. The home can only be constituted retroactively, in its 
own absence; it can only be conceived from the non-localizable space of travel. 



^^ This is evidently a reference to an ancient Greek custom of laying a newborn on the 
ground to consecrate him or her to Mother Nature (either Opi or Venus) (Foscolo, Le 
poesie 35n2). This is an ironic inversion of Foscolo's burial: the round trip journey that 
underlies our most common thinking about travel (and has a domesticating and limiting 
effect on the possibilities afforded by travel) will not be possible. As Valentini, among 
others, notes, the verb used, giacere (to lie), is typically used on tombstones, as in 
English: Qui giace... (here lies...). Foscolo further emphasizes this irony by rhyming 
giacque with nacque in verse 4. (Valentini 1 8; 3 1 ). 

"^^ This image seems to be part and parcel of what Brose has called Foscolo's "thanato- 
eroticism" — "an attempt to return to a pre-oedipal fusion with the mother by means of 
self-annihilation" — which she sees as generally characterizing Foscolo's sonnets. ("The 
Politics of Mourning" 2-3). The entanglement of eros and thanatos is characteristic of 
Romanticism, emerging most clearly in the late 19"' century with scapigliatura in novels 
like Tarchetti's Fosca or poets like Camerana. 



214 Robert A. Rushing 

Zacinto, as the poem's point of reference, as home, is constituted precisely 
because Foscolo moves away from it, both biographically (his exile) and 
poetically (the itinerary that leads from Zacinto to Venus to Homer to Ulysses). 
This is the economy of the poem's first section. Likewise, to establish a place as 
a home, as a point of reference, is to already imagine a possible voyage away 
from it. Foscolo's burial at the poem's end, then, represents a different exchange, 
a grounding that permits another voyage. What ventures forth at the end of the 
poem? The poem itself, as we are told in verse 12 (tu non altro che il canto 
avrai). Foscolo's self-grounding through death (literally putting himself in the 
ground) allows the free travel of his poetry. And where does "A Zacinto" go? 
Naturally, it goes a Zacinto. The poem is understood to travel more or less 
literally to the island. 

But there is another way in which this poem might be said to return "a 
Zacinto": perhaps the poem "A Zacinto" returns to the poem "A Zacinto." I 
would like to suggest that, as in Timothy Bahti's reading of Leopardi's 
"L'infinto," this poem's beginning comes after its ending (a literally 
preposterous reading), forming a kind of loop of poetic language (42-56). The 
sonnet's initial ne demands either a preceding ne, or a previous negative clause 
— and there is indeed a negative clause available, although it comes at the 
poem's end. We might read the poem's ending thusly: "Tu non altro che il canto 
avrai del figlio, / o matema mia terra [...]/ n€ piii mai toccherd le sacre sponde 
[...]." Under this reading, the poem (the real Ulysses in this scene of travel) is 
freed through the poet's grounding {illacrimata sepoltura) to return to its proper 
home: poetic language itself The poem goes back "A Zacinto." As Antonino 
Musumeci has pointed out: "Foscolo, unlike Manzoni, does not possess the 
certainty of a gratuitous promise of happiness; but he does have the boundless 
Romantic faith in poetic discourse. And so he makes poetry his exile, and his 
muse of the resultant despair" (75).^^ So again, in the poem's final section, the 
destinations of travel are doubled: on the one hand, a return to the island, and, on 
the other, a return to poetic language. Looking back at Foscolo's letter to 



^^ Exile, as many critics have noted, forms an essential base for Foscolo's writing. Exile 
appears as an essential predicate for the scene of writing in sonnets like "A Zacinto" or 
"In morte del fratello Giovanni," and as an essential predicate for the protagonist in 
Ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis. Foscolo's exile informs (albeit more subtly) all of Dei 
sepolcri, both as a regret (he, too, will be one of those with an "illacrimata sepoltura"), 
and as a hope for fame that might transcend the grave. Cambon points out, a propos of 
Foscolo's translation of Sterne's Sentimental Journey, that Foscolo refers to Didimo 
Chierico (his alter ego and fictional translator) as "uomo senza patria" (14-15) and also 
marks exile as the precondition of Z,e Grazie (17). Exile even appears as an essential 
topos in some of Foscolo's more obscure pieces such as "All'oceano" (which again 
begins in Greece and moves to a consideration of the grave), or in the English poem "To 
Callirhoe." 



Traveling by Metonymy: Foscolo 's "A Zacinto " 215 

Bartholdy ("quantunque italiano d'educazione e d'origine [...]"), one can see 
that same doubled movement, a simultaneous recollection of the motherland that 
is also a digression that ends with Homer and Theocritus. 

Lastly, to turn to the question of points of origin, there is still something odd 
about the final grounding that mobilizes Foscolo's poem: something odd, 
however, only if one fails to consider Italy's unique situation or more precisely, 
lack of situation, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Zacinto is a proper 
place, with a proper name — a space that could genuinely be used to orient one's 
travels, despite the attendant difficulties of national identity and toponymy. The 
same could not be said for the non-place of Foscolo's imagined burial. Within 
the standard economy of travel described by Van Den Abbeele, home and travel 
are terms that reciprocally constitute and sustain each other, albeit, as Van Den 
Abbeele shows, in the risky and unstable way that is typical of the Derridean 
supplement. The lack of "place" that grounds this poem's ending^eginning, 
however, implies a more radical disorientation. Foscolo's imagined illachmata 
sepoltura is, unlike Zacinto, not anywhere. It is a grounding, a place of 
permanent rest, but one that cannot be properly used to orient any travel, 
including the voyage that the poem makes back to Zacinto. 

To address the question of national identity, what space does the Italian poet 
of Foscolo's age write from, or, to phrase the question in terms of travel, where 
is he coming from? Italy — like Foscolo's ftiture imagined grave — as such was 
nowhere, and so Foscolo writes from a place that might best be described as 
"somewhere else," at some indefinable time (the ftiture tense — tu non altro che 
il canto avrai — is also used in Italian to express possibility). This unidentified 
space is the oikos of the poem, the Utopian space that both grounds and un- 
grounds it, that orients its metonymic itinerary and disrupts and disorients our 
travel and our thinking about the places we fravel to at the same time. Writing 
from the "somewhere else" of Italy, of an Italian identity always fraught with 
detours, provokes for Foscolo an imagined journey without a clear destination or 
point of departure, an endless slippage perhaps more akin to metonymy than to 
the simple substitution of metaphor. To return to Van Den Abbeele's analysis of 
the economy of travel, Foscolo's poetic journey in "A Zacinto" seems like an 
ideal example of "unbounded travel" and the destabilization of the primacy of 
the oikos, now a place that cannot be clearly located. In his discussion of lyrical 
endings, Timothy Bahti relates Duchamp's "Utopian endings" to lyric poetry 
thus: "[...] my understanding of the ends of the lyric in some of poetry's most 
interesting and powerftil instances is that they are Utopian not in that they do not 
occur — for they do — but in that they direct us to a place of language and 
thought the promised consequences of which are still, and always, and rightly 
elsewhere" (15). 

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 



216 Robert A. Rushing 

Works Cited 

Bahti, Timothy. Ends of the Lyric: Direction and Consequence in Western Poetry. 

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. 
Brose, Margaret. "Back to the Body of the Mother: Foscolo's 'A Zacinto.'" Italica 74:2 

(1997): 164-84. 
. "The Politics of Mourning in Foscolo's Dei sepolcri." European Romantic 

Review 9:\ (1998): 1-34. 
Cachey, Theodore J., Jr. "An Italian Literary History of Travel." Annali d'ltalianistica 15 

(1996): 55-64. 
Cambon, Glauco. Ugo Foscolo: Poet of Exile. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1980. 
Costa, Gustavo. "Ugo Foscolo's Europe: a Journey from the Sublime to Romantic 

Humor." Magliocchetti and Vema 21-40. 
dell'Aquila, Michele. Foscolo e il romanticismo. Bari: Adriatic Editrice, 1992. 
Flamigni, Adriana, and Rosella Mangaroni. Ugo Foscolo: la passione dell'esilio. 

Milano: Camunia Editrice, 1987. 
Foscolo, Ugo. Le poesie. Ed. Marcello Turchi. Milano: Garzanti, 1974. 

. Opere. Ed. Franco Gavanezzi. Milano: Ricciardi, 1974. 

. Vltime lettere di Jacopo Ortis. Milano: Mondadori, 1986. 

Freud, Sigmund. "Fetishism." Sexuality and the Psychology of Love. New York: Collier, 

1963. 
Greenblatt, Stephen. Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World. Chicago: U 

of Chicago P, 1992. 
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fitzgerald. New York: Doubleday, 1961. 
Kirby, Paul Franklin. The Grand Tour in Italy (1700-1800). New York: S. F. Vanni, 

1952. 
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 

1983. 
Leopardi, Giacomo. Canti. Torino: Einaudi, 1962. 

Magliocchetti, Bruno, and Anthony Vema, eds. The Motif of the Journey in Nineteenth- 
Century Italian Literature. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 1994. 
Muller, John P., and William J. Richardson, eds. The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida and 

Psychoanalytic Reading. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1988. 
Musumeci, Antonio. "Of Swallows and Farewells: The Morality of Movement in Italian 

Literature of the Ottocento." Magliocchetti and Vema 70-83. 
Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. New York: 

Routledge, 1992. 
Valentini, Alvaro. Le ragioni espressive: schede e proposte su Foscolo, Manzoni, 

Pirandello, Montale. Roma: Bulzoni, 1972. 
Van Den Abbeele, Georges. Travel as Metaphor: From Montaigne to Rousseau. 

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Zizek, Slavoj. Enjoy your Symptom! Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out. New York: 

Routledge, 2001. 



Cosetta Gaudenzi 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Ugo Foscolo in England 

Tu non altro che il canto avrai del figlio, 
o matema mia terra; a noi prescrisse 
il fato illacrimata sepoltura. 

(Foscolo, "A Zacinto") 

Ugo Foscolo, one of Italy's most notable exiled literati, was bom in 1778 on the 
Greek island of Zante, son of an Italian doctor, Andrea Foscolo, and a Greek 
woman, Diamantina Spathis. At the age of fourteen, after the death of his father, 
Foscolo moved to Venice where he began his literary studies and met 
intellectuals and revolutionaries of the time. Believing that Italy's freedom and 
unity depended on the French revolution, Foscolo fought for Napoleon on 
several occasions and continued, though disappointed, even after the French 
general gave Venice to the Austrians in the treaty of Campoformio (1797). 
When Napoleon was defeated in 1814, the thirty-six-year-old writer, who by 
then had gained a considerable reputation, refiised to submit to the Austrians and 
went voluntarily into exile, first to Switzerland and then, in September 1 8 1 6, to 
England,^ where he died in 1827, having never returned to Italy. 

The subject of Foscolo and exile has received the attention of various 
scholars. Some critics, like Glauco Cambon, have treated the general theme of 
exile in Foscolo's life and works. Others, including Carlo Maria Franzero, Eric 
Vincent, and more recently John Lindon, have focused on Foscolo's experience 
in England and his later critical production. Still others have taken a more 
comparative approach, studying Foscolo in relation to the British literary 
context. Thomas Cooksey, for example, has examined Foscolo's role in the early 
nineteenth-century reception of Dante in England. My contribution consists in 
expanding Cooksey's study and in investigating and explaining the relation 
between Foscolo and British culture through translation as a critical concept: 
namely, translation in the general sense of "space of hybridity" as employed by 
Homi Bhabha in his studies on nation and culture (e.g.. The Location of 
Culture). 

The term "translation," from the Latin tramferre, literally means to transfer, 



' Other notable Italian refugees that went to Great Britain at this time include Santorre 
Santa Rosa, an ex-war minister, the Generals Pepe and De Meester, and the 
mathematician Giuseppe Pecchio. 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



218 Cosetta Gaudenzi 

transport, remove from one person, place, time, or condition to another. It can 
imply transferal from the realm of ideas into the realm of words, and from one 
language or culture into another. Accordingly, translation occupies a liminal 
space that transgresses the synchronically and the diachronically limited. The 
hybrid nature of translation is analogous to that of exile, in which individuals 
reinvent themselves to fit a different spatial and temporal context. In fact, 
translation can become a valuable tool for exiles who use it to communicate the 
self in a new language, and at times to return to the sources of their cultural 
tradition, which they then aim to make visible in a new environment. In this 
article, I show how, in England, Foscolo engaged in the practice of cultural 
"translation" and transference by writing essays that suggested a reinterpretation 
of Italian literature, of Dante in particular. I shed light on Foscolo's interest in 
Dante's work, life, and historical context, and on Foscolo's roles as "translator" 
of culture and "validator" of cultural translation, most importantly in the process 
which made Henry Francis Gary's Vision (1814) the first authoritative rendering 
of the Commedia into English. Finally, I suggest that Foscolo's shift from 
writing literature to practicing cultural translation and transference represents a 
kind of literary return to his homeland at a time when the author had lost all 
hopes for a united Italy, and was therefore seeking to construct a new identity in 
England. 

I. Exile 

Like many migrants and exiles, Foscolo optimistically believed that migration 
might lead to self-improvement. He thought that England would be a liberal land 
where he could live decorously and publish freely. In Florence the author had 
made useftil acquaintances like that of William Stewart Rose, from whom he 
gained the impression that the British would warmly embrace Italian exiles.^ 
After his arrival in England, however, Foscolo's hopes were partly disappointed. 
While letters to Italian friends and family indicate that he received assistance 
and recognition from notable individuals,^ Foscolo's correspondence also 
testifies that he encountered several problems, including financial hardships and 
difficulties in writing. In an early letter to his family, for instance, he 
complained about the cost of living: "un pezzetto di pane, che in Italia si 



^ British interest in the political situation of Italy had slowly increased in the second half 
of the eighteenth century with various studies of Italian history and the publication of 
Account of Corsica (1768) by James Boswell, who disapproved of the common prejudice 
against Italians as a mass of barbarians unconcerned about their own freedom. Thereafter, 
in the early nineteenth century, the principle of liberty for all stimulated by the French 
Revolution and Napoleon's repeated conquests in Italy, had focused the attention of more 
and more British on the future of the Italians (Marshall 86-88). 

^ See, for instance, Foscolo's letter to Giuseppe Grassi (October 19, 1816, Epistolario 
XX: 43). 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Ugo Foscolo in England 2 1 9 

pagherebbe due soldi, qui costa dieci e dodici" (October 25, 1816, Epistolario 
XX: 43).'* Foscolo dreaded poverty, especially because he saw the importance of 
a decorous appearance among the British elite. Being no aristocrat himself but 
aiming to enjoy an extravagant lifestyle, the exile had to rely on either the 
generosity of others or his own work. But this did not prove easy. People 
eventually grew tired of giving and lending money to Foscolo. And writing in 
England was not the same as writing in Italy: the Italian writer had to cope with 
a new language, a new audience, and a new culture. 

Foscolo had initially hoped to publish in Italian while in exile, but this plan 
proved impractical. The author expresses his frustration in a letter addressed to 
Quirina Mocenni Magiotti, a friend and benefactress who resided in Italy: 

Moltissimi lo studiano [I'italiano], pochi !o imparano: tutti affettano o presumono di 
saperlo. Ma i libraji assicurano che appena d'un libro Italiano, anche classico, si vendono 
cinquecento copie in tre anni; — e d'un libro Inglese, d'autore di qualche nome, se ne 
vendono cinque e spesso sei mila copie in due o tre settimane. Anche delle opere derise 
da tutti, esce la terza edizione in un anno. Qui tutto t moda, emulazione di spese, e 
curiosita, e tutti vogliono ostentare sapere [...]. 

(February 20, 1818, Epistolario XX: 289) 

Foscolo, looking for Quirina' s sympathy, describes all British people as 
superficial and pretentious. Contrary to appearances — the Italian writer informs 
his benefactress — few readers really knew Italian and were willing to buy 
books written in it. Since the demand for Italian literature was insufficient to 
sustain his aspirations, Foscolo understood that, in order to participate profitably 
in the new literary scene, he would be obliged to publish in English. 

Upon his arrival, however, Foscolo did not know English well and, at thirty- 
eight years of age, he found it quite difficult to learn to write effectively in this 
new foreign language.^ To say something relevant in literature, writers often 
break the norm and play masterfully with language. But, as Stanislav Baranczak 
has pointed out in a study on the relation between exile and writing, writers may 
break only the rules that bind them, and these rules come most naturally from 
their native language (438). Foscolo, aware of his own limitations, often 
mentioned in his correspondence the stifling difficulties of translating, or having 
his thoughts translated, from Italian into English and even, at times, from Italian 



'* Conversely, several British Romantic poets like Shelley, Byron, and Keats went to Italy 
because, among other things, it allowed a cheaper life. In Julian and Maddalo (1818), 
Shelley referred to Italy as "paradise of exiles" (1.57). 

^ At the age of thirty-nine, Foscolo wrote to Lady Flint: "Dio volesse ch'io scrivessi 
Inglese, come voi Milady, scrivete Italiano! — ma, pur troppo, sono vecchio oggimai, e 
non posso imparare altre lingue" (August 15, 1817, Epistolario XX: 211). 



220 Cosetta Gaudenzi 

into French, which, in turn, was rendered in English by hired translators. (The 
author was occasionally compelled to write articles in French because he could 
not find English translators who knew Italian well enough.)^ In another letter to 
Quirina Mocenni Magiotti, Foscolo affirmed, "Quel dovere scrivere in lingua 
non mia, e I'essere debitore a' traduttori mi ammazza I'ingegno" (November 8, 
1818, Epistolario XX: 430). More than a year later, to his friend Gino Capponi 
Foscolo reiterated the complaint of being slain by translators in a harsher tone: 

[L]'essere io diventato la bestia da soma di Murray, di Gifford, e di Jeffery, — e 
ressermi obbligato a dilettare il mondo Inglcse del quale in parte ignore, ed in parte 
disamo il gusto letterario, — ell dovere tradurre, o per parlare piu veramente, stemperare 
i miei pensieri in Francioso, si che poi siano annacquati venalmente in Inglese, sono 
sciagure e fatiche e vergogne alle quali non posso omai reggere piu. 

(May 23-30, 1820, Epistolario XXI: 185) 

The use of such negative terms as "sciagure" and "vergogne" makes 
Foscolo's dissatisfaction clear. The writer defines his relation to the British 
world as an unequal one based on servitude. Foscolo characterizes himself as a 
"bestia da soma" that must follow not only the dictates of the English language, 
but also those of the British audience and publishers. Starting from the second 
half of the eighteenth century, the British literary system was undergoing a 
transition from the system of literary patronage to subscription publishing, a 
problematic process which subjected the production of art to the forces of the 
market (Williams 32). When still in Italy, at the University of Pavia, Foscolo 
had given a speech decrying the making of literature into a business. Ironically, 
once in England, he was compelled to disregard his precepts and suffer what he 
considered a humiliating form of prostitution: a dilemma which apparently 
haunted him till the end of his days.^ 

Realizing that he could not produce literary works in English worthy of his 
expectations, primarily because he considered an author's style untranslatable,^ 



" See letters to Quirina Mocenni Magiotti (February 20, 1818, Epistolario XX: 290; 
March 3, 1818, Epistolario XX: 292), and a letter to Lord Holland (March 1818, 
Epistolario XX: 3m-\0). 

' Foscolo relieves his conscience in a letter to Hudson Gumey, dated August 12, 1826: 
"When I was sent at [sic\ Pavia, my first sermon to the University warned my young 
Countryman [sic] of the infamy and public as well as domestic calamities inevitably 
arising from bartering genius and literature for money. Necessity having compelled me 
here to act against my own principles I was punished even when 1 gathered the earnings 
of my writings: because I could never help feeling an inward humiliation, and I compared 
myself to a woman selling her own charm to a brutal purchaser" (Tobler 83). 
° As Foscolo wrote to Lord Guilford, "lo stile non si traduce" (May-June 1817, 
Epistolario XX: 167). 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Ugo Foscolo in England 22 1 

Foscolo turned with some sorrow to literary criticism,^ a genre that, in his 
opinion, demanded less art and imagination and that should therefore be easier 
to translate. ^^ For eleven years Foscolo wrote extensively about Italian 
literature, exploiting an interest in things Italian that had begun in the second 
half of the eighteenth century. Initially he worked incognito, writing for John 
Cam Hobhouse the "Essay on the Present Literature of Italy," which appeared in 
Historical Illustrations of the IV Canto of Child Harold. He then delivered 
public lectures on Italian literature, and drafted some of his unfinished Letters 
Written from England, in which he intended to compare England to Italy. 
Foscolo also planned to publish in thirty-six volumes a series on classical Italian 
authors, which would include their work, biography, criticism, and historical 
context, and which, he imagined, would prove profitable (May 15, 1818, 
Epistolario XX: 321-22). Many of Foscolo's projects initiated in England, 
however, either failed or remained incomplete." 

Among Foscolo's fortunate literary undertakings in exile is his work on 
Dante. Foscolo, who had shown an early interest in the medieval poet,'^ made 
much of the fact that Dante's reputation was growing just as he arrived in 
England. He contributed to augmenting Dante's fame by publishing several 
studies in English translation, including two articles printed in the February and 



" Although scholars generally agree that Foscolo became the "father" of Italian literary 
criticism after coming to England (Lindon 145), the Italian writer was not always happy 
to serve in this new role. On February 20, 1818, Foscolo wrote to Quirina Mocenni 
Magiotti that he was unwilling to publish literary articles under his name {Epistolario, 
XX: 290). Some months later, in another letter to Quirina, Foscolo depicted literary 
criticism as a profession inferior to writing literature: "In Inghilterra lo scrivere per 
giornali [...] s'ha per piii decoroso che in Italia — bensi anche qui un autore b mille volte 
piu stimato che un giomalista" (November 8, 1818, Epistolario XX: 430). 
*^ Foscolo wrote to Samuel Rogers on February 15(?) 1818: "Vous m'avez dit, 
Monsieur, que maintenant il [Mr. Murray] ddsirerait un ouvrage qui traite principalement 
de litterature Italienne. Je pr6fdrerais de mon cot6 aussi et pour la tranquillite de ma vie 
et pour mon caractdre, de ne m'adonner qu'jl Vhistoire critique litteraire, et je crois d'etre 
pourvu d'assez de moyens pour cette branche de travail. La traduction serait plus aisde, 
car le style demanderoit moins d'efftision naturelle d'ame, moins d'art et d'imagination; 
et se bomeroit k I'dl^gance et k la clart6 ndcessaires k la narration et au criticisme" 
(Epistolario XX: 284). 

^ ' In addition to the distress caused by a wavering financial state and the challenges of 
writing in a new language, Foscolo also had to cope with the inconvenience of not being 
able to consult an adequate library, a crucial component for an ambitious series on 
classical Italian authors. See the letter addressed to Samuel Rogers on February 15 (?) 
1818 {Epistolario XX: 281-82). 

'^ In Dei sepolcri, a notable early poem, Foscolo mentioned Dante and referred to him as 
"Ghibellin fuggiasco" (174). 



222 Cosetta Gaudenzi 

September editions of the 1818 Edinburgh Review}^ a book on Petrarch, Essays 
on Petrarch (1823), which contained the essay "Parallel between Dante and 
Petrarch"; and an Italian commentary on the whole Commedia (entitled 
Discorso sul testo della Divina Commedia), of which only the first volume was 
printed in 1825 by William Pickering. (The complete work came out 
posthumously in 1842-43, edited by Giuseppe Mazzini.) 

Foscolo's scholarship on Dante has been regarded as incomplete and, at 
times, inaccurate. He is said to be good as a poet-critic but limited as an 
academic critic (e.g., O'Neill 1 12). Foscolo's most important contribution was 
to offer a new perspective in studies of Dante and the Middle Ages: he was the 
first to apply Vico's ideas discussed in the New Science to literary criticism. 
Contemporary scholarship''* — Foscolo pointed out — failed to provide a 
comprehensive historical and literary discussion of the Middle Ages.'^ Foscolo 
attempted to supply such a desideratum by offering detailed criticism relating 
Dante's work to its socio-political context. He resisted the assumption that 
Dante had to be approached in terms of what were understood as timeless, 
universal values. The portrait of the medieval poet resulting from Foscolo's 
writings was that of Dante as a man, a Romantic nationalist who "conceived and 
executed the project of creating the Language and the Poetry of a nation" and 
who exposed "all the political wounds of his country [...] teaching the Church 
and the States of Italy, that the imprudence of the Popes, and the civil wars of 
the cities, and the consequent introduction of foreign arms, must lead to the 
eternal slavery and disgrace of the Italians" {Studi su Dante 68). Through his 
commentaries Foscolo reintroduced Dante's work as critical of papal authority, 
thereby rendering it more palatable to a Protestant British audience.'^ Like 



' ^ At the request of the editor of the Edinburgh Review, Lord Jeffrey, Foscolo wrote a 
two-part article, "Dante, with a New Italian Commentary, By G. Baglioli, Paris, 1818. 
The Vision of Dante Translated by the Reverend H. F. Cary, A.M., 3 vol. 18 mo., 
London, 1818," published in February 1818; and "Observations Concerning the Question 
of the Originality of the Poem of Dante, By F. Cancellieri," published in September 1818. 
I cite these articles as republished in Studi su Dante by Giovanni Da Pozzo. 
'^ See Pierre-Louis Ginguend's Histoire iitteraire d'ltalie (first volume published in 
1811); J.C. Sismondi's De la litterature du midi de I 'Europe (1813); and Henry Hallam's 
View of the State of Europe (1818). 

'^ "[A] commentary upon Dante, which should be useful in a historical and political 
view, still remains to be executed" {Studi su Dante 132). "Dante, notwithstanding the 
number of his biographers has not yet had an historian" {Studi su Dante 138). 
'" As attested by some travel books of the early nineteenth century, many British equated 
Catholicism with autocracy (Black 189). For them, the Catholic religion drew on 
credulity and superstition, and led to misery, poverty, clerical rule, and oppression. Such 
prejudices were increased by historical facts, such as the close association of Catholicism 
and Jacobism and the predominance of Catholicism in France and Spain, Britain's 
principal enemies. Although critical of the pope, the Commedia generally embraced a 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Ugo Foscolo in England 223 

many of his contemporaries, Foscolo resented the papacy's part in the 
misfortunes of Italy. It was generally held that Pope Pius VII and his Secretary 
of State, Cardinal Consalvi, had discreetly courted Austrian intervention. A view 
of Dante as a proto-Protestant reached its extreme later, in Gabriele's Rossetti's 
Sullo spirito antipapale ( 1 832). 

To sum up, Foscolo's early experience in England shows that a literary 
exile gains stature abroad to the extent that he assumes a hybrid nature that 
simultaneously exhibits the characteristics of his homeland and acquires the 
colors of his new environment; in other words, to the extent that he lets himself 
be used and consumed as an object. As Foscolo became visible, not only 
because of his work on Dante and Italian literature in general, but also because 
of his second edition of the novel Ortis published in England in 1817 by the well 
reputed John Murray, he himself was in a position to confer authority. Foscolo 
became valuable for the British in that he represented the authentic Italian 
scholar who could act as a cultural translator in suggesting a reinterpretation of 
Italian literature, and could validate or invalidate British critical works on and 
translations of Italian literature. 

II. Translation 

In England, Foscolo's relation to the world of translation was quite complex. He 
continued to translate foreign literature into Italian, producing a few minor 
versions.'^ Foscolo also acted as a cultural translator and authenticator of 
cultural translations, by critiquing English commentaries on Italian literature and 
by reviewing English translations of Italian literary works. Various translators, 
including William Stewart Rose (Ariosto's Orlando) and Jeremiah Holme 
Wiffen (Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata), benefited from Foscolo's general 
opinion of previous renderings of Italian literature into English and from his 
practical advice on translating specific difficult passages.'^ Most importantly for 



Catholic theology. As a consequence, it was rendered relatively late in English. The 
Divine Comedy was first translated in Catholic countries: Spain (1428), Catalonia (1429), 
and France (1550). Only in the late eighteenth century did a complete version appear in 
states of the religious reform: Germany (1767) and England (Clemens 423). Clemens 
apparently indicates that the first complete English version appeared in 1785, but Henry 
Boyd's 1802 rendering was the earliest published. 

'^ Foscolo translated parts of the Iliad and the Euthanasie of Jacob Heinrich Meister. 
'^ For Rose, see letter dated November 9, 1821 {Epistolario XXI: 343); for Wiffen, see 
letter dated December 1822 (Epistolario XXII: 147). See also the letter by Roger 
Wilbraham, who thanks Foscolo for helping him understand the Italian language and 
literature: "avete avuto sempre la bonta di sciogliere moltissimi miei dubbi e di 
correggere parecchi error! particolarmente riguardanti la lingua e la letteratura del vostro 
bel paese" (October 1818, Epistolario XX: 426). 



224 Cosetta Gaudenzi 

this article, Cyrus Redding mentions that he showed the Italian exile an English 
version of Dante's Inferno by Nathaniel Howard and asked his opinion (Redding 
I: iii). One of Foscolo's major accomplishments as supervisor of cultural 
translation was his contribution to Gary's version of the Divine Comedy. In this 
section, I will show how exiles can help make translations authoritative, and will 
focus on the February 1818 article of the Edinburgh Review, which ends with a 
positive evaluation of the Vision. 

Although the 1818 Edinburgh Review article was not signed, it was long 
believed to have been written entirely by Foscolo.'^ But in 1971, Beatrice 
Corrigan argued that the last section was probably actually penned by Samuel 
Rogers (211-25),^^ an irregular situation which symbolically represents the sort 
of "translation" which Foscolo himself had to undergo in England, and typifies 
him as a hybrid product of exile. We know that Foscolo repeatedly complained 
about this article because of inadequate translation and various omissions and 
additions. Some of these alterations to his text, as Corrigan has demonstrated 
(214, 216), were suggested by the then editor of the Edinburgh Review, Francis 
Jeffrey, whose aim was to make the average reader understand Foscolo's essay 
better by relating Italian literature to a well-known background (e.g., through 
comparisons with Shakespeare's work). Foscolo described his situation to 
Quirina Mocenni Magiotti on May 15, 1818: 

L'articolo mio intorno a Dante di cui ti scrissi mesi fa, and6 smarrito; mentr'io lo 
rifaceva, fu ritrovato; ma io intanto Taveva rifatto meglio — . Avvenne anche che 11 
traduttore o per infingardaggine, o per aitro non me ne mand6 a stampare se per un terzo 
— e pessimamente tradotto, — eppure quel terzo avverd e superd di molto Taspettativa 
de' dotti; — fu detto e scritto che quel frammento d'articolo non era cosa Italiana, o 
Francese ne Inglese; ma Europea. 

(Epistolario XX: 320-21) 

The word "eppure" points out Foscolo's bewilderment at the article's success 
and draws a line between the writer's initial negative attitude toward it and his 
final acceptance of it as a sort of cooperative European accomplishment.^' 



'^ Foscolo wrote his essay in Italian and then had it translated in part by Roger 
Wilbraham and mostly by his friends William Wallace and Sir James Mackintosh. The 
latter also edited and made some additions to it with Samuel Rogers (Corrigan 220, 
Toynbee I: 466). 

^^ Since what might be Rogers's criticism seems to agree with Foscolo's poetics, since 
there is no record of Foscolo's despising Gary's translation, and, most significantly, since 
the article was generally received as Foscolo's, I consider it a valid source for discussing 
Foscolo's contribution to making Gary's translation authoritative. In the following pages, 
I refer to the author of those parts of the 1818 Edinburgh Review article that Corrigan has 
suggested were Rogers's as simply "the critic" or "the scholar." 

^' Foscolo's acceptance is also evident from a letter addressed to Lord Holland, in which 
he seems to offer boundless freedom to the translator of his next article to be published in 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Ugo Foscolo in England 225 

Foscolo's approval probably also resulted from the fact that Jeffrey had 
apologized to him for the conftision and paid him well for his contribution/^ 

The first important point in the February Edinburgh Review article is the 
suggestion that those who want to know more about Dante ought to read his 
actual works rather than rely on past summaries and commentaries: 

Readers, especially foreign readers, believe, on the faith of the commentators, that they 
have seen the whole; like the readers of modem travels, who fancy that they know a 
country from the descriptions of those who have run through it with a road-book and a 
dictionary, and return home to publish their tour. 

{Studi su Dante 4) 

Foscolo likens the reading of commentaries on Dante to the reading of 
tourists' descriptions of Italy, neither of which can provide complete familiarity 
of the subject. Foscolo's position within his socio-political environment 
informed his hermeneutics: in comparing commentaries on Dante's work to 
travel narratives, the Italian writer reveals the critical perspective of an outsider. 
His personal experience as an exile, and his acute awareness of the limited 
appreciation among the British of Italy, Italian, and Italians (including himself), 
no doubt conditioned Foscolo's suggestion to "return" to the original, to Dante's 
text. The author will later reiterate this point in the September Edinburgh 
Review article: "Dante is, perhaps, the poet most spoken of, and least read by 
foreigners" (Studi su Dante 100). Here Foscolo politely criticizes his audience 
for what he considers their pretentious approach to Italian literature. 

Foscolo's exhortation to read Dante was furthered by the rediscovery of 
Gary's translation four years after its initial publication. Armed with Gary's 
reliable version of the Commedia, readers could actively challenge any rigid 
interpretation of the source text and form their own opinions. Gary's Vision is 
praised at the end of the February 1818 article of the Edinburgh Review: 

Of all the translators of Dante with whom we are acquainted, Mr. Gary is the most 
successful; and we cannot but consider his work as a great acquisition to the English 
reader. It is executed with a fidelity almost without example; and, though the measure he 

September: "Veuillez bien lui [Sir James Mackintosh] raccomander que la traduction de 
mon essai sur Dante doit etre faite ad plenum arbitrium du traducteur, qui doit meme 
corriger mes defauts [sic] d'expression; car malheureusement je suis oblige d'ecrire [sic] 
en Franfais; et ma conscience me reproche souvent d'employer des mots desquels je ne 
suis pas sur" (March 1818, Epistolario XX: 309). 

^^ To secure the second part of the article for the Edinburgh Review from the offended 
Foscolo, Lord Jeffrey sent him eighty-five pounds, and John Allen, Lord Holland's 
private physician and librarian who had acted as intermediary between Foscolo and 
Jeffrey, added more {Epistolario XX: 317-18; Corrigan 224). 



226 Cosetta Gaudenzi 

has adopted, conveys no idea of the original stanza, it is perhaps the best for his purpose, 
and what Dante himself would have chosen, if he had written in English and in a later 
day. 

{Studi su Dante 42) 

The scholar's approbation of Gary's rendering follows a precise and 
organized plan which confers status upon both the translator and the original 
text. First of all, the critic argues that Gary has been the most successful among 
those who have attempted to translate the Divine Comedy because of his 
"fidelity" to Dante. At the same time, by calling Gary's work "a great 
acquisition to the English reader," the scholar suggests the value of the source 
text and introduces Gary as a sort of prophet who has opened the door to 
something special. Secondly, the critic attempts to make Gary visible by 
highlighting his translation techniques, thereby removing him from the 
marginalized position held by most contemporary English translators. The 
scholar stresses that Gary has not only been faithful to the source text, but has 
also responsibly taken liberties with Dante's original in order to adapt it to a 
different time and language. This strategy undoubtedly pleased Foscolo, who 
opposed literal translations and had, earlier in his career, rewritten his rendering 
of Laurence Sterne's Sentimental Journey many times so that it could read as a 
contemporary piece of literature.^^ Later in the essay, the critic elaborates this 
point: 

Some years ago, Mr. Hayley published a translation of the three first Cantos of that 
Poem, in which he endeavored to give an idea of Dante's peculiar manner, by introducing 
his triple rhyme. It was written with a considerable degree of spirit and elegance; but we 
cannot much regret that he proceeded no further. The difficulties which he had to 
encounter were almost insurmountable; at least he has led us to think so, by his many 
deviations from the text [...]. Of such offences we cannot accuse Mr. Gary. Throughout 
he discovers the will and the power to do justice to his author. He has omitted nothing, he 
has added nothing; and though here and there his inversions are ungraceful, and his 



^•^ About translation in general, Foscolo stated: "Alia traduzione letterale e cadaverica 
non puo soggettarsi se non un grammatico, e [...] alia versione animata vuolsi un poeta 
[...]. La lingua della traduzione dovend'essere assolutamente diversa, la liberty di 
maneggiarla e d'accomodarla all'originale dev'essere plena e assoluta; ma il disegno de' 
pensieri, I'architettura del libro, la passione del poema e tutti i suoi caratteri sono fondati 
su la natura dell'ingegno e del cuore umano, e la natura potendo rappresentarsi sempre 
ugualmente in tutte le lingue malgrado le loro infinite modificazioni, la fedelt^ in queste 
pitture dev'essere serbata dal traduttore con cura e con religione" {Lezioni VII: 205). 
Foscolo believed in the catalyzing power translation might have for language and culture, 
as is clear from the introduction to his partial Italian rendering of the Iliad and in letters 
where he mentions his new translation of Homer. To Hudson Gumey he wrote, "The 
translation of the Iliad, I trust, will refresh the Italian Literature, and create, I dare say, a 
sterling and yet new Italian language" (August 12, 1826, Tobler 84). 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Ugo Foscolo in England 227 

phrases a little obsolete, he walks not unfrequently by the side of his master, and 
sometimes perhaps goes beyond him. 

{Studi su Dante 42-44) 

The scholar's approval of Gary reaches its apex when he goes so far as to 
suggest that the translator seems at times even to exceed Dante and become 
therefore an author himself While the idea of Dante being the "master" recalls 
Foscolo's characterization of translation as "servile," this passage definitely 
appears to have been written by somebody else, since Foscolo seems unlikely to 
have thought anyone could surpass Dante (Corrigan 217), and the Italian writer 
was no great authority on "obsolete" English phraseology or "ungraceful 
inversions."^'* By stressing Gary's poetic genius and originality, the critic 
introduces him as a Romantic translator, faithful and at the same time creative. 

With his Vision, Gary took the final step toward making Dante into an 
author worthy of being embraced by the English-speaking world. The 
assimilation of a writer's work into another culture, as Piotr Kuhiwczak has 
pointed out, is a long process with many transitional stages (80-94). In 
eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Great Britain, Dante was slowly 
constructed into an author by a series of different appropriations of his 
CommediaP This construction accompanied the development of new literary 
models and of the idea of the modem writer as a proprietor and original artist. 
Gary completed this process by having Dante speak English, and Foscolo's 
articles in the Edinburgh Review helped both Dante and Gary by revaluing the 
former and by contributing to the success of the latter' s translation of the Divine 
Comedy?^ 

Foscolo's commentaries were effective principally because they were 
printed in a magazine which, as Kmg puts it, was "one of the most powerful, for 
good and evil," in the second decade of the nineteenth century (117). The 
Edinburgh Review publicity of Gary's translation was soon echoed by others. In 
September 1818, the Scots Magazine started a series of papers on the 
Commedia, mainly long quotations from "Mr. Gary's faithful transcript" (King 



^^ The February article in the Edinburgh Review, which characterizes Gary's translation 

as a thorough piece of non-partisan scholarship, does contain some negative criticism: 

"Mr. Gary reminds us sometimes of Shakespeare, — oftener of Milton; but, in his anxiety 

to imitate them, he becomes more antiquated than either; and we hope, that, when he 

republishes his translation, which, we trust, he soon will, in a larger and more legible 

character, he will think proper to modernize the language a little, and give more 

simplicity and sweetness to many parts of it" {Studi su Dante 48). 

^^ For a more detailed study see my dissertation "Appropriations of Dante." 

^^ The British scholar Samuel Coleridge also contributed to the positive reception of 

Dante and of Gary's translation of the Divine Comedy in England (Cooksey 366-72). 



228 Cosetta Gaudenzi 

118). In June 1819, the Eclectic Review asserted that the Vision was "perhaps 
the best translation of any poet in the whole compass of English literature" 
(King 118). Furthermore, Gary's version was employed and appreciated by 
notable contemporary British writers. For instance, Keats brought Gary's Dante 
with him during his tour of the Lake District and Highlands of Scotland (1818), 
and Shelley used it as an aid for a first reading of the Commedia in Italian. As a 
result, the Vision became the authoritative translation of Dante's Divine Comedy 
into English, and within one year every previous copy of it was sold. "The work 
was at once eagerly sought after. About a thousand copies of the first edition, 
that remained on hand, were immediately disposed of; in less than three months 
a new edition was called for" (Gary II, 103). From 1818 fill the end of the 
century, the Commedia became a popular, standard work.^^ Gary supported the 
process by publishing his last edition of it (1844) in an inexpensive format 
(Toynbee I, 501-02). 

III. Return 

Migration left an indelible mark on Foscolo, as both a man and a writer. At the 
young age of fourteen he had left Zante, his native land, and thereafter his 
literary work fi-equently referred to the subject of exile, especially his early 
poetry and Le ultime lettere di Jacopo Ortis, a novel about the loss of his first 
political homeland, Venice. Foscolo was a typical Romantic exile: he was both a 
nomad eager to explore new territories, and also a nostalgic exile longing to 
return home.^^ The epigraph to this article reproduces the last tercet of Foscolo's 
"A Zacinto." In these verses, written when he was a young man, Foscolo 
predicts that poetry is the only means through which he would be able to return 
to Zante.^^ In England, Foscolo could never quite find the perfect occasion to 
return physically to his two homelands, Zante and Italy,^^ nor did he maintain 
hope for even the poetic return expressed in "A Zacinto." The poet who now 
needed translation at times from a second language, French, into a third 



^^ Between 1820 and 1860, Dante became more than fashionable: he became popular 
(Caesar 66). The popularity of Gary's Vision is proudly acknowledged by the translator 
himself in a letter dated November 1825, addressed to Thomas Price. "Henry [Gary's 
son] went yesterday to lay out part of his fee in a bookseller's shop in Piccadilly, and I 
must indulge a translator's vanity so far as to relate what there befell him. 'I have some 
old College books that I should like to exchange,' said Henry. 'They would be of no use 
to me,' said the man, 'but if you have any standard works 1 should like to take them.' 
'What do you mean by standard works' says H., when the man beginning 'Cary's Dante, 
Sir!' he burst into one of his laughs, at which the man was so confused that H. found 
necessary to explain the cause of his mirth" (King 121-22). 

^^ See John Durham Peters's discussion of Novalis's definition of Romantic exile (29). 
^^ Ciccarelli has pointed out that with "A Zacinto," Foscolo compensates for the loss of 
Venice to the Austrians with "the invention of the geo-mythical homeland" (35). 
^^ Both Zante and Italy are equally referred to in Foscolo's writings as his homeland. 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Vgo Foscolo in England 229 

language, English, became an exile also from his own poetic genius. Still, the 
concept of return played an important role in Foscolo's new life and became 
crucial for the construction of his status in England. 

To understand Foscolo's new path of return, it will be necessary to discuss 
the process which led the author to shift from writing literature to engaging in 
what I have defined as cultural translation and transference. The Italian scholar 
Paolo Valesio has suggested that poetry and translation are closely affiliated, 
that a poet should be seen as a translator of images into words and as a 
transgressor of the laws of language (287). Valesio has also pointed out that 
when a poet goes into exile, the transgression formerly accomplished at the level 
of language is now transformed into a literal crossing of a country's border.^ ^ 
The activity of "trans-poetry" (Valesio's term for the transgressive translation of 
images into poetry) is, in a foreign country, transformed into recovery of the 
"language of tradition." In England, Italy's cultural tradition became the only 
material Foscolo could effectively "translate," and it offered him the opportunity 
to remain a poet of sorts, a translator of images. Foscolo transformed himself 
into a new Ortis, a Didimo who accepted exile and became a describer of events, 
a critic and commentator who mediated Italian culture into British terms, a 
translator instead of a creator. This type of literary accomplishment would in 
Foscolo's new environment have the same ftinction that poetry had earlier 
ftilfiUed: it could provide a coherent identity, an enduring visibility, some 
financial stability, and even a new form of homecoming. 

Before his exile, Foscolo's identity was in crisis, as was the identity of Italy, 
which had not yet become a united country. Foscolo migrated because his 
homeland and his self were threatened by an alien invader. Once the writer left 
Italy, however, his identity was ftirther fragmented in its encounter with a 
foreign reality. Foscolo's first reaction was to attempt to reconstruct and 
reinforce a solid image of his self. Soon after departing from Italy in 1816, he 
asked the Countess of Albany to send the painted portrait of himself she was 
keeping.32 The painting, which was lost for two years at the customs in 
Rotterdam, finally reached Foscolo in 1818 and was then hung as a sort of 



^^ "II poeta espatriato, che ha compiuto una trasgressione tutt'altro che verbale, non ha 
piu bisogno di sfogare la sua trans-gressivita con un assalto (piu o meno edipico) a! corpo 
della lingua matema; e tende invece ad esprimere la sua attlviti di trans-poesia come 
recupero della lingua della tradizione nella sua integrity anche se si tratta di un'integriti 
plurivoca" (300-01). 

•'^ The painting was accomplished by Francesco Saverio Fabre. Foscolo mentions it in a 
letter dated September 6, 1818, addressed to the Countess of Albany: "Or pende in una 
sala del famoso librajo, e (secondo me) famoso Panurgo Murray servo-padrone, e 
mecenate idiotissimo degli Autori piii illustri che vivano; e il mio ritratto ha compagni 
quel di Lord Byron, et cinque o sei altri poeti alia moda" {Epistolario XX: 367). 



230 Cosetta Gaudenzi 

advertisement at the publisher Murray. Foscolo further attempted to reconstruct 
his persona through cultural transference, by presenting through himself a new 
translation of the Italian tradition, a new model of Dante: the medieval poet, also 
an exile, gave Foscolo the voice to speak, and Foscolo became a new Dante. 
(Foscolo ended the September Edinburgh Review article with a discussion of 
Dante's exile, thus leading his audience to the comparison Foscolo-Dante.)-^^ 
This identification was rendered easier by the atmosphere in England and 
Europe in general at that time. In the context of rediscovery of the Middle Ages 
and of concern for the political situation of contemporary Italy, British 
Romantics had drawn a connection between Dante and current Italian exiles.-''^ 
Thus Foscolo, who advocated Italy's freedom from foreign domination, was 
naturally seen as a sort of re- incarnation of Dante. ^^ 

Unlike Dante, Foscolo in exile did not accomplish a masterpiece of western 
literature comparable to the Commedia. His exilic circumstances and 
motivations were quite different from the medieval poet's. First of all, the loss 
of reliable objects and of a dependable language played a bigger role for 
Foscolo, since Dante did not move to a totally foreign place and his creative 
capacity was consequently not affected to such a degree. Secondly, Foscolo 
belonged to a considerably different age. Dante was able to rely on the 
assistance of his patrons, but Foscolo could earn a living in early nineteenth- 
century England only by working as a literary critic and translator of Italian 
culture. The exilic output of the two writers was similar, however, in so far as 
both employed their work as a means of effecting some kind of return to their 
homeland. While Dante's Divine Comedy lays down a pattern of exile and 
homecoming, where the poet hopes that literary success will allow him an actual 
return to contemporary Florence, Foscolo's exilic work provides the occasion 
for a more idealistic return of the author to his homeland's literary past. In 
England Foscolo not only abandoned poetry, the vehicle by which he had earlier 



-'-' "From what he [Foscolo] chooses to include and exclude [in his Edinburgh Review 
articles] it is evident that it is his identity with the Florentine that motivates his interest 
and shapes his perception" (Cooksey 380). 

■^^ "Such association between Dante and contemporary Italian exiles was first cultivated 
by Italian scholars. In Italy, it was mostly intellectuals who fostered the idea of political 
independence. For these literati, Dante became a model, a writer who had transformed the 
vernacular of his country into a literary language, and an exile who had fought for his 
own land. [...] Dante was employed by Italian intellectuals, especially exiles like 
Foscolo, as a means to build continuity with past literary tradition and, by relating their 
political situation to Dante's own, to elevate their own literary and moral standing" 
(Gaudenzi 180). 

^•' Foscolo also acquired a certain Byronic aura since Lord Byron influenced Dante's 
reception in England mainly by writing works inspired by the medieval poet, for instance 
r/je Prophecy of Dante ( 1 82 1 ), and by translating the Francesca episode ( 1 820) (Cooksey 
380). 



Exile, Translation, and Return: Ugo Foscolo in England 23 1 

hoped to effect a final conjunction with his native land, but he even lost serious 
interest in returning to his geographical homeland. After moving to Britain, 
Foscolo's hope for a united Italy had vanished and with it his hopes for the 
Italian audience for whom he had earlier written encouraging and prophetic 
works.^^ Returning to Italy came to mean confronting a dead country, an 
unpleasant reality the author preferred not to face.^^ In exile, Foscolo's concept 
of homecoming evolved from a nostalgia representable in spatial terms to one 
representable in temporal terms. The homecoming suggested in "A Zacinto," a 
poetic return to his lost home in space (the land of his birth), became a scholarly 
return to a lost home in time (the Italy of the literary tradition), his only 
remaining link with Italian culture. Instead of traversing geographical 
boundaries, Foscolo transcended cultural limits, and cultural translation acquired 
for him a value similar to that which poetry had earlier possessed. Through this 
literary homecoming, Foscolo could begin to recompose his fragmented identity 
with a comforting narrative of the self, and thereby attain what most counted for 
him in England: a literary status that was in some measure respectable and 
rewarding. 

University of Memphis 



^^ Chemotti sees Foscolo's decision to go into exile as evidence that he had lost hope for 
Italy's unity (149). Puppo has pointed out that Foscolo's exile caused a conflict and 
fracture between him and the Italian Romantic generation (148). 

^ -^ After the death of his mother (May 24, 1817), Foscolo began to consider moving back 
to Zante or Italy. But these plans never materialized. At first Foscolo delayed the voyage 
because of an injury. Thereafter, he postponed it because of financial concerns, and could 
never finally decide to leave. By this fime, Italy itself had died for Foscolo. In a letter to 
James Whishaw, Foscolo refers to Italy as "incadaverita e fetente" (November 15, 1817, 
Epistolario XX: 245). 



232 Cosetta Gaudenzi 



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Aida Audeh 



Images of Dante's Exile in 19th-century France 

While it is commonly and correctly asserted that Dante was a favorite subject of 
artists of the Romantic movement, it is however not accurate to claim that the 
interest in Dante began and ended there. Rather, investigation reveals that Dante 
was subject of art works, ranging from small "troubadour" paintings to large 
academic "machines," and sculpture, from kitsch to monumental, throughout the 
19th and early 20th centuries in France. In fact, somewhere in the 19th century a 
perceptual shift occurred that put Dante in that rare position of subject 
transcending all schools and genres, an honor in a sense fraditionally reserved 
for subjects of mythology, history, or religion. Investigation into the records of 
state-sponsored Salon exhibitions in Paris from 1800 to 1930 reveals that Dante 
as subject (either based on his literary works, his biography, or legend) appeared 
at least 294 times in the works of artists well-known and obscure, avant-garde 
and academic, republican and ultra-montane.' 

The earliest, most popular subjects, as would be expected, were those derived 
from the vividly described episodes of the Inferno, particularly those of Paolo 
and Francesca and Ugolino, but also including those of Farinata in the flames, 
the Suicides, Dante and the three beasts, Thais "dans la merde," etc. As the 
century continued, the subjects depicted by artists expanded to include episodes 
drawn from Purgatorio, Paradiso, and the Vita nuova, marked by the 
appearance at the annual salon exhibitions of several Mathildas, Pias and, of 
course, Beatrices. The popularity of Dante as subject for art in France reached 
well into the 20th century. Still inspiring creative arts into the 1920s and 1930s, 
representation of Dante's life and works expanded particularly m the medium of 
sculpture in the wake of Rodin's Gates of Hell, the monumental doors of bronze 
bas-relief illusfrating Dante's Divine Comedy commissioned by the French state 
in 1880 for a proposed (but never built) museum of the decorative arts. 

In the midst of this great interest in Dante in French arts and letters in the 
19th century, a sub-genre developed based on biographical legend surrounding 



' In my dissertation I investigate in depth the integral relationship between Rodin's Gates 
of Hell and Dante's Divine Comedy, with a chapter on Dante as subject of painting and 
sculpture in 1 9th-century France (Audeh, Rodin 's Gates of Hell and Dante 's Divine 
Comedy). See also my article "Rodin's Gates of Hell: Sculptural Illustration of Dante's 
Divine Comedy." I have found 294 works of art based on Dante's writings, biography, or 
legend in the salon livrets from 1800 to 1930. This number is not final, since not all 
volumes of the livrets were available for consultation at the time I did my research at the 
Bibliothdque Jacques Doucet in Paris. However, this number, surprisingly large in itself, 
indicates the great popularity of Dante as subject of salon works. 

Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002) 



236 Aida Audeh 

the period of Dante's exile. Investigation into this sub-genre reveals a complex 
interchange of historical fact, anecdote, fancy, and outright error, in sum 
producing imagery and importance for Dante's exile unique to France. 
Manifestation in French literature of interest in Dante's exile is so extensive as 
to necessitate full-length study, and its role in the formation of painting, 
sculpture and popular imagery of Dante is vital. References to Dante's exile 
appear in works of fiction and in biography, as well as in commentary 
accompanying French translations of the poet's works. What is significant and 
striking is French literature's reformulation and embellishment of history or 
biography concerning Dante's exile and its effect on interpretations in French 
art. 

Straightforward representation of Dante's exile focuses on anecdotes with 
roots in Boccaccio's Vita di Dante, the most popular in French art being the 
episode of Dante's encounter with the women in Verona summarized by the 
question, "Isn't that the man who went to Hell and back?" Less obvious and of 
greater variety are works of art based on the legend, also drawn from Boccaccio 
and subsequent biographers, that Dante traveled to Paris during his exile and 
debated philosophy at the University of Paris. In this regard, the lack of definite 
historical facts permitted extensive invention on the part of French artists and 
writers who wished to locate Dante within the walls of the medieval city. More 
fanciful yet are those works that create for the wandering Dante a space in a 
Utopian pantheon of poets and philosophers, ancient and modem, where Dante 
keeps company with the likes of Poussin, Racine, and Victor Hugo in a 
particularly French vision of an artist's Paradise. 

While the word "exile" implies exclusion, physically or mentally, from a 
space of inherent or natural belonging, what is significant about manifestations 
of Dante's exile in French art and literature of the 19th century is, in my view, 
the French construction of what I would like to call the "other side" of exile. For 
Boccaccio, Dante's exile from Florence, which is wont to "malvagi e perversi 
uomini a' luoghi eccelsi e a' sommi offici e guiderdoni elevare, e li buoni 
scacciare, deprimere e abbassare" {Vita di Dante 2f ("evil and perverse men [to 
being] raised to high places [...] and good men [to being] banished, depreciated, 
and debased" Life of Dante 10),^ was the mark of and reward for Dante's 
superiority. Boccaccio's presentation of Dante as a misunderstood and 
unappreciated genius is echoed in French commentary of the 19th century and 
provides then the foundation for the counter-assertion of Dante's acceptance 
elsewhere, among the properly enlightened: the French. Thus, French art and 
literature of the 19th century uses the opportunity presented by Dante's 



^ All quotations from Boccaccio's life of Dante are from Vita di Dante e difesa delta 

poesia, hereafter indicated as Vita di Dante. 

^ All translations of Boccaccio's Vita di Dante are from James Robinson Smith's "Life of 

Dante." 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19" -Century France 237 

historical situation of exile to appropriate him and to give him a new space of 
belonging within the ranks of France's greatest creators and thinkers. In this 
way, I would like to demonstrate, French art and literature of the 1 9th century 
reformulated biography and myth in order to assert with conviction that Dante's 
genius was recognized in Paris, even if it was not in his beloved Florence, and 
that he in fact found his authentic home there on the left bank of the Seine. 

Dante in Verona 

Boccaccio writes of the following incident, worth quoting in its entirety, which 
he claims occurred during Dante's stay in the city of Verona during his long 
exile from Florence: 

[...] 11 colore era bruno, e i capellii e la barba spessi, neri e crespi, e sempre nella faccia 
malinconico e pensoso. Per la qual cosa avvenne un giomo in Verona (essendo gii 
divulgata pertutto la fama delle sue opere, e massimamente quella parte della sua 
Comedia, la quale egli intitola Inferno, ed esso conosciuto da molti e uomini e donne) 
che, passando egli davanti a una porta dove piii donne sedevano, una di quelle 
pianamente, non per6 tanto che bene da lui e da chl con lui era non fossse udita, disse 
all'altre donne: — Vedete colui che va neU'infemo, e toma quando gli place, e qua su 
reca novelle dl coloro che \k giu sono? — Alia quale una dell'altre rispose 
semplicemente: — In verity tu d6i dir vero: non vedi tu com'egli ha la barba crespa e il 
color bruno per lo caldo e per lo fummo che t \h. giu? — Le quail parole udendo egli dir 
dietro a st, e conoscendo che da pura credenza delle donne venivano, piacendogli, e quasi 
contento ch'esse in cotale opinione fossero, sorridendo alquanto, pass6 avanti. 

(Boccaccio, Vita di Dante 30) 

(His complexion was dark, his hair and beard thick, black, and curled, and his expression 
every melancholy and thoughtful. And thus it chanced one day in Verona, when the fame 
of his works had spread everywhere, particularly that part of his Commedia entitled the 
Inferno, and when he was known by sight to many, both men and women, that, as he was 
passing before a doorway where sat a group of women, one of them softly said to the 
others, — but not so softly but that she was distinctly heard by Dante and such as 
accompanied him — "Do you see the man who goes down into hell and returns when he 
pleases, and brings back tidings of them that are below?" To which one of the others 
naively answered, "You must indeed say true. Do you not see how his beard is crisped, 
and his color darkened, by the heat and smoke down there?" Hearing these words spoken 
behind him, and knowing that they came fi-om the innocent belief of the women, he was 
pleased, and smiling a little as if content that they should hold such an opinion, he passed 
on.) 

(Boccaccio, Life of Dante 42-43) 

In this extremely significant passage Boccaccio engraves for posterity the image 
of the character and persona of Dante as a melancholic philosopher/poet. The 
image of Dante's character created by Boccaccio in this passage is linked 
explicitly with the physical description of the poet as darkly brooding and 



238 Aida Audeh 

pensive, establishing posthumously for Dante an aura of charisma and mystery 
that continues to surround his name and works to this day. It is this created aura, 
Boccaccio suggests in this passage, which affects the credulous women and 
causes them to believe in the veracity of Dante's experiences in Hell and 
beyond. Dante is therefore understandably "pleased" by the reaction of the 
women. Dante's pleasure is the result of his awareness of the existence and 
power of his artistic persona and the establishment of the belief that he has been 
able to transcend the laws of materiality and mortality, thereby linking him with 
Orpheus, Aeneas, and of course Christ. Thus, Dante passes on, smiling "as if 
content," taking no offense at the gossipy comments of the women, according to 
Boccaccio's biographical mythology of the poet's life and character. 

The incident of Dante and the women of Verona, so integral to the image of 
Dante's physical and psychological character as established by Boccaccio, was 
of great interest to artists in France in the 1 9th century, inspiring at least seven 
paintings between the years 1839 and 1880.'' The first of the seven, a work by 
artist Jules Boilly (b. 1796, d. 1874) titled Le Dante a Verone exhibited at the 
Paris Salon of 1839, referenced directly in the accompanying "livret" (exhibition 
catalogue) Boccaccio's text in French: 

#198 - Le Dante a Verone. "Pendant le sdjour du Dante a Vdrone, cette croyance 
singuli^re s'y etait Stabile, qu'il avait rdeilement fait en personne le voyage de I'Enfer, 
dont 11 donne la description dans la Ire partie de son po6me; tout, chez i'illustre exil6, 
tendait h. confirmer cette opinion dans I'esprit des gens cr6dules." (Boccace, Vie du 
Dantef 

(#198 - Dante in Verona. "During Dante's stay in Verona the strange belief established 
itself that he had truly made in person the journey from Hell which he had described in 
the first part of his poem; everything about the illustrious exile tended to confirm this 
opinion in the minds of credulous people." (Boccaccio. Life of Dante) 

The quotation given by Boilly for the livret emphasizes the dominant intent of 
Boccaccio's tale; that is, to establish the myth sustaining the authenticity of 
Dante's experience in Hell. Boilly is not bothered to provide the exact 
conversation of the women as recounted by Boccaccio, being concerned rather 



^ Paintings inspired by the incident of Dante and the women of Verona are the following, 
listed chronologically: Jules Boilly, Le Dante a Verone, Salon of 1839; F61ix-Joseph 
Barrias, Dante Alighieri, Salon of 1853; Edouard Jean Hamman, le Dante a Ravenne, 
Salon of 1859; Jean-L6on Gdrome, Dante at Ravenna, ca. 1870; Pierre-Charles Comte, 
Le Dante, Salon of 1878; Antonio Cotti, Le Dante a Verone, Salon of 1879; Paul-Emile 
Sautai, Dante exile. Salon of 1880. 

' Explication des ouvrages exposes au Musee Royal le ler mars 1839 (Paris: Vinchon, 
1839): 25. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19'^-Century France 239 

with the mythology surrounding Dante's persona as artist.^ 

While Boilly remained true to Boccaccio's meaning, his 1839 painting was 
for several years an isolated expression of Dante's important encounter in 
Verona. It would be fourteen years in fact before the next work based on this 
legend would appear in a Paris exhibition: F61ix-Joseph Barrias's (b. 1822, d. 
1907) painting Dante Alighieri shown at the Salon of 1853.' Barrias's work, 
which coincided with the first years of Louis-Napoleon's Second Empire and 
the exile of Victor Hugo for his harsh criticism of the French Emperor, marked 
an unusual and telling divergence from the original story of Dante and the 
women of Verona. The painting itself has been lost, but the description in the 
salon livret of 1853 reveals the artist's representation of an alternate version of 
Boccaccio's Verona legend: 

#51 - Dante Alighieri. "Les petits enfants, qui, le jour, dans Ravenne,/ Le voyaient 
traverser quelque place lointaine,/ Disaient, en contemplant son front Hvide et vert:/ 
Voil^ voila, celui qui revient de I'Enfer." (Auguste Barbier)* 

(#51 - Dante Alighieri. "The little children who, one day, in Ravenna,/ Saw him crossing 
someplace nearby,/ Said, considering his face livid and green:/ There, there, he who has 
come back from Hell." (Auguste Barbier) 

The setting of the incident in Ravenna rather than Verona is not typographical 
error or mistake, but the resuU of Barrias's use of Auguste Barbier's (b. 1805, d. 
1882) poem of 1832, titled "Dante," as his source rather than Boccaccio.' 



^ In addition to Boilly's work, six others, with Dante as subject, appeared at the Salon of 

1839: Emile Lessore's Le comte Vgolin (painting); Augustin Long's Ugolin, comte de la 

Gherardesca (painting); Paul Mercuri's La Pia, personnification de I'Esperance 

(painting); Francesco Podesti's Le Giotto composant sous I 'inspiration du Dante 

(painting); Augustin Regis's Le Dante dans une villa de Guido Novella (painting); and 

Louis Rochet's Le comte Ugolin et ses enfants enfermes dans la tour Gualandi, a Pise 

(sculpture in plaster). 

^ Also shown at the Salon of 1853 were medallions in bronze of Dante and Virgil by the 

sculptor Auguste Pr6ault. Barrias exhibited another painting featuring Dante, Les Pelerins 

se rendant a Rome pour lejubile de I 'an 1300 (likely referring to Vita nuova 40), at the 

Exposition Universeile of 1855 in Paris. 

* Explication des ouvrages exposes aux menus-plaisirs le 15 mai 1853 (Paris:Vinchon, 

1853): 44. 

' Here is the full text of the poem by Auguste Barbier, titled "Dante" (51-53): 

DANTE, vieux Gibelin! quand je vois en passant 

Le platre blanc et mat de ce masque puissant 

Que I'art nous a laiss6 de ta divine tete, 

Je ne puis m'empecher de frdmir, 6 po6te! 

Tant la main du g6nie et celle de malheur 

Ont imprim^ sur toi le sceau de la douleur. 

Sous I'dtroit chaperon qui presse tes oreilles. 



240 Aida Audeh 

Barbier's poem, written and published during the aftermath of the 1830 July 
Revolution, takes artistic license with Boccaccio's legend and creates an image 
of Dante resonant with the aspirations of Romantic political fervor associated 
with the memory of the 1789 popular uprisings. The ascendance of Louis 
Napoleon to power was marked as well by repeated reference to the great deeds 
of Bonaparte, but the imperial coup of 1852 signaled again the death of 
Republican aspirations. Barbier's 1832 poem then takes on added significance 
twnty-one years later as the source for Barrias's painting. 

In its Romantic transformation of legend and longing for the perceived 



Est-ce le pli des ans ou le sillon des veilles 

Qui traverse ton front si laborieusement? 

Est-ce au champ de I'exil, dans I'avilissement, 

Que ta bouche s'est clos6 k force de maudire? 

Ta demidre pensde est-elle en ce sourire 

Que la mort sur ta 16vre a cloud de ses mains? 

Est-ce un ris de piti6 sur les pauvres humains? 

Ah! le mdpris va bien k la bouche de Dante, 

Car il refut le jour dans une ville ardente, 

Et le pave natal fiit un champ de graviers 

Qui ddchira longtemps la plante de ses pieds. 

Dante vit, comme nous, les passions humaines 

Rouler autour de lui leurs fortunes soudaines; 

I! vit les citoyens s'dgorger en plein jour, 

Les partis ecrases renaitre tour k tour; 

II vit sur les buchers s'allumer les victimes; 

II vit pendant trente ans passer des flots de crimes, 

Et le mot de patrie k tous les vents jetd. 

Sans profit pour le peuple et pour la liberty. 

O Dante Alighieri, potte de Florence, 

Je comprends aujourd'hui ta mortelle souffrance; 

Amant de Beatrice, k I'exil condamnd, 

Je comprends ton oeil cave et ton front ddchamd, 

Le d6gout qui te prit des choses de ce monde, 

Ce mal de coeur sans fin, cette haine profonde 

Qui, te faisant atroce en te fouettant I'humeur, 

Inonderent de bile et ta plume et ton coeur. 

Aussi, d'aprds les moeurs de ta ville natale. 

Artiste, tu peignis une toile fatale, 

Et tu fis le tableau de sa perversit6 

Avec tant d'dnergie et tant de \6ni6. 

Que les petits enfants qui le jour, dans Ravenne, 

Te voyaient traverser quelque place lointaine, 

Disaient en contemplant ton front livide et vert: 

'Voila, voil^ celui qui revient de I'enfer!' 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 1 9^^ -Century France 24 1 

glories of 1789, Barbier's poem is typical of its period. In painting, the 
Romantic association of the two revolutions is best represented by Eugene 
Delacroix's well-known and heroic Liberty Leading the People of 1830: a work 
considered so potentially inflammatory of popular sentiment towards further 
violence that Louis Philippe had it removed from view after its state purchase. In 
Romantic poetry the incitement towards repetition of the events of 1789 found 
expression in the creation of parallels between dreams of liberty and 
melancholic realization of the death of these dreams represented by the exiled 
Napoleon. Dante was appropriated within these Romantic mythologies as well at 
this time, for he was represented in poetry and painting primarily as a political 
exile, persecuted and melancholic, darkly driven by his unfiilfilled dreams of 
liberty and nationalism. 

As such, Dante in Barrias's painting, as reflected by a caricature of the work 
published the year of its exhibition (Figure 1), is no longer the self-satisfied poet 
of Boccaccio's Verona legend, but an embittered and failed revolutionary in the 
Romantic vein, mocked and tormented by village children. 

Barbier's poem was also given as the source of Edouard Hamman's (b. 1817, 
d. 1888) painting, Dante a Ravenne, exhibited at the salon of 1859 and described 
in the livret with only the line "Voil^, voil^ celui qui revient de I'Enfer."'" The 
brevity of the livret entry reveals that the legend of Dante's encounter with the 
women of Verona/Ravenna was so well-known as to require no fiirther 
explanation than Barbier's famous line. 

An 1880 painting titled simply Dante exile, shown at the salon of that year by 
Paul Emile Sautai (b. 1842, d. 1901), presented, according to one reviewer, 
Dante as the "poete d61aiss6, abandonn^, proscrit, presque inconnu chez ses 
propres compatriotes" ("the poet left behind, abandoned, exiled, nearly unknown 
by his own compatriots"), indicating that it was Barbier's version of events and 
not Boccaccio's that guided the artist." A surviving caricature of Sautai's 
painting makes the association with Barbier more explicit (Figure 2). Under the 
image of the seated and mocked Dante is the caption, "lis cherchent h lui faire 
faire la risette, mais ils n'y parviendront jamais" ("They are trying to make him 



'° Explication des ouvrages exposes au Palais des Champs Elysees le 15 avril 1859, 
(Paris, 1859): 170. Six other works with Dante as subject or source were exhibited at the 
Salon of 1859: Antonio Bottinelli's La Francesco da Rimini (sculpted bust in marble); 
Alfred Cheron's Dante (statue in plaster); Camille Corot's Dante et Virgile; paysage 
(painting); Auguste Feyen-Perrin's Les Damnes (painting); Joseph Gaye's Frangoise de 
Rimini (miniature painting); and Dominique-Antoine Magaud's Dante, conduit par 
Virgile, arrive au sommet du Purgatoire et apergoit le Paradis (painting). 
" Dumas, Le Salon: Journal de I'Eposition Annuelle des Beaux-Arts (Paris, 1880): 1 10. 
Also exhibited at the Salon of 1880 were Jean-Paul Aub6's Dante Alighieri (sculpture in 
bronze); Edouard Blanchard's Frangoise de Rimini (painting); and Gustave Courtois's 
Dante et Virgile aux enfers; cercle des traitres a lapatrie (painting). 



242 Aida Audeh 

give a little smile, but they will never succeed"). This strange quote refers 
obliquely to Barbier's short poem of 1833, "Michel-Ange," which includes the 
following lines: 



Que ton visage est triste et ton front amaigri. 
Sublime Michel-Ange, 6 vieux tailleur de pierre! 
Nulle larme jamais n'a mouill6 ta paupi^re: 
Comme Dante, on dirait que tu n'as jamais ri.'^ 

(Barbier, "Michel-Ange" 1-4) 
(Your face is sad and your brow thinned, 
Sublime Michel-Ange, o old carver of stone! 
No tear has ever moistened your eyelid: 
Like Dante, one would say that you have never laughed.) 

The political overtones of Barrias's 1853 work based on Barbier's "Dante" seem 
to have dissipated, as if overtaken, by the year 1880, by the interest in the 
venerable Romantic topos of the inherent relation of genius, artistic creativity, 
and melancholy often applied in 19th-century French arts and letters to Dante 
and Michelangelo in tandem. Boccaccio's original intent, the creation of a well- 
known and confident Dante, amused by the naive belief of the women of 
Verona, has been left quite far behind here in the wake of French Romanticism. 
Dante in Paris 

If the 1830s marked the appearance of the first salon paintings depicting Dante 
as exile, they were also the occasion of the emergence, in French culture, of the 
poet as a sort of naturalized citizen of Paris. Based once again on Boccaccio's 
Vita di Dante, artists and writers took broad license with the biographical legend 
of Dante's visit to Paris and disputation of theology at the Sorbonne. Boccaccio 
writes: 



'^ Here is the full text of Barbier's "Michel-Ange" (lambes et Poemes 127-28): 

Que ton visage est triste et ton front amaigri. 

Sublime Michel-Ange, 6 vieux tailleur de pierre! 

Nulle larme jamais n'a mouilld ta paupi6re; 

Comme Dante, on dirah que tu n'as jamais ri. 

Hdlas! d'un lait trop fort la Muse t'a nourri, 

L'art hit ton seul amour et prit ta vie enti6re; 

Soixante ans tu courus une triple carridre 

Sans reposer ton coeur sur un coeur attendri. 

Pauvre Buonarotti! ton seul bonheur au monde 

Put d'imprimer au marbre une grandeur profonde, 

Et, puissant comme Dieu, d'effrayer comme Lui: 

Aussi, quand tu parvins i ta saison demi6re, 

Vieux lion fatigu6, sous ta blanche crini6re, 

Tu mourus loneuement olein dejaJoire.et d'ennui. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19''^ -Century France 243 



Fu ancora questo poeta di maravigliosa capacity e di memoria fermissima e di perspicace 
intelletto, intanto che, essendo egli a Parigi, e quivi sostenendo in una disputazione de 
quolibet che nelle scuole della teologia si facea, quattordici quistioni da diversi valenti 
uomini e di diverse materie, con gli loro argomenti pro e contra fatti dagli opponent!, 
senza mettere in mezzo raccolse, e ordinatamente, come poste erano state, recitb; quelle 
poi, seguendo quello medesimo ordine, sottilmente solvendo e rispondendo agli 
argomenti contrari. La qual cosa quasi miracolo da tutti i circustanti fti reputata. 

(Boccaccio, Vita di Dante 32) 
(Moreover this poet possessed marvelous capacity, a most retentive memory, and a keen 
intellect. Indeed, when he was at Paris, in a disputation de quolibet held there in the 
schools of theology, wherein fourteen different theses were being maintained by various 
able men on diverse subjects, Dante without a break gathered all the theses together in 
their sequence, with the arguments pro and con that were advanced by his opponents, and 
then, following the same order, recited them, subtly solved them, and refuted the counter- 
arguments — a feat that was reputed all but a miracle by them that stood by.) 

(Boccaccio, Life of Dante 45) 

Boccaccio's account of Dante's life is no more specific as to the poet's presence 
in France, simply implying participation in a debate at the Sorbonne. From this 
legend, as well as from the appearance in Paradiso X of Siger de Brabant (a 
professor in Paris in Aquinas's time who expounded the philosophy of Averroes 
and was charged with heresy), derived works of art and literature in 19th- 
century France that attempted to locate Dante very specifically in relation to 
particular monuments of medieval Paris.'' 

One of the earliest manifestations of this appropriation of Dante by way of 
expansion of the legend recounted by Boccaccio and implied by the presence of 
Siger de Brabant in Paradiso, is Honor6 de Balzac's (b. 1799, d. 1850) "Les 
Proscrits" ("The Exiles"), written in 1 83 1 and ultimately incorporated within the 
volumes of the Comedie humaine. Appearing as a nameless and mysterious old 
man in the shadow of Notre Dame around 1308, Balzac's Dante remains 
unidentified for the reader until the story's final lines, in spite of the narrative's 
broad hints drawn from Boccaccio's well-known physical description of the 
poet: 

Quoique ses yeux fussent assez profonddment enfoncds sous les grands arceaux dessinds 
par ses sourcils, ils 6taient comme ceux d'un milan enchass6s dans des paupidres si larges 
et hordes d'un cercle noir si vivement marqud sur le haut de sa joue, que leurs globes 
semblaient etre en saillie. [...] Le nez tombait droit et se prolongeait de telle sorte que les 
narines semblaient le retenir. [...] Quoique fut de taille moyenne, il paraissait grand [...]. 

(Balzac, Les Proscriits 10: 329-30) 



'^ Dante writes in Paradiso 10: 133-38: "Questi onde a me ritoma il tuo riguardo,/ 1 '1 
lume d'uno spirto che 'n pensieri / gravi a morir li parve venir tardo:/ essa 6 la luce 
ettema di Sigieri,/ che, leggendo nel vico delli strami,/ sillogizz6 invidiosi veri." 



244 Aida Audeh 

(Though his eyes were somewhat deeply shaded by the wide sockets fringed with long 
eyebrows, they were set, like a kite's eyes, in eyelids so broad, and bordered by so dark a 
circle sharply defined on his cheek, that they seemed rather to be prominent. [...] The 
nose, which was narrow and aquiline, was so long that it seemed to hang on by the 
nostrils. [...] Though of no more than middle height, he appeared tall [...].) 

(Balzac, The Exiles 25: 324-26) 

More obviously signaling Dante's identity, Balzac has the character of the 
innkeeper observe that the stranger's dark skin "a €t^ cuite et hal^e par le feu de 
I'enfer" ("Proscrits," La Comedie Humaine 10: 326) ("has been scorched and tanned 
by heil-fires" "Exiles" The Human Comedy 25: 321). 

Balzac's Dante mourns his exile and befriends a fellow-lodger who 
attempts suicide because of his estrangement from a mother who cannot 
acknowledge him. Midway through the story, Dante and the suicidal lodger 
attend one of Siger's lectures, an historical impossibility, since Siger was dead 
well before 1300. Balzac's Siger invites Dante to occupy a position alongside 
him on the makeshift dais because he recognizes the Florentine to be "le h6ros 
d'une admirable th^se r^cemment soutenue a la Sorbonne" ("Les Proscrits" 10: 
336) ("the orator of a fine thesis admirably argued not long since at the 
Sorbonne" "Exiles" 25: 333). Siger later entreats Dante, whose identity is as yet 
unknown to the reader, to mention him in his writing, saying "[...] ce sera me 
donne I'immortalit^ humaine" ("Proscrits" 10: 341; "It would give me 
immortality, humanly speaking" "Exiles" 25: 340): a play on Dante's dialogue 
with Brunetto Latini (especially Inf. 15: 85). In the end of Balzac's fancifiil 
account, Dante's identity is revealed by a soldier, who informs the poet that his 
exile from Florence has been lifted, whereupon Dante departs Paris swearing 
vengeance on his enemies: 

"A Florence! a Florence! O ma Florence!" cria vivement Dante Alighieri qui se dressa 
sur ses pieds, regarda dans les airs, crut voir I'ltalie, et devint gigantesque. [...] Pour la 
premiere, pour la seule fois peut-etre, la sombre et terrible figure de Dante respira une 
joie; ses yeux et son front exprimaient les peintures de bonheur qu'il a si magnifiquement 
prodigu^es dans son Paradis. II lui semblait peut-etre entendre la voix de Bdatrix. [...] 
"Partons!" s'6cria-t-il d'une voix tonnante. "Mort aux Guelfes!" 

(Balzac, Les Proscrits 10: 352) 
("To Florence! To Florence! Ah, my Florence!" cried Dante Alighieri, drawing himself 
up, and gazing into the distance. In fancy he saw Italy; he was gigantic. [...] For the first 
time, perhaps for the only time in his life, Dante's gloomy and solemn features wore a 
look of joy; his eyes and brow expressed the happiness he has depicted so lavishly in his 
vision of Paradise. He thought perhaps that he heard the voice of Beatrice. [...] "Come 
away!" he cried in a voice of thunder. "Death to the Guelphs!") 

(Balzac, The Exiles 25: 353-54) 

For Balzac, Dante as character in "Les Proscrits" ftinctions less as protagonist 
than as an anchor for his descriptions of medieval Paris and its monuments. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19'^^ -Century France 245 

Dante's supposed wanderings on the left bank allow Balzac to describe in 
seemingly historically accurate detail the city and its structures around 1308: 

Les vitraux de ces deux chambres donnaient sur la riviere. Par I'une, vous n'eussiez pu 
voir que les rives de la Seine et les trois lies ddsertes dont les deux premieres ont t\t 
rdunies plus tard et forment I'TIe Saint-Louis aujourd'hui, la troisifeme 6tait I'lle Louviers. 
Par I'autre, vous auriez aper9u k travers une ^chappde du port Saint-Landry, le quartier de 
la grdve, le pont Notre-Dame avec ses maisons, les hautes tours du Louvre recemment 
baties par Philippe-Auguste, et qui dominaient ce Paris chdtif et pauvre, lequel suggdre i 
I'imagination des pontes modemes tant de fausses merveilles. [...] Le Terrain, la Seine, 
le Port, la maison dtaient encadr^s k I'ouest par I'immense basilique de Notre-Dame, qui 
projetait au gr6 du soleil son ombre froide sur cette terre. Alors comme aujourd'hui, Paris 
n'avait pas de lieu plus solitaire, de paysage plus solennel ni plus m^lancolique. 

(Balzac, Les Proscrits 10: 323-24) 
(The windows of those two rooms [where Dante and the lodger lived] looked out on the 
river. From one you could only see the shores of the Seine, and the three barren islands, 
of which two were subsequently joined together to form the He Saint-Louis; the third was 
the He de Louviers. From the other could be seen, down a vista of the Port-Saint-Landry, 
the buildings on the Grdve, the Bridge of Notre-Dame, with its houses, and the tall towers 
of the Louvre, but lately built by Philippe-Auguste to overlook the then poor and squalid 
town of Paris, which suggests so many imaginary marvels to the fancy of modem 
romancers. [...] The Eyot, the Seine, the landing-place, the house, were all overshadowed 
on the west by the huge basilica of Notre-Dame casting its cold gloom over the whole 
plot as the sun moved. Then, as now, there was not in all Paris a more deserted spot, a 
more solemn or more melancholy prospect.) 

(Balzac, The Exiles 25: 316-17) 

Dante as character is simply inserted into the historic context of the city. Also, 
Dante's visit to the rue du Fouarre to hear Siger's lecture provides Balzac the 
opportunity to recapitulate, very loosely, what he took to be Siger's theology. As 
Michael Pitwood has demonstrated in his study of Dante and the French 
Romantics, Balzac's knowledge of Siger was scant at best, and his account of 
Siger's views owes more to Swedenborg than to Siger (Pitwood 255-56). 

We might well wonder what Balzac's purpose was in choosing to build his 
story around Dante. Boccaccio's discussion of Dante's quest for knowledge in 
all the great centers of learning in medieval Europe perhaps provides one reason: 

Egli li primi inizi, si come di sopra t dichiarato, prese nella propia patria, e di quella, si 
come a luogo piu fertile di tal cibo, n'andd a Bologna; e gi^ vicino alia sua vecchiezza 
n'ando a Parigi, dove, con tanta gloria di si, disputando, piii volte mostrd I'altezza del 
suo ingegno, che ancora, narrandosi, se ne maravigliano gli uditori. E di tanti e si fatti 
studi non ingiustamente meritd altissimi titoli: perciochd alcuni il chiamarono sempre 
"poeta", altri "filosofo" e molti "teologo", mentre visse. 

(Boccaccio, Vita di Dante 9) 
(The first rudiments of knowledge [...] he received in his native city. Thence he went to 
Bologna, as to a place richer in such food. And, when verging on old age, he went to 



246 Aida Audeh 

Paris, where in many disputations he displayed the loftiness of his genius with so great 
glory to himself that his auditors still marvel when they speak thereof For studies so 
many and so excellent he deservedly won the highest titles, and while he lived some ever 
called him poet, other philosopher, and many theologian.) 

(Boccaccio, Life of Dante 17) 

Paris's importance in medieval Europe rested upon the creation of the College 
de Quatre Nations, the early Sorbonne, which then ranked the city among those 
other centers of erudition: Bologna, Oxford, Valencia, etc. Boccaccio seeks to 
establish Dante's superior intellectual capabilities by locating him at the known 
world's earliest universities and implies that the capstone of Dante's education 
was indeed his visit to Paris, where his genius is finally proved and celebrated. 
Balzac, in a sort of inversion of Boccaccio's intent, attempts to establish the 
importance of Paris as a center of culture by locating Dante, the archetypal 
medieval figure in the mind of French Romantics, at the heart of the medieval 
city. 

Balzac, like many other writers of the romantic period in France, embraced a 
somewhat fantastical image of the Middle Ages and sought fi-equently in works 
of poetry and prose to reconstruct what they imagined to be medieval France, 
Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris being probably the best example of this 
trend. Balzac's short story seems to fit nicely within this larger development, 
although it marks the particular use of Dante as a Romantic figure in terms 
similar to Barbier's poem. In short, there were no authors writing in French 
during the Middle Ages of equivalent stature for Balzac to use in this way. Thus, 
if one wants to write about Paris in the Middle Ages, the only figure of universal 
renown available for use in association with the university and the churches of 
the left bank is Dante. 

Biographies of Dante appearing in 19th-century France elaborate quite freely 
on Boccaccio's brief statements as to the poet's stay in Paris, becoming integral 
to the French concept of Dante as exile. In fact, it does not appear that 
Boccaccio's Vita di Dante was available in French translation until the early 
20th century, making it likely that knowledge of legends in the Vita were spread 
by other means.''* Few artists and writers in 19th-century France were 
sufficiently familiar with Italian to have read Boccaccio's biography of Dante in 
the original, making it likely that legends concerning Dante's life were 
transmitted and repeated in French biographies of the poet with elaborations 
based on misinterpretations of Boccaccio's Italian, on other sources, or perhaps 



''' For example, Balbo's Dante was translated into French by the Comtesse de Lalaing 
and published in 1844-1846 (Brussels: Hayez). The two-volume text includes a lengthy 
chapter claiming the authenticity of the legend of Dante's visit to Paris. The first full- 
length translation into French of Boccaccio's Vita di Dante appears to have been Vie de 
Dante par Jean Boccace (Paris: Tallandier, 1929), with translation by Gauthiez. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19^^ -Century France 247 

on outright invention to suit French sensibilities of the period. 

In addition to fictional accounts such as Balzac's, Dante is located in Paris 
mostly by means of sculpture, but also through monumental paintings, the 
popular press, and even through street names. One finds in Paris's 5th 
arrondissment the rue Dante, created in the 19th century, which connects the 
rue du Fouarre (the reputed location of Siger's lectures on the "street of straw") 
to the boulevard St. Germain, in the heart of the Latin Quarter. According even 
to current histories of the streets of Paris, the rue Dante was so-named after "le 
grand po^te italien [...], ancien habitant du quartier" (Coussillan 1: 410). Thus, 
Dante's alleged presence in Paris and his fictional relationship with Siger de 
Brabant were, in the 1 9th century, not only endorsed but re-created, in this case 
by municipal action. 

Further, in 1880 the city of Paris commissioned a bronze statue of Dante 
(Figure 3) by the artist Jean-Paul Aub6 (b. 1837, d. 1916), which stands in the 
Place Marcellin-Berthelot directly before the College de France, just south of the 
rue Dante. '^ The journal L 'Art signaled the event this way: 

On vient d'eriger dans le petit square du College de France, rue des Ecoles, une statue 
reprdsentant le grand po^te italien Dante Alighieri, oeuvre remarquable de M. Jean-Paul 
Aub6, achetde par la Ville de Paris au Salon de 1880. La statue est en bronze et nous 
montre I'auteur de la Divine Comddie dans la houppelande traditionnelie oil on se le 
represente gdneralement; des bribes de laurier Emergent de sa coiffure. Une statue de 
Dante a d'ailleurs sa raison d'etre dans le quartier de la rue des Ecoles, car c'est 
exactement sur ce point de la rive gauche de la Seine que le grand exile d'ltalie se fixa 
pendant un certain temps, en I'an 1302, lors de la lutte memorable des Guelfes et des 
Gibelins 

{L'Art, 1881,25: 142). 
(We have just seen erected on the little square of the College de France, rue des Ecoles, a 
statue representing the great Italian poet Dante Alighieri, the remarkable work by M. 
Jean-Paul Aube, purchased by the City of Paris at the Salon of 1 880. The statue is in 
bronze and presents the author of the Divine Comedy in his traditional costume; bits of 
his laurel wreath emerging from his headdress. A statue of Dante has reason to be in the 
quartier of the rue des Ecoles, because it is exactly at this point of the left bank of the 
Seine River that Italy's great exile stayed for some time, in the year 1302, at the time of 
the memorable battle between the Guelfs and the Ghibelins.) 

This telling quote reveals the importance of the a-historical nature of the 
biographical mythology constructed around the image of the exiled Dante in 
19th-century France. Aub^ had exhibited a plaster version of his statue of Dante 
at the Salon of 1 879, whereupon the city government commissioned the bronze 
for placement before the College de France (the bronze version was exhibited at 
the Salon of 1880), despite the fact that this institution had no relation to Dante 



" See my article on Rodin's Gates of Hell. 



248 Aida Audeh 

in history or legend as it had not been founded until the 16th century. The 
College de France, however, wished to create such a connection with Dante's 
legend and, in competition with the Sorbonne's longstanding series of classes on 
the poet that had begun as early as the 1820s, offered in the 1870s and 1880s 
several courses on the poet's works. Thus the city's placement of the statue there 
before the College de France in 1880 posits Dante in relation to this institution 
of the 16th century, expanding in this way the original legend of Dante's stay in 
Paris and debate at the nascent Sorbonne. 

The rue Dante and Aub6's statue at the College de France are not the only 
manifestations of the French wish to place Dante literally and figuratively in the 
heart of medieval Paris. Examination of the popular press reveals that as 
recently as the 1920s Dante's supposed residence in Paris was still given as the 
basis for celebrations. The year 1921 specifically, the sixth centenary of Dante's 
death, was the occasion of memorial celebrations and events not only in Italy, as 
would be expected, but in France as well. On April 30, 1921 the popular journal 
L 'Illustration devoted three fiill pages to the discussion and imagery concerning 
the "JubiM de Dante k I'eglise de Saint-S^verin," explaining the reason for the 
celebration there particularly in terms of Dante's supposed residence in Paris: 

Deja, mercredi dernier, un concert spirituel a ete donnd en I'dglise Saint-Sdverin, sous la 
presidence de rarcheveque de Paris, et un pandgyrique de Dante a 6t6 prononc6 par Mgr 
Batiffol. C'est qu'une tradition s^culaire veut que Dante, exild de Florence, soit venu h 
Paris ou il a fr6quent6 I'Universitd, visitd les ^glises, les monasteres et les cours de 
justice. On montre meme, a Saint-S^verin, un pilier ou il aimait k s'appuyer: Idgende, car 
ce pilier date du quinzidme sidcle. S'il est exact, toutefois, que I'illustre proscrit fut 
quelque temps I'hote de TUniversit^ parisienne, il a du plus d'une fois entendre les 
offices a Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre et k Saint-S6verin. L'^glise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, 
reconstruite au douzi^me si6cle par les soins de I'abbaye de Longpont, servait de siege 
aux assemblees universitaires, et Saint-S6verin, plus vaste, etait vraiment, k la fin du 
treizieme et debut du quatorzidme si6cle, la grande paroisse de la jeunesse dtudiante. 

(Beauplan) 
(Already, last Wednesday, a spiritual concert was given in the church of Saint-S6verin, 
under the supervision of the archbishop of Paris, and a panegyric to Dante by Monseignor 
Batiffol. Secular tradition holds that Dante, exiled from Florence, had come to Paris 
where he attended the University, visited the churches, monasteries, and tribunals. One 
can show even, in Saint-Severin, a pillar on which he liked to lean: a legend, because this 
pillar dates to the fifteenth century. If it is true, however, that the illustrious exile was for 
some time the guest of the University of Paris, he must have more than once attended 
services at Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre and at Saint-S6verin. The church of Saint-Julien-le- 
Pauvre, reconstructed in the twelfth century under the care of the abby Longpont, served 
as the seat of university assemblies, and Saint-Severin, bigger yet, was truly, at the end of 
the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth centuries, the great parish of the youth of 
the universities.) 

The atmospheric illustrations accompanying the article (Figure 4 and Figure 5) 



Images of Dante's Exile in 19' -Century France 249 

include captions reiterating the assertion of Dante's presence at Saint-S6verin. 

Interestingly, the article in L' Illustration mentions the nearby church of 
Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre as a site also frequented by Dante during his days at the 
university, another legend often repeated in biographies of the poet in 19th- 
century France: 

[...] souvenez-vous bien que Dante, a Paris, devait habiter I'^glise Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, 
asile des pelerins etrangers; et cette eglise est sise en face de Notre-Dame de Paris, sur 
I'autre rive de la Seine, au pied de TUniversitd? [...] Vous saurez tout k I'heure, quand 
je parlerai de Boccace et de son livre [...] comment j'ai une raison de plus pour affirmer 
avec une aussi fidre hardiesse le sdjour de Dante chez nous, dans le vieux, dans le cher 
Paris, au pied des tours de Notre-Dame, le clocher de notre village.'* 
([...] don't you remember well that Dante, in Paris, must have stayed at the church of 
Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, refuge of foreign travelers; and this church sits across from 
Paris's Notre-Dame, on the other bank of the Seine, at the foot of the University? [...] 
You will understand soon, when I speak of Boccaccio and his book [...] how I have one 
reason more to affirm with such proud certainty Dante's visit to us, in the old, beloved 
Paris, at the foot of the towers of Notre-Dame, the clock-tower of our village.) 

In the garden of this church there now stands a fountain (Figure 6), 
commissioned in 1995 by the city of Paris of the sculptor Georges Jeanclos (b. 
1933). This fountain, owing a great deal in its pseudo-gothic form to Rodin's 
sculptural illustration of Dante's Divine Comedy, the Gates of Hell, marks the 
area known as the "pourpris de Dante" (Dante's cloister"). 

This area, previously the site of the ancient Hotel-Dieu at the quai 
Montebello, was cleared in 1909 by the city of Paris. It was then proposed that a 
school of decorative arts be established there, to much public indignation. 
Finally, in 1923, just two years after the sixth centenary of Dante's death 
celebrated at Saint-Severin, the proposal was put forth to commemorate the 
"pourpris de Dante" as a public garden, which was achieved in 1928. The 
fountain created by Jeanclos is at the axis of the churches of Notre-Dame and 
Saint-Julien, just off the beginning of the rue Dante. This also marks the 
location of "kilometer 0," where all France's road measurements begin. Dante's 
legend is such an integral part of the identity of medieval Paris that it has been 
selected to mark, as it were, the nexus of French civilization. 

Dante in Paradise 

If Dante could be scorned by the women of Ravenna rather than Verona and 
lean on the 15th-century pillar in Saint-Severin, could he not also inhabit 
Paradise within French 19th-century unagination? In art, anyway, Dante kept 
company frequently with the most illustrious French luminaries. While not 



'* Gauthiez, Dante le Chretien 235. The quotation is an excerpt from Gauthiez's speech 
of March 18, 1909, to the Dante Society of Florence. 



250 Aida Audeh 

based of course on any biographical text, as were the other legends, the topos of 
Dante among the pantheon of "grandes hommes" of French history was a 
frequent subject of painting and sculpture in the salons of the 19th century. 
Drawn perhaps loosely from Dante's own meeting with the great philosophers in 
Inferno 4, artists in the 19th century expanded this retinue to include the likes of 
Nicolas Poussin and Victor Hugo. 

One of the earliest manifestations of this Utopian vision was Jean-Auguste- 
Dominque Ingres's (b. 1780, d. 1867) Apotheosis of Homer of 1827.'^ In this 
work Dante stands, with Virgil's hand on his shoulder, alongside not only the 
ancients but significantly in company with Poussin, Racine, Comeille, and 
Colbert: the creators of France's great cultural fraditions of art and literature in 
the 17th century. Created for the ceiling of the ninth room of the Louvre (during 
the Bourbon restoration called the Musee Charles X), this painting is one of the 
first of a series of government commissions incorporating Dante as historical 
figure or his writings within public monuments or spaces. Others to follow 
would include Delacroix's cupola for the library of the Senate in the Palais du 
Luxembourg in Paris (featuring Dante meeting the ancient poets and 
philosophers), Paul Chenavard's panels for the Pantheon also in Paris (which, 
though never installed, were based on the Divine Comedy), and of course 
Rodin's Gates of Hell, intended for the Mus^e des Arts D^coratifs. In this way, 
as an integral part of state commissions, Dante is formally appropriated within 
French cultural tradition, associated through these commissions with bastions of 
French culture: museum of art, monument to France's political and cultural 
icons, and seat of government. 

Probably the most fascinating of 19th-century constructions of a sort of 
Dantesque Utopia is Lucien Pallez's (b. 1853, d. ?) sculpture Apotheose de 
Victor Hugo, exhibited in a plaster version at the Paris salon of 1886.'* In this 
work Hugo reposes on a bed, while surrounding him, seemingly awaiting him in 
Paradise, are Dante, Virgil, Shakespeare, Euripides, Comeille, Moli^re, and 
Pegasus, as well as personifications of Poetry, Drama, Comedy, Justice, Piety, 
Immortality, and Renown. While reviews of the work were not favorable (one 
reviewer called it "pauvre et vulgaire," describing the figure of Hugo as a 
"simple cadavre entourd de satellites illustres"), the fact that by the 1 880s Dante 
would be presented in popular salon art as welcoming France's most beloved 
poet to Paradise is indeed quite remarkable. What more obvious way to equate 



'^ Ingres also produced, in at least four nearly identical versions, Paul et Frangoise de 

Rimini, which depicts the couple at the moment of their fatal embrace. The earliest of 

these paintings dates to 1814 and the last to 1845. Also exhibited at the Salon of 1886 

were Guillaume Alaux's Beatrix (painting) and Fran9ois Lafon's Le Purgatoire 

(painting). 

'* Pallez also created a sculpture in plaster titled Beatrice (based on the Vita nuova), 

exhibited at the Salon of 1892. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19^ -Century France 25 1 

France's literary traditions (the great Victor Hugo, still lauded as France's 
favorite son) with Dante's achievements and legend? Hugo had himself recalled 
Dante countless times in his own writings, and his love for the Middle Ages was 
well-known, but this fact alone does not account for this widespread 
appropriation of Dante within French culture. 

To conclude, one may ask the question: What is it about the life and works 
of Dante that not only allows but, more than that, seems to invite elaboration and 
appropriation so that, in final analysis, the inventions of 19th-century French 
culture exceeded even the vast scope of Dante's legend? 

It could be argued that Dante's legend and writings lend themselves to 
appropriation for any number of interests (French Romanticism, Italian 
Risorgimento, even Mussolini's Fascism) because of their inherent ambiguity. 
Arguments over Dante's orthodoxy as a Catholic raged among right-wing 
Catholics and liberal reformers, each of whom tried to claim Dante as their own. 
Staunch republicans battled royalists over Dante's political views, each finding 
in him a champion for their preferred form of government. Perhaps it is simply 
that Dante as a writer and historical figure was indeed as multifaceted as 
Boccaccio claimed (poet, theologian, philosopher), each aspect striking a chord 
with some component of French culture in the 19th century. 

While it cannot be proven definitively that Dante ever visited Paris, what is 
important about his exile is that this time of transience in Dante's life that does 
not allow absolute historical certainty concerning his journeys, enabled French 
culture to appropriate him for its own purposes. Consequently, Dante the 
wandering exile became in the 1 9th century the archetypal French Romantic for 
Barbier and the salon artists of Paris; the scholar of the Sorbonne for Balzac and 
a host of others who used his image to anchor the city's importance in the 
Middle Ages; and, finally, the mentor in excelsis to France's greatest artists and 
poets. After these trends have been identified, what requires fiirther exploration 
are the reasons behind French culture's choice of Dante to fulfil these disparate 
roles. In brief, French culture found in Dante a universal symbol for its ideals of 
patriotism, religious faith, erudition, and creative genius that resonated so 
strongly in the 19th century, burgeoning with Romanticism, but cpntinuing 
throughout that century and into the next. 

Hamline University 



252 Aida Audeh 

Works Cited 

Alighieri, Dante. Paradiso. Trans. John D. Sinclair. New York: Oxford UP, 1961. 

fArt.?3.Tis, 1881.25: 142. 

Audeh, Aida. "Rodin's Gates of Hell and Aub6's Monument to Dante: Romantic Tribute 

to the Image of the Poet in 19th-century France." The Stanford University Museum 

of Art Journal (The Journal of the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual 

Arts at Stanford University) 1 (1998-1999): 33-46. 
. Rodin's Gates of Hell and Dante's Divine Comedy: An Iconographic Study. 

Diss. U Iowa, 2002. Ann Arbor: UMI, 2002. 
. "Rodin's Gates of Hell: Sculptural Illustration of Dante's Divine Comedy." 



Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession. London: Merrell, 2001. 93-126. 
Balbo, Cesare. Dante. Trans. Comtesse de Lalaing. Brussels: Hayez, 1844-46. 
Balzac, Honore de. "The Exiles." Trans. George Saintsbury. The Human Comedy. New 

York: Collier, 1900. 
Balzac, Honord de. "Les Proscrits." La Comedie Humaine. Paris: Biblioth6que Pldiade, 

1935. 
Barbier, Auguste. lambes et Poemes. 8th ed. Paris: Masgana, 1856. 
Beauplan, Robert de. "Le Jubild de Dante h I'^glise Saint-Sdverin." L 'Illustration. 30 

April 1921:392-94. 
Boccaccio, Giovanni. "Life of Dante." Trans. James Robinson Smith. The Earliest Lives 

of Dante. New York: Ungar, 1963. 

. Vie de Dante. Trans. Pierre Gauthiez. Paris: Tallandier, 1929. 

. Vita di Dante e difesa delta poesia. Rome: Edizioni dell' Ateneo, 1963. 

Coussillan, Auguste Andr6. Dictionnaire historique des rues de Paris. Paris: Editions de 

Minuit, 1973. 
Dumas, F. G. Le Salon: Journal de I'Eposition Annuelle des Beaux-Arts. Paris, 1880. 

Explication des ouvrages exposes au Musee Royal le ler mars 1839. Paris: Vinchon, 

1839. 
Explication des ouvrages exposes au Palais des Champs Elysees le 15 avril 1859. Paris: 

Vinchon, 1859. 
Explication des ouvrages exposes aux menus-plaisirs le 15 mai 1853. Paris: Vinchon, 

1853. 
Gauthiez, Pierre. Dante le Chretien. Paris: Plon, 1933. 
Pitwood, Michael. Dante and the Erench Romantics. Geneva: Droz, 1985. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19"'-Century France 253 




Figure 1 . Caricature by Cham of F61ix- Joseph Barrias' painting Dante Alighieri (Salon of 
1853), published in the Revue du Salon de 1853 par Cham (Paris, 1853). The caricature's 
caption reads: "Le Dante courant chez le pharmacien afin de se faire traiter pour I'affreuse 
maladie de peau qu'il a contractde dans I'atelier de M. Barrias." Photo: BAA Jacques 
Doucet, Paris. 



254 Aida Audeh 




Figure 2. Caricature by Nidrac of Paul Emile Sautai's painting Dante exile (Salon of 
1880), published in Salon comique 1880 (Paris, 1880). Photo: BAA Jacques Doucet, 
Paris. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 19' -Century France 255 



— »«"«i«pfi 







Figure 3. Jean-Paul Aubd. Monument to Dante (Salon of 1880), in front of the College 
de France, Paris. From a postcard of the 1890s. Photo: Aida Audeh. 



256 Aida Audeh 




Figure 4. Illustration by Henry Cheffer of the church of Saint-Sdverin accompanying the 
article "Jubil6 de Dante h I'dglise de Saint-S6verin," I' Illustration, April 30, 1921. The 
caption reads: "Rue des Pretres-Saint-Sdverin et fa9ade de I'Eglise oil la tradition veut 
que Dante soit venu prier." Photo: University of Iowa Library, Special Collections. 



Images of Dante 's Exile in 1 9'^ -Century France 257 




Figure 5. Illustration by Henry Cheffer of the interior of the church of Saint-S6verin 
accompanying the article "Jubil6 de Dante h I'dglise de Saint-S6verin," l' Illustration, 
April 30, 1921. The caption reads: "Le 'Pilier de Dante' a Saint-Severin, derriere le 
maitre-autel, au centre de I'abside." Photo: University of Iowa Library, Special 
Collections. 



258 Aida Audeh 




'%». ^.. 



Figure 6. Georges Jeanclos. Fontaine Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, 1995, in the public garden 
behind the church of Saint-Julien-ie-Pauvre, Paris. Photo: Aida Audeh. 



Assumpta Camps 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: 
per un'ermeneutica della sua opera 



Se, insieme a Mario Luzi, riteniamo che I'elegia modema presente nelle 
esperienze poetiche novecentesche si nutre principalmente della felicity negata 
per la "deposizione dal trono" sperimentata dal poeta modemo e dal suo 
disinganno, vera origine della "geremiade" novecentesca che porta il poeta a 
dichiarare la propria estraneit^ e a imputare al mondo la sua assurdit^ e 
inumanit^, Dino Campana b indubbiamente un referente fondamentale 
dell'istituto poetico italiano novecentesco negli anni anteriori alia II Guerra 
Mondiale. In Campana questo sentimento di sradicamento, di emarginazione nei 
confronti del corpo sociale, vera origine del suo esilio interiore, avr^ in piii una 
dimensione nettamente biografica, risultato della sua instabilita mentale e dei 
problemi psicologici che determinano non solo i suoi vari soggiomi in centri 
psichiatrici da giovane, ma la sua finale reclusione nell'Ospedale psichiatrico di 
Castel Pulci nel 1918. Ci6 nonostante, nell' insieme della sua opera questo 
indubbio elemento biografico verr^ particolarmente tematizzato sub specie 
letteraria, convergendo intomo al motivo fondamentale del viaggio, di lunga 
tradizione letteraria. Viaggio come fiiga, come via per scappare al sentimento di 
esilio interiore del poeta. Viaggio motivato dalla sua stessa irrequietudine, dal 
suo ricorrente spaesamento e nomadismo essenziale. Viaggio, in fine, anche 
come purificazione e ricerca di un Ideale intravisto sempre altrove: come 
nostalgia di una purezza forse solo possibile ormai nelle origini. 

La critica campaniana ha sottolineato piu volte I'importanza del marradese 
nella linea di continuity fi-a la tradizione letteraria italiana, il simbolismo 
francese e la posteriore stagione poetica degli ermetici,' una linea nella quale 
spicca, come rapporto privilegiato, anche se non unico, la poesia francese del 
secondo Ottocento. Campana, in effetti, dimostra in molte occasioni di 
conoscere in profondit^ questi autori (in modo particolare Baudelaire, Verlaine e 
Rimbaud), che cita a memoria e che persino riscrive in tanti momenti della sua 
opera, stabilendo dei precisi dialoghi intertestuali, oppure, in altre occasioni, 
costruendo una trama di allusioni, anche se velata, integrata nella sua scrittura 
poetica e tutt'altro che stereotipata. 

Nel presente saggio il nostro oggettivo sara studiare in profondita il tema 
del viaggio e dell'esilio interiore in Dino Campana come asse esegetico della 
sua opera che struttura un complesso universo poetico insieme ad altri nuclei 



' In effetti: "Canti Orfici [...] segnano un passo decisive (e per alcuni critici // passo 
decisivo) per riagganciare la tradizione italiana alia ricerca del miglior simbolismo 
francese, aprendo la strada a quello che poi diventer^ rermetismo" (Turchetta 1988, 16). 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



260 Assumpta Camps 

significativi di rilievo nell'opera del marradese. Pendendo questo tema come 
base delle direttrici fondamentali della sua produzione letteraria, analizzeremo la 
rilettura che Campana intraprende del simbolismo francese, nel suo inserirsi 
nelle correnti poetiche della modemita, e quindi la presenza di temi e motivi 
letterari simbolisti nella sua opera. 

1. II poeta e la citt^ moderna 

Nell'insieme della sua opera, Campana ha scelto in molte occasioni la citt^ 
come scenario della sua agitata prassi poetica. E questa citt^ moderna, spazio 
urbano del nuovo mondo industriale, dove il poeta situa il piu delle volte il 
sentimento di solitudine e angoscia esistenziale che I'assale. Citt^ di incubo 
"dolce come il dolore", o citt^-miraggio, allegra e mediterranea, plena di vita? 
L'opera di Campana si sviluppa fra questi due poll, costituendo un'altemanza 
che articola il suo universo poetico personale intomo a due momenti, positivo e 
negativo, della stessa citt^ (Firenze, Genova, ecc), intravista non solo come 
cornice prediletta dell'esperienza esistenziale del soggetto poetico, ma pure 
come visione soggettiva, proiezione interiore del poeta nel suo esilio interiore e 
solitudine essenziale. 

Questa citt^ campaniana si definisce attraverso pochi, ma ricorrenti, tratti 
fisici, con scarse variant! da Canti orfici al Taccuino, in modo tale da mostrare 
una continuity nel discorso letterario dell'autore, senza un vero confine fra 
componimento lirico e prosa d'arte. Si tratta, nella maggior parte dei casi, di una 
citta portuale, popolata da figure dei bassi fondi (ladri, marinai, prostitute, ecc), 
immersa nel fetore delle fogne e la putredine dei marasmi: citt^ "infiamata", che 
si copre di tonality di un rosso intenso, fortemente espressionista, e viene 
rappresentata di preferenza all'ora del tramonto;^ citta avida di piaceri e di 
guadagno, quale una "babele perfida"; citt^ di incubo per chi vaga di notte senza 
scopo fra i suoi vicoli, piazze, fontane, torri o pinnacoli: spazi deserti, sotto la 
luce elettrica dei lampioni, che rendono spetfrale la visione, ecc. 

II suo 6, in effetti, un perpetuo vagabondare nottumo, proprio dell'insorme 
che passeggia per i vicoli di questa citt^-spazio simbolico {La Notte), solitaria 
(Scirocco, Era la vigilia di Natale), la quale acquista un'aria fortemente irreale.'' 
Poeta nottumo {La Chimera) e errante {La sperama. La sera di fiera, 
Dualismo), Campana sceglie come spazio piii adatto alia sua condizione gli 
ambienti piu degradati doWurbs moderna (cosi ne La Notte, Dualismo, 



Si veda Giardino autunnale, dove il motivo del tramonto si combina con una lunga serie 
di motivi decadentisti; oppure Crepuscolo mediterraneo e La Verna, con il suo cielo 
tninacciante, che riappare nella "visione di sangue" presente ne La giornata di un 
nevrastenico e ne // Russo (Campana 1973, 1: Canti orfici, d'ora in avanti citato sempre 
da quest'edizione). 

Si veda, per esempio, il forte carattere fantastico di questa citta in Era la Vigilia di 
Natale. 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un 'ermeneutica delta sua opera 26 1 

L 'invetriata. Piazza Sarzano, Botte botte, ecc.)- Nel suo polo negativo, la citta 
campaniana k senz'altro una citt^ infemale, abitata da uomini come spettri {Era 
la Vigilia di Natale), colossale e anonima, desolata e lussuriosa/ scheletrica, 
vera immagine di una condizione esistenziale alienata, legata al vizio e alia 
degradazione dell'individuo (Firerjze), agli incontri falliti con donne come sfmgi 
(La notte. La Chimera, Genova), dove il poeta non solo si scontra ftigacemente 
con I'Altro, ma alio stesso tempo si rispecchia nella sua stessa alienazione. In 
ogni caso, questa citt^ infemale si presenter^ in Campana con i segni propri 
della modemita. 

Poich6, in effetti, i caratteri che sottolineano la modemita di questo spazio 
urbano e della vita che in esso si svolge sono molto evidenti nel marradese. 
Vengono particolamiente messi di rilievo alcuni elementi significativi, come 
I'uso dell'elettricita,^ la presenza (non piu mostmosa) delle macchine,^ 
I'inclusione di altri elementi della vita modema ritenuti letterariamente spuri 
quali il telegrafo^ o persino la poUuzione ambientale. In genere, si puo parlare di 
una vera apologia dell'attivit^ economica febbrile,^ che si combina tante volte 
con I'elogio — di stampo fliturista — della velocita (per esempio, Pampa). E se 
6 pur vero che Vurbs modema corrisponde, in tanti momenti dell'opera di 
Campana, a uno spazio di alienazione per I'individuo modemo, offrendosi come 
rappresentazione della nuova condizione proletarizzata del poeta, non e meno 
vero che certe visioni della citta, proprio perch6 spazio per eccellenza della vita 
modema, sono eccezionalmente splendide e piene di vita (in modo particolare 
Piazza Sarzano). D'altra parte, proprio in questo contesto di anonimato e 
solitudine che offre la citt^ modema, il poeta ritrovera alio stesso tempo uno 
spazio di liberty personale, che gli era stato negato altrove: e cioe la liberta 
dell'anonimato, che corrisponde alia sua sostanziale irrequietudine modema.^ 

Sono varie le immagini di s6 stesso che Campana ci offre lungo la sua 
opera. Ci6 nonostante, nei vari autoritratti rintracciabili prevale sempre la 
condizione errante: il nevrastenico che passeggia per la citt^ senza uno scopo 
preciso, come un maledetto,'" un'immagine che echeggia in quell'altra del 



'' Si veda Genova, con le sue prostitute descritte come sirene, oppure I'ambiente canaille 

dell'osteria rappresentata in Firenze. 

^ Si vedano La sera difiera. La notte, Dualismo, oppure Passeggiata in tram in America 

e ritorno, per esempio. 

^ Va ricordato particoiarmente il treno in Sogno di prigione o Pampa, immagine che 

contrasta con certe altre rappresentazioni del treno come macchina infemale, come per 

esempio in Carducci. 

Per esempio. La giornata del nevrastenico. 

Passeggiata in tram in America e ritorno, senza dimenticare Genova. 
^ Cos! si avverte chiaramente in Botte botte o La giornata del nevrastenico. 
'° Nel maledettismo di Campana si avverte anche un vago satanismo di stampo piuttosto 
letterario e convenzionale, che rinvia direttamente alia koine simbolista-decadentistay?«- 
de-siecle. Si veda, in questo senso. La giornata di un nevrastenico, dove, non a caso, il 



262 Assumpta Camps 

pazzo, presente ne L'incontro di Regolo. Nello stesso senso, va ricordato 
I'autoritratto del poeta come cane randagio ne La petite promenade du poete — 
fra altri esempi — oppure come figliolo prodigo {Firenze). In tutti i casi la 
critica ha evidenziato tradizionalmente la presenza di un maledettismo poetico in 
Campana, che e stato anche in parte contraddetto." Questo nomadismo 
essenziale si concreta nella figura del cavaliere errante in cerca di una 
purificazione interiore nell'importante prosa diaristica che ha per titolo La 
Verna. Poeta- vagabondo e quasi ulissiaco,'^ senza mai un punto di approdo, 
Campana si presenta perpetuamente errante. In questo senso, il tema del viaggio 
non solo contiene precisi ed effettivi riferimenti biografici,'^ ma acquista un piii 
alto significato aH'intemo della sua opera, poiche diventa la rappresentazione di 
una condizione esistenziale che corrisponde all'irrequietudine di animo del 
poeta, al tempo che raffigura il suo perpetuo esilio interiore. Tale condizione 
verra intesa come I'elemento fondamentale della sua modemita. 
2. Temi e motivi del Simbolismo francese in D. Campana 
In questo contesto, 1' approdo a un "maledettismo" poetico, sia pur di maniera, 
quale atteggiamento vitale che esprime questo sostanziale sradicamento del 
poeta e la sua effettiva emarginazione sociale, corrisponde alia instability 
mentale del marradese. Al di la dell'effettiva convergenza fra letteratura e vita, 
di stampo indubbiamente decadentista, ci interessera evidenziare in sede critica 
gli stretti rapporti intertestuali che la sua scrittura presenta con la poesia francese 
ottocentesca — in modo particolare, con I'opera di Baudelaire, Verlaine e 
Rimbaud'"* — e i suoi nessi profondi con questi precedenti poetici nella 



poema si chiude con un'invocazione a Satana; oppure La Nolle, dove riaffiora il mito di 
Faust. 

" In effetti, e ricorrente I'lnterpretazione di Campana quale poeta maledetto, eco dei 
""maudits" francesi, pazzo e anche primitivo. L'interpretazione b contrastata 
particolarmente da G. Turchetta (1985 e 1988), in una linea critica che si ritrova nella 
lettura di Campana intrapresa da M. Luzi (1973). Per loro, al contrario, domina nel 
marradese "un atteggiamento di valorizzazione del mondo e deU'esistente" (Turchetta 
1985, 407). Pur ammettendo che Campana t "ben lungi dall'essere riducibile ad un 
epigono del decadentismo" (390), resta pur vera la presenza di motivi strettamente legati 
al diffuso maledettismo fin-de-siecle della koine simbolista-decadentista, che Campana 
riprende piu volte, e adopera nella costruzione dei suoi temi fondamentali. 
'^ Si veda soprattutto Genova. 

'^ Sono molti i viaggi di Campana prima della sua finale reclusione: per esempio, il 
viaggio per la Svizzera, Francia, il Belgio e la Germania (maggio-luglio 1906); il viaggio 
in America della fine del 1907 (Buenos Aires, Rosario, Santa Rosa de Toay, Mendoza, 
ecc); il viaggio in Odessa del 1909; e di nuovo un viaggio per Europa agli inizi del 1910. 
Si vedano P. Ladron de Guevara, e G. Turchetta 1985. 

'■* Non riteniamo affatto "modesta" n6 "praticamente ininfluente" questa presenza 
rimbaldiana in Campana, come sostiene G. Turchetta {La cullura di Dino Campana 1985, 
373), come cercheremo di dimostrare in questa sede. 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un 'ermeneutica della sua opera 263 

costruzione del suo immaginario e delle metafore ossessive dell'autore. 

II tema dello sradicamento presenta, in effetti, una rilettura dei topoi 
letterari degli autori accennati. In tutti i casi, questo sradicamento sociale si 
collega con un "maledettismo" presentato anche come modernity di spirito, 
mentre rirrequietezza e il sentimento di emarginazione si concretano in una 
condizione da boheme che segna la nuova condizione sociale e esistenziale del 
poeta modemo. Per questo motivo, tutti e tre i poeti costituiscono dei referenti 
fondamentali in Campana, e saranno, in effetti, molto ricorrenti nella sua opera, 
sia in modo esplicito o tramite allusioni dirette o rielaborate (anche se 
rintracciabili), che velatamente, evidenziando un'affinita sostanziale che il poeta 
iscrive aH'intemo della koine simbolista-decadentistay/A7-<ie-5/ec/e. Nei riguardi 
di questo nucleo significativo, vanno ricordate, per esempio, a proposito di 
Baudelaire, certe prose poetiche dello scrittore francese, quali Le mauvais 
vitrier, dove il maledettismo si presenta come la chiave della differenza che 
permette al poeta di avere una esperienza creativa eccezionale. Oppure Le vieux 
saltimbanque, quale ritratto del poeta come clown, abbandonato da tutti nei 
tempi modemi; una prosa da collegarsi indubbiamente con quell'altra, ben nota, 
dal tltolo Perte d' aureole, dove il poeta accetta la sua emarginazione sociale con 
una sottile ironia. Les vocations, in rapporto di vicinanza con il poema 
Benediction di Spleen et Ideal, insiste su questa condizione emarginata, al tempo 
stesso che segna lo stigmate del poeta maledetto dalla nascita nella 
"benedizione"/"maledizione" rivoltagli da sua madre.'^ Les tons chiens — e piu 
tardi Le vin de I 'assassin, della serie Le vin — , nei suo parallelismo fra il poeta 
e il cane randagio, completano questo autoritratto baudelairiano, che sara ben 
presente in Campana. '^ 

II tema del maledettismo t onnipresente in Baudelaire, del resto. Spleen et 
Ideal 6 una raccolta poetica che inizia proprio con questo tema, approdando ad 
una significativa invocazione a Satana (Epigraphe pour un livre condamne), che 
avvicina il poeta francese a Campana. La stessa invocazione viene ripresa nei 
seguente componimento lirico della raccolta, Au lecteur, nei quale questo 
atteggiamento si mostra in tutta la sua rilevanza, poich^ si presenta come una via 
per scappare al tedio o Spleen. Nello stesso senso, vanno ricordati i 
componimenti 'Tm mettrais I'univers entier dans ta ruelle, ...", e ancora Les 
litanies de Satan — Rebellion). La professione di satanismo del poeta maledetto 
spicca anche in altri momenti dell'opera baudelairiana, come nella prosa poetica 
Le joueur genereux, rilettura ironica del mito di Faust, ugualmente presente in 



'^ Aspetto, questo, particoiarmente interessante a proposito di Campana, i cui rapporti 
con la madre furono, come d ben noto, particoiarmente conflittuali. 
"^ In questo senso, va ricordata soprattutto La petite promenade du poete. non a caso con 
un tltolo in francese. 



264 Assumpta Camps 

Campana.'^ Cosi maledettismo e orgoglio satanico convergono nel ritratto del 
poeta modemo, come si awerte, per esempio, in Le vin du solitaire (serie Le 
vin). D'altra parte, il volume di prose baudelairiane intitolato Poemes en prose si 
chiude appunto con un'altra invocazione a Satana e un elogio della citta 
modema e dei suoi bassi fondi (Epilogue). La stessa filiazione satanica si ripete 
in Spleen et Ideal, quando il poeta si presenta come impossessato in Le possede 
(lirica che conclude con un significativo "O mon cher Belz6buth, je t'adore!). 
Nello stesso senso, vanno ricordati componimenti lirici della stessa raccolta 
come La muse malade e La muse venale, in cui spicca non solo la fratemita, 
nella loro comune condizione sociale emarginata, fra il poeta e la prostituta, ma 
di nuovo il motivo del saltimbanco, che profila ulteriormente il volto sociale del 
poeta modemo come clown. Nello stesso senso, nella raccolta Lesfleurs du mal, 
La destruction, insieme a Femmes damnees, si riprender^ I'importante 
parallelismo poeta-prostituta, sia per la comune emarginazione sociale, che per 
la venalita. 

Cosi, nella tradizione simbolista-decadentista, il poeta maledetto trover^ 
uno scenario prediletto non solo nella citta modema, ma anche negli ambienti 
pill degradati di essa: il bordello'* e, in genere, i vicoli e bassifondi della citta. '^ 
Solitudine, emarginazione e sentimento di sradicamento,^" e persino demenza,^' 
si ripetono piii e piii volte, diventando in fin dei conti la chiave della sua 
condizione poetica: e cioe della sua radicale differenza nei confronti della gente 
corrente e, quindi, la chiave della sua capacita creativa (A une heure du matin). 
II tema si presenta, sia in Baudelaire che in Campana, collegato al motivo 
ricorrente del crepuscolo. Si tratta, per6, di un crepuscolo di forte tinte rosse, 
sanguinante, turbolento (vedi Harmonie du soir), annuncio, nel francese come 
nell'italiano, della calma del giomo per chi ha lavorato, e dell'irrequietezza della 
notte per il poeta.^^ 

Un secondo ambito di convergenza con Baudelaire privilegia il tema 
infemale, come scenario abitato da figure di ricorrenza quasi ossessiva, dove 
I'allusione si rende quasi sempre esplicita. Per esempio, agli esordi dei Canti 



'^ Si veda, in modo particolare, Turchetta. La cultura di Dino Campana 1985 a proposito 

della ripresa del mito di Faust in Campana e del suo significato. 

'* Si veda, per esempio. in Quadres parisiens de Baudelaire, Le crepuscle du soir, Lejeu, 

oppure, in Lesfleurs du mal, Les deux bonnes soeurs. 

'^ Cosi in Le soleil, Reve parisien, fra altri esempi. 

^° Si veda la prima deile prose poetiche di Baudelaire, che apre la raccolta dei Poemes en 

prose: L 'etr anger. 

^' Per le prose si vedano: Le fan et la Venus, Le crepuscule du soir. La solitude, e per i 

componimenti lirici: Le mauvais moine o La voix, di Spleen et Ideal. 

^^ Si veda la prosa Le crepuscule du soir, e in modo particolare i componimenti 

Recueillement e Le crepuscule du soir in Quadres parisiens, anche se il tema si fa 

presente in altri momenti, e persino in collegamento con il motivo, fondamentale, del 

viaggio: L 'invitation au voyage, in Spleen [...], oppure Le voyage nella serie La mort. 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un 'ermeneutica della sua opera 265 

Orfici, con la presenza del corteo quale visione infernale, paragonato a un fiume 
{La Notte), che rinvia a L 'irremediable e Spleen LXXV della raccolta Les Fleurs 
du mal. Lo scenario infernale si popola di prostitute come sfingi, come awiene 
anche in Les chats de la stessa raccolta baudelairiana, e altre figure ricorrenti in 
Campana, quali la matrona {La Notte), abitualmente accompagnata 
dair"ancella". Ma, soprattutto, va ricordato il "vecchio infernale" (// Russo), sia 
in Les sept veillards che in Le flacon e probabilmente anche in De profundis 
clamavi. II tema infernale, di ascendenza nettamente baudelairiana in questo 
caso, si completa con altre reminiscenze, quali la danza macabra presente nel 
Sonetto perfido e focoso (Campana 1973, II, p. 309) che rinvia al Baudelaire 
della Danse macabre e ancora del De profundis clamavi (per I'allusione al 
titolo). La danza infernale dello scheletro arricchisce notevolmente di connotati 
questa visione spettrale che si impone nella rappresentazione del reale in 
Campana, fiinzionale nel tema della citt^ e della riflessione intomo alio stesso 
rapporto del poeta con il mondo circostante. L'assoluta percorrenza delle 
reminiscenze del Baudelaire piu "infernale" viene confermata, d'altra parte, 
dalla presenza della Chimera, un altro elemento fondamentale della koine 
simbolista e decadentista. Ci6 nonostante, al di 1^ di tutto quanto 
precedentemente indicate, si possono rintracciare cenni concreti a Les Fleurs du 
mal, e di preciso a Le serpent qui danse e Sed non satiata XXVI, in Oscar Wilde 
a S. Miniato (Campana 1973, II, 304), cosi come a Les Epaves ne La Chimera, 
che rinvia a Lesbos.^^ L'invocazione a Satana, presente ne La giornata di un 
nevrastenico, sembra, d'altra parte, rinviare direttamente a Les litanies de Satan 
baudelairiane. Cio nonostante, questo non sar^ I'unico referente a proposito di 
questo motivo, poich^ l'invocazione al "dio in esilio", cio^ Satana, si ritrova piu 
volte nei Canti Orfici per esempio in Spada barbarica, dove echeggia 
ugualmente il Supplement aux Fleurs du mal, Le rebelle, per la presenza 
dell'immagine del "tapis triomphal" (Pecorano), reminiscenza che va completata 
dalla ripresa della "couronne mystique" nel "diadema" di Una strana zingarella, 
che rinvia a Benediction. Al di 1^ di queste presenze precise, emerge 
un'allusione che riguarda un'altra figura fondamentale nella rappresentazione 
dell'infemo campaniana e baudelairiana. Facciamo riferimento alia Morte, 
intravista quale "vecchio capitano", che collega indubbiamente // tempo 
mirabile consumi (Campana, II, p. 298) con la conclusione del componimento 
Le voyage. 

Ovviamente tali rinvii a Baudelaire, e in modo particolare quello 
riguardante Les Litanies de Satan, ripreso ne La giornata di un nevrastenico, ci 



^' Interessante t I'lnterpretazione di Aldo Pecorano a proposito di questo rinvio, che 
collega I'ambivalenza emotiva (piacere/dolore) caratteristica di Campana con il mito di 
Orfeo, morto per azione delle Menadi, e collegato a Lesbos, isola tradizionalmente nota 
perche la tradizione vi situa I'origine della poesia stessa (AA.VV.: Materiali per Dino 
Campana 1 1 7-46). 



266 Assumpta Camps 

immettono in un altro tema fondamentale, di forte tradizione letteraria, oltre che 
molto presente nel Simbolismo francese, quale b il tema di Ofelia, collegato 
indubbiamente all'ambito significative della morte, ma soprattutto a quelle del 
perpetuo vagabondaggio. In questo senso vanno ricordati, oltre al titolo 
suindicato, altri componimenti dei Canti Orfici: La sera di fiera e Sogno in 
prigione, e, d'altra parte, Specie di serenata agra e falsa e melodrammatica, 
presente nel Quaderno. II tema di Ofelia, proprio per questa centralit^ nella 
koine simbolista-decadentista, costituisce un punto di convergenza del 
marradese con Verlaine e particolarmente con Rimbaud, nel quale si intrecciano 
le reminiscenze nell'opera campaniana. Echi baudelairiani nelle immagini di 
vagabondaggio perpetuo tanto frequenti in Campana, in rapporto con altri motivi 
collegati all'ebbrezza e alia crapule, si ripetono piij volte, restando facilmente 
rintracciabili nei Canti Orfici allusioni abbastanza esplicite di Les aveugles in 
Genova, o di Le vin de I 'assassin e, d'altra parte, di Prosa fetida e Petite 
promenade du poete. Questo parallelismo, tuttavia, verr^ incrementato 
posteriormente, come lo si constata a proposito di Quaderno. Riprese identiche, 
quasi, si osservano, d'altra parte, a proposito di un tema fondamentale: si tratta 
del ben noto invito al viaggio in Baudelaire, che avvicina strettamente 
soprattutto Le voyage a L 'incontro di Regolo. II tema si collega con I'importante 
motivo della nave, di indubbia rilevanza per Campana, e, sul piano piii astratto, 
con la positivita del transitorio, giustamente messo in rapporto dalla critica con 
il motivo, tanto ricorrente in Baudelaire, della donna che passa, ripreso in 
Campana in vari modi, ma in genere convergente intomo alia figura della 
prostituta: e cio6, di una presenza femminile ugualmente transitoria. In questo 
senso, vanno ricordati certi passi dei Canti Orfici (Campana 1973, I, 7 e 80) in 
rapporto, non sempre esplicito, con Le serpent qui dame (sia per il motivo della 
donna che passa, che per quell'altro, di forte tradizione decadente, dei suoi occhi 
come gemme), e Le beau navire, un titolo chiave in questo parallelismo fra la 
donna e la nave in Baudelaire, oppure A una passante (dal titolo in italiano), per 
non parlare di altre figure femminili uguahnente fliggitive in Campana (vedi 
Unefemme qui passe, significativamente in francese, presente nel Quaderno). 

Certamente i parallelismi fra il poeta marradese e il suo precedente francese 
saranno anche molto abbondanti a proposito di un altro dei grandi nuclei 
semantici delle loro opere: I'antinomia purezza/corruzione, assimilabile a 
quell'altra, fondamentale per i nostri scopi, ideale/reale. Ci6 nonostante, resta 
pur vero che tali reminiscenze sono anche interpretabili come coincidenze 
aH'intemo della grande koine simbolista-decadentista della quale abbiamo 
parlato sopra. Probabilmente la stessa interpretazione vale a proposito di un altro 
referente francese di indubbia importanza per Campana, come vedremo, quale 6 
Rimbaud, sia il Rimbaud di Un sejour en enfer e Illuminations, che quell'altro 
dell'opera in versi. 

Per quanto riguarda, in vece, I'altro grande referente francese, cio6 
Verlaine, la critica sembra unanime nell'accettare il grande influsso che 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un 'ermeneutica della sua opera 267 

sicuramente ha avuto in Campana, tanto da essere presente non solo in citazioni 
e allusioni dirette, ma, piu significativo ancora, da venir citato spesso a 
memoria, non privo di inaccuratezze e trasformazioni intenzionali da parte di 
Campana. Lo stesso carteggio campaniano ne costituisce una riprova.^'* Senza 
nessuna pretesa di essere esauriente, poich6 molto probabilmente il capitolo del 
dialogo intertestuale fra Verlaine e Campana richiederebbe una piu profonda 
attenzione, impossibile in questa sede, vogliamo comunque raccogliere un 
piccolo elenco di reminiscenze precise, in parte gi^ rilevate dalla critica. Sembra 
indubbio il rapporto fra L'invetriata, da un lato, e Bournemouth di Verlaine 
dall'altro, in modo particolare per la presenza del motivo della "notte di 
velluto", che rinvierebbe ugualmente a Bruxelles, di Romances sans paroles. 
Nello stesso senso, va ricordato // bacio, di Poemes saturniens, ripreso a 
memoria in Taccuini I (Campana 1973, II, p. 380). Si tratta di un parallelismo 
altamente rilevante, dal momento che Campana s'identifica con Verlaire quale 
"ch6tif trouvere de Paris". Sar^ forse il Verlaine piu nettamente caratterizzato 
come paradigma del poeta-errante e vagabondo, in corrispondenza con Poemes 
saturniens, quello piii rintracciabile nell'opera campaniana, nel suo complesso. 
Cosi sembrerebbe, almeno, visto il legame fra Serenade e Grotesques, della 
stessa raccolta verlainiana, e Specie di serenata agra e falsa e melodrammatica 
(Campanal973, II,p. 314-15). 

Lo stesso tema del poeta-errante si coUega alia visione grottesca e irreale 
della citt^, tanto caratteristica della Parigi verlainiana di Poemes saturniens, la 
quale trova un eco anche in Dualismo [...] aH'intemo dei Canti Orfici. Questo 
influsso verlainiano h particolarmente rilevante in questo punto, poich^ 
contribuisce alia costruzione dell'autoritratto del poeta, e nell'insieme del suo 
immaginario intomo alia citt^ quale scenario per eccellenza. 

D'altra parte, alia koine simbolista-decadentista si devono attribuire molto 
probabilmente altre reminiscenze verlainiane, anche se non unicamente tali. Per 
esempio, la presenza della Chimera, previamente commentata a proposito di 
Baudelaire. Va ricordato, in questo senso, il parallelismo esistente fra Fadeses di 
Juvenilia e La Notte, che apre i Canti Orfici. Una simile convergenza si constata 
intomo al tema deH'infemo, e nei riguardi deH'immagine del corteo-fiume 
presente dall'inizio nei Canti Orfici, e piu volte ripresa in Campana 



^■^ Si veda, per esempio, la lettera a Soffici che evidenzia questo influsso e ammirazione, 
confessato dallo stesso autore (Campana 1978, 125). Nello stesso senso, si vedano le 
reminiscenze verlainiane nel carteggio con Cecchi, dove echeggia la prima quartina di 
Parallelement (65), oppure la lettera ad Anstrid Anhfelt, che rinvia direttamente a 
Sagesse (Campana 1958, 576). D'altra parte, il rapporto stretto con Verlaine in alcuni dei 
suoi motivi piCi ricorrenti — quale il crepuscolo di sangue, per esempio — si puo 
rintracciare anche in altri momenti dello stesso carteggio con S. Aleramo (532). 



268 Assumpta Camps 

(Passeggiata in tram..., Genova, oppure Notturno teppista)?^ Oltre a queste 
reminiscenze, non possiamo, per6, dimenticare altri parallelismi, sempre a 
proposito di questo tema nel Verlaine di Poemes saturniem, e in modo 
particolare in Effet de nuit, Nocturne parisien, e Sub urbe. 

II referente indubbio di Baudelaire e Verlaine in Campana si arricchisce di 
altri cenni a Rimbaud. I temi e motivi di coincidenza sono vari in questo caso, 
ma spicca, ancora una volta, il maledettismo, visto come un segno di forte 
modemita — poetica ed esistenziale alio stesso tempo, poiche riguarda 
I'atteggiamento vitale del poeta — , che non esclude I'invocazione a Satana gi^ 
commentata sopra, come lo si pu6 vedere anche in Campana. Cosi si avverte, 
per esempio, in certe prose 6" Illuminations come Matinee d'ivresse. Vagabonds, 
Angoisse, oppure H (importante anche per la fraternity poeta-prostituta di cui 
abbiamo parlato precedentemente). Ma il tema si fa presente ovunque, 
dall'inizio — senza titolo — fino a\V Adieu finale in Un sejour [...], con 
I'importante ripresa del parallelismo, di grande importanza per il marradese, fra 
il poeta e il saltimbanco in L 'eclair. Esso presenta, d'altra parte, alcuni altri echi 
notevoli, fra satanici e a volte particolarmente macabri, arricchiti da un forte 
gusto per la profanazione, che 6 molto presente nell'opera in versi dell'autore 
francese.^^ In genere, la connessione fra i bassifondi della citt^ modema, la 
degradazione e I'emarginazione sociale del poeta errante sembra piii nitida in 
Rimbaud, presentandosi quale vero elogio della vita modema e della stessa 
condizione del poeta modemo quale bohemien, in un modo che verra 
parzialmente ripreso da Campana piu volte lungo la sua opera. Vanno ricordati, 
in questo senso, titoli quali L 'orgie parisienne ou Paris se repeuple, un poema 
dove resta indubbia la venerazione del poeta francese per questo tema, insieme 
all'elogio della boheme e la crapule legata alia Parigi modema. Oppure Au 
Cabaret-vert, cinq heures du soir, che ha come continuazione, nel tema e nello 
stesso tono lubrico. La maline, e che presenta notevoli echi difflisi in Campana. 
Nelio stesso senso, certe prose poetiche quali Enfance, Ville, Villes (I e II), in 
Illuminations, che riprendono aspetti ben presenti gi^ in Un sejour [...].^^ Questa 
visione infemale e alienante della vita modema, questa esperienza della 
degradazione e quasi di una necessaria immersione negli inferi della condizione 
del bohemien per il poeta, awiciner^ fortemente Campana a Rimbaud, il quale 
trovera ugualmente nel viaggio una via di fiiga e una vaga possibilita di ritomo 
alia purezza delle origini, come vedremo piu avanti. 



^^ Probabilmente e giusto intravedere un rapporto fra quest' immagine e 11 fiume pieno di 

cadaver! di Arabesco-Olimpia (Campana 1973, II, 284), come propone A. Peconaro in 

AA.VV.: Materiali per Dino Campana 1 17-46. 

^^ Cosi in Bal des pendus. Rages de Cesars, oppure Oraison du soir, dove, ancora una 

volta, il maledettismo e I'irrequietezza di animo si combinano con il motivo di un 

crepuscolo rosso di sangue, quale proiezione dell'animo turbolento del poeta. 

^' Si vedano, per esempio, Mauvais sang, Nuit de i 'enfer, Delires (I e II), ecc. 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un 'ermeneutica delta sua opera 269 

Se scendiamo ad analizzare le tracce rimbaldiane concrete nell'opera di 
Campana, dobbiamo accennare in primo luogo al parallelismo fra Prospectus /, 
in Taccuini II (438) e Mystique di Illuminations, dove il marradese riprende "la 
ligne des orients, des progrds" del poeta francese.^* D'altra parte, nel tema di 
Ofelia, gi^ commentato a proposito di Baudelaire, ma di indubbia importanza in 
Rimbaud, si possono rintracciare effettivamente rinvii precisi a Les premieres 
communions e Ophelie di Poesies, arricchendo in questo modo di ulteriori 
connotazioni la convergenza nei temi dell'amore, la follia e il perpetuo 
vagabondaggio della "fanciulla morta". Una simile rilevanza nell'immaginario 
campaniano acquista la visione deserta, perch6 saccheggiata, della citt^ modema 
(vedi, per esempio, La Notte, La giornata di un nevrastenico), in un' indubbia 
ripresa di un motivo rimbaldiano ricorrente: "le saccage des promenades" 
(Turchetta, La cultura di Dino Campana 1985). Ugualmente fondamentale 6 il 
rinvio a Rimbaud in un altro motivo campaniano: la sera, come si far^ presente 
nei "brividi [...] della notte" {La Notte), con echi di Prominitoire 
d' Illuminations, oppure Alchimie du verbe d'Une saison en enfer, 
particolarmente per quello che riguarda il motivo della sera estiva. D'altra parte, 
va ricordata una reminiscenza precisa nei Taccuini campaniani (Campana 1973, 
II, p. 441) di Les chercheuses de poux (w. 17-18) e di Le vin de la Peresse 
(Turchetta, La cultura di Dino Campana 1985). 

A un livello piu stilistico, d pur vero che ambedue gli autori condividono 
uno stesso gusto per I'aggettivazione del colore, come si awerte, per esempio, 
in Les premieres communions (parte V) e Sogno di prigione. Questa 
convergenza si estende ad altri momenti dell'opera campaniana, dove si constata 
I'attrazione per il Rimbaud di Poesies e Vers nouveai4x et chansons. A un livello 
strutturalmente piii significative va ricordata la ripresa deH'altemanza 
purezza/corruzione, onnipresente in Rimbaud, e ugualmente ricorrente in 
Campana, che acquista un'altissima rilevanza nei riguardi del grande tema 
campaniano del viaggio, come vedremo in seguito. 
3. Viaggio e puriflcazione: la nostalgia delle origini 

In questo vagare perpetuo, il poeta contempla I'esperienza del viaggio non solo 
come un modo di vita positivo (da qui, per esempio, I'elogio degli zingari in 
Dualismo), ma come una vera peregrinazione con valore di puriflcazione 
interiore. II momento piii sintomatico di questa esperienza, la quale presenta un 
carattere fortemente mistico, viene rappresentato ne La Verna, che trascrive 
letterariamente il viaggio fatto da Campana nel 1910 seguendo la lezione di San 
Francesco di Assisi. In questo componimento il lettore si confronta con 
un'allegoria: il soggetto poetico, quale cavaliere errante e solitario, va in cerca di 
un Ideale che non h altro che il recupero della fede e la finale purificazione 
spirituale. 



^* Si vedano anche Turchetta 1985 e Pecorano in AA. VV.: Materiali per D. Campana 
117-46. 



270 Assumpta Camps 

II tema del viaggio come purificazione, situate in modo prevedibile in uno 
spazio naturale, e quindi come contrappunto alia citt^ dei bassifondi e della 
degradazione morale, riaffiora in altri momenti lungo 1' opera di Campana, 
arricchendosi di connotazioni vari. Per esempio, come contrappunto alia nevrosi 
modema ne L'incontro di Regolo, oppure combinandosi con un'evocazione 
della parabola del figliol prodigo in Firenze, dove si fa presente, del resto, un 
tema decadentista ben noto: la nostalgia della purezza delle origini, legata 
all'infanzia innocente del soggetto poetico, ma anche alia vita primitiva. In 
questo caso, tale tema si trasferisce all'ambito provinciale, e quindi alia vita 
patriarcale di un mondo preindustriale ormai defmitivamente perso o 
minacciato, e in ogni caso antimodemo. La contemplazione della natura e il 
viaggio solitario per gli spazi naturali disabitati operano un balsamo spirituale e 
immettono il soggetto poetico in una armonia e serenita di spirito che 
difficilmente riesce a trovare in altri momenti. Questa desiderata fusione 
armonica con la natura avr^ un valore fortemente vitalistico.^' Cos! si awerte, 
per esempio, in Immagini del viaggio e della montagna, e in un modo simile, 
anche se con uno sfondo allegorico, in Pampa, dove si fa presente la 
similitudine fra il treno che corre per il paesaggio infinito della pampa e la vita 
errante del poeta, senza mai un punto di approdo, quale vera rappresentazione 
della sua condizione esistenziale. La stessa idea viene ripresa in Passeggiata in 
tram [...], con la sostituzione del treno con la nave, d'una parte, e, dall'altra, 
della pampa con il mare, ugualmente infmito. II tema si completa, del resto, con 
certi motivi cari alia tradizione della letteratura di viaggi nello stabilire il 
parallelismo fra immobilita-morte (la quale accenna alia calma minacciante 
della bonaccia in un contesto marittimo), e quindi nell'indicare il bisogno 
costante di un vagare perpetuo senza mai fermarsi (vedi anche Genova). II 
viaggio perpetuo come forma di vita si far^ coestensivo all'irrequietudine 
consustanziale del poeta ne L'incontro di Regolo, e afFiora ugualmente in un 
altro autoritratto dell'autore come vagabondo nel viaggio-fiiga descritto in 
Passeggiata in tram [...]. 

Questo bisogno imperioso di purificazione interiore che per Campana 
avviene nella natura avr^ in tanti momenti la dimensione di un misticismo laico, 
che in Campana corrisponde all'avvicinarsi alia lezione francescana (Barberi 
Squarotti 1983). L'esperienza, anche se rappresentata in chiave allegorica, era 
gi^ ben presente nella prosa fondamentale del diario de La Verna, come 
abbiamo visto, dove insieme all'evocazione dei primitivi (San Francesco, Dante, 
Leonardo da Vinci, Ghirlandaio, ecc), la quale conferisce un forte significato 
personale a questa "favola d'antica poesia", si awerte una dimensione religiosa 
nell'esperienza poetica della contemplazione del paesaggio: di una religiosity 



^' Cosi in Faenza, oppure a proposito degli zingari in Dualismo [...], personaggi 
caratteristici non solo per il loro nomadismo, ma anche per la loro armonia con il mondo 
naturale. 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un 'ermeneutica della sua opera 27 1 

originaria, legata al sentimento di armonia che il poeta esperimenta 
neH'immensit^ di un paesaggio infmito, legata a un sentirsi fibra dell'universo, 
che riscatter^ il poeta dalla sua condizione alienata (Passeggiata in tram [...]). 
Questa esperienza, base della purificazione interiore che il lettore avverte in 
questa prosa, contrasta fortemente con I'ambiente di una umanitd degradata 
presente in tanti altri momenti dell'opera campaniana (si veda, per esempio, 
Firenze). Tale contrasto si articola seguendo la polarity caratteristica delle 
poetiche fin-de-siecle fra purezza-virginit^ / degradazione-corruzione. La stessa 
polarity verr^ tematizzata sub specie letteraria prendendo come base la lezione 
dantesca in Immagini del viaggio e della montagna (componimento che 
conclude, non a caso, con un cenno dAV Inferno di Dante, IV, 81). 

Strettamente collegata a La Verna appare, piu tardi, una altra prosa 
fondamentale in Campana: Pampa, dove il poeta riprende il motivo francescano 
di un'esperienza mistica della natura,^" e dove riappare prowisoriamente lo 
stesso sentimento di quiete interiore e armonia. Ci6 nonostante, I'effetto, per 
cosi dire, balsamico della pampa non verr^ solo collegato alia contemplazione 
della natura e a questo sentirsi fibra dell'universo, che si fa ben presente in 
questo caso, ma pure una ripresa del mito delle origini, che si manifesta in 
questo spazio disabitato, alio stesso tempo "buono" e "selvaggio". Non si 
esclude una lettura psicanalitica del motivo, quale regressione a un impossibile 
utero matemo (specialmente per Campana, ma in genere per il poeta modemo, 
quale sentimento interiore di esilio). Con tutto ci6, resta indubbio il referente di 
Nietzsche, e in modo particolare del suo Cosi parld Zarathustra, in modo 
particolare in Pampa.^' 

II ritratto del poeta errante e nottumo era gi^ ben presente in Baudelaire, sia 
nei Poemes en prose (Le desir de peindre), sia nell'opera in versi dell'autore.^^ 
In ambedue i casi veniva sviluppato il tema del vagare perpetuo, fondamentale 
in una delle piu note immagini di s6 stesso che ci offre il poeta francese: 
L 'Albatros, continuata piu tardi dal poema Elevation e La voix {Spleen et Ideal). 
II viaggio come ricerca dell'Ideale, e c\ob con una dimensione fortemente 
utopica, h nettamente baudelairiano e caratteristico degli inizi della modernity 
letteraria (basta citare, per esempio, la sua prosa poetica Anywhere Out of the 
World). Cosi si pu6 constatare nell'opera di Baudelaire, cosi come in quella del 



^° "[...] gettato sull'erba vergine, in faccia alle strane costellazioni io mi andavo 

abbandonando tutto ai misteriosi giuochi dei loro arabeschi, cullato deliziosamente dai 

rumori attutiti del bivacco" (Campana 1973, 1, 69). 

^' Sarebbe interessante a questo punto rilevare le abbondanti e significative reminiscenze 

di Nietzsche nell'opera di Campana, un tema che richiederebbe, per6, uno studio piu 

approfondito (Si veda anche Turchetta, La cultura di Dino Campana 1985). 

" Per esempio, in Le vin de I 'assassin, riappare il parallelismo fra il poeta e il cane 

randagio, oppure in Le cygne e in Quadres parisiens presentano il carattere di 

un'allegoria modema o vuota. 



272 Assumpta Camps 

marradese, una simile valutazione positiva degli zingari (Bohemiens en voyage), 
e una stessa visione del viaggio come fuga dal reale per I'anima irrequieta del 
poeta/^ e del mare come spazio di liberty {L'homme et la mer). Da qui il 
significato che prende nella sua opera, come 6 ben noto, del resto, il motivo 
ricorrente della nave."''* 

L'affinit^ di impostazione del tema del viaggio in Baudelaire e Campana si 
avverte anche non solo nella sua dimensione di ricerca dell'Ideale e di fiaga 
daH'alienazione presente nel reale, ma in altri aspetti molto piu concreti, che 
pongono in rilievo, per esempio, il forte carattere esotico e la ricchezza 
sensoriale dell'ambiente portuale di certe citta, cosi pieno di vita e ripieno di 
prodotti di oltremare.^^ Rimbaud condivide la stessa visione del viaggio-fuga, 
caratteristica della visione del poeta quale figura errante (vedi, per esempio, la 
sua fantasia poetica che ha per titolo Ma boheme). Con tutto ci6, al di 1^ di 
questa affinity, resta pur vero che nella boheme del maledettismo rimbaldiano 
Campana trover^ un referente letterario di prim'ordine, con un complemento 
importante: il sentiment© di nostalgia delle origini e di ricerca della purezza 
primigenia legato al tema del viaggio.^^ Questo tema acquista una flinzionalit^ 
esegetica piii alta nell'opera di Campana, dove il viaggio, anche se si presenta 
come fuga dal reale, non raggiunge il valore utopico tipicamente baudelairiano. 
Si tratta, piuttosto, di un viaggio come purificazione interiore, che evidenzia il 
sostanziale francescanesimo campaniano, ben presente in molti momenti,^^ e 
persino la dimensione visionaria del poeta in altri casi, quale via altemativa per 
una fuga dal reale, intrapresa attraverso la visione delirante (vedi Le bateau ivre, 
e Marine). Da non dimenticare, perd, che la nostalgia delle origini presenta in 
Rimbaud un valore di critica del presente e del progresso alienante, acquistando 
una dimensione per momenti mitologica, del tutto estranea a Campana.^^ 

II tema del poeta errante 6 determinante nel referente rimbaldiano dell'opera 
di Campana. In questo senso, varmo ricordati Un sejour en enfer, e 
particolarmente Mauvais sang e Delires (I e II), cosi come Illuminations, 
particolarmente in Vagabonds e Soir historique. Illuminations si chiude, del 
resto, con la prosa poetica Genie, dove si stabilisce nettamente la connessione 



Si veda L 'invitation au voyage o Moesta et errabunda, in Spleen et ideal, oppure Le 
voyage, della serie "La mort". 

^'' Cosi, per esempio, gli stessi componimenti suindicati, completati da Le beau navire, 
che sviluppa lo stesso senso di avventura e di ftiga, e da Un voyage en Cythere, sempre 
con I'idea del viaggio come ricerca dell'Ideale. 

^' Si vedano L 'inviation au voyage, oppure Le port, strettamente collegato con Parfum 
exotique e persino con La chevelure, in Spleen et ideal. 

^^ Vanno ricordati in questo senso Depart, in Illuminations, e soprattutto Delires (I e II) e 
L 'impossible, in Un sejour[...], un volume che riassume le varie connotazioni che prende 
il viaggio in Rimbaud. 
■*' Per esempio, il poema Sensation. 
^* Si veda il lungo componimento Soleil et chair, nelle sue varie parti. 



Viaggio e esilio in Dino Campana: per un 'ermeneutica della sua opera 273 

fra boheme e condizione sociale del poeta modemo, che echeggia in Campana.^^ 
Da quanto precedentemente indicate, sembrano indubbi i rapporti 
privilegiati che Campana stabilisce con la poesia francese del secondo Ottocento 
e il rinnovamento profondo che questo dialogo intertestuale comporter^ sia nella 
sua opera che aH'intemo della tradizione lirica italiana. Al di la di altre 
reminiscenze non solo evidenti ma certamente molto rilevanti per I'esegesi 
dell'opera campaniana (facciamo riferimento a Nietzsche o Whitman, per 
esempio), e al di la dell'esistenza indubbia di una koine simbolista-decadentista 
dove coincidono tutti questi autori e nella quale si diffonde uno stesso 
immaginario poetico (e artistico, in linee generali), vanno messe in rilievo le 
allusioni esplicite o velate, le citazioni a memoria, i cenni di vario tipo agli 
autori francesi che emergono nell'insieme dell'opera del marradese. E proprio 
aH'intemo di questa linea interpretativa che prende corpo e significato il tema 
fondamentale del viaggio in Campana, insieme al sentimento che lo nutre, e cio6 
I'esilio interiore del poeta. Tale esilio, di base indubbiamente biografica nel caso 
di Campana, si presenta aH'intemo di un processo di trasformazione in 
letteratura della propria vita, nel quale si intersecano le suggestioni di 
provenienza diversa e le pluricitazioni simultanee. Al vagabondaggio 
esistenziale e spaziale del poeta-errante, "ch6tif trouv^re" come si 
autorrappresenta, corrisponde un simile vagabondaggio di letture varie 
caratterizzate dalla loro asistematicit^ e alio stesso tempo onnipresenza. Sar^ 
proprio questa, e non altra, la vera patria interiore dell'esule che h stato 
Campana. 

Vniversita di Barcellona 



Opere citate 

AA.VV., Materiali per Dino Campana, a c. di P. Cudini, Lucca, Maria Pacini Fazzi 

editore, 1986. 
AA.VV., Dino Campana oggi, Atti del convegno su Campana, Firenze 18/19 marzo 1973, 

Firenze, Vallecchi, 1973. 
Barberi Squarotti, Giorgio, Gli inferi e il labirinto. Da Pascoli a Montale, Bologna, 

Cappelli, 1975 (prima Mito e realta in Campana, "La Situazione", XIII-XIV, feb.- 

apr. 1960). 
, San Francesco nella poesia di Dino Campana, in AA.VV., San Francesco e il 

francescanismo nella letteratura italiana del novecento, Roma, Bulzoni, 1983, 183- 

98. 
Baudelaire, Charles, Petits poemes en prose (Le Spleen de Paris), preface et 

commentaires de Pierre-Louis Rey, Paris, Pocket, 1995. 
, Oeuwes completes, 2 vols., texte 6tabli, pr6s6nt6 et annot6 par C. Pichois, Paris, 



^' Cosi anche in alcuni altri suoi componimenti poetici: Sensation, Au Cabaret-vert, cinq 
heures du soir. La maline. Ma Boheme. 



274 Assumpta Camps 

Gallimard (La PIdiade), 1975-1976. 
Bonaffini, Luigi, Lapoesia visionaria di D. Campana, Irsenia, Marinelli, 1980. 
Bonifazi, Neuro, Dino Campana. Roma, Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 1978. 
Briosi, Sandro, L'orfismo visivo di Dino Campana, "Studi Romagnoli", XXXIII, 1981, 

127-45. 
Campana, Dino, Opere e contributi, a c. di E. Falqui, Firenze, Valecchi, 1973, 2 voil. 
, Le mie lettere sono fatte per essere bruciate, a c. di G. Cacho Millet, Milano, 

All'Insegna del Pesce d'Oro, 1978. 
, Carteggio con Sibilla Aleramo, a c. di N. Gallo, Firenze, Vallecchi, 1958. 



Camps, Assumpta, ^'God/dog ", il poeta randagio (per uno studio dell 'opera di Dino 

Campana), "Galleria. Rassegna Quadrimestrale di Cultura" (Roma), XXXXIV, set- 
die. 1994, Fasc. 3, 16-22. 
Del Serra, Maura, L 'immagine aperta. Poetica e stilistica dei "Canti Orfici". Firenze, La 

Nuova Italia, 1973. 
Falqui, Enrico, Per una storia del rapporto tra Nietzsche e Campana, "La Fiera 

letteraria", 14-VI-1953, 5-6. 
Galimberti, Cesare, Sulla formazione di Campana, in Dino Campana, Milano, Mursia, 

1967. 
Ladr6n de Guevara, Pedro Luis, Dino Campana (Un poeta italiano del siglo XX. entre to 

"maudit" y la esquizofrenia), Murcia, Universidad de Murcia, 1990. 
Luzi, Mario, At di qua e al di la dell 'elegia, in Campana, Opere e contributi, vol. I (anche 

in Vicissitudine e forma, Milano, Rizzoli, 1974). 
Maggi, Mario, La notte campaniana tra allucinazione e ricordo, in "Esperienze 

letterarie", gen.-marz. 1985, 49-62. 
Mazza, Riccardo, Laforza, il nulla, la chimera: saggio su Dino Campana, Roma, Istituto 

Enciclopedia Italiana, 1986. 
Muzzioli, Francesco, II problema dell'Allegoria in Campana, "Allegoria", n. 10, 1992, 

29-57. 
Petrucciani, Mario, Ipotesi per Campana: Lucrezio, una sinestesia la farfalla, "Studi 

urbinati", 1-2, XLV, 1971, 991-96. 
Ramat, Silvio, Note ai "Canti orficC, in Campana, Opere e contributi, a c. di M. Luzi, D. 

De Robertis, S. Ramat & N. Gallo, Firenze, Vallecchi, 1973, vol. I. 
, L'intenzione regressiva dei "Canti Or/ici", in Storia della poesia italiana del 

Novecento, Milano, Mursia, 1982, 1 15-28. 
Rimbaud, Arthur, Oeuvres poetiques, texte dtabli, pr6s6nt6 et annotd par A. Adam, Paris, 

Gallimard (La PI6iade), 1972. 
Sanguineti, Edoardo, Introduzione a Edoardo Sanguineti, Poesia del Novecento, Torino, 

Einaudi, 1969. 
Turchetta, Gianni, Dino Campana, biografia di un poeta, Milano, Marcos & Marcos, 1985. 
, Cultura di D. Campana e significati dei "Canti Orfici", "Comunit^", 1985, n. 

187,359-417. 
, Saggezza efollia in Dino Campana, poeta, "Ca' de sass", n. 101, maggio 1988, 



14-18. 
Vasalli, Silvio, La notte della cometa (II romanzo di D. Campana), Torino, Einaudi, 

1984. 
Verlaine, Paul, Oeuvres completes, texte dtabli, pr6s6nt6 et annotd par Y. G. Le Dantec, 

Paris, Gallimard (La Pldiade), 1954. 



Annunziata O. Campa 



Utopia e disincanto: 

I'esuio degli intellettuali spagnoli 

nella diaspora della Guerra Civile 



A partire dalla Generazione del '98,' la prima generazione di intellettuali 
spagnoli che manifesta una perspicace coscienza del suo ruolo di avanguardia 
politico-sociale, il concetto di intelligentsia esprime un'attitudine critica e 
indipendente e disegna il profilo del pensatore dialettico nei confronti 
dell'ordine stabilito. 

L'intellettuale militante, nel veder liquidate quello straordinario patrimonio 
di energie, uomini e ideality, quel progetto di ispirazione orteghiana rivolto 
all'educazione civile, va alia ricerca di nuove prospettive e di costruirsi un 
itinerario fiituro ai suoi interessi. L'improwido e forzoso esilio, che genera una 
nuova situazione geografica ed esistenziale, lo costringe a una piu rigorosa 
meditazione sulla Spagna e sulla sua identit^.^ 

Negli anni della guerra civile spagnola,^ gli intellettuali contrappongono al 
fallimento del govemo prowisorio della Seconda Repubblica, una testimonianza 
umana e morale, owero impegno sociale e civile, che prevale su un 
annientamento estremo.'* Le ragioni delle loro convinzioni politiche risiedono 



' "Quella che per consuetudine ormai canonica viene chiamata 'generazione del '98' t 
una realty assai piu che una 'generazione': t un largo movimento di opinione che ha 11 
suo stimolo episodico nel 'disastro' del 1898, cio6 neH'ultima dura sconfitta subita 
dall'imperialismo spagnolo a Cuba (una sconfitta suggellata appunto dal trattato di Parigi 
del '98 e dalla perdita di quella estrema colonia americana), e che trova il suo sostegno 
ideologico in un solido gruppo di letterati e di uomini di cultura, i quali si sentono tutti 
investiti della dura problematica della society spagnola" (D. Puccini, Romancero della 
resistenza spagnola 1936-1965, Bari, Laterza, 1970, p, 23). 

^ Jos6 Luis Abelldn e Antonio Monclus (ed.). El pensamiento espanol contempordneo y 
la idea de America. El pensamiento en el exilio (Barcelona, Anthropos, 1989), 2 :10; 
Fernando de los Rios, Sentido y significacion de Espana (M6xico, 1945); Francisco 
Ayala, Conciencia de Espana (Buenos Aires, 1947). 

^ La guerra civile spagnola (1936-39) fu un evento per molt! aspetti cruciale, tale da 
rappresentare un essenziale punto di riferimento per la comprensione della storia dell'etA 
contemporanea europea. 

" Come esempio di belligeranza intellettuale si pu6 menzionare La Barraca. Questa 
compagnia di teatro itinerante, creata da Federico Garcia Lorca, spezzava il monopolio 
culturale che deteneva la borghesia conservatrice. Essa la vedeva come uno strumento 
popolare affiancata da un gruppo di intellettuali politicamente militanti che combatteva 

Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002) 



276 Annunziata O. Campa 

nella consapevolezza degli sviluppi e della centralit^ di una cultura democratica 
nell'Europa occidentale.^ Gli sforzi compiuti dall'^lite intellettuale, al fine di 
inserirsi nel processo di consolidamento di una nuova civilt^ politica, fanno 
sentire i loro effetti sin dai primi anni del conflitto. 

Sebbene gli eventi di natura bellica determinino generalmente I'esodo di 
masse operaie e contadine, non era mai accaduto prima degli anni della guerra 
civile che un considerevole numero di noti politici e di intellettuali dissidenti di 
ideologia repubblicana fosse costretto ad abbandonare il paese — o lo avesse 
fatto per propria volenti — durante I'avanzata delle truppe nazionaliste e 
anche neirimmediato dopoguerra. 

Per il "ritomo all'ordine", propugnato dal regime franchista durante 
I'assedio, era necessario silenziare la voce degli intellettuali. La repressione di 
ogni dissidenza era dunque un imperativo inerente alia natura del fascism© 
spagnolo "fondato oltrechd sul predominio di classe, sulla coartazione del 
consenso".^ In tale moment© storico gli intellettuali, quali sostenitori di 
un'ideologia libertaria, si rivolgono verso se stessi, e ricercano nella propria 
formazione, nell'eredit^ culturale ricevuta, la causa della loro esclusione dalla 
storia, alia quale non rinunciano e della quale sono stati protagonisti. 
Nell'intento di propiziare una trasformazione all'arcaicit^ politica, sociale ed 
economica della Spagna e di introdurre nel popolo quelle istituzioni 
democratiche, che le nazioni modeme inalberavano come segno di superiority, 
essi si impegnano nella lotta contro le resistenze antagonists 

L'esilio come sradicamento e confinamento appare garante del passaggio 
dei valori, dal passato al fiituro, e diviene nel presente storico un'occasione 
eccezionale di riscatto civile, da attuarsi nella dimensione della belligeranza 
ideologica e sulla scia della solidariet^. Dal tentativo di svolgere un'efficace 
azione dialettica e dialogica con il passato ne scaturisce uno sguardo 
retrospettivo quale segno tangibile di un impegno assunto, un atto di 
riappropriazione del proprio destine. 



per la causa della giustizia e della liberty. Nonostante I'opposizione delle varie fazioni 
politiche, la Barraca procedeva impavida la sua missione proselitista. L'Universit^ era il 
baluardo della resistenza contro la dittatura e le forze reazionarie; i professori 
stimoiavano il culto della liberty davanti a un regime oppressore e avevano preferito la 
loro incondizionata adesione alle idee social! e perfino resilio. II poeta Garcia Lorca era 
pienamente conscio dei doveri dell'intellettuale e in quel particolare momento politico 
non esita a compromettersi. II gesto estremo della repressione determind la sua 
fucilazione (19 agosto 1936). 

^ Sul ruolo della cultura europea nel concorso della politica mondiale hanno dedicato 
ampie riflessioni i filosofi spagnoli del tempo quali Miguel de Unamuno, Sobre la 
europeizacion (1906), Maria Zambrano, La agonia de Europa (1945) e Jos6 Ortega y 
Gasset, Meditacion de Europa (1949). 
* Ubaldo Bardi, Federico Garcia Lorca (Firenze, Provincia di Firenze, 1978), p. 3. 



L 'esilio degli intellettuali spagnoli nella diaspora del I a Guerra Civile 277 

La spirale delPesilio: i segni di una Utopia 

Nella visione di una realty incalzante e sempre piu compromissoria si affaccia la 
premonizione del "destierro" e I'intellettuale rivoluzionario, logorato dallo 
spettro degli autoritarismi europei, superstite delle ceneri della Seconda 
Repubblica, da una parte, ricompone gli schemi di una Utopia e, dall'altra, 
appare condannato a una defezione inesorabile/ II militante appare dunque 
come I'incamazione estrema del suo attivismo e delle sue contraddizioni. Non 
sar^ piu prevalentemente homo ideologicus, ma spinto dal delirio costruttivista 
del tempo diverra homofaber. voleva edificare un mondo piii giusto e ne 6 stato 
divorato, con esiti sideralmente lontani dal progetto originario. Figura doppia e 
tragica, oscilla continuamente tra "generosita storica" e contraccolpi 
organizzativi, tra aspirazioni libertarie e sottomissioni laceranti, tra 
emancipazione coUettiva e umiliazione dell 'individuality. L'ordine che ne 
scaturisce h distante da quell'idealismo utopico quale premessa della felicit^; 
consiste piuttosto nella "normality dell'azione repressiva", quel repertorio di 
carcere, deportazioni, delazioni, repressioni: una realty che nessuna revisione 
storica puo occultare n6 ridimensionare. 

E nella contrapposizione, tra i fmi desiderati e i mezzi utilizzati, tra 
premesse ideali ed esiti reali, che annida la tragica ambivalenza del pensatore 
impegnato politicamente. La sua antropologia 6 segnata dal rovesciamento dei 
valori e I'identit^ sowersiva e I'autonomia della liberty umana sono dissolte 
nella gestione autoritaria del potere. L'ideologia progressista non h piii il 
retaggio di un passato soprawissuto nella modemita: ^ incamazione della 
modernity stessa. 

L'esilio: distanziamento e re-integrazione 

Lo studio sulle peculiari caratteristiche dell'esilio degli intellettuali spagnoli 
richiederebbe un approccio multidisciplinare in quanto il fenomeno non si 
definisce solo come scambio tra cultura madre e culture dei paesi che ospitano 
— il pill delle volte defmitivamente — I'esule, ma come coesistenza di aspetti 
distinti mediante accostamenti e analogic. L'esilio spagnolo va esaminato 
dunque, non solo sotto la prospettiva storicistica, ma anche attraverso diversi 
profili culturali: letterario sociologico, psicologico e filosofico. 



^ II 28 marzo 1939 il generale Francisco Franco, dirigendosi verso Madrid, esige la resa 
senza condizioni. Da questo momento gli ultimi elementi di quello che era stato il 
govemo repubblicano della Spagna si sbandano. La repressione t violenta. Si susseguono 
epurazioni, denunce, arresti, fucilazioni. Nelle prigioni vengono rinchiusi migliaia di 
prigionieri: la maggior parte in attesa di esecuzioni. Fra quest! vi sono i capi dei partiti, 
gli intellettuali, come il poeta Miguel Hemdndez. Questi riesce a raggiungere il 
Portogallo, ma la polizia di Salazar lo consegna agli spagnoli. Viene rinchiuso nel carcere 
di Torrijo, a Madrid, e poi in quello di Alicante dove la malattia e le privazioni dettano la 
sua morte. 



278 Annunziata O. Campa 

L'esule tende a ristabilire I'equilibrio perduto, a stimolare elementi 
endogeni e introdume degli estranei al fine di ritrovare nel vissuto la originaria 
armonia. Tale compensazione lo riconduce a una posizione adeguata, a una 
autoregolazione della percezione e della psiche. L'identita e la congiunzione 
degli opposti — il noto e I'ignoto — significano la percezione simultanea, 
tramite le prospettive della vita e della morte, del naturale e dello psichico. In tal 
senso I'esperienza diventa una nuova e particolare unione di punti di vista 
intemi. L'attenzione psicologica enfatizza i meccanismi della memoria e il 
ricordo 6 piu deleterio di quanto non sia il dimenticare, attraverso cui gli eventi 
traumatici della involontaria rinuncia si trasformano, uscendo dalla vita 
personale, sgomberandola e generando inediti orizzonti. Per l'esule avere 
memoria non b solo riscatto, ma necessita di un "presente ampio", cosi da 
contenere quel che k stato accantonato nelle zone d'ombra dello spazio e del 
tempo. 

L'esilio, come impellente costrizione o scelta coatta, si trasforma dunque in 
un viaggio della coscienza verso I'ignoto. E cosi, il luogo dell'esilio rende 
consapevole, attraverso la totale estraneita, il distacco delle cose e degli altri, 
I'incertezza del destino nel flituro. Si compie allora, in un campo di forze che si 
espellono e si attraggono, nei termini di un distanziamento e di una virtuale re- 
integrazione, la rivelazione della patria. 

Ecco che in primo luogo, nelle opere relative alia "cultura dell'esilio", si 
ravvisa una specificita che non mostra il segno di un carattere periferico, ma 
rimane ancorata nell'orbita della cultura originaria. Cosi il poeta Le6n Felipe si 
esprime: 

Yo no soy m^ que una voz 

la tuya, la de todos 

[...]. La voz de Espafta que hoy se articula en mi garganta como 

pudo articularse en otra cuaiquiera.* 

In nome di una concreta vocazione, la produzione culturale dell'esilio si 
presenta come una piii intensa continuazione della tradizione letteraria, capace 
di estendersi altrove. Una creativity che nonostante sia il riflesso di una realty 
scritturale vissuta al di 1^ delle frontiere, rivela inoltre un'ampia gamma di 
tematiche, di connessioni con il passato e un'evoluzione del linguaggio e del 
pensiero. 



^ Questo poema di guerra di Le6n Felipe, "La insignia-Alocucion poemdtica", in Gabrieie 
Morelli (ed.), La voce antica della terra (Milano, Accademia, 1973), p. 264, composto 
nel 1937 e declamato a Valencia e al Coliseum di Barcellona, suona come segno di 
premonizione e di incitamento. A questo grido di dolore seguirono le pubblicazioni in 
esilio del El hacha (1939) e Espanol del exodoy del llanto (1939). 



L 'esilio degli intellettuali spagnoli nella diaspora delta Guerra Civile 279 

Rispetto alia fase rivoluzionaria, la condizione e I'organizzazione della 
cultura in esilio subiscono inevitabili mutamenti, ma I'impegno civile continua a 
misurarsi con i valori e gli scopi del processi culturali e il rapporto con una 
nuova realta segna I'obbligatoriet^ inequivocabile di rivalutame i requisiti della 
loro utility e del loro success©.' "Crear la conciencia de la etapa hist6rica que 
estd a punto de cuajar [consiste in ] ordenar — scrive Ayala — las jerarquias del 
espiritu en el andamiaje de la nueva sociedad y orientarla hacia valores 
firmes."'° 

L'attivit^ degli intellettuali, pur registrando momenti di ripiegamento 
intimista, retaggio dell'espressione romantica, esercita un complessivo impegno 
sociale e morale. "Al margen del grado de integraci6n alcanzado, para el 
'verdadero exiliado', la dimensi6n politica — afferma Romero Samper — se 
convierte asi en su primera raz6n de ser, en una sefia de identidad a la que no 
cabe, por tanto, renunciar."" 

La susseguente e graduale disgregazione degli intellettuali e il 
soggettivismo dell'epoca delle "contrapposizioni ideologiche" tendono ad 
attenuarsi e a essere sostituiti da uno spirito collettivo, da un'autocoscienza di 
classe. Ritoma cosi il mito di una "Repubblica delle lettere" in grado di dar 
inizio a un risorgimento ideale al di 1^ delle competenze specifiche e della 
singola estrazione politica. II ruolo deH'intellettuale si costituisce cosi sulla base 
di una prospettiva critica e altemativa nei confronti del regime che li aveva 
sopraffatti. 

L'attivit^ culturale dei rifligiati, quali Emilio Prados, Jos6 Gaos, Xavier 
Zubiri, Maria Zambrano, Am^rico Castro, Rafael Dieste e tanti altri,'^ 



^ In Spagna Teditoria aveva conosciuto un periodo di crisi, dovuto aH'azione repressiva 
della censura, alia conseguente scelta di privilegiare libri di devozione, all'lsolamento 
della cultura spagnola rispetto al resto dell'Europa e quindi al restringimento del pubblico 
che derivava da questi fattori. 

'° Francisco Ayala, La cabeza del cordero (Buenos Aires, Losada,1953), p. 15. 
" Milagrosa Romero Samper, "Anilisis del 6xodo y actividad politica" in L. De Llera 
Esteban (ed.). El ultimo exilio espahol en America (Madrid, Mapfre, 1996), p. 22. 
'^ Fra Testate del 1938 e i primi mesi del 1939 giungono in Messico i membri che 
costituiranno la Casa de Espaila e gli invitati speciali del Presidente L^zaro C^denas, 
come il giurista Recasdns Siches, i poeti Le6n Felipe, Luis Cemuda, i critici e poeti Jos6 
Moreno Villa, Enrique Diez-Canedo e iost Domenchina, i filosofi Jos6 Gaos, Joaquin 
Xirau, lo storico e avvocato Jos6 Maria Ots Capdequi, gli scrittori Emilio Prados, Rafael 
Dieste, Benjamin Jam6s, Rafael S^chez de Ocafia, Jos6 Camer, I'endocrinologo 
Rodendo Carrasco Formiguera, lo scienziato Jos6 Giral (che diventa il presidente del 
governo in esilio), il medico Aurelio Romero Lozano e il politico Indalesio Prieto. Moiti 
si trasferiscono in Argentina, come Amdrico Castro, Jos6 Ortega y Gasset, Claudio 
Sdnchez Albomoz, Gregorio Marafl6n, Juan Ram6n Jimdnez, nella Repubblica 
Domenicana, come Fernando de los Rios, in Francia, come Manuel Azafla e Francisco 
Largo Caballero, in Cile Rafael Albert! e Maria Teresa Le6n e in Italia Jorge Guill6n; si 



280 Annunziata O. Campa 

costituisce cosi I'esempio sublime, non solo della rielaborazione di una perdita 

— la "cultura recuperata" — bensi di una "cultura aggiunta". Risultava tuttavia 
difficile per essi crearsi un punto di vista e una prospettiva, rispetto alle memorie 
oscure e inquietanti del recente passato; si trattava piuttosto di non interrompere 
il process© creativo e di costruirsi una autonomia espressiva propria sulla 
condizione di esuli, in un'operazione di riscatto e appropriazione, ove la 
memoria nel tempo attuava come mediatrice tra il vivere e il pensare'^. 

E facile comprendere come nel primo ciclo di questo processo storico, le 
illusioni perdute esasperino le incertezze del traversare terre sconosciute e 
paesaggi insoliti. "Las tensiones que causa cualquier partida inopinada [...], la 
inseguridad, la inserci6n en otras costumbres [...] — asserisce Mario Benedetti 

— son elementos generadores de angustias, malestares, y hasta de 
resentimientos y rencores". Ma il compito primordiale e legittimo che "tiene un 
escritor del exilio — ribadisce lo studioso uruguaiano — es con la literatura que 
Integra, con la cultura de su pais. Tiene que reivindicar su condici6n de escritor, 
y a pesar de todos los desalientos, las frustraciones, las adversidades, buscar el 
modo de seguir escribiendo."''* 

vedano Nicole Sanchez Albom6z, El destierro espahol en America, un transvase 
cultural (Madrid, Sociedad Estatal. Quinto Centenario-Instituto de Cooperaci6n 
Iberoamericana, 1989); Gregorio Marafl6n, Espaholes fuera de Espaha (Madrid, Espasa 
Calpe, 1968); J. Andrds-Gallego, Luis de Liera, Jos6 Velarde, Nazario Gonzalez, Espaha 
actual La Guerra civil (1936-1939). (Madrid, Gredos, 1989) e Patricia Fagen, 
Transterrados y ciudadanos (Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Econ6mica, 1975). II termine 
"transterrado" fu introdotto da Josd Gaos voiendo affermare i! concetto di 
multiculturalita, concetto che viene ripreso successivamente dai filosofi messicani Jose 
Vasconcelos nella sua teorizzazione in Nacion de las Naciones en la raza de las razas e 
da Leopoldo Zea in Raza cosmica. 

'^ Queste due connotazioni dell'impegno intellettuale sono colte rispettivamente da opere 
significative, quail Los cipreces creen en Dios di Jos6 Maria Gironella (Barcelona, 1953); 
La cabeza de cordero di Francisco Ayala (Buenos Aires, 1949), Filosqfia y poesia di 
Maria Zambrano (M^xico-Morelia, Publicaciones de la Universidad Michoacana, 1939; e 
I'edizione corretta dall'autrice: M6xico, Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1987) e, sempre 
della Zambrano, Pensamiento y poesia en la vida espahola (Mexico, La Casa de EspafSa, 
1939: cito dal volume pubblicato dalle Ediciones Endymion, Madrid 1996). La filosofa 
aveva disegnato attraverso le sue molteplici attivit^ di saggista e di critica letteraria fra il 
1928 e 1939 una rigorosa rivisitazione del liberalismo, dell'idealismo crociano e del 
sindacalismo soreliano {Horizonte del liberalismo o Nuevo liberalismo, Madrid, Morata, 
1930; la seconda edizione contiene uno studio introduttivo di Jesus Moreno Sanz, 
Morata, Madrid 1996). Aveva anche compreso e denunciato il precario e radicale 
equilibrio dell'intellettuale in Spagna e in Europa (Los intelectuales en el drama de 
Espaha. Santiago de Chile, Panorama, 1937; ripubblicato per i tipi di Hispamdrica, 
Madrid 1977 e 1979 e poi in Senderos, Barcelona, Anthropos, 1998 e da Trotta. Madrid, 
1 998 con Escritos de la guerra civil a cura di Jesus Moreno Sanz). 
'" Mario Benedetti, El desexilioy otras conjeturas (Madrid, El Pais, 1 984), p. 1 1 . 



L 'esilio degli intellettuali spagnoli nella diaspora della Guerra Civile 28 1 

La visione della nuova realty si traduce, in campo letterario e filosofico, in 
un'estetica anticlassicistica, in una poetica della metafora e in una rivisitazione 
dei postulati del piu genuine umanesimo. Prevale allora la tendenza al 
rinnovamento: un procedimento che concettualizzi i rapporti sottili esistenti fra 
uomini di culture diverse. Una prassi che nell'attivit^ di un'intelligenza arguta 
rende possibile accostamenti di dissonanze, di enigmi e di contraddizioni. 
L'intellettuale si rivela come colui che 6 in grado di scoprire i legami misteriosi 
esistenti fra i vari campi della realta e i fenomeni piu diversi, rendendoli per la 
prima volta "visibili". 

Alia prima fase del risentimento e della nostalgia segue la razionalit^ 
all'adattamento e I'apertura a un dialogo stimolante con il passato — la stagione 
della cultura felice — e infine la possibility del ritomo. 

L'esilio e il pensiero rilosorico di Maria Zambrano 

I contomi di una determinata condizione storica acquistano i tratti di una sui 
generis consapevolezza ideologica e culturale nella larga messe di scritti dei 
riftigiati in America Latina, negli Stati Uniti, in Francia e in Italia. Ne risulta un 
quadro caleidoscopico che va dalla tonality personale nel sentire I'esilio, alio 
stato pill denso e intimamente conchiuso. 

Maria Zambrano'^, una delle pensatrici piu rappresentative del Novecento 
spagnolo, si impone all'attenzione della storia del pensiero filosofico occidentale 



'^ Maria Zambrano (Velez-Malaga 1904-Madrid 1991). Ancor prima della presa di 
Barceliona del 26 gennaio 1939, in campo repubblicano, quale che sia I'lmportanza 
strategica della capitale catalana, la disfatta psicologica e totale; decine di migliaia di 
leaders dei partiti, intellettuali, mutilati, combattenti, vecchi, donne e bambini fuggono in 
Francia, passando il confine. Raggruppati e intemati dalle autoriti francesi, si 
ammucchiano a Argelds, a Prats-de Mollo e a Saint-Cyprien in campi recintati e in 
baracche di legno. All'inizio di questo tragico esodo, il 6 gennaio 1939, la Zambrano 
raggiunge il piccolo paesino di Salses nella frontiera francese, abbandonando cosi la 
Spagna per un lungo esilio che dureri quarantacinque anni. Nello stesso glomo anche il 
poeta Antonio Machado si avvia verso la frontiera e riesce ad arrivare a Callioure, ma 
non riesce a sopportare il grave disagio e muore di li a poco, il 22 febbraio. Altri 
personaggi prendono la via dell'esilio, come il presidente Azana che il 7 febbraio si trova 
in Francia assieme ai riftigiati. La filosofa, come tutti gli altri, paga cosi la sua adesione 
alia fede repubblicana, che aveva rappresentato per i movimenti studenteschi e per gli 
intellettuali una forza organizzatrice per sostenere rivendicazioni politiche e sociali. Dopo 
un breve soggiorno a Citta del Messico e a La Habana si trasferisce a Morelia (Messico) 
dove le viene conferito I'incarico di insegnamento di Storia della Filosofia. La sua 
permanenza a Morelia t interrotta, nel 1950, per far ritomo in Francia in occasione della 
morte della madre, accolta con profondo dolore. Dopo un soggiorno di due anni in 
Messico, nel 1953 decide di stabilirsi in Italia, dove vive fino al 1964. L'umile e sereno 
ambiente romano stimola la filosofa a completare la sua autobiografia, Delirioy destino, 
e a dedicarsi a piu profondi impegni filosofici fra i quali spicca la stesura di Filosofia y 



282 Annunziata O. Campa 

per le sue peculiar! speculazioni sull'essere come oggetto della storia. II suo 
metodo filosofico si presenta come un sistema di riflessioni sull'etica del 
pensiero e sulla rinascita di una nuova concezione della filosofia della storia. 
L'impegno vitale della Zambrano nei confronti della Spagna, tra il 1928 e il 
1939, la porta all'elaborazione di uno strumento teorico che mette in crisi la 
cognizione della ragione e il compromesso dell'intellettuale con la sua realty. 
Nella cornice di una critica al razionalismo e all'idealismo, la Zambrano vede la 
ragione contemporanea paralizzata e inservibile di fronte alia tragedia del XX 
secolo. E ipotizza — nel constatare il fallimento della modernity in Spagna 
rispetto ai canoni europei di Stato, Rifomia e Razionalismo — il nuovo ruolo 
dell'intellettuale, alia ricerca di una nuova ragione che propizi la nascita di una 
cultura e di una morale anch'esse nuove. Per la filosofa, I'intellettuale 
dell'epoca romantica della guerra agisce solo come "commissario politico", 
ritraendosi dalla consapevolezza del moment© storico. In questo contesto di 
belligeranza delle lettere e della ragione, la pensatrice fa emergere il concetto di 
una "ragione militante": una ragione concreta e antiidealista, che porta a mettere 
in questione il rapporto tra I'intellettuale e il potere. 

Si tratta di un'intelligenza combattiva, in difesa della cultura, quella che 
caratterizza la ragione militante concepita dalla Zambrano. Per costei il 
compromesso dell'intellettuale b quello di agire con la parola, di renderla 
sovversiva e meccanismo privilegiato di trasformazione ideologica della realty. 
Per I'intellettuale militante repubblicano ogni arte doveva inesorabilmente 
costituire uno strumento di lotta. 

Senza spogliare la "raz6n armada" del suo contenuto primigenio, la 
Zambrano intraprende una singolare riflessione sulla Storia e sulla Poesia. 
Riportando sul piano della storia la ragione come poiesis, opera una inedita 
ipostasi tra pensiero e poesia, fino a fondare il concetto di "raz6n po^tica": 
strumento gnoseologico, ri-creazione dell'essere. La poesia attua dunque come 
elemento ambivalente di coscienza e di morale, illuminando I'individualit^ 
concreta e vivente dell'esperienza. "Poesia y raz6n — scrive la Zambrano — se 
completan y requieren una a otra. La poesia vendria a ser el pensamiento 
supremo por captar la realidad intima de cada cosa, la realidad fluente, 
movediza, la radical heterogeneidad del ser" ("Guerra de Antonio Machado" 
68). 

La parola, "ese elemento primero para el hombre" {Bienaventurados 39) 
sar^ poi davanti al deserto, all'immensit^ e alia solitudine, il veicolo di una 
riscossa, il tramite eccellente per esorcizzare i fantasmi della memoria. 



poesia. L'esilio, dopo una lunga catarsi espressa nella sua opera autobiografica, non 
costituisce piu il luogo delle afflizioni e dei risentimenti, ma quello della convivenza e 
del sentire della ragione come vita. 



L 'esilio degli intellettuali spagnoli nella diaspora della Guerra Civile 283 

Nella Spagna contemporanea, la costante peregrinatio della Zambrano si 
erge a simbolo rappresentativo della storia di tutto il popolo spagnolo: esiliato, 
errante, private della propria terra. Sulle tracce di una fenomenologia 
psicanalitica , la Zambrano applica la "raz6n po^tica" come strumento per lo 
studio dell'uomo quale soggetto della storia e infme del suo stesso esilio. Per la 
filosofa perd la prova dell'esilio acquisisce i tratti di un'eccezionale esperienza 
di vita: 1' esilio come una dimensione essenziale della vita umana. 

L'esilio per la filosofa ha il senso di una rivelazione, una rivelazione che 
sftigge alio specificamente religioso per addentrarsi in una dialettica dei sensi, 
nei presupposti analitici di un metodo che la ragione rende visibile. Come 
esperienza che appartiene al contingente, l'esilio attua come lacerante vivenza 
ed elemento mediatore tra il vivere e il pensare, e riconduce 1' esperienza a 
quanto si e perduto: la patria. Nella Zambrano l'esilio assume I'entita di una 
'figura essenziale' del trascorrere umeino, dall'originaria espulsione dal Paradiso 
al traumatico distacco dal presente per affrontare un ignoto futuro. "En mi exilio 
— scrive la Zambrano — como en todos los exilios de verdad hay algo sacro, 
algo inefable, el tiempo y las circunstancias en que me ha tocado vivir y a lo que 
no puedo renunciar". 

Vita ed esilio si tramutano nella Zambrano in una simbiosi dell'esistere, 
nella consapevolezza di una "patria non desiderata" che brucia e ferisce, fino 
alia rinuncia, all'accettazione cosciente di un non-ritomo. "Yo no concibo — 
afferma la Zambrano — mi vida sin el exilio que he vivido. El exilio ha sido 
como mi patria, o como una dimensi6n de una patria desconocida, pero que una 
vez que se conoce, es irenunciable" ("Amo mi exilio" 14). 

Nella Zambrano l'esilio ha la valenza di un viaggio iniziatico che si compie 
nell'identificazione di un segno, nell'ansia costante di una perdita, di una 
lacerante mutilazione che crea I'illusoria aspettativa di un riscatto; owero 
recuperare il tempo perduto, I'io, gli altri, il sentire originario. Per la filosofa, 
l'esilio raffigura per antonomasia I'essere in solitudine, spoglio di identity e di 
speranza. Assente dalla volont^ nella disfatta della propria storia prova la 
sconvolgente sensazione del vuoto e dello smarrimento, una incessante 
estraneit^, il "no tener lugar en el mundo, ni geogr^fico ni social ni politico [...] 
ni ontol6gico" (Los bienaventurados 39). Lo sradicamento riconduce I'essere al 
centro di un punto senza apparenti coordinate, senza orizzonti riconducibili; 
l'esilio come la follia incama "un disfare la propria nascita, un venir meno 
all'orizzonte protettivo del vissuto quotidiano, all' identity nota, per esporsi in 
totale nudity, sui bordi della storia, alia totale estraneita. E in questa nudita si 
rimane prigionieri, in un vuoto enorme, incolmabile: quella che la Zambrano 
chiama I'immensita dell'esilio" (Boella 83). Immensity e solitudine diventano 
allora lo spazio di uno spirito per il quale morire — e non la morte — costituisce 
la lunga agonia del futuro nel tempo. 

Universita degli studi di Pisa 



284 Annunziata O. Campa 



Opere citate 

Boella Laura, "Maria Zambrano (1904-1991", Cuori pensanti. Hannah Arendt. Simone 
Weil, Edith Stein, Maria Zambrano, Mantova, Tre Lune, 2001. 65-92. 

Zambrano Maria, Maria Zambrano, La agonia de Europa (1945) 

, "Amo mi exilio", Las palabras de regreso, Salamanca, Amaru, 1995. 1-14. 

, Los bienaventurados, Madrid, Siruela, 1 990. 

, "La guerra de Antonio Machado", Senderos. Los intelectuales en el drama de 

Espana, Barcelona, Anthropos, 1989. 60-70. 



Giuseppe Tosi 



Dall'attesa alia storia-esilio. 

La memoria e Tidentita in Se non or ay quando? 

di Primo Levi 

Dov'6 la mia casa? E in nessun luogo. 
E nello zaino che mi porto dietro. 
(Levi, Se non ora, quando? 200) 

1. La memoria spezzata 

Se non ora. quando? si apre con una immagine retrospettiva, una rievocazione 
del passato. Mendel, 11 protagonista, che di professione faceva I'orologiaio, 
ricorda che al suo paese 

di orologi ce n'erano pochi. Ce n'era uno sul campanile, ma era fermo da non so quanti 
anni, forse fin dalla rivoluzione: io non I'ho mai visto camminare, e mio padre diceva che 
neanche lui. Non aveva orologio neppure il campanaro. 

(3) 

Al termine della vicenda, dope un interminabile viaggio che lo ha condotto, 
insieme con i suoi compagni, dalla remota e ostile Polessia all' Italia 
deirimmediato dopoguerra, Mendel sbircia la prima ed unica pagina di un 
quotidiano di cui non riesce a capire i titoli. 

[...] il giomale, costituito da un solo foglio, portava un titolo in corpo molto grande [...]. 
Quel giomale era del martedl 7 agosto 1945, e recava la notizia della prima bomba 
atomica lanciata su Hiroshima. 

(259) 

L'intera vicenda narrata b compresa airintemo di questi due termini 
temporali che determinano, in ultima analisi, anche Tambito della biografia di 
Mendel, il suo principio e la sua fine. L'itinerario di Se non ora, quando?, 
dunque, comincia e termina con due nozioni di tempo che si situano in 
opposizione I'una all'altra: ad un principio in cui prevale una assenza del tempo, 
o una sua sospensione, fa riscontro una fine caratterizzata dalla precisione di una 
data che non si rivela solo come sequenza lineare del calendario ma anche e 
soprattutto come I'evento storico che la difFerenzia. Entrambe le nozioni 
sviluppano un significato simbolico precise: rappresentano, cio6, un prima e un 
dopo nella storia di Mendel e di un gruppo di partigiani ebrei e del loro 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



286 Giuseppe Tosi 

lunghissimo viaggio di soprawivenza nel tentative di raggiungere la Palestina.' 
E un esodo che si rinnova e che si situa in una discontinuity temporale tra ci6 
che era prima della storia — nella tradizione ebraica il tempo escatologico 
dell'attesa, della redenzione, della venuta del messia — e ci6 che segue, dopo il 
diluvio — la guerra — I'esilio in un percorso storico secolare che inaugura un 
nuovo inizio faticoso, contraddittorio e inquietante. Tra questi due estremi si 
situa la Shoah, la distruzione dell'ebraismo aschenazita, la morte di dio.^ 

II gruppo di partigiani si lascia alle spalle le rovine della guerra ma anche i 
tragici eventi che hanno segnato la distruzione delle comunitci ebraiche orientali 
ad opera dell'invasione tedesca: sono tutti scampati alia morte, hanno tutti avuto 
le loro famiglie massacrate e le loro case distrutte, sono tutti superstiti di un 
tempo e di un luogo che non esistono piu. Tutto ci6 che era prima della 



' "Tzmto La tregua quanto Se non ora, quando? sono muniti di una carta geografica, con 
una linea che rappresenta I'ltinerario del rispettivo protagonista. Le rassomiglianze e i 
rapport! sono significativi. I due percorsi, quello di Primo Levi iiberato ad Auschwitz, e 
quello di Mendel e dei suoi compagni partigiani, hanno un andamento est-ovest (dalla 
Bielorussia, dali'Ucraina e dalla Podolia a Monaco), poi si fa identico nella sua 
inflessione nord-sud, passando per Innsbruck e per il Brennero, e giungendo a Verona 
attraverso Bolzano. [...]. La cartina di Se non ora, quando? ha un'altra implicazione 
simbolica. Se la si ripercorre a rovescio, dal campo di raccolta presso Milano a Valuets 
(Urss), si toccano le zone piu important! deU'ebraismo orientale, della Ostjudentum 
(aschenazita). Tanto per farsi un'idea: gli ebrei costituivano il 10 per cento della 
popolazione polacca; il 4 per cento di quella russa; il 40 per cento degli abitanti di Vilna 
(Lituania). E Se non ora. quando? t, anche, un canto funebre di questa civilt^ ebraica 
orientale, finita nei campi di concentramento nazista" (Segre 94). 

^ In Se non ora, quando? Dio t infinitamente distante dagli uomini ed una frattura 
insanabile si b ormai prodotta, con lo sterminio, fra dio ed il suo popolo eletto. "Il 
Signore nostro Dio, il Padrone del Mondo, aveva diviso le acque del Mar Rosso, e i carri 
erano stati travolti. Chi avrebbe diviso le acque davanti agli ebrei di Novoselki? Chi li 
avrebbe sfamati con le quaglie e la manna? Dal cielo nero non scendeva manna ma neve 
spietata" (62-3). Indubbiamente il romanzo riflette anche la posizione scettica di Primo 
Levi nei riguardi della religione che, pur essendo gii presente ben prima della sua 
deportazione ad Auschwitz, si era tuttavia radicalizzata con I'esperienza del campo di 
sterminio. Molti anni dopo, durante un'intervista, Levi avrebbe affermato: "It is a miracle 
that I am still alive, in good health, with my family. I have made a vow never to forget 
that, and I repeat that to myself every day, like a prayer. It is not that I thank Providence, 
because if there really was a Providence, Auschwitz and Birkenau would never have 
existed" (Anissimov 270). Diverse, e da non confondere con un senso religioso, t il 
discorso sull'umanesimo proposto da Primo Levi che, pur assumendo a modello alcuni 
precetti religiosi, rientra, tuttavia, in una piu generale filosofla dell'esistenza, come 
quando annota: "Amdry mi ha definito il 'perdonatore.' Non la considero un'offesa ni 
una lode, bensi un'imprecisione. Non ho tendenza a perdonare, non ho mai perdonato 
nessuno dei nostri nemici di allora [...] perchd non conosco atti umani che possano 
cancellare una colpa; chiedo giustizia, ma non sono capace, personalmente, di fare a 
pugni n6 di rendere il colpo" (/ sommersi e i salvati 110). 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 287 

distruzione — modelli e forme di vita familiari, comunitari e religiosi — resta 
cristallizzato aH'intemo di una memoria del passato a cui non h piu possibile 
fare riferimento senza la coscienza paralizzante della sua indicibilit^. La 
memoria di quel passato pu6 solo offrire, ai soprawissuti, sequenze 
frammentarie di ci6 che era la vita prima del presente, visi, voci, ritratti, 
immagini familiari, personaggi che entrano ed escono di continuo dalle quinte 
della memoria, che si presentano, magari non voluti, nel campo visivo del 
ricordo, alcuni con la loro storia, altri con il solo aspetto fisico, mohi 
abbandonano la scena per non tomarci mai piii. Questi sprazzi della vita di 
prima riaffiorano nella devastazione di un presente in cui non solo le immagini 
di morte dominano senza pudore, ma che manca della fondamentale dimensione 
umana della quotidianit^, un presente totalizzante nel quale, come un'eco 
lontana, risuonano le parole di Se questo e un uomo: 

[...] il problema del flituro remoto t impallidito, ha perso ogni concretezza, di fronte ai 
ben piu urgenti e concreti problemi del future prossimo: quando si manger^ oggi, se 
nevicher^ se ci sari da scaricare carbone. 

(38) 

Per gli ebrei, il rimpianto delle loro case non era una speranza ma una disperazione, 
sepolta fino allora sotto dolori piii urgenti e gravi, ma latente. Le loro case non c'erano 
piu: erano state spazzate via, incendiate dalla guerra o dalla strage, insanguinate dalle 
squadre dei cacciatori d'uomini; case-tomba, a cui era meglio non pensare, case di 
cenere. Perche vivere ancora, perchd combattere? Per quale casa, per quale patria, per 
quale avvenire? 

(94) 

AI passato distrutto si associa il dissolvimento del ftituro. In queste 
circostanze il senso di identity individuale e di gruppo soffre della mancanza di 
una progettualita futura non disponendo di modelli di riferimento che affondano 
le loro radici nel passato o in una qualche forma di memoria collettiva. II 
presente distende i suoi confmi fino ad inglobare passato e futuro, imprigiona i 
protagonisti in una collocazione mentale nella quale non trova posto la 
coscienza dell 'identity ma solo forme di alienazione che producono uno 
schiacciamento sul reale.^ II presente, a sua volta, si configura tramite un'altra 
definizione del tempo: quella che caratterizza il viaggio, la ricerca e I'awentura. 
Tutte queste temporality diverse non possono, per forza di cose, situarsi in una 



^ Levi aveva gii descritto questa forma di alienazione in Se questo e un uomo: "Per gli 
uomini vivi le uniti del tempo hanno sempre un valore, il quale e tanto maggiore, quanto 
piu elevate sono le risorse interne di chi le percorre; ma per noi, ore, giomi e mesi si 
riversavano torpidi dal futuro nel passato, sempre troppo lenti, materia vile e superflua, di 
cui cercavamo di disfarci al piu presto. Conchiuso il tempo in cui i giomi si inseguivano 
vivaci, preziosi e irreparabili, il futuro ci stava davanti grigio e inarticolato, come una 
barriera invincibile. Per noi, la storia si era fermata" (105). 



288 Giuseppe Tosi 

continuita ordinata di passato, presente e flituro ma coesistono e si 
sovrappongono seguendo non solo I'evoluzione della vicenda narrata ma anche 
le reazioni emotive, profonde dei personaggi nella loro sopravvivenza 
quotidiana fino alia chiusa del libro. 

Attraverso queste differenziazioni temporali Levi riprende in Se non ora, 
quando? uno dei motivi ricorrenti nella tradizione letteraria ebraica-orientale, 
quello dell'ebreo errante che, privato della sua appartenenza ad una comunit^, 
vaga inseguito dalla condanna divina, lacerato dalla separazione dallo shtetl (il 
villaggio ebraico) e traumaticamente confmato nel suo esilio solitario. Lo shtetl 
rivive nella memoria come comunit^ di affetti familiari, armonia di valori ormai 
relegati in un passato mitizzato e perci6 irraggiungibile. La rievocazione dello 
shtetl diventa, per I'ebreo errante, una fonte di dolore perch^ il ricordo del 
passato accentua la lacerazione della sua individualita che non pu6 piu 
ricomporsi nel deserto dell'ora presente se non momentaneamente e tramite 
I'ulteriore radicamento dei valori religiosi che sono altrimenti assenti nell'esilio. 
Ecco allora che la religione si erge a salvaguardia dell'individuo e sia la 
tradizione biblica che quella talmudica si offrono come ristoro e riparo contro 
I'ostilit^ di cio che b, per sua natura, straniero ed informe. Senza possedere la 
pretesa di un tempo defmibile, il passato rivisitato in chiave religiosa dispone 
della sicurezza di ci6 che si conosce, del gia avvenuto di cui si pu6 raccontare la 
storia. E la mano ordinatrice del dio che crea e che al tempo stesso produce 
ordine servendosi del linguaggio come un modus per separare la forma dal caos, 
la norma dall'assenza. II ricordo h conservazione del passato e, nelle forme del 
racconto che gli sono proprie, ingiunzione morale, galleria di exempla che, nel 
loro tramandarsi attraverso le generazioni, servono come ammonimento e 
salvazione. E vi 6 anche una componente estetica del ricordo, quella che 
determina la trasposizione scritta della vasta tradizione orale ebraica-orientale, 
I'humus fecondo dal quale fiorisce la letteratura yiddish in cui I'umano e il 
divino riannodano i loro fili spezzati dalla diaspora.'* 

Ma il passato perduto di Se non ora, quando? trascina, nel suo 
dissolvimento, anche il riparo che in epoche trascorse era costituito dalla 
tradizione religiosa. Quest'ultima soprawive nelle parole dei personaggi 
soltanto come inevitabile traccia della memoria nelle sue forme lessicali che, 
ormai svuotate di nessi con I'esperienza quotidiana, riaffiorano incomprensibili. 
E un passato segnato da una rottura traumatica, irrecuperabile anche nel ricordo, 
non piu vivificato dalla costante convivenza con il divino, un passato che non 
contempla un nostos rigeneratore, rendendo cosi il ritomo impossibile: 

[...] se vuoi sapere come si chiama, questo paese, si chiama Strelka, come chiss^ quanti 
altri paesi; e se vuoi sapere dov'd, sappi che non t lontano da qui, anzi era, perchd questa 



'' "Lo yiddish" infatti, "6 teso fra la vocazione divina e la miseria quotidiana deli'esilio" 
(// sistema periodica 9). 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 289 

Strelka non fb piu. Met^ dei paesani si sono sparsi per la campagna e per il bosco, e 
I'altra meta stanno in una fossa, e non ci stanno stretti, perch6 tanti erano morti gi^ prima. 
In una fossa, si; e I'hanno dovuta scavare loro, gli ebrei di Strelka [...]. E sappi ancora 
che questo paese che non c'd piii io I'ho maledetto molte volte, perchd era un paese di 
anitre e di capre, e c'era la chiesa e la sinagoga ma non c'era il cinematografo; e adesso a 
pensarlo mi sembra il Giardino dell'Eden e mi taglierei una mano perch6 il tempo 
camminasse all'indietro e tutto tomasse come prima. 

(4) 

Strelka d 11 luogo di provenienza di Mendel, 11 paese amato-detestato, ma 
infinitamente rimpianto ed ormai associate irrimediabilmente ad un'immagine di 
morte di massa da cui manca ogni senso di sacralita.^ In queste parole di Mendel 
non sopravvive alcuna parvenza di quel fondamento etico-religioso assegnato 
alia memoria dalla tradizione orientale che si esplica insieme sia come 
consapevolezza e protezione del divenire, sia come salvaguardia daH'oblio e 
dall'anonimato. La coscienza della distruzione del passato della comunit^ di 
Mendel, segna pertanto una rottura con le forme e i modelli della tradizione 
ebraica orientale. II punto di riferimento inevitabile della coscienza di Mendel 
rimane ancorato a quel traumatico dileguarsi di forme di quotidianit^, di 
localizzazioni tropiche, che assicuravano un continuum temporale alia sua 
individualita aH'intemo del suo spazio collettivo.^ 

II modello sociale e culturale al quale Mendel fa riferimento h quello dello 
con le sue forme ed abitudini tradizionali che si celebravano attomo ad un 
nucleo centrale, riflesso di un secolare processo di costruzione e conservazione 



' Che la morte di massa nei territori occupati riveli il suo aspetto desacralizzato sia 
tramite le esecuzioni multiple che nella fretta delle fosse comuni t forse dir poco. In 
realti, la morte di massa svela tutto il suo carattere di produzione massificata di morte, la 
sua meccanizzazione, qualcosa di ancora piu orribile della morte. Parlando di Auschwitz 
(ma il discorso vale anche per lo sterminio nei territori orientali occupati dalle annate 
tedesche) Agamben afferma che "non si possa piu parlare di morte, che quella dei campi 
non fosse morte. Ad Auschwitz non si moriva, venivano prodotti cadaveri. Cadaveri 
senza morte, non-uomini il cui decesso t svilito a produzione di serie. E proprio questa 
degradazione della morte costituirebbe anzi, secondo una possibile e diffusa 
interpretazione, I'offesa specifica di Auschwitz, il nome proprio del suo orrore" (66). 
^ Qui la comunit^ b intesa nella sua accezione piu ampia, e tende ad includere anche il 
senso della casa e degli affetti famigliari, se b vero che lo shtetl b il crocevia di affetti e di 
regole famigliari. "Alio sradicamento, alia dissociazione generata dall'esilio" scrive 
Paola Valabrega, "si contrappongono la casa e gli affetti. La casa rappresenta il 'rifiigio', 
il 'confine perduto': secondo questa concezione che si ritrova nella letteratura ebraica 
orientale, anche Levi afferma la validity della comunita famigliare rispetto alle sofferenze 
di una 'storia-esilio'" (268). Magris ritoma sulla "celebrazione della cellula famigliare" 
in opposizione air"assenza" determinata dalla diaspora. Nei caso di Se non ora, quando? 
il gruppo di partigiani, in qualche maniera, sostituiri la comuniti famigliare pur senza 
poter giungere, ovviamente, ad una sua sostituzione (19). 



290 Giuseppe Tosi 

di un' identity sociale, "il mondo delle cose giuste fatte alle ore giuste" (190). E 
lo shtetl, difatti, lo spazio assegnato dall'ebraismo orientale all'elaborazione del 
riscontro sociale tramite la consacrazione di una ritualit^ quotidiana, culturale e 
religiosa giunta a maturazione nel corso della storia della collettivit^. Lo shtetl 
assolveva al principio della conservazione della memoria sia individuale che 
collettiva, vale a dire di quell'insieme di elementi comuni, di simboli e di 
sentimenti di identificazione che si presentavano necessariamente come un 
prodotto culturale originale ed irripetibile. A quest'ambito temporale e spaziale 
era assegnato lo scopo di offrire un quadro interpretativo dell'esistenza nel quale 
le esperienze passate, presenti e future dell'individuo trovavano una loro 
immediata collocazione nell'unit^ di una biografia. NeH'ambito dello specifico 
ebraico la biografia sviluppa e legittima I'identit^ dell'individuo per indicargli il 
suo cammino esistenziale nonostante gli inevitabili cambiamenti legati 
air instability stessa della diaspora. La memoria che si distende nel tempo 
costituiva la condizione primaria per I'affermarsi dell'identit^ nei suoi connotati 
irrinunciabili di stability, di permanenza e di coerenza interna. In questo senso il 
ricordo costituiva il dono della vita vissuta in prospettiva e presupponeva lo 
sviluppo di una coscienza interiore che fosse capace di saper collocare 
I'orizzonte vitale dell'individuo sia nel passato che nel flituro, i termini con i 
quali si confrontavano strategic di azione, valori, motivazioni, modi di sentire e 
pensare. Era, inoltre, una capacity in cui la componente religiosa contribuiva alia 
formazione di un universo culturale in grado di conferire significato al tempo, di 
rendere il senso di appartenenza a tale flusso e ad integrarlo con la propria 
identity.'' 

Proprio daU'esaitazione di una biografia individuale deriva la variety dei tipi 
umani dello shtetl, ognuno con una sua caratteristica, con una sua distinzione, 
con una sua identit^: Mendel I'orologiaio, Gedale il violinista, Mottel il 
macellaio rituale della comunit^, Pavel I'attore e clown, Rokele Nera e Rokele 
Bianca, Line la tentatrice, insieme ai "sarti, copisti, cantori" comunit^ di arti e 
mestieri a cui dovrebbe aggiungersi anche il meschugg^ e il nebech, figure 
pittoresche e rituali di ogni villaggio. Posti brutalmente al di ftiori della 
possibility non solo di accedere alia memoria ma anche all'esperienza di 
ricostruire un futuro, i sopravvissuti restano con le proprie ferite esistenziali a 
cui d negata la cura dell'elaborazione biografica e fluttuano nel vuoto della 
propria individuality dispersa: 

Certo sono un disperse anch'io [...]. E forse si possono contare i dispersi? Se si potesse 
non sarebbero dispersi; si contano i vivi e i morti, i dispersi non sono n6 vivi ni morti e 
non si possono contare. Sono come i fantasmi. {Se non ora, quando? 7) 



^ Sulla memoria individuale e collettiva, I'identit^ e I'oblio rimando alia seguente 
bibliografia essenziale: Bodei; Goffman; Jedlowski; Oliverio; Panofsky; Rossi; Tabboni; 
Taylor. 



La memoria e I'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 291 

II senso della vita sbiadisce, disperdendosi neH'impallidirsi della propria 
individuality e lascia il posto ad una stanchezza del vivere, ad un vuoto 
trascinarsi giomaliero nelle retrovie della guerra: 

Era stance della guerra e della vita, e sentiva corrergli per ie vene, invece del sangue 
rosso del soldato, il sangue pallido della stirpe da cui sapeva di discendere, sarti, 
mercanti, osti, violinist! di villaggio, miti patriarchi prolifici e rabbini visionari. Era 
stanco anche di camminare e di nascondersi, stanco di essere Mendel: quale Mendel? Chi 
6 Mendel figlio di Nachman? Mendel Nachmanovic, alia maniera russa, com'era scritto 
sul ruolino del plotone, o Mendel ben Nachman, come a suo tempo, nel 1915, aveva 
scritto sul registro il rabbino dei due orologi? 

{Se non ora, quando? 1 7) 

Su questo sfondo di devastazione si rinnova la storia secolare dell'esodo 
nella quale il novello ebreo errante, private del soffio di Dio, barcolla nella sua 
nuova, immensa solitudine. Egli sa che il tempo dell'attesa 6 terminato ma non 
nei termini e nei luoghi assegnatigli dalla tradizione. Questa volta k I'idea stessa 
di Dio che vacilla sotto i colpi incomprensibili dello sterminio, il Dio una volta 
onnipotente, "creatore di meraviglie e di mostri" {La ricerca delle radici 5), che 
ha abbandonato i resti del popolo che lui stesso aveva scelto in una disperazione 
sempre piu irrimediabile, oscillante in un "universo ostile, violento, strano" {La 
tregua 158). D'ora in avanti non sar^ piii possibile non solo I'invocazione 
accorata di Giobbe, vittima designata dell'onnipotenza ed inconoscibilit^ di Dio, 
ma anche solamente la fede nella discesa salvifica del messia sulla terra 
devastata. II tempo dell'attesa 6 terminato e con esso anche I'accettazione dei 
mali storici con la serena rassegnazione di Giobbe.* Si apre il tempo nuovo 
dell'esilio, delle responsabilit^ storiche, della presenza attiva tra le 
contraddizioni della storia: la guerra, la soprawivenza, la ricerca di una nuova 
terra promessa, ora da conquistarsi e lavorarsi da soli. E questa volta, se proprio 
vale attingere ancora una volta agli exempla della Bibbia, il modello proposto h 
piuttosto quello di Davide, non il piccolo re prescelto da Dio ma colui che, 
armato di fionda, si prova ad affrontare il gigante (teutonico, in questo caso) 
riuscendo anche a sconfiggerlo. Da una parte domande rimaste inevase: 

Tu ci hai sceiti fra tutte le nazioni: perchd proprio noi? Perchd prospera I'empio, perche la 



* Come, del resto, anche Levi sottolineava quando scriveva che "Giobbe t il giusto 
oppresso dall'ingiustizia. E vittima di una crudele scommessa fra Satana e Dio: che fara 
Giobbe, pio, sano, ricco e felice, se sari toccato negli averi, e poi negli affetti familiari, e 
poi sulla sua stessa pelle? Ebbene, Giobbe il giusto, degradato ad animale da 
esperimento, si comporta come farebbe ognuno di noi: dapprima china il capo e loda Dio 
('Accetteremmo da Dio il bene e non il male?'), poi le sue difese crollano. Povero, orbato 
dei figli, coperto di piaghe, siede tra i rifiuti grattandosi con un coccio, e contende con 
Dio. E una contesa diseguale: Dio creatore di meraviglie e di mostri lo schiaccia sotto la 
sua onnipotenza" {La ricerca delle radici 5). 



292 Giuseppe Tosi 

strage degli indifesi, perchd la fame, le fosse comuni, il tipo, e il lanciafiamme delle SS 
nelle tane stipate di bambini atterriti? E perchd ungiieresi, polacchi, ucraini, lituani, 
tartari, devono rapinare e massacrare gli ebrei, strappargli le ultime armi dalle mani, 
invece di unirsi a loro contro il nemico comune? 

{Se non ora, quando? 59) 

Dall'altra parte subentra I'urgenza e la necessity delle risposte immediate: 

Ognuno di loro [i gedalisti], uomo o donna, aveva sulle spalle una storia diversa, ma 
rovente e pesante come il piombo fuso; ognuno avrebbe dovuto piangere cento morti se la 
guerra e tre invemi terribili gliene avessero lasciato il tempo e il respiro. Erano stanchi, 
poveri e sporchi, ma non sconfitti; figli di mercanti, sarti, rabbini e cantori, si erano 
armati con le armi tolte ai tedeschi, si erano conquistato il diritto di indossare quelle 
uniformi lacere e senza gradi, ed avevano assaporato piu volte il cibo aspro dell'uccidere. 

{Se non ora, quando? 104) 

Per questi ebrei partigiani il gruppo supplisce alia mancanza dell'identit^, 
determina i valori della comunit^ in viaggio verso una promessa questa volta 
non concessa ma conquistata.' "La natura insanabile dell'offesa" che nell'ora 
della liberazione ne La tregua opprime "il corpo e I'anima dei sommersi", e che 
si moltiplica nei suoi "mille modi, contro la stessa volont^ di tutti, come sete di 
vendetta, come cedimento morale, come negazione, come stanchezza, come 
rinuncia", rimane in Se non ora, quando? confmata in uno spazio retrostante le 
piu urgenti necessita pratiche della guerriglia di disturbo nelle retrovie del fronte 
e non tracima gli argini della decenza morale, della solidariet^ di gruppo, della 
difesa di ci6 che resta di umano da salvare. Questi partigiani non nutrono "I'odio 
per i superstiti" di Auschwitz, non hanno esperienza di quanto "grave e chiusa"'" 
possa essere I'ora della liberazione, non ricercano, al modo degli Hdftlinge (i 
prigionieri ebrei del campo), la morte come liberazione dall'insostenibile peso 
della colpa. Sono liberi, lo sono sempre stati, o si sono guadagnati la loro liberty, 
e per questo sono ancora in grado di parlare di dignity umana. Ed 6 il valore 
della scelta, dell'assunzione di una responsabilita, della sottrazione alio 
sterminio, del rischio e dell'esposizione alia morte che determina il privilegio di 
esistere che muove e spinge questi partigiani. Nel loro "essere per la morte"" 



' Se anche il gruppo non pu6 riproporre un contesto sociale per la precarieti stessa della 

situazione in corso, esso tuttavia si pone come riferimento che supplisce ad una mancanza 

e che rimedia all'assenza. Si tratta di una solidariet^ che restituisce senso alia vita, come 

afferma Segre: "I partigiani ebrei, riscotendosi da una lunga schiavitu e sottraendosi alia 

'soluzione finale,' sviluppano tra loro un cameratismo reso assoluto dalla mancanza di 

altri punti di riferimento (la famiglia, gli amici); hanno meditato ed elaborato insieme una 

tavola di valori e un senso della vita" (105). 

'" Tutte le espressioni citate si ritrovano ne La tregua 158. 

" E questa espressione di Martin Heidegger in Being and Time. La traduzione t mia, 

sulla base delle traduzioni tradizionali nelle versioni italiane del testo. 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 293 

questi ultimi ritrovano I'autenticit^ dell'esistenza di cui percepiscono 
inconsciamente anche il risvolto politico in vista della fondazione di una 
comunita israelitica in Medio Oriente. Infine, non avendo conosciuto il totale 
disprezzo della dignita umana, teoria e prassi dei campi di sterminio, gli h 
estranea la pratica della coUaborazione con I'aguzzino, quella devastazione 
morale che Primo Levi aveva definito come la zona grigia, causa, in ultima 
analisi, dell'insopportabile oppressione del vivere che si manifesta nell'ora 
stessa della liberazione. I partigiani e gli Hdftlinge sono veramente due mondi 
tra i quali non b possibile alcun tipo di comunicazione. 

Parlavano poco e sottovoce, e di rado sollevavano gli occhi da terra. I gedalisti tentarono 
invano di stabilire un contatto con loro: soddisfatti i bisogni primari, sembravano non 
avere piu desideri nd interessi nt curiosity. Non facevano domande, e alle domande non 
rispondevano. C'erano anche donne: avevano ancora indosso I'abito a righe, zoccoli di 
legno ai piedi, e i loro capelli avevano appena ricominciato a crescere. Al termine della 
seconda notte Mendel usci dalla baracca per andare alia latrina. Appena varcata la soglia 
urto contro un corpo umano e lo senti oscillare inerte; era ancora caldo, pendeva 
impiccato dalle travi del soffitto. II fatto si ripet6 nei giomi successivi, come 
un'ossessione silenziosa. 

{Se non ora, quando? 217) 

Di fronte a questa notte dell'umanita, Mendel e i suoi oppongono il valore 
dell'esperienza attiva che si awale di pochi ma fermi punti di riferimento e che 
si esplica in un'attivit^ tutta mondana, volitiva, ottimistica. Senza ottimismo, 
come Primo Levi ricordava, "le battaglie si perdono, anche contro i mulini a 
vento"(/ racconti 565). Ed aveva poi ribadito: "Siamo qui per questo, per 
sbagliare e correggerci, per incassare colpi e renderli. Non ci si deve mai sentire 
disarmati" (// sistema periodica 79). In questa capacity di reazione si distende 
ci6 che Primo Levi chiamava "il tremendo privilegio della nostra generazione e 
del mio popolo"(^a tregua 1 1): quella volont^, cio6, di contrapporsi alia natura 
insanabile dell'offesa e di ritrovare, nella vita che si rinnova, il valore della 
salvaguardia della memoria di ci6 che e successo per impedirgli di rinnovarsi e 
colpire ancora. La ricostruzione della propria storia assurge, qui ed ora, ad un 
obbligo morale che si attua tramite la reinvenzione del proprio destino: "[...] 
quanto voi avete imparato nelle paludi e nel bosco", esorta Smirnov ai 
partigiani, "non deve andare perduto; e non basta che sopravviva in un libro" {Se 
non ora, quando? 222). 

Combattiamo per salvarci dai tedeschi, per vendicarci, per aprirci la strada; ma 
soprattutto, perdonami la parola grossa, per dignita. E infine devo dirti questo: molti fra 
noi non avevano mai gustato il sapore della liberty e I'hanno imparato a conoscere qui, 
nelle foreste, nelle paludi e nel pericolo, insieme con I'avventura e la fratemita. 

{Se non ora, quando? 183) 



294 Giuseppe Tosi 

Complice di questo ritrovato senso di liberty b la dimensione del viaggio 
che caratterizza I'esperienza del gruppo, che determina I'estensione del se, 
questa voita non neH'intemo di un divenire individuale ma nell'estemo di una 
proiezione del gruppo sul territorio. Lo schiacciamento sul presente produce 
I'alienazione derivante dalla mancanza di una prospettiva futura, ma mentre il 
viaggio rende possibile la condivisione dell'esperienza quotidiana, genera una 
nuova forma di individuality che, esposta fin dal suo primo formarsi alle 
avversita dell'ignoto, trova la propria ragion d'essere in un nuovo senso di 
responsabilita verso se e verso gli altri del gruppo. Ma il viaggio b anche 
avventura, ricerca, scoperta, sorpresa, novita. E la vita che si rinnova 
quotidianamente, 6 la linfa che alimenta la curiosity, b la temerariet^ che sftigge 
alia morte. Questo viaggio, a differenza degli esempi classici, non prevede un 
ritomo a casa, ma contiene in s€ tutti quegli elementi costitutivi che pure 
I'accomuna all'esperienza degli ulissidi e dai quali i partigiani in viaggio 
derivano un rapporto totalmente nuovo con la propria individuality. Ne 
consegue, in ultima analisi, proprio quell'accumulazione dei materiali 
dell'esistenza che prefigurano il ricostituirsi di nuove forme di vita associata.'^ 
A dispetto, dunque, della forzata estraneita nei confront! dei modelli della 
tradizione, Mendel e i suoi non raggiungono lo stadio della fine dell'esperienza 
ma, al contrario, sono profondamente impegnati nella ricostruzione del loro 
vivere quotidiano, permettendo a tutti loro un lento e costante depositarsi 
dell'esperienza nella memoria. Proprio questa esperienza, vissuta dai 
protagonist! come una nuova capacity di lasciar sedimentare il vissuto nella 
profondita della memoria, conduce alia riappropriazione del proprio cammino 



'^ Come nota Agamben: "[da un !ato] sopravvivere indica la pura e semplice 
continuazione dei la nuda vita, rispetto ad una vita piii vera ed umana; in un altro, la 
sopravvivenza ha un senso positive e si riferisce — come in Des Pres — a colui che, 
combattendo contro la morte, t sopravvissuto all'inumano" (66). Levi ritoma suUa 
necessita della vita, concepita come un valore positive, nei suo racconto "Verso 
occidente" in cui ribadisce che "[...] tutto cio che 6 vivo, lotta per vivere e non sa perchd. 
II perchd sta scritto in ogni cellula, ma in un linguaggio che non sappiamo leggere con la 
mente: lo leggiamo per6 con tutto il nostro essere, e obbediamo al messaggio con tutto il 
nostro comportamento. Ma il messaggio pu6 essere piii o meno imperative: sopravvivono 
le specie il cui messaggio b inciso profondo e chiaro, le altre si estinguono, si sono 
estinte. Ma anche quelle il cui messaggio e chiaro possono avere delle lacune. Possono 
nascere individui senza amore per la vita; altri lo possono perdere per poco o molto 
tempo, magari per tutta la vita che gli resta; e finalmente... ecco, forse ci sono: lo 
possono perdere anche gruppi di individui, epoche, nazioni, famiglie. Sono cose che si 
sono viste: la storia umana ne t plena... volevo ancora dirti che fra chi possiede I 'amore 
di vita e chi lo ha smarrito non esiste un linguaggio comune. Lo stesso evento viene 
descritto dai due in due modi che non hanno niente in comune: I'uno ne ricava gioia e 
I'altro tormento, ognuno ne trae conferma per la propria visione del mondo" (/ racconti 
198). 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 295 

biografico alia luce di una memoria di gruppo. In questo senso lo spazio 
dell'esperienza si restringe e si amplia alio stesso tempo: si restringe, perch6 
tanto la dimensione del passato che quella del ftituro sono entrati nell'ombra; si 
amplia, perch^ I'esperienza inaugura delle possibility radicalmente nuove di 
confronto con materiali umani e sociali disparati e provenienti da ambiti 
culturali eterogenei tra loro. '^ E, questo, infme, il senso nascosto nella 
confessione di Mendel ai suoi nuovi amici: 

1...] quello che volevo fare era giusto. Volevo prendere partito, come quando uno si 
taglia un ponte alle spalle, e non sa se t giusto o sbagliato, ma dopo che ha deciso il ponte 
non c'6 piu e lui non ha piii scelte, tomare indietro non si pu6 piu. 

{Se non ora, quando? 25) 

Al viaggio si associa un senso contagioso di allegria, di festa che si rinnova 
nelle pause della guerra.''' La festa e il moto che si genera dal nucleo stesso del 
gruppo e rappresenta un implicito riconoscimento del proprio porsi come blocco 
unico segnato da un comune destino. Sono questi momenti di festa che afferrano 
la piccola comunita e la fanno rifluire verso un centro defmito che chiarifica la 
separazione tra I'essere della festa, cio^ la defmizione del proprio essere 
collettivit^, e il non-essere della festa, c\ot la minaccia della dispersione sociale 
ed individuale. La festa 6 dunque il momento della conoscenza di s6 e dell'altro, 
h un prendere parte ad un flusso sensibile di commozione che h, in ultima 
analisi, un momento di creativity condiviso da tutti. La festa e il tempo della 
pausa da un tempo storico lineare che si disgrega solo temporaneamente per 
permettere I'imizione di un tempo di qualita particolare: il tempo della 
rigenerazione.'^ II centro fisico e simbolico da cui si irradia la festa h il violino 
di Gedale che non rappresenta solo il lieto espandersi della festa o la 



'^ "Poste le condizioni per la ricreazione della vita, anche I'uomo pu6 rinascere. E 
dall'assistenza ai malati, nella gratitudine manifestata con I'offerta del pane a quanti 
possono assisterli, che Levi data Tinizio del processo per cui, noi che non siamo morti, 
da Hdftlinge siamo lentamente ridiventati uomini' — 'riacquistai il sentimento 
dell'umanita quando, insieme ad un compagno, riuscimmo ad aiutare malati e 
moribondi.' Rotti di fatica ma finalmente nella condizione di poter fare qualcosa per gli 
altri, 'forse come Dio dopo il primo giorno della creazione" (Porro 44). 
''' "Erano allegri, invece: nell'avventura ogni giorno diversa della Partisanka, nella steppa 
gelata, nella neve e nel fango avevano trovato una liberta nuova, sconosciuta ai loro padri 
e ai loro nonni, un contatto con uomini amici e nemici, con la natura e con I'azione, che li 
ubriacava come il vino di Purim, quando t usanza abbandonare la sobriety consueta e 
here fino a non sapere piu distinguere la benedizione dalla maledizione. Erano allegri e 
feroci, come animali a cui si schiude la gabbia, come schiavi insorti a vendetta. E 
I'avevano gustata, la vendetta, pur pagandola cara: a diverse riprese, in sabotaggi, 
attentat! e scontri di retrovia; ma anche di recente, pochi giomi prima e non lontano" {Se 
non ora, quando? 105). 
" Derivo questa interpretazione da Kerdnyi. 



296 Giuseppe Tosi 

caratteristica che contraddistingue il suo portatore. II violino b il simbolo stesso 
della diaspora e pertanto costituisce V eidolon (idolo), il centre della comunit^, 
dal quale viene tramandato un sapere senza parole eppure immediatamente 
percepibile dai partecipanti alia festa. Eidolon e ci6 che si rende visibile nello 
spazio esistente tra dio e gli uomini ed k anche cio che trasmette calore, 
freschezza ed originarieta alia festa. L'immagine del violino che si spezza, al 
passaggio del confine del Brennero, equivale al definitivo abbandono del mondo 
di ieri e ci6 avviene proprio in coincidenza deH'attraversamento di un valico di 
frontiera.'^E se I'ltalia non 6 ancora la terra d'approdo costituisce senz'altro 
I'ultima tappa del viaggio, I'uscita dagli abissi del passato: 

Finite le insidie, fmita la guerra, la via, il sangue e il ghiaccio, morto il satan di Berlino, 
vuoto e vacante il mondo, da ricreare, da ripopolare, come dopo il diluvio. In risalita, in 
allegra salita verso il valico: salita, ali^ sia chiama cosi il cammino quando si esce 
dall'esilio, dal profondo, e si sale verso la luce. 

{Se non or a, quando? 237) 

2. LMdentit^ perduta 

Con Se non ora, quando? Primo Levi portava a compimento il lungo percorso di 
esplorazione della civilt^ ebraica aschenazita, ed il libro costituisce una sorta di 
atto di devozione nei confronti di un popolo e di una tradizione a cui il nazismo 
aveva posto brutalmente termine. La sua era stata, inizialmente, una conoscenza 
forzata, frutto della sua deportazione ad Auschwitz, che lo aveva esposto ad una 
mentalita, credenze e forme di vita totalmente sconosciute per lui, ebreo 
assimilato e imbevuto dei valori laici e razionali dell'occidente. '^ Molto piii 
tardi, e dopo aver raccolto tutti gli strumenti conoscitivi che gli permettessero 
una comprensione piu ampia e profonda di ci6 che era stata la tradizione ebraica 
orientale, Levi aveva dovuto riconoscere a questo incontro il carattere della 



'^ "L'immagine del violino che si spezza riecheggia un antico motivo ebraico, quello che 
obbliga gli sposi a rompere il bicchiere al termine della cerimonia nuziale. 
Nell'immaginario collettivo il bicchiere rotto evoca il ricordo della piu antica catastrofe. 
[...] Si tratta per6 anche di un motivo psicologico etemo, che si rinnova di generazione in 
generazione, ed evoca la fragility costitutiva dell'esistenza. Un motivo che t bene 
ricordare e che per la generazione attuale dell'ebraismo assume il carattere di un obbligo 
costitutivo, per il principio stesso di identity" (Meghnagi 297). 

'^ "Levi, assimilato e occidental izzato come tutti gli ebrei italiani, guarda alia cultura 
ebraica orientale con quel senso di fratemita e di alterit^ che viene da remote origini 
comuni (nonchd da una tragedia comune) e da una storia recente assai diversa, ben 
segnata dal divario linguistico: solo gli ebrei aschenaziti parlavano tra loro I'yiddish" 
(Segre 95). Personalmente tendo a credere che le "origini comuni" di cui paria Segre 
siano state il frutto di un faticoso lavoro di ricerca che ha imposto non solo un lungo 
impegno intellettuale ma anche lo sviluppo di una capacita di comprensione, da parte di 
Levi, dell'ebraismo orientale per il quale anche la differenza linguistica costituiva un 
ostacolo non facile da superare. 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 297 

fatalita che, insieme con il suo impegno di testimone, aveva radicalmente 
cambiato la sua vita ed il suo pensiero. Nella sua postfazione Levi aveva 
precisato: 

Questo libro t nato da quanto mi ha raccontato molti anni fa un mio amico che a Milano, 
neU'estate del 1945, aveva prestato la sua opera neirufficio di assistenza delineate 
neirultimo capitolo. In quel periodo, insieme con una fiumana di rimpatriati e di 
profughi, arrivarono realmente in Italia alcune bande simili a quella che mi sono proposto 
di descrivere: uomini e donne che anni di sofferenze avevano induriti ma non umiliati, 
superstiti di una civilt^ (poco nota in Italia) che il nazismo aveva distrutto fin dalle radici, 
stremati ma consapevoli della loro dignita. 

{Se non ora, quando? 261) 

In questa ricostruzione della genesi del libro, Primo Levi esponeva alcune 
delle motivazioni profonde che stanno alia base della composizione di Se non 
ora, quando? e che idealmente riconducono i motivi central! della sua 
ispirazione ad un nucleo di sentimenti originatisi in un periodo ormai remoto. E 
proprio dalla contrapposizione della sua esperienza di ex-deportato con quella 
dei partigiani ebrei che avevano combattuto contro i tedeschi che nasce il 
tentativo di voler idealmente ribaltare i termini della sua storia personale e di 
riscriverla, anteponendo, alia realty dei fatti quali si erano svolti effettivamente, 
il desiderio di come lui avrebbe voluto che si fossero svolti.'* In questo senso il 
libro costituisce una proiezione psichica del suo autore e del suo personale 
rimpianto al quale egli pone un argine consolatorio costruendo un personaggio 
protagonista che e un altro da s6 e che porta iscritto nel proprio nome le ragioni 
individuali del suo creatore: Mendel, infatti, "sta per Menach^m, che vuol dire 
consolatore"(4). '^ Ecco allora che Se non ora, quando?, pensato forse per la 
prima volta in un passaggio cruciale della vita di Primo Levi — il ritomo a casa 
e la lenta formazione del testimone — rappresenta in ultima analisi una risposta, 
da distanze diverse, a Se questo e un uomo e trova la sua naturale collocazione 
nell'ambito di quel mondo del possibile umano che gi^ La tregua aveva 



'* "Levi had never forgotten the hard-bitten young Jews, none of them over twenty, who 
in October 1945 had hitched their wagon to the train of the home-ward-bitten Italians, 
without asking anyone's permission. The new passengers, who came from all the 
countries of Eastern Europe, were Zionists, heading for Palestine. A ship was waiting for 
them in Bari. Levi was astounded by their air of freedom and by their daring. Here he had 
come across a small group of survivors who belonged to a shattered civilization, 
'Yiddishland,' but who felt that they were masters of their fate, and capable of changing 
the world" (Anissimov 337). 

'^ "Primo Levi admitted to many journalists, who asked him questions, that he identified 
himself with the character of Mendel the watchmaker, the partisan, because he would 
have liked to be a real partisan" (Anissimov 343). Anissimov non cita la sua fonte ma 
credo che si riferisca all'intervista rilasciata da Levi a Rosellina Balbi dal titolo "Mendel 
il consolatore," in La Repubblica del 14 aprile 1982, ora in Belpoliti e Gordon 103-08. 



298 Giuseppe Tosi 

prospettato. 

Infatti, Se non ora, quando?, se da un lato costituisce il punto di approdo di 
una ricerca storico-esistenziale del suo autore, dall'altro ricostruisce 
allegoricamente la genesi del pensiero di Levi nella misura in cui viene 
formandosi attraverso la lettura critica della piii recente storia culturale 
dell'occidente, una cultura in cui il senso della morte e la crisi sono stati a lungo 
predominanti. A questo pensiero Levi contrappone un'istanza vitale innovativa 
che trova espressione nella costruzione di un'ontologia propositiva pensata in 
opposizione alle formulazioni metafisiche sull'essere e che trova nell'amicizia la 
sua espressione piu forte e pregnante. Qaesta ontologia rivela, quindi, I'ipotesi 
che la rappresentativit^ dell'essere sia stata misconosciuta nella cultura 
contemporanea ed assoggettata ad una progressiva disumanizzazione, causa 
remota, in ultima analisi, degli stermini di massa che hanno attraversato la storia 
europea del XX secolo. In questo senso, Levi si pone contro una metafisica 
dell'essere per riscoprire e riproporre quel valori fondativi dell'umanesimo 
assieme alia centralit^ deH'amore come premessa di una pienezza dell'essere.^" 
Da qui nasce anche I'esigenza di rendere quei valori accessibili, di calarli, cio^, 



^° Quello di Levi t un sapere pratico che tuttavia non scade mai in un semplice 
pragmatismo dell'essere ma che basa sul vissuto la sua valenza affettiva. Mi sembra che 
sia proprio questo che Roberto Ciccarelli pone in risaito: "Quello [di Levi] 6 un sapere 
pratico che definisce I'intero modo di vivere del narratore. Le competenze misurano ci6 
che egli 6 capace di fare in un determinato momento, ma correggono esperienza dopo 
esperienza la direzione delle sue azioni verso una loro piii adeguata efficacia. In questo 
modo, il rapporto tra I 'esperienza e la lingua, tra il metodo razionale e la necessity 
biologica, tra I'intelligenza teorica e quella pratica viene ridefinito. Alia base dell'azione, 
del fare, esiste un corpo. Tra il sapere e I'agire si estende uno spazio fisiologico. Quella 
del racconto non t un'esperienza condotta sotto la guida di un 'io', di una 'coscienza', di 
un 'linguaggio', bensi t I'esito di un 'evento' che permette I'incontro vitale tra il corpo e 
il mondo. II sapere pratico del narratore-Levi, allora, deriva da un lavoro cosciente che ha 
origine dall'incontro del suo corpo con un mondo estraneo che Io modifica, ma di cui Io 
stesso corpo s'impadronisce contemporaneamente. La narrazione t anche gnoseologia: 
essa istituisce un criterio di conoscenza partendo da una dimensione 'bassa' della vita di 
un uomo, quello dell'emp/na. II soggetto di questo sapere pratico t dunque un soggetto 
affettivo" (107). In questo senso, Levi 6 aiutato da quella predisposizione al\a pietas 
caratteristica dell'ebraismo che trova nei valori dell'umanesimo la sua attuazione piu 
incisiva: "La pietas ebraica sembra in tal senso assolvere a quella funzione di 
retroguardia che Pasolini ha assegnato alia letteratura, dicendo che la sua missione t 
quella di fermarsi presso i caduti e i feriti di un esercito in fuga, di dar da here agli 
assetati e curare i feriti. Le testimonianze della letteratura del ghetto sono infatti quasi 
sempre testimonianze del passato, ricalco e recupero di generazioni andate" (Magris 41). 
Per Belpoliti, "la testimonianza [per Primo Levi] vale in quanto veritiera, mentre Io 
scrittore manipola la reaiti per scrivere, I'adatta facendo uso della finzione" (138). Ed 
infine, anche per Adomo c'6 bisogno, dopo Auschwitz, di un pensiero che "si sporchi le 
mani" per poter rimanere nella storia (33 1 ; la traduzione in italiano t mia). 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 299 

in una realty effettuale in cui possano trovare una loro applicazione pedagogica e 
di dispiegarsi come capisaldi irrinunciabili dell'educazione al rispetto dell'essere 
umano.^' Levi aveva ben in mente gli effetti devastanti suila mentality tedesca 
operata dalla scuola e dalla propaganda nazionalsocialiste e di questa 
consapevolezza si trova un'eco nel romanzo. Alia domanda, "Perch6 i tedeschi 
vi vogliono uccidere tutti?" rivolta da un tenente polacco a Mendel, questi 
risponde: 

E difficile da spiegare. [...] Bisognerebbe capire i tedeschi, e io non ci sono mai riuscito. I 
tedeschi pensano che un ebreo valga meno di un russo e un russo meno di un inglese, e 
che un tedesco valga piu di tutti; pensano anche che quando un uomo vale piu di un altro 
uomo, ha il diritto di fame quello che vuole, anche di farlo schiavo o di ucciderlo. Forse 
non tutti sono convinti, ma sono queste le cose che gli insegnano a scuola, e sono queste 
le cose che dice la loro propaganda. 

{Se non ora, quando? 1 87) 

Ma I'azione educativa prospettata da Levi andava salvaguardata perch6 i 
principi e i valori deirumanesimo sono intrinsecamente fragili e sempre 
sottoposti al rischio permanente di un risorgente totalitarismo in agguato od alle 
facili prese del negazionismo storico e dei suoi tentativi di revisione. Da qui 
deriva anche I'amara accettazione di una realty effettuale dominata, nei suoi 
risvolti ultimi, da un conflitto permanente. "Guerra e sempre" verrebbe da dire, 
parafrasando la terribile affermazione di Mordo Nahum in La tregua, e guerra e 
sempre anche per i partigiani di Levi, il quale sembra incline, in questo senso, ad 
un pessimismo storico di fondo: 

"!...] forse ognuno di noi e il Caino di qualche Abele", afferma Mendel, "lo abbatte in 
mezzo al suo campo senza saperlo, per mezzo delle cose che gli fa, delle cose che gli 
dice, e delle cose che gli dovrebbe dire e non gli dice." 

(Se non ora, quando? 53) 

Eppure 6 vero che anche questo duro risvolto della realty contiene in s6 una 
costruzione propositiva che, a dispetto dei termini assoluti di un conflitto 
permanente, esprime il tentativo di configurare una immagine degli ebrei nella 
seconda guerra mondiale protesa a dissociarsi, almeno provvisoriamente, dal 
paradigma dominante — ma anche delimitante — dell'ebreo con VHdftlinge. 
Forse intuendo i limiti che il suo stesso ruolo di testimone a volte poteva 
imporgli, Levi intende ribaltare, con questo libro, le implicazioni inevitabili 
insite nell'eredita della Shoah, di un popolo, cio6, che si era lasciato docilmente 



^' Cos! scrive Levi in proposito: "La pressione che un modemo Stato totalitario pu6 
esercitare sull'individuo 6 paurosa. Le sue armi sono sostanzialmente tre: la propaganda 
diretta, o camuffata da educazione, da istruzione, da cultura popolare; lo sbarramento 
opposto al pluraiismo delle informazioni; il terrore" (I sommersi e i salvati 18). 



300 Giuseppe Tosi 

sterminare rinunciando alia propria storia e alia propria identity, e offre 
un'angolazione differente che se non si pone in altemativa vuole quantomeno 
affiancarsi alia versione storica ufficiale, tramite la ricostruzione della 
partecipazione attiva degli ebrei sul versante orientale del conflitto.^^ 

Da questa rivalutazione della partisanka (lotta partigiana) ebraica, ignorata o 
poco conosciuta, deriva anche la consapevolezza, per Primo Levi, di una 
ritrovata presenza storica del popolo ebraico che culmina, infine, in un evento 
storico di eccezionale importanza quale la creazione dello stato di Israele. Levi 
riconosceva che la nascita d' Israele aveva segnato la realizzazione di 
"un'esistenza totale ebraica, i cui segni distintivi sono la terra, la lingua e un 
contesto sociale autonomo" (Yehoshua 59). II merito di una tale fondazione 
travalicava il significato stesso della piii importante realizzazione della storia 
ebraica modema. Essa aveva posto i soprawissuti della Shoah al riparo da una 
depressione distruttiva ed aveva segnato un punto di raccordo e congiunzione 
delle varie diaspore ebraiche disseminate per il mondo. Eppure, nonostante 
questo, non era tuttavia scontato che il nuovo stato costituisse I'approdo univoco 
degli ultimi duemila anni di storia ebraica, e non era affatto sicuro che questa 
terra sarebbe stata come la casa di Abramo, aperta e tollerante, come, in Se non 
ora, quando? Mendel e i suoi mostrano di credere. Che lo stesso autore nutrisse 
dei dubbi in tal senso h testimoniato da una sua intervista nella quale confessa di 
aver rappresentato Israele come un ideale, "una terra che in realty non esiste" 
(Anissimov 343). 

Un'affermazione di questo genere, apriva tuttavia degli scenari 
imprevedibili ai quali Primo Levi sapeva, probabilmente, di non essere in grado 
di offrire un'altemativa. Se la fondazione di Israele, pur con quel caratteri di 
svolta epocale che rivestiva, si era dimostrata inadeguata a comprendere tutte le 
istanze di identita provenienti dai soprawissuti sradicati, altrettanto si doveva 
dire di quel misto di ideologic facenti capo al sionismo, che in Se non ora, 
quando? riaffiora qua e Icl nei discorsi della banda di Gedale. Sionismo 6 
certamente I'aspirazione del popolo ebraico, sopravvissuta a duemila anni di 
diaspora, a un ritomo nella terra d'origine. Ma il percorso di trasformazione che 
parte da una identity ebraica che si riconosce in una prospettiva di tipo 
messianico ed approda ad un movimento politico di liberazione nazionale, 
costituisce storicamente una consapevolezza, via via sempre piu evidente. 



^^ "Levi could not help being fascinated by these young men and women, all in their 
teens, their parents butchered by the Nazis, yet who had managed not only to survive but 
to put up resistance to their people's murderers. Their action exploded the notions that the 
Jews had offered no resistance and had let themselves be herded like cattle to the 
slaughter. There is no doubt that Levi, who had been captured before he could learn how 
to handle a weapon or had taken a single action, would have wanted their example. Those 
young people proved that, where it was possibile, the Jews had resisted, as they did in 
Warsaw, Vilnius, Byalistok, Riga, Minsk, and even inside the extermination camps: in 
Auschwitz, Sobibor and Treblinka" (Anissimov 338). 



La memoria e I'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Prima Levi 301 

"dell 'impossibility di essere normale dell'ebreo in Europa" (Yehoshua 83) e del 
fallimento dei molteplici tentativi di integrazione alle varie latitudini. Nascendo 
da una connotazione negativa — vale a dire da ci6 che non si 6 — il sionismo 
evidenzia tutti i suoi limiti e pur indicando un obiettivo preciso si frantuma 
laddove tenta di costruire un' identity ebraica nuova e credibile. Nemmeno 
Gedale e i suoi sembrano prenderlo troppo sul serio: 

I componenti si proclamavano sionisti, ma di tendenze svariate, con tutte le sfumature 
che si possono inserire fra il nazionalismo ebraico, I'ortodossia marxista, I'ortodossia 
religiosa, Tegualitarismo anarchico e il ritomo toistoiano alia terra, che ti redimeri se tu 
la redimi. 

{Se non ora, quando? 1 12) 

"[...] ci puoi chiamare socialisti" dice Gedale "ma non siamo diventati partigiani per le 
nostre idee politiche." 

(Se non ora, quando? 183) 

Quale flituro poteva allora prospettarsi per i sopravvissuti in esilio, quale 
nuova forma di identity assumere e a quali nuovi riferimenti culturali ispirarsi? 
Questi problemi erano anche acuiti dalla consapevolezza di Primo Levi di 
trovarsi di fronte ad uno di quegli eventi storici irreversibili. La distruzione della 
civilta aschenazita aveva rappresentato una perdita di portata universale per tutti 
gli ebrei della diaspora, inclusi quelli assimilati dell'occidente a cui le dittature 
prima, e le deportazioni poi, avevano brutalmente imposto una presa di 
coscienza della propria identity. Questo brusco risveglio era awenuto sia nel 
mezzo di solitudini individuali che nel moltiplicarsi di esperienze nazionali che 
avevano privato gli ebrei occidentali di quegli indispensabili strumenti culturali 
o religiosi adatti per una ridefmizione delle proprie radici. Forse una tempestiva 
scoperta della civilta aschenazita, ed una rivalutazione dei suoi valori religiosi e 
comunitari, avrebbe potuto costituire le premesse per la salvaguardia di una 
identity ebraica, comune e condivisa. Ma adesso era troppo tardi, ed il 
rammarico di Levi si esprime, ancora una volta in via allegorica, come 
I'episodio di Francine, nel libro, sembra testimoniare: 

Alle domande di Gedale e degli altri, Francine rispondeva con volubility nervosa. Era 
stata infermiera, si; aveva compassione per le malate, ma qualche volta le picchiava. Non 
per far loro del male, solo per difendersi, non sapeva come spiegare, difendersi dalle loro 
richieste, dai loro lamenti. Lei sapeva del gas, tutte le anziane sapevano, ma non lo diceva 
alle nuove arrivate, non avrebbe servito a niente. Scappare? Una pazzia: scappare dove? 
E lei, poi, che parlava male il tedesco e niente il polacco? 

— Vieni con noi, — le disse SissI, — adesso tutto t fmito, sarai il nostro medico. 

— E fra qualche mese nascer^ anche un bambino. Mio figlio, — aggiunse Isidor. 

— Non sono come voi, — rispose Francine, — io tomo in Francia, t il mio paese. 

{Se non ora, quando? 219) 



302 Giuseppe Tosi 

In questo senso, il tentative di ricreare una coscienza comune dell'essere 
ebreo svaniva nel momento stesso in cui la molteplicit^ delle varie esperienze 
nazionali prendeva il soprawento sul progetto politico in corso e questo minava 
alia base la ridefinizione stessa dell 'identity ebraica. Anche il ricorso alia 
tradizione mostrava tutti i suoi limiti, quella tradizione secondo la quale b ebreo 
chi b figlio di madre ebrea o si 6 convertito secondo le regole. La tradizione 
ebraica assegna ad ogni singolo ebreo il ruolo di "testimone di un monoteismo 
integrale" (Yehoshua 30). Un ruolo riconosciuto subito come gravoso e foriero 
di ostilita da parte di altri popoli. Un ruolo "vissuto come una sorta di destino da 
ricevere con responsabilit^ e da trasmettere con rigore lungo il corso delle 
generazioni, fmo all'avvento di un'era messianica capace di ricondurre I'intera 
umanit^ ai comuni valori fondamentali" (Zevi 1 1). Ma come era possibile allora 
che tra gli stessi ebrei della diaspora non era piu possibile quella comprensione 
tacita che, al di 1^ di forme e abitudini sociali ormai consolidate, permette ancora 
di riconoscersi ed intendersi? Non era forse vero che lo stesso Primo Levi era 
tomato in Italia e non in Palestina e che si era forse quietamente identificato tra 
gli ospiti italiani della banda di Gedale a Milano? 

Chi era tutta quella gente? Erano proprio ebrei, lui e sua moglie? E la casa era la loro? 
Non erano venuti i tedeschi, anche a Milano? Come si erano salvati, loro e tutte le belle 
cose che si vedevano intomo? Tutti gli ebrei italiani erano ricchi come loro? O tutti gli 
italiani? Tutti avevano case belle cosi? L'ospite lo guardo con una faccia strana, quasi 
che Mendel avesse fatto domande stupide o poco opportune, e gli rispose con pazienza, 
come si fa con i bambini non tanto svegli. Ma certo, loro erano ebrei, tutti quelli che si 
chiamano S. sono ebrei. Gli ospiti no, non tutti: ma t poi una faccenda cosi importante? 

(Se non ora, quando? 252-53) 

Tutti questi elementi di disagio sono riconducibili al trauma iniziale dello 
sradicamento, della spersonalizzazione derivante da una storia-esilio e della 
conseguente perdita di una memoria personale e collettiva. Una volta privata 
dell'elemento consolidante ed equilibratore della memoria, I'identit^ non b piu 
capace di rappresentarsi e fatalmente I'individuo collide con la realty del mondo. 
II senso di incomprensione e di isolamento, generati dal contatto con una realty 
aliena ed infinitamente distante dalla propria condizione, tende ad essere vissuto 
come minaccia o come irrealt^. L'esperienza violenta dello sradicamento, 
inoltre, si sottrae ai normali schemi di riferimento e mentre da un lato si fissa per 
sempre nella memoria, dall'altro lato appare come un dato irreale ed 
impersonale. Lo sradicamento, vale a dire la tragica rottura della continuity 
dell'esistenza, si articola come un dato complesso e contraddittorio che 
assoggetta I'individuo ad un costante rimando all'evento luttuoso estraniandolo, 
al tempo stesso, dal mondo fenomenico mentre gli fa confondere la realty con i 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 303 

fantasmi della mente.^^ 

Da qui il senso deH'irreale che per forza di cose esula da qualsiasi schema 
ordinario di interpretazione del mondo; da qui lo smarrimento, la perdita 
deH'orientamento esistenziale che spinge, come nel caso di uno dei protagonisti 
del libro, alia disperazione e alia ricerca della morte: "Leonid non voleva andare 
in nessun luogo, o per meglio dire non sapeva dove voleva andare, e non sapeva 
neppure se voleva andare da qualche parte, o fare qualsiasi cosa" {Se non ora, 
quando? 23). 

Sebbene costantemente animato dalla sua volont^ di testimone, eppure 
confortato da un rigoroso pessimismo che agiva come argine dalle illusioni 
troppo facili, Pruno Levi aveva intravisto I'impossibilita di portare a 
compimento il quesito iniziale del libro. Si pud e si deve dare I'avvio ad una 
svolta, si deve agire nel qui ed ora non solo per preservare la propria dignity di 
essere umano ma anche per non declinare mai al ruolo gravoso che la Shoah 
aveva necessariamente imposto: quello di non dimenticare, per impedire che 
I'orrore potesse riaffacciarsi nella storia. Ripercorrendo idealmente il lungo 
itinerario delle bande partigiane, a cui avrebbe certamente desiderato unirsi, 
Levi ristabilisce un'unit^ di destino che chiarifica a se stesso e agli altri il senso 
di una scelta, la rivolta contro I'orrore, che ha modificato strutturalmente 
I'esistenza ebraica. Ma lo stesso Levi aveva dovuto ammettere che la guerra 
I'avevano vinta loro, quel tedeschi che pure erano fiiggiti davanti ai partigiani 
ebrei vestiti di laceri uniformi e armati di armi rubate. Li avevano privati della 
loro storia, avevano calpestato la loro dignity, li avevano derubati della loro 
identity e li avevano ricacciati in un esilio perpetuo. Nel qui ed ora di quel 
profughi, sopravvissuti e partigiani che dai confmi d' Italia scendevano verso i 
porti per imbarcarsi si intravedeva solo I'inizio di un lunghissimo process© di 
ricostruzione che certamente non avrebbe evitato altre guerre e altri dolori. 

L'ultima immagine del libro si chiude proprio con la vita che sembra 
ricominciare con la nascita di un bambino, la vita che ritoma nei trent'anni 
esausti di Mendel: 

A trent'anni la vita pud ricominciare. Come un libro, quando hai finite il prime volume. 
Ricominciare da dove? Da qui, da eggi, da quest'alba milanese che serge dietre i vetri 
smerigliati: da stamattina. Queste t un buon luege per ceminciare a vivere. 

- • {Se non ora, quando? 25?t) 

Eppure, come un memento mori, la prima bomba atomica si staglia sul giomale 



^^ Lo sradicamento produce la scissione irreparabile tra ci6 che lo ha causato e cio che 6 
attuale, come realty fenomenica, nel presente dell'lndividuo. Come afferma Agamben, 
ci6 che t accaduto nel passate "appare ai superstiti come Tunica cesa vera e, come tale, 
assolutamente indimenticabile; dall'altra, questa veriti t, esattamente nella stessa misura, 
inimmaginabile dot irriducibile agli elementi reali che la costituisceno" (8). 



304 Giuseppe Tosi 



nel suo silenzio assordante, a ricordare che la guerra, nonostante tutto, 
continua.^'* 

Georgetown University 

Opere citate 

Adorno Theodore W., Negative Dialectics, trad. E. B. Ashton, New York, Continuum, 

1973. 
Agamben Giorgio, Quel che resta di Auschwitz. Uarchivio e il testimone, Torino, Bollati- 

Boringhieri, 1998. 
Anissimov Myriam, Primo Levi. Tragedy of an Optimist, Woodstock, The Overlook 

Press, 2000. 
Belpoliti Marco, e Gordon Robert, a c. di. The Voice of Memory. Primo Levi. Interviews, 

1961-1987, New York, The New Press, 2001. 
Belpoliti Marco, a c. di, Primo Levi. Conversazioni e interviste, Torino, Einaudi, 1997. 
Bodei Remo, Scomposizioni. Forme delT individuo moderno, Torino, Einaudi, 1987. 
Ciccarelli Roberto, "Primo Levi. Del pensiero narrativo", Moliterni 63-1 10 
Ferrero Ernesto, a cura di, Primo Levi: un'antologia della critica. Torino, Einaudi, 1997. 
Goffman Erving, La vita quotidiana come rappresentazione, Bologna, II Mulino, 1997. 
Heidegger Martin, Being and Time, trad. John Macquarrie e Edward Robinson, New 

York, Harper-Collins, 1962. 
Jedlowski Paolo, Memoria, esperienza e modernitd, Milano, Angeli, 1989. 
Ker^nyi Karoli, La religione antica, Milano, Adelphi, 2001. 
Levi Primo, L'altrui mestiere, Torino, Einaudi, 1998. 
, La ricerca delle radici, Torino, Einaudi, 1997. 



^'^ La conclusione di Se non ora, quando? riunisce i motivi conduttori dell'etica di Levi. 
Da una parte I'enfasi posta sulla vita e sulla dignity umana come valori irrinunciabili; 
dall'altra il monito costante a vigilare contro ogni forma di risorgente totalitarismo da cui 
deriva la necessity della testimonianza e della sua divulgazione. In questo senso va 
interpretato anche il pessimismo di Levi, la sua angoscia di fronte ad ogni forma di 
negazionismo storico che potesse accogliere la terribile profezia dei nazisti nel campo di 
Auschwitz: "In qualunque modo questa guerra finisca, la guerra contro di voi I'abbiamo 
vinta noi; nessuno di voi rimarri per portare testimonianza, ma se anche qualcuno 
scampasse, il mondo non gli creder^. Forse ci saranno sospetti, discussioni, ricerche di 
storici, ma non ci saranno certezze, perch6 noi distruggeremo le prove insieme con voi. E 
quando anche qualche prova dovesse rimanere, e qualcuno di voi sopravvivere, la gente 
dira che i fatti che voi raccontate sono troppo mostruosi per essere creduti: dir^ che sono 
esagerazioni della propaganda alleata, e creder^ a noi, che negheremo tutto, e non a voi. 
La storia dei Lager, saremo noi a dettarla" (/ sommersi e i salvati 1 8). Da qui, la guerra 
che continua, o la "guerra t sempre", il monito minaccioso ed inevitabile di Mordo 
Nahum in La tregua. 



La memoria e I 'identita in Se non ora, quando? di Primo Levi 305 

, II sistema periodica, Torino, Einaudi, 1994. 

, I racconti, Torino, Einaudi, 1996. 

, I sommersi e i salvati, Torino, Einaudi, 1991. 

, Se non ora, quando?, Torino, Einaudi, 1992. 

, Se questo e un uomo. La tregua, Torino, Einaudi, 1989. 

Magris Claudio, Lontano da dove. Philip Roth e la tradizione ebraico-orientale, Torino, 

Einaudi, 1971. 
Mattioda Enrico, a cura di, Al di qua del bene e del male. La visione del mondo di Primo 

Levi, Milano, Franco Angeli, 2000. 
Meghnagi David, "La vicenda ebraica. Primo Levi e la scrittura", Ferrero 289-299. 
Moliterni Fabio, Ciccarelli Roberto, Lattanzio Alessandro, a c. di, Primo Levi. Ua-topia 

letteraria. II pensiero narrativo. La scrittura e Vassurdo, Napoli, Liguori Editore, 

2000. 
Oliverio Alberto, Ricordi individuali, memorie collettive, Torino, Einaudi, 1994. 
Panofsky Erwin, La prospettiva come 'Forma simbolica' e altri scritti, Milano, 

Feltrinelli, 1999. 
Segre Cesare, "I romanzi e le poesie", Ferrero 91-1 16. 
Porro Mario, "Un etologo nel Lager", Mattioda 33-45. 
Rossi Paolo, II passato, la memoria, I'oblio, Bologna, II Mulino, 1991. 
Tabboni Simonetta, La rappresentazione sociale del tempo, Milano, Angeli, 1989. 
Taylor Charles, Radici deWio. La costruzione deW identita moderna, Milano, Feltrinelli, 

1993. 
Vallabrega Paola, "Primo Levi e la tradizione ebraico-orientale", Ferrero 263-88. 
Yehoshua B. Abraham, Ebreo, Israeliano, Sionista: concetti da precisare, trad. 

Alessandro Guetta, Roma, Edizioni e/o, 2001. 
Zevi Luca, "Introduzione", Yehoshua 7-17. 



Lucienne Kroha 

The Same and/or Different: 

Narcissism and Exile in Giorgio Bassani's Novels 



Perhaps the best characterization of the exile motif by Giorgio Bassani in his 
masterful first-person trilogy (subsequently included in the collection entitled // 
romanzo di Ferrard) is to be found in the first novel, Gli occhiali d'oro} The 
narrator is recalling his return to Ferrara from Riccione, after the summer 
holidays and just before the passage of the 1938 Race Laws which were to strip 
the Jews of Italy of their civil rights ahnost overnight.^ Not surprisingly, the 
much-anticipated "rientro" turns out to be as painftil as the days spent on the 
beach, during which the campaign agamst the Jews in the Italian press had 
reached a frenzied peak. Ferrara is no longer the protective cocoon it had once 
been, and the young protagonist is no longer at home in it. The Fascist Gino 
Cariati and his cohorts now glare at him regularly from the tables in front of the 
Caffe della Borsa, while his best friend Nino Bottecchiari is contemplating 
joining the Fascist party for career reasons and appears totally indifferent to his 
plight, failing to make even the slightest mention of any sadness at the recent 
turn of events: 

Pino a pochi mesi prima io non avevo perduto la domenicale uscita delle dodici e mezzo 
da San Carlo o dal duomo, ed anche oggi, in fondo — riflettevo — , non I'avrei perduta. 
Ma poteva bastarmi? Oggi era diverse. Non mi trovavo piu laggiii, mescolato agli altri, 
confuse in mezzo a tutti gli altri nella selita attesa tra beffarda e ansiesa. Addossate al 
portene del Palazzo Arcivescovile, confinato in un angolo della piazza (la presenza al 
mio fiance di Nine Bottecchiari aumentava se mai la mia amarezza), mi sentive tagliate 
fuori, irrimediabilmente un intruso. 

(226) 

Only by looking down on the cityscape and the Jewish cemetery from a 
raised vantage point does he manage to find some solace: 

Guardave al campe sottestante, in cui erane sepolti i nestri merti. [...] Quand'ecce, 
guardando [...] al vaste paesaggie urbane che mi si mestrava di lassii in tutta la sua 



" The three first-person novels are Gli occhiali d'oro (1958), // giardino dei Finzi- 
Contini ((1962), and Dietro la porta (1964), all initially published by Einaudi. They were 
subsequently revised and gathered together with ether writings in the collection entitled 
// romanzo di Ferrara (1974). All the citations in this essay are from the revised 1980 
edition of the Romanzo di Ferrara, and all page numbers refer to this volume. 
^ For an account of the fortunes of the Jews under Fascism see De Felice. 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



308 Lucienne Kroha 

estensione, mi sentii d'un tratto penetrare da una gran dolcezza, da una pace e da una 
gratitudine tenerissime [...]. Mi era bastato recuperare I'antico volto matemo della mia 
citti, riaverlo ancora una volta tutto per me, perch6 quell'atroce senso di esclusione che 
mi aveva tormentato nei giomi scorsi cadesse all'istante. II futuro di persecuzioni e di 
massacri che forse ci attendeva (fin da bambino ne avevo continuamente sentito parlare 
come di un' eventuality per noi ebrei sempre possibile) non mi faceva piu paura. 

(222) 

What I would like to call attention to is the description of the protagonist's 
relationship to his city in the following sentence: "Mi era bastato recuperare 
I'antico volto matemo della mia citt^, riaverlo ancora una volta tutto per me, 
perch^ quell'atroce senso di esclusione che mi aveva tormentato nei giomi scorsi 
cadesse all'istante." The "volto matemo della citta," complete with its soothing 
effect and its capacity to erase feelings of exclusion, evokes the completely 
imaginary sense of oneness that the infant can experience in the exclusivity of 
the narcissistic pre-oedipal relation with the mother, where each offers the other 
a perfect satisfaction of desire. While this relation is extremely important and 
constitutive of the child's emerging identity as a subject, it is a stifling one and if 
unmediated leaves no room for growth and independence (Wright 3 1 5). 

In the Freudian paradigm, it is the oedipal crisis which provides this 
mediation: it forces the male child to recognize the difference between himself 
and his mother, and to embrace the "sameness" that connects him instead to the 
father. By making this identification and relinquishing the bond with the mother, 
he accomplishes the passage from "nature" to "culture," but the memory of the 
matemal connection remains lodged in the unconscious, leaving behind a sense 
of nostalgia and loss — exile — that is a permanent facet of the human 
condition. This sense of loss and incompleteness provides the basis for much 
constmctive action in the world: indeed, the acknowledgement of "difference" 
from the mother is the very motor of culture and society. Where this recognition 
of difference, this recognition of one's "exile" from this early paradise fails to 
take place, paralysis of the will sets in. 

Paralysis of the will is a theme that mns across all three stories of the 
trilogy, and in all cases is associated with the theme of exile, or rather the failure 
to embrace exile. In Gli occhiali d'oro, the narrator tells the story of his and the 
dignified physician Dr. Fadigati's parallel experiences of humiliation at the 
hands of the citizens of Ferrara, when their Judaism and homosexuality 
respectively become problematic. In both cases, paralysis of the will is the result 
of the difficulty of acknowledging one's outsider status. Dr. Fadigati prefers to 
tolerate the insults of Ferrara's citizens rather than to react and acknowledge his 
"difference." As long as he tums a deaf ear and fails to react, he deludes himself 
into believing that he can avoid the isolation which eventually descends on him 
anyway, when he loses his position at the hospital. So, too, the young Jewish 
protagonist prefers to endure the indifference and offensive remarks of his peers 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 309 

rather than to speak up as a Jew and defend himself, since to do so would also 
mean acknowledging his own marginalization. 

The feeling of belonging to the mainstream of society that upper-middle 
class Jews enjoyed during the golden period of integration in post-Unification 
Italy had clearly dissipated, but to recognize that the sense of community was in 
fact an illusion and that acculturation did not necessarily mean acceptance was 
another matter. The young man's problem is murored in that of the narrator, who 
is telling his story twenty years later. It is 1957, Italy is in the throes of 
attempting to reconstitute itself as a nation after the traumas of war, and again, 
speaking as a "Jew," as part of a group that had been violated and massacred on 
the basis of its difference, is difficult. Burying the horrors of the past seems 
easier, and more in keeping with the prevailing discourse of reconciliation, but 
the price to be paid is the loss of one's history. Bassani as a writer made his 
choice clearly, but his narrator is more reluctant and "comes out of the closet" as 
a Jew only halfway into his account of Dr. Fadigati's tragic fate. For both the 
narrator and the protagonist, breaking the silence means stepping out of the 
fantasized inner circle and taking one's place in the ghetto or, as it were, behind 
the barbed wire of the concentration camp: 

E mentre Nino pieno di disagio taceva, io sentivo nascere dentro me stesso con indicibile 
ripugnanza rantico, atavico odio deU'ebreo nei confronti di tutto cio che fosse cristiano, 
cattolico, insomma goi. Got, golm : che vergogna, che umiliazione, che ribrezzo, a 
esprimermi cosi! Eppure ci riuscivo gii — mi dicevo — : diventato simile a un qualsiasi 
ebreo dell'Europa orientale che non fosse mai vissuto fuori da! proprio ghetto. Pensavo 
anche al nostro, di ghetto, a via Mazzini, a via Vignatagliata, a! vicolo-mozzo Torcicoda. 
In un future abbastanza vicino, lore, i goim, ci avrebbero costretti a brulicare di nuovo 1^ 
per le anguste, tortuose viuzze di quel misero quartiere medioevale da cui fin dei conti 
non eravamo venuti fiiori che settanta, ottanta anni fa. Ammassati I'uno suiraltro dietro i 
cancelli come tante bestie impaurite, non ne saremmo evasi mai piii. 

(226-27) 

As he tells his story of the terrible recognition of his fate as a Jew and only a 
Jew, intertwined with the story of Fadigati's fall from grace once he openly takes 
a sadistic and opportunistic young lover, slowly it emerges that his relationship 
to the unfortunate doctor is fraught with tensions and ambiguities, even now that 
he is dead and so many years have passed. Frequently, when he speaks of 
Fadigati's suffering at the hands of the citizens of Ferrara, it is difficult to tell 
with whom he sides. Sometimes his voice is that of the outsider, sympathetic to 
Fadigati's plight; sometimes it is that of the bourgeois benpensante, scandalized 
by Fadigati's unbecoming conduct, and especially by his reftisal to "play by the 
rules," to hide his homosexuality so as not to offend his co-citizens. Gradually 
the source of the narrator 's unease in speaking of Fadigati becomes clear. Just as 
he had difficulty acknowledging his Jewishness then and still does now, so too 
he had difficulty then and still does now acknowledging his shared experience as 



3 1 Lucienne Kroha 

a Jew with Fadigati's as a homosexual. It is this difficulty, this enduring 
ambivalence toward Fadigati precisely because of his homosexuality that the 
reader comes to understand as the ultimate irony in this story.^ 

So fraught with discomfort is this identification for the narrator that at a 
crucial moment in the story — he is recalling an afternoon in Riccione when he 
was about to leave the house to meet Fadigati — he gratuitously calls attention to 
his own heterosexual erotic experiences, clearly to dispel any doubts in the 
reader as to which side of the divide he is on and to reduce his own anxieties as a 
narrator now recalling that afternoon: 

Ero vestito da tennis. Con una mano tenevo la bicicletta dal manubrio, con I'altra la 
racchetta. Tuttavia [mio padre] mi domandd: 
"Dove vai?" 

Due estati prima, sempre a Riccione, ad una quindicina di giomi dall'aver trionfato 
nell'esame di maturity ero finite a letto (ed era stata la prima volta, in assoluto!) con una 
trentenne signora milanese, conoscente occasionale di mia madre. In dubbio se essere 
fiero preoccupato della mia awentura, per due mesi buoni il papi non aveva perduto 
uno solo dei miei movimenti. 

(217) 

When Fadigati calls him at home one day, really only in search of company 
since he is now a complete outcast, the protagonist's anxiety outweighs any 
sympathy he may be feeling for him: 

Parl6 ancora: della cagna, degli animali in genere, e dei lore sentiment!, che sono cosi 
simili a quelli degli uomini — disse — , anche se, "forse," piu semplici, piu direttamente 
sottomessi aHMmperio della legge naturale. Quanto a me, mi sentivo ormai sulle spine. 
Preoccupato che mio padre e mia madre, di certo tutti orecchi, capissero con chi stavo 
conversando, mi limitavo a rispondere a monosillabi. Speravo anche, in questo modo, di 
indurlo ad abbreviare. Ma niente. Pareva che non gli riuscisse di staccarsi 
dall'apparecchio. 

(238) 

Fadigati's isolation has becomes absolute, in contrast with the narrator's 
relative isolation as part of a community of outcasts. The doctor's suicide by 
drowning in the waters of the Po takes place after the protagonist's failure to 
keep an appointment with him, and we can see that this failure still haunts the 
narrator now, years later. Though he continues to deny his part in the tragedy, 
the image of the black magnolia tree in the downpour betrays his sense of guilt: 

Piovve tutto sabato e tutto domenica. Anche per questo motivo, forse, scordai la 
promessa di Fadigati. Non mi telefond e nemmeno io gli telefonai: ma per pura 
dimenticanza, ripeto, non gi^ di proposito. Pioveva senza un attimo di tregua. Dalla mia 

^ For a detailed analysis of this aspect of the novel see Kroha. 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 3 1 1 

camera, guardavo attraverso la finestra gli alberi del giardino. La pioggia torrenziale 
sembrava accanirsi particolarmente contro il pioppo, i due oltni, il castagno, ai quali 
veniva via via strappando le ultime foglie. Soltanto la nera magnolia, intatta e gocciolante 
in modo incredibile, godeva visibilmente dei rovesci d'acqua che la investivano. 

(239) 

In this first novel, then, the failure to react to antisemitic attacks, thus 
acknowledging "difference" and hence "exile," is put in parallel with a failure on 
the young man's part to be sufficiently secure in his own heterosexual 
masculinity to reach out to Fadigati without fear. The young man's crippling 
desire for the narcissistic and reassuring mirroring of the "maternal city," to 
erase the hostility of the environment, alludes to an unconscious enduring pre- 
oedipal stance, which is at the root of both his homosexual panic and his 
passivity in the face of the adversity which has befallen him as a Jew. 

Passivity is a major theme in // giardino dei Finzi-Contini as well. The 
Finzi-Continis refuse to recognize, or at least to react to what is going on in the 
world around them, and it is this attitude that eventually leads to their 
deportation at the hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. Their apparent 
indifference to the anti-Jewish campaign is remarked upon fi-equently by the 
narrator, who notes not only Prof Ermanno's focus on Jewish genealogy and the 
past to the detriment of the current crisis, but also the family's general 
mdifference to the illness that finally kills the son Alberto, a lifeless repressed 
homosexual. We never know exactly what the cause of this indifference might 
have been, since the story is told exclusively fi-om the narrator's limited 
perspective. But everything we find out about the Finzi-Continis leads us to 
believe that the source of their paralysis is indeed their failure to accept their 
condition as "exiles," in other words as Jews. 

This may seem paradoxical at first, since they themselves seem to have 
chosen exile, for they are cut off fi^om both Gentile and Jewish society and keep 
to themselves in their magnificent home with its surrounding garden: 

Chiss^ come nasce e perchd una vocazione alia solitudine. Sta il fatto che lo stesso 
isolamento, la medesima separazione di cui i Finzi-Contini avevano circondato i loro 
defunti [a reference to the long description of the their family tomb which opens their 
story], circondava anche Valtra casa che essi possedevano, quella in fondo a corso Ercole 
I d'Este. 

(256) 

Much to the annoyance of more mainstream Jews like the protagonist's 
father, who sees them as parvenus who have let their quick ascent fi-om the 
ghetto go to their heads, they have surrounded themselves with the trappings of 
the Gentile aristocracy, so much so that they live in a former Este Renaissance 
villa reminiscent of Ferrara's once prominent courtly society. Their wish, in 
other words, is not to belong to the productive and progressive sectors of post- 



312 Lucienne Kroha 

Unification society nor even to the landed bourgeoisie, but to count themselves 
among the nobility of the nation, such is the extent to which they have become 
victims of the mirage of upward mobility promised by the emancipation of the 
Jews in the New Italy: 

Che idea da nuovi ricchi, che idea bislacca! [...] certo, certo, ammetteva [mio padre]: gli 
ex-proprietari del luogo, i marchesi Avogli, avevano nelle vene sangue "bluissimo": orto 
e rovine inaiberavano ab antiquo il molto decorativo nome di Barchetto del Duca [...]. 
E pazienza loro, i genitori, che appartenevano a un'epoca diversa [...] pazienza 
specialmente lei, Josette Artom, del baroni Artom del ramo di Treviso (donna magnifica, 
ai suoi di: bionda, gran petto, occhi celesti, e difatti la madre era di Berlino, una 
Olschky), la quale, oltre che stravedere per la casa Savoia al punto che nel maggio del 
'98, poco prima di morire, aveva preso I'iniziativa di mandare un telegramma di plauso al 
generale Bava Beccaris, cannoneggiatore di quei poveri diavoli di socialist! e anarchici 
milanesi [...]. II professor Ermanno e la signora Olga, tuttavia (lui un uomo di studi, lei 
una Herrera di Venezia, e cio6 nata da famiglia sefardita ponentina molto buona, senza 
dubbio, per6 piuttosto dissestata, e d'altronde osservantissima), che razza di persone si 
erano ficcati in mente di essere diventati, anche essi? Dei veri nobili? 

(259-60) 

It is to sustain the illusion of having ascended to the highest ranks of Italian 
society that they must keep out others: any confrontation with other Jews will 
remind them of their ghetto roots, which must be kept in abeyance, while 
confrontation with Gentiles will invariably bring home the truth of their 
"difference." It is no coincidence that Bassani has chosen to emphasize the 
garden, for they have created an Eden before the Fall in which there is no 
"knowledge" and no awareness of "difference," even in the face of the most 
brutal political and social realities. 

This narcissistic paradise is akin to the "maternal face" of Ferrara that the 
protagonist seeks as he looks down upon the Jewish cemetery in Gli occhiali 
d'oro. It mirrors the Finzi-Continis' wishes perfectly, allowing them to lead the 
undisturbed lives of leisure and disinterested cultural pursuit that might have 
been their lot, had they really been bom Renaissance Christian aristocrats. Once 
the race laws of November 1938 enter into effect, the Finzi-Continis do, it is 
true, allow other Jews into their enclave and they do abandon their own private 
Spanish synagogue to join the Italian synagogue as a gesture of solidarity, but 
there is no action on their part otherwise, and no discussion of the events of the 
day. Their princely home and lush gardens become the theater of their dogged 
unwillingness to re-embrace the reality of their exile, their determination to 
sustain the fantasy of oneness with, and belonging to, a fantasized superior 
Gentile aristocracy. 

And it is this unwillingness that explains why the garden and the Finzi- 
Continis become the protagonist's chosen refrige once he is banned from the 
tennis club, the public library, and his other haunts. The paralysis of the Finzi- 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 3 1 3 

Continis at this point corresponds to his own state of mind; unlike them, 
however, he is all too sensitive to the current crisis, but since he is unable to 
come to grips with it, their cocoon provides a welcome reftige from the radical 
possibility that he has become, like his forefathers, "just a Jew." The gates to the 
artificial paradise of the Finzi-Continis open just as the doors of society, or at 
least of Italian mainstream and Fascist society, close. The stench of death 
pervades this false Eden, however, and is everywhere signified: in the 
professor's obsession with genealogy and Jewish cemeteries, in the death of both 
male offspring (another male child had died earlier and is to be followed by 
Alberto), in the Emily Dickinson poem he translates for their daughter Micol. So 
too his attraction to Micol proves to be a sterile one, but for reasons he even now 
has trouble fathoming. 

Bassani casts the protagonist's relationship with the Finzi-Continis in the 
mold of the Freudian "family romance," considered to be a phase in the 
adolescent or child's gradual process of individuation. In this phase, the child, 
dissatisfied with his own parents, fantasizes that he is really the offspring of 
more satisfactory ones, sometimes, as Freud says in his essay on the Family 
Romance,"* of aristocratic origin. The protagonist at this time is clearly unhappy 
with his father, whose denial of the situation of the Jews fills him with contempt. 
And yet, he is not able to work out a satisfactory reaction of his own and 
temporarily adopts the Finzi-Continis, to whose fascination he too had fallen 
prey as a young boy, as "worthier parents." This "adoption" allows him 
ultimately to disengage both from his own family's values as well as from those 
of the Finzi-Continis, and to embrace his "exile" with courage and fortitude (as 
is suggested by a reference to time subsequently spent in a Fascist prison). 

But before he can do so, he must come face to face with the beautiftil Mic61 
Finzi-Contini. In the encounter with her, he fmds himself afflicted with the same 
paralysis that plagues him vis-a-vis the turn of events in the outside world. His 
romantic misadventures with Mic61, who is constructed in his fantasies as a sort 
of Aryan-Jewish princess, provide the key, in this particular novel, to an 
understanding of the connection that Bassani wishes to create between exile and 
difference. At a superficial level Micdl exists as a locus of "non-difference" in 
the protagonist's fantasies simply by virtue of her blonde good looks, her relaxed 
and urbane demeanour, her grace and skill at tennis. What could be farther from 
the image of the ghetto Jewess than this young woman, who provides the 
protagonist with the illusion that he is in the company of a beautiftil Gentile 
aristocrat who also happens to be a Jew? In the garden-of-soon- to-be-horrors, 
all difference is suspended (not unlike the situation in Armida's garden in 
Tasso's Gerusalemme liber ata ). 



* For a definition of this term and for an account of its appearance in Freud's writings see 
"Family Romance" and "Oedipus Complex" in Laplanche and Pontalis 160-61 and 282- 
87. 



314 Lucienne Kroha 

Unfortunately, this suspension extends to his perception of her as a sexual 
being as well, or rather to his incapacity to perceive her as a sexual being. Years 
later, as he tells his story, he is still m the process of trying to understand why, 
one afternoon, when the perfect occasion to kiss her and thus declare his feelings 
for her presented itself, he was unable to overcome a paralysis that made it 
impossible. This failure, enshrined in words, scenes, images, and symbols 
fraught with meaning, is not to be confused with a mere momentary failure of 
nerve: 

Infinite volte nel corso deil'invemo, della primavera, e dell'estate che seguirono, tomai 
indietro a ci6 che tra Mic61 e me era accaduto (o meglio, non accaduto) dentro la carozza 
prediletta dal vecchio Perotti. Se quel pomeriggio di pioggia nel quale era terminata d'un 
tratto la luminosa estate di San Martino del '38 io fossi riuscito perlomeno a dichiarami 
— pensavo con amarezza — forse le cose, tra nol, sarebbero andate diversamente da 
come erano andate. Parlarle, baciarla: era allora, quando tutto ancora poteva succedere — 
non cessavo di ripetermi — che avrei dovuto farlo! E dimenticavo di chiedermi 
ressenziale: se in quel momento supremo, unico, irrevocabile, io fossi stato davvero in 
grado di tentare un gesto, una parola qualsiasi. 

(329) 

The answer to his question is provided, cryptically of course, by Mic61 
herself, for such is her role in his life, both temptress (Eve) and guide (Beatrice). 
They have been wandering in the garden and a sudden rainfall causes them to 
take refuge in the old carriage house which is now used for both the family car 
and general storage. In it, they see the old carriage, which is still the pride of 
Perotti the caretaker, the carriage that the narrator saw Micdl and Alberto riding 
in as children and which seems to be endowed with an aura, embodying 
everything that was — and still is — special about the Finzi-Continis and their 
world: 

La carrozza attendeva davanti a! portone del Guarini per ore e ore, non spostandosi che 
per cercare I'ombra. E bisogna dire che esaminare I'equipaggio da vicino, in tutti i 
particolari, dal cavallone poderoso di tanto in tanto calmamente scalciante, con la coda 
mozza e con la criniera tagliata corta, a spazzola, sino alia minuscola corona nobiliare 
che spiccava argentea sul fondo blu degli sportelli, ottenendo talora dall'indulgente 
cocchiere in tenuta bassa, ma assiso in serpa come su un trono, 11 permesso di montare su 
uno dei predellini lateral!, e ci6 perche potessimo contemplare a nostro agio, il naso 
schiacciato contro ii cristallo, I'intemo tutto grigio, felpato, e in penombra (sembrava un 
salotto: in un angolo c'erano perfino dei fiori infilati dentro un esile vaso oblungo, a 
foggia di calice...), poteva essere anche questo un piacere, anzi Io era senz'altro: uno dei 
tanti avventurosi piaceri di cui sapevano esserci prodighe quelle meravigliose, 
adolescent! mattine d! tarda primavera. 

(267) 

The importance of the carriage as a symbol in this novel is testified to not 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 3 1 5 

only by the length of its description and by the way in which the narration 
appears to caress it as it is being evoked, but by its repeated appearances in the 
text: 

Era proprio lui, 11 vecchio Perotti, giardiniere, cocchiere, chauffeur, portinaio, tutto, come 
aveva detto Micol: niente affatto mutato nel complesso dai tempi del Guarini, quando, 
assise in serpa, aspettava impassibile che I'antro buio e minaccioso dal quale, impavidi, 
col sorriso sulle labbra, i suoi "signorini" erano stati inghiottiti, si decidesse una buona 
volta a restituirli, non meno sereni e sicuri di s6, alia vettura tutta cristalli, vemici, 
nichelature, stoffe felpate, legni squisiti — simili davvero a una teca preziosa — della cui 
conservazione e guida soltanto lui era responsabile. 

(302) 

Now, years later, they are sitting close together in the carriage which he so 
admires. The "moment" comes and goes. Nothing has happened. Mic61 has 
squirmed and moved into a comer of the carriage, suddenly appearing to feel 
cold. As if privy to a superior knowledge about him and about life in general, she 
launches into a complicated speech to cover up the awkwardness of the situation, 
and at the same time to express her annoyance at his boyish behaviour. She 
contrasts the carriage with an old canoe next to it. Both canoe and carriage have 
lost their function and yet the canoe faces this obsolescence, this "exile" with 
courage and dignity, while the feminized carriage hangs on for dear life to its 
glorious past: 

"Ha voglia, Perotti" diceva, "di spendere per questa specie di penoso rottame tanto tempo 
e tanto sugo di gomiti! No, da' retta a me: qui, in questa semioscurita, uno puo anche 
mettersi a gridare al miracolo, ma ftiori, alia luce naturale, non c'd niente da fare, infinite 
magagnette saltano subito all'occhio, la vemice qua elkt partita, i raggi e i mozzi delle 
ruote sono tutti un tarlo, il panno di questo sedile (adesso non puoi rendertene conto, ma 
te lo garantisco io) t ridotto in certi punti a una tela di ragno. Per cui mi domando: a che 
scopo tutta la struma di Perotti? Ne vale la pena? Lui, poveretto, vorrebbe strappare al 
pap^ il permesso di rinvemiciare tutto quanto, restaurando e impastocchiando a suo 
piacere. Per6 il papi nicchia, al solito, non si decide..." 
Tacque. Si mosse appena. 

"Guarda invece Ik il sandolino" prosegui, e mi indicava nel mentre, attraverso il vetro 
dello sportello che i nostri fiati cominciavano ad annebbiare, una bigia sagoma oblunga e 
scheletrica accostata alia parete opposta a quella occupata dallo scaffale dei pompelmi. 
"Guarda invece la il sandolino, e ammira, ti prego, con quanta onesta, dignita e coraggio 
morale, lui ha saputo trarre dalla propria assoluta perdita di funzione tutte le conseguenze 
che doveva. Anche le cose muoiono, caro mio. E dunque, se anche loro devono morire, 
tant'6 meglio lasciarle andare. C'6 molto piu stile, oltre tutto, ti sembra?" 

(327) 

This speech is the very nerve center of the novel. The carriage is a symbol 
with multiple possible referents in the context of Micol's words to him, and of 



3 1 6 Lucienne Kroha 

the novel as a whole. Both carriage and canoe have outlived their usefulness, are 
"in exile," so to speak, but the manly canoe accepts its fate with all the 
consequences it entails. The feminine carriage, on the other hand, hangs on to a 
fantasized past and function that no longer pertain, much as the Finzi-Continis, 
perhaps, hang on anachronistically to the aristocratic past they have created for 
themselves, much as the Jews themselves hang on to an idea of themselves and 
their Jewishness which leads them to take refuge in study and in the passive 
cultivation of their illustrious past (see Prof Ermanno's obsessions) instead of 
fighting back in the present, much as the protagonist himself is hanging onto a 
mother-identified, "feminized" boyhood, and failing to relate as a man to both 
Mic61 and the events of the day. Mic61 has outgrown him, just as the events of 
the day have left him behind in terms of what they now demand of him. It is not 
insignificant that the passages leading up to Mic6rs speech, in which she and the 
protagonist are seen climbing into the carriage, evoke the stifling atmosphere of 
the narcissistic pre-oedipal mother-child relation: "[...] lo sportello si chiuse da 
solo con uno schiocco secco e preciso da tagliola. [...] Pareva davvero di 
trovarsi dentro un salottino: un piccolo salotto soffocante" (326); nor is it an 
accident that as she is about to launch into the carriage/canoe speech (she has 
grown tired of the protagonist's continuing comments about how "new" the 
carriage still seems and has just exclaimed "non dire stupidaggini, per favore!" 
327), she suddenly appears much older to him: "Pareva di colpo invecchiata di 
dieci anni" (327). She then proceeds to give him her lesson, a lesson about 
sexual difference and about the serene, manly acceptance of exile as opposed to 
the clingy refusal to "let go of childish things." 

The reasons for his inability to kiss her at that time, that is, to recognize the 
sexual difference between them, are soon made explicit in a dream he has. 
Before narrating the dream, he recalls a telephone conversation with Mic61, 
during which she described her room to him, and in particular her collection of 
Venetian glass objects, which she referred to as "l^ttimi": 

"Littimi? " domandai. "Che roba 6? Da mangiare?" 

"Ma no, no" piagnucol6, inorridendo al solito della mia ignoranza. "Sono vetri. 
Bicchieri, calici, ampolle, ampolline, scatolucce: cosette, in genere scarti d'antiquariato. 
A Venezia li chiamano lattimi; fuori di Venezia opalines, anche flutes. Non puoi 
immaginare come lo I'adori, questa roba. In proposito so letteralmente tutto. Interrogami, 
e vedrai." 

(332) 

The dream seizes on the similarity between "lattimi" and "latticini." First he 
describes the sense of bewilderment and unease he remembers feeling in the 
dream at finding her to be a fiilly grown woman and no longer the blonde child 
he remembered; then, suddenly, they are again in the famous carriage with 
Perotti and his wife as chaperones of sorts and, in the next sequence, in Micol's 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 3 1 7 

room, which is full of "roba da mangiare" (108): 

[...] giacch6 i lattimi non erano affatto gli oggetti di vetro di cui Mic61 mi aveva 
raccontato, ma appunto come io avevo supposto, formaggi, piccole stillanti forme di 
cacio biancastro, a foggia di bottiglia. Ridendo, Mic61 insisteva perch6 io provassi ad 
assaggiarne uno, dei suoi formaggi. Ed ecco si alzava sulle punte dei piedi, ecco stava per 
toccare col teso indice della mano destra uno tra quelli collocati piu in alto (quelli lassu 
erano i migliori — mi spiegava — i piu freschi), ma io no, non accettavo assolutamente, 
angosciato, oltre che dalla presenza del cane, dalla consapevolezza che fbori, mentre cosl 
discutevamo, la marea lagunare stava rapidamente montando. Se tardavo ancora un poco, 
I'acqua alta mi avrebbe bloccato, mi avrebbe impedito di uscire dalla sua camera senza 
farmi notare. 

(339) 

In this dream Micdl has obviously become a maternal Eve, tempting the 
protagonist with her milk-derived products. And yet he resists, aware that he 
must leave the garden before the tide rises, although he is unable to do so: a very 
clear depiction of his dilemma and the enormous difference in psychological 
maturity between him and Mic61, as well as a clear warning that the garden will 
soon become the site of his undoing if he does not grow up quickly, become 
aware of the real dangers facing him and other Jews, and decide on a manly 
course of action.^ Exile from the garden and the need to leave the mother-child 
dyad of pre-oedipal narcissism are again intertwined in this symbolically charged 
scene. Not coincidentally, m this very same chapter of the novel, as he recounts 
an awkward telephone conversation with Micdl's latently homosexual brother 
Alberto, the narrator recalls gratuitously and mysteriously inventing a visit to a 
local brothel, needing to distance himself suddenly from the danger of any 
identification with Alberto, much as he did vis-^-vis Fadigati in Gli occhiali 
d'oro: "Pensa" soggiunsi a questo punto, inventando di sana pianta, e chiss^ 
quale demone mi aveva a un tratto suggerito di raccontare una storia del genere, 



^ Marilyn Schneider offers a different reading of this dream: "To the extent that Mic61 
and the narrator are equals, Mic61 functions as her author's symbol of artistic inspiration; 
thus she remains chaste and mystified. Her banishment of the narrator is required for her 
ideal image to be preserved intact. An erotically permeated dream offers an interesting 
variation on the theme of chastity. [...] In the most surreal part of the dream the [lattimi\ 
have changed into bottle-shaped oozing ('stillanti) small cheeses (the word lattimi evokes 
milk). A smiling Micol invites her guest to taste one 'of the best ones,' but 'stared at' by 
Micbl's dog and 'anguished' about a rising tide of water surrounding the house, he 
declines. The explicit symbolization of sexual intercourse has Mic61 (the threatening 
'female' water) — in apt proximity to her bed — proposing sex (the oozing 'male' 
cheese); but the exposed and imperiled narrator, longing for the protection of an 
'outside,' a non-Finzi-Continian space, refuses her offer. The dreamworld projection of a 
sexually available Mic61 reins in its own desire in order to protect the narrator, whose 
creative 'oozing' must depend on his pen and not his penis" (125). 



3 1 8 Lucienne Kroha 

"prima di tomare in stazione ho trovato perfino il tempo di dare un'occhiatina in 
viadell'Oca"(341). 

The failure to do the manly thing by kissing Mic6l at the opportune moment 
is alluded to again in the last two paragraphs of the epilogue. Here the narrator is 
speaking of Giampaolo Malnate, the Gentile Marxist who was one of the regular 
guests at the garden and with whom the protagonist imagines Micol to be having 
an affair, after she makes clear her lack of interest in him. Malnate is the only 
model of an active, anti-Fascist stance in the novel, and, as such, ultimately 
provides the role model for the protagonist to join the Resistance (though his 
participation in the Resistance is only alluded to once). He and Malnate, in the 
time following Micdl's invitation to the protagonist to stop coming to the garden, 
meet outside and become friends, in a father-son sort of way. They visit a local 
brothel together (though Malnate abstains) and engage in political conversations 
meant to lead the way to manly militancy for the passive, bookish, sheltered 
protagonist attempting to come to grips with a world gone mad. In the epilogue, 
we are told that Malnate died on the Russian front. The narrator recalls that 
Malnate never quite understood the Finzi-Continis' passivity in the face of the 
encroaching storm: 

Certo t che quasi presaga della prossima fine, sua e di tutti i suoi, Mic6l ripeteva di 
continuo anche a Malnate che a lei del suo futuro democratico e sociale non gliene 
importava un fico, che il ftituro, in s6, lei lo abborriva, ad esso preferendo di gran lunga 
"/e vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd'hui," e il passato, ancora di piu, "il caro, il dolce, il 
pio passato." 

E siccome queste, lo so, non erano che parole, le solite parole ingannevoli e disperate che 
soltanto un vero bacio avrebbe potuto impedirle di proferire, di esse, appunto e non di 
altre, sia suggellato qui quel poco che il cuore ha saputo rlcordare. 

(450) 

Here sameness (the narrator and Micdl) is associated with the "pious" 
(Jewish) past, while difference (Malnate as a Socialist and Gentile) is associated 
with the future. And the unproffered kiss (and the spectre of the carriage) returns 
as the only thing that might have projected Micdl into the ftiture (and perhaps 
saved her from death at the hands of the Nazis). But in order to bestow the all- 
important kiss, our protagonist would have had to cease seeing her 
narcissistically and been able to embrace their (sexual) difference. Instead, "le 
solite parole ingannevoli," which the protagonist's inaction forced Micdl to 
speak, are placed here, at the novel's end, as a reminder of her success and his 
failure: as a good mother, she sent her son out into the world. He should, instead, 
have been a man to her woman and drawn her out, helped her to face her "exile" 
as well as his own, but was unable to do so. Just as "survivor's guih" has 
motivated the telling of the Fadigati story, so too this guilt may well be at the 
origin of the Finzi-Contini saga. 

The third novel of the trilogy, Dietro la porta, moves backward in time 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 3 1 9 

rather than forward, and explores a moment that represents another rite of 
passage in the life of the protagonist: the arrival at the liceo in early puberty. It is 
1929, there are no race laws on the horizon as yet, but our protagonist is 
exceedingly self-conscious and uncomfortable with what is demanded of him 
now: the capacity to move from the comforting, cocoon-like world of the middle 
school (sameness) to the larger, more impersonal world of the liceo (difference). 
While his peers seem to be moving seamlessly into their new reality, he is 
unhappy, unable to adapt to the circumstances, keeping to the us/them mentality: 

Avevo bisogno di sfogare la mia scontentezza, di manifestarla. Cosi, 11 primo giomo di 
scuola mi ero guardato bene dal partecipare al solito assalto per I'accaparramento dei 
banchi priviiegiati, quelli dot piu vicini alia cattedra, a cui, come ogni inizio d'anno, si 
erano buttati i miei compagni. Avevo lasciato fare agli altri, ai nostri e ai loro, restando 
sulla soglia dell'aula a osservare disgustato la scena, e andando infine a sedermi laggiu, 
neil'ultimo banco della fila riservata alle ragazze, presso la finestra d'angolo. Era I'unico 
banco rimasto vuoto: un banco grande, poco adatto alia mia statura mediocre, ma invece 
molto al mio intenso desiderio di esilio. 

(455) 

Here, as opposed to the situation in the first two novels, exile appears to be 
freely chosen, rather than being imposed from the outside. And yet this exile is 
the result of an inability to leave behind "childish things," to abandon past 
comfortable positions in favor of new stages in life. To be noted in this passage 
are the reftisal of "manly" competition, the passivity, and the choice of seating in 
the girls' row. The reference to exile is repeated a few paragraphs later: "II 
professor Bianchini, quello d'italiano, aveva cominciato le lezioni declamando 
una canzone di Dante, e un verso mi aveva molto colpito. Diceva: 'L'essilio che 
m'e dato a onor mi tegno'. Poteva essere la mia divisa, il mio motto" (457). 

As if to seal his fate and in spite of his intellectual abilities, he gravitates for 
friendship not to his peers amongst the Gentile students, the leader of whom is 
aptly named Carlo Cattolica, but to a young, vulgar outsider who is neither his 
intellectual nor social equal, Luciano Pulga, and who appears not to challenge 
him in any way. He and Pulga become uneasy friends and study partners, but in 
reality, Pulga takes advantage of him shamelessly, while the protagonist finds 
himself strangely passive in the face of this exploitation (which here takes the 
form of plagiarism in class): 

Ebbene, che lui copiasse da me con cosi piena fiducia, con cosi assoluta dimissione da 
qualsiasi pretesa di giudizio personale, attento soltanto ad assolvere senza errori il 
proprio lavoro di plagiario, mi riempiva di un sentimento complesso ed invischiante, 
misto di piacere e di ripugnanza, contro il quale gi^ da allora mi scoprivo indifeso, 
incapace sostanzialmente di reagire. 

(474) 



320 Lucienne Kroha 

They continue to spend time together in spite of the protagonist's awareness 
of Pulga's abuse of him, until Cattolica stages a confrontation between them, in 
order to bring the protagonist to a realization of the full extent of Pulga's 
treachery: from behind the door of the master bedroom in Cattolica's home, he 
hears sexual insults hurled at his mother by Pulga, while serious doubts are also 
cast on his own heterosexuality as well. The protagonist's world and all the 
idealizations it is based on come crashing down in a moment: freason and 
contamination have made their way into his universe, and there is safety 
nowhere. Just as Mabiate, the most "manly" character in the Giardino dei Finzi- 
Contini warns Mic61, Alberto and the protagonist about the dangers of their 
blindness and passivity vis-^-vis events in the outside world, so Cattolica, who 
takes on this role here, is also represented as a "manly" figure, the only one of 
the boys in his class to have a girlfriend: 

In materia di morose io non avevo ancora avuto la minima esperienza seria, concreta. 
[...] Lui a! contrario risuitava bell'e fidanzato: in casa, e con tanto d'anello d'oro a! dito. 
Oh, queH'anelio! Si trattava di uno zaffiro montato in oro bianco, un anello importante, 
da commendatore, particoiarmente antipatico. Eppure come avrei desiderate possedeme 
uno anch'io! Chissi — mi dicevo — . Forse per diventare uomini, o almeno per 
acquistare quel minimo di sicurezza in se stessi indispensabile a passare per tali, un 
anello cosl andava bene, poteva aiutare molto. 

(464) 

The title of the novel Dietro la porta is a clear allusion to another Freudian 
concept, the primal scene, which refers to the child's fantasies about what goes 
on behind his parents' closed door.^ What is important for the purposes of our 
analysis of the exile motif in Bassani is that this is the scene that forces the child 
to become aware of his exclusion vis-^-vis the parents and, in particular, the 
mother. This scene oedipalizes the child, so to speak, casting him out of the 
narcissistic paradise of the mother/child dyad and forcing him not only to 
become aware of his exile, but also of his mother's existence as a sexual being. 
In the first novel Gli occhiali d'oro, he takes cognizance of his exclusion from 
"Ferrara" as he once knew it, from its "maternal face"; in the second novel, he 
seeks refiige in the garden and in Micdl's "maternal" face, but discovers that this 
face is his own projection, that she is a sexual being and that the garden is a false 
paradise (the "primal scene" in the Giardino takes place when the protagonist 
sees the light on in the hut and imagines it to have been the site of Micdl's secret 
midnight trysts with Malnate); in this third novel, he returns to the site of the 
original exclusion, "behind the door." Bassani here has the awakening to the 
mother's sexuality taking place in brutal circumstances and following a 
conftising adolescent episode of penis size comparison with Pulga, in which 



See "Primal Scene" in Laplanche and Pontalis 335-36. 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 32 1 

Pulga tells him he is a homosexual. In his transition to adolescent manhood, the 
protagonist's uneasy Jewishness is intertwined with both his own and his 
mother's sexual humiliation (the latter not in fact but in word). 

The insistence on Judaism and sexuality has to do with more than just 
Bassani's desire to give a universal dimension to the Jewish experience of exile 
by reducing it to a variation of two timeless exile stories which are also tales of 
sexual difference : the story of the Fall and the Freudian variation of the Oedipus 
story. In reality, there is something very historically specific about the 
juxtaposition of the motifs of the acceptance of sexual and ethnic difference at 
this time. The "femininity" inherent in the protagonist — his attachment to the 
feminine "carrozza" in the garden, his decision to sit in the back row with the 
girls, his passive submission to the taunts and abuse of Pulga in Dietro la porta, 
his reluctance to reach out to the homosexual Fadigati: all are elements that place 
Bassani's treatment of the exile motif within a very specific and broad discourse 
of Jewish identity that transcends the bounds of the Italian context in which he 
situates his stories. It is no secret that doubts about the masculinity of Jews were 
rampant in post-Darwinian pseudo-scientific discourse in the late-nineteenth and 
early-twentieth centuries, and these doubts were a distinct part of the discourse 
that led up to the Nazi genocide of the Jews as an inferior race. It was in fact, as 
Ritchie Robertson writes, 

a nineteenth-century commonplace that 'the Jew' (always imagined as male) was in some 
way less masculine than the Gentile male. The equation of Jewishness and femininity 
appears in Nietzsche's work as early as section 9 of the Birth of Tragedy (1872), where 
the active, Aryan, masculine myth of Prometheus and his crime of stealing fire from 
heaven is contrasted with the passive, Semitic, feminine myth of Eve and the sin of the 
Fall. In 1869 the distinguished Viennese rabbi Adolf Jellinek published a book, Der 
judische Stamm (The Jewish Tribe), with a chapter headed 'The Femininity of the Jewish 
Tribe ' [in which] the relationship of Jews to non-Jews is made analogous to the passive, 
submissive relationship of women to men. [...] 

A feminized Jewish man features in the play Karia Buhring (1895) by 'Laura Marholm' 
(the pseudonym of Laura Hansson, 1854-1905), where the violinist Karla Buhring is 
attracted to the Jewish intellectual Dr. Siegiried Collander. [...] His enemy Eschenmeyer 
describes him [as] 'a kind of half-way house and intermediate formation, to put it in 
scientific terms, between us and the female, and that is why women like him as a daily 
stimulant.' This Darwinian language proposes the feminized Jew as a kind of missing 
link between the Aryan man and the woman. 

(296-97) 

Of course the most notorious of German writers to enshrine the Jewish male 
as "feminine" was Otto Weininger, himself a Jew and a homosexual, whose Sex 
and Character {Geschlect und Charakter, 1903) enjoyed a popularity amongst 
European intellectuals well into the nineteen thirties, and no less so amongst 



322 Lucienne Kroha 

Italian intellectuals, in particular those of the prestigious journal La voce? It is 
certainly no coincidence that this infamous text is mentioned in Dietro la porta 
as one of the books which Pulga has managed to sneak away from his father's 
library (491). 

Indeed, the story of the narrator's gradual coming to terms with his 
condition as a Jew in the terrible period of Fascist anti-Semitism becomes the 
story of his identification with a "Gentile" cause — the "manly" Resistance — 
which draws him out of the "feminine" maternal cocoon. In all three novels, the 
acceptance of exile becomes the equivalent of male maturity, which the 
protagonist has difficulty reaching because of a deep-seated insecurity, identified 
as a historically determined Jewish lack of "manliness," represented not only in 
his own drama and seen as responsible for the deaths of Fadigati and of Mic61, 
but in all the Jewish male figures in the novels. His own father is seen as weak 
("quell'uomo mediocre, annoiato e noioso, incapace soprattutto in casa di tenersi 
su, di darsi un contegno" 528), Micdl's father is remembered for his limp 
handshake ("sentii la sua mano piccola e inerte infilarsi nella mia e subito 
ritirarsi" 1 16), while her brother is a homosexual.* The earlier exile of the Jews 
into the ghetto appears to have created an exile from manliness, represented here 
as a Gentile frait. 

In this connection it is perhaps worth noting that in his Interpretation of 
Dreams ( 1 900), Freud himself addresses this issue indirectly in speaking of his 
well-known attachment to Rome and of a series of dreams "based upon a longing 
to visit Rome," (282) and of his idealization of Hannibal, whom he speaks of as 
"the favorite hero of my later school-days"(285): 

Like so many boys of that age, I had sympathized in the Punic Wars not with the 
Romans but with the Carthaginians. And when in the higher classes I began to 
understand for the first time what it meant to belong to an alien race, and anti-semitic 
feelings among the other boys warned me that I must take up a definite position, the 
figure of the Semitic general rose still higher in my esteem. To my youthful mind 
Hannibal and Rome symbolized the conflict between the tenacity of Jewry and the 
organization of the Catholic church. And the increasing importance of the effects of the 
anti-semitic movement upon our emotional life helped to fix the thoughts and feelings of 
those early days. [...] 

At that point I was brought up against the event in my youth whose power was still 
being shown in all these emotions and dreams. I may have been ten or twelve years old. 



^ For an account of its fortunes amongst Italian intellectuals see Cavaglion. For an 
account of the ideas expressed in it see Ritchie 299-302. 

Schneider sees homosexuality in Bassani's works as "a metaphor of social infertility 
and decay" (89) in her chapter entitled "Sexual Identity and Political Persecution." I 
would go farther and see it not, in the first instance, as a metaphor but, as I have taken 
pains to demonstrate, as a literal representation of fears about Jewish masculinity, derived 
and internalized from anti-Semitic discourse. 



The Same and/or Different: Narcissism and Exile in Bassani 's Novels 323 

when my father began to take me with him on his walks and reveal to me in his talk his 
views upon things in the world we live in. Thus it was, on one such occasion, that he told 
me a story to show me how much better things were now than they had been in his days. 
'When I was a young man,' he said, 'I went for a walk one Saturday in the streets of your 
birthplace; I was well dressed and had a new fur cap on my head. A Christian came up to 
me and with a single blow knocked off my cap into the mud and shouted : "Jew! Get off 
the pavement!" ' 'And what did you do?' I asked. 'I went into the roadway and picked up 
my cap,' was his quiet reply. This struck me as unheroic conduct on the part of the big, 
strong man who was holding the little boy by the hand. I contrasted this situation with 
another which fitted my feelings better: the scene in which Hannibal's father, Hamilcar 
Barca, made his boy swear before the household altar to take vengeance on the Romans. 
Ever since that time Hannibal had had a place in my phantasies. 

(286; qtd. Breitman 104-05) 

In concluding, I cite another passage from Dietro la porta that describes the 
protagonist's unease at having to leave middle school for the liceo. With little 
effort it is possible to read this excerpt as the thinly veiled protest of a 
particularly insecure Jew reluctant to leave the ghetto: 

Fin dai primi giomi mi ero sentito spaesato, profondamente a disagio. Non mi 
piaceva I'aula dove ci avevano messi, posta al termine di un tetro corridoio lontano da 
quello allegro e familiare [...]. Non mi piacevano i nuovi insegnanti, dai modi distaccati 
e ironici che scoraggiavano ogni confidenza, ogni considerazione di carattere personale. 
[...] Non mi piacevano i nuovi compagni provenienti dalla quinta A ai quali noi della B 
eravamo stati aggiunti, diversissimi da noi, mi pareva, forse piu bravi, piii belli, 
appartenenti a famiglie forse migliori delle nostre: estranei, insomma, irrimediabilmente. 
E non riuscivo n6 a comprendere nt a giustificare a questo proposito il comportamento di 
molti dei ''nostri" che, a differenza di me, avevano subito cercato di fare comunella con 
"loro," ripagati, lo vedevo costemato, di uguale simpatia, di pari disinvolta 
arrendevolezza [...]. La mia fedelta, [...] la mia assurda fedelta avrebbe preteso che una 
linea di demarcazione invisibile continuasse a separare anche al liceo i superstiti delle 
due vecchie quinte, di modo che noi della B fossimo protetti e garantiti per sempre da 
ogni tradimento, da ogni contaminazione. 

(453-54) 

The analogy between the "ghetto mentality" and pre-oedipal narcissism, on 
the one hand, and emancipation and oedipal difference seems clear: while the 
ghetto Jew was originally confined to this enclave because of his difference, in 
the ghetto he invariably becomes the "same." Outside of the ghetto, "sameness" 
is an illusion (the mirage of integration); "exile" must be accepted as a 
permanent condition. Moreover, the pairing of the refusal to move into a 
situation that entails the recognition of this permanent "exile" of the emancipated 
Jew with the refusal of the "manly" recognition of sexual difference situates 
Bassani's treatment of the exile motif within the gendered discourse of Jewish 
identity in vogue in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. 



324 Lucienne Kroha 



McGill University 

Works Cited 

Bassani, Giorgio. // romanzo di Ferrara. Milano: Mondadori, 1980. 

Breitman, Barbara. "Lifting up the Shadow of Anti-Semitism: Jewish Masculinity in a 

New Light." A Mensch among Men. Explorations in Jewish Masculinity. Ed. Harry 

Brod. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1988. 101-17. 
Cavaglion, Alberto Cavaglion. Otto Weininger in Italia . Roma: Carucci, 1983. 
De Felice, Renzo. Storia degli ebrei italiani sotto il fascismo. 1961. Torino: Einaudi, 

1972. 
Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. James Strachey. Harmondsworth: 

Penguin, 1976. 
Kroha, Lucienne. "The Structures of Silence: Re-reading Giorgio Bassani's Gli occhiali 

d'oro." The Italianist 10 (1990): 71-102. 
Laplanche, Jean, and Jean-Baptiste Pontalis. The Language of Psychoanalysis. Trans. 

Donald Nicholson-Smith. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1973. 
Robertson, Ritchie. The "Jewish Question" in German Literature 1 749-1 939. Oxford: 

Oxford UP, 1999. 
Schneider, Marilyn. Vengeance of the Victim. History and Symbol in Giorgio Bassani's 

Fiction. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986. 
Weininger, Otto. Sex and Character. New York: Burt, 1906. 
Wright, Elizabeth, ed. Feminism and Psychoanalysis. A Critical Dictionary. Oxford: 

Blackwell, 1992. 



Cinzia Sartini Blum 



Toni Maraini's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 

In Mitografia dell 'esule, Giuseppe De Marco calls attention to the central role 
that the theme of exile, in its various inflections, plays in Italian literature from 
the Middle Ages to the present.' While De Marco's approach is not strictly 
chronological, he points to a development whereby the traditional representation 
of exile as an individual, heroic iter gives way to the contemporary image of a 
common drifting into anonymous alienation: 

"Questa, purtroppo, b la chiara diagnosi della crisi che vive I'uomo ad ogni angolo di 
strada, quest'uomo che cammina in mezzo alia folia, anonimo fra gli anonimi, esule fra 
gli esuli, proteso nella esplorazione di questa condizione di incertezza, di angosciata 
perplessit^ di disperazione esistenziale, naufragando nell' 'aiuola che ci fa tanto feroci' 
{Pd.XXn, 151)." 

(97-98) 

Such a depressingly monochromatic depiction of the present is indicative of a 
predommant mind-set in the Italian critical establishment. Only an unhealable 
sense of loss seems to lie in the wake of the modem crisis of values, which 
marks "the end of History" for the "decentered" subject of contemporary theory 
— a subject paralyzed by nostalgia because unable to relinquish the impossible 
dream of totalizing pursuits. But what about those who were traditionally 
marginalized by the lamented (or desecrated) certezze of the past, that is, by 
systems of values predicated on Eurocentric and phallogocentric ideologies? 
From the viewpoint of History's outcasts — namely women, who are not present 
in De Marco's survey — the crisis of the West's "universals" may have 
contributed to create a propitious climate for intellectual journeys into uncharted 
territories. As many women writers have argued and shown, these various 
journeys seek to connect a vital heritage with the precarious present, and with 
the future still to be written. I will focus on one such challenging percorso: the 
unique experience of Toni (Antonella) Maraini, a poet, novelist, art historian, 



' "L'esilio, cosl, si profila nella molteplicit^ dei significati e delle espressioni: esilio 
come sanzione dell'allontanamento dalla propria patria, quindi come bando (Dante), 
oppure come condizione di relegazione e domilicio coatto (C. Levi, C. Pavese), ovvero 
come fiiga, vita solitaria (Petrarca, Tasso, Leopardi); l'esilio ancora 6 vissuto come 
categoria di negazione-assenza; infine l'esilio nella letteratura contemporanea si rivela 
come condizione esistenziale di solitudine, nostalgia, angoscia" (De Marco 1 1 ). 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



326 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

and scholar of Maghreb, whose work speaks of exile as a precondition for 
nomadic adventures of thought. The challenge Maraini takes on is to cross old 
intellectual boundaries as well as newly established ones, questioning given 
notions of cultural identity while also searching for enduring values. In this 
journey, she revives the trope of exile as "I'ultima Utopia."^ 

Sealed in Stone 

Maraini's first novel, Anno 1424 (1976), was inspired by a famous place of 
French medieval history, the Cemetery and Church of the Holy Innocents. As the 
author explains in her preface to the English edition, this was ''the cemetery for 
the Parisian people" and also their most popular gathering place: by daytime, the 
center of various social activities; and at night, the sanctuary for all sorts of 
outcasts {Sealed in Stone 9-10; emph. in original text). The church's outer walls 
served also as a place of exile for the "immured," who by sentence or choice 
were sealed up in small stone cells facing the yard. Consuhing documents on the 
cemetery's history, Maraini found mention of a young woman called Alix la 
Bourgotte: "A young novitiate of the Hopital de Saint-Catherine, [who] 
renounced the world in 1418, and chose to spend the rest of her life walled up in 
the Cemetery of the Holy Innocents, communicating with the outside world only 
through an opening the size of a large brick. She died forty-eight years later, 
venerated by then as a mystic" {Sealed in Stone 1 0). 

In Anno 1424, this historical figure becomes the heroine of a symbolic tale 
set against the backdrop of the English invasion, at the time of the famous 
staging of La Danse Macabre or Triomphe de la Mort, which was performed in 
the churchyard by the cemetery. Viewing this fascinating place as a metaphor of 
the world — "[u]n mondo decadente, pessimista, irrazionale, corrotto, puerile 
davanti alia vita, pomposo e formalista, ma nello stesso tempo un mondo 
innovatore e in fermento" (87)^ — Maraini makes it the stage for an exemplary 



^ I share Mario Luzi's concern that the pervasive "circulation" of exile in contemporary 
literature may have reduced the trope to a clichd: "La dissidenza o lo spaesamento 
deU'esilio circolano [...] nel regime poetico modemo ora in modo evidente ora a un 
livelio cosi profondo che solo per via di metafore possiamo decifrarli. Tutto questo ha 
generato molte specie di arbitri e storture. Oggi noi forse abusiamo per consuetudine e 
vizio mentali, nel frequentarla e nel decifrarla o nel comodamente presumerla quella 
metafora, quasi topos senza piu relazione con la sostanza" (200-01). It will become 
apparent that the relationship between trope and historical substance is not lost on 
Maraini. See Edward W. Said for insightful reflections on this relationship. Said focuses 
on "true exile" as a "condition of terminal loss" (173), an "unbearably historical" reality 
(174), warning that any "instrumental" use of it may amount to "a trivialization" (182). 
Yet, he also recognizes that exile is "a potent, even enriching motif of modem culture" 
(173), and that even "non-exiles can share in the benefits of exile as a redemptive motif 
(183). 
^ Unless otherwise indicated, page numbers refer to the novel's 1991 edition. La murata. 



Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 327 

story of rebellion to the daily spectacle of violence, injustice, and suffering. 
Her heroine, Alice, is not in fact what we might expect: a mystic who chooses 
reclusion in order to transcend the corruption of the Earthly City through 
contemplative ecstasy. Alice's adolescent aspirations are driven by intellectual 
curiosity and by an overwhelming need for spiritual freedom. Through her 
books, as if traveling in distant lands, she restlessly seeks the "Thing" that may 
allow her to break free from the opaque, meaningless consfraints of daily 
existence. After her father's death, however, having lost her privileged 
condition, she becomes painftilly aware of a murkier, violent reality, which 
makes all scholarly endeavors seem fiitile.'* She is then forced to enroll as a 
novice, under the name of Agnese, by a new stepfather who considers her "too 
sfrange and disrespectfiil" (Sealed in Stone 53). But the formalistic and ascetic 
practices of the religious order do not satisfy the novice's thirst for answers. Her 
first epiphany is not, in fact, a mystic experience sparked by ritual prayer or 
solitary contemplation; it is a moment of intense connection with life, 
established upon witnessing an innocent man's execution. The recluse recounts 
this life-changing moment in one of her internal monologues: 

Quando mi vide, mi guard6. Segul 11 percorso che va in fondo, attraverso questi buchi 
neri che abbiamo nelle orbite, e giu sine alle vertebre. Mi ha comunicato in una zona 
senza tempo dove esistiamo, attraverso gli strani canali del nostro corpo ma che nel corpo 
lasciano solo un ricordo, un riflesso lontano. Dietro di lui c'era la Cosa. Ed 6 allora che 
ho capito che la Cosa si trovava in uno spazio completamente diverse dal nostro [...]. 
Quello che noi pensiamo come fuori era di colpo diventato un "dentro" minuscolo e 
relative. II vero oltre, il vero lontano, era immenso, vasto, spazioso, assolutamente 
differente nelle sue dimension! eppure vicinissimo a me: mi veniva trasmesso da dentro 
un corpo, dalle pupille di quel viso. Qualcosa che in un attimo mi sembr6 di intuire cosi 
chiaramente, doveva misteriosamente connettere lo spazio illimitato a un soffio 
impalpabile interiore al nostro corpo. 

Per molto tempo dopo, gia nella cella, avevo continuato a pensare che quell'uomo avesse 
deposto in me la sua vita, che I'avesse fatta fuggire di corsa attraverso il mio corpo. 
Come quando si lancia una barca in un fiume che conduce in un posto inaspettato. 

(109-10; emph. in original text) 

As she meets the victim's gaze, Alice/Agnese experiences a transftision of 
life, which opens up new channels for ecstatic communication. An obvious 
antecedent to this scene is the most famous letter of St. Catherine of Siena, 



'* "Adesso che comincio appena a capire i fatti cosi chiaramente esposti aH'interno della 
citt^ stessa, adesso che comincio a capire cosa conta veramente nella logica, nelle arti e 
negli intestini di un corpo umano, adesso — pensavo — nessuno mi ascolter^ piu. Ormai 
chi ero io? piu niente, nessuno. Uscita dal circuito delle carte sigillate. Per fortuna, 
pensai subito dopo, per fortuna sono uscita da questa grande illusione, I'illusione di 
andare discutendo con pertinenza su cose assolutamente inutili" (46). 



328 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

which vividly relates how the saint is enraptured upon assisting a young 
gentleman from Perugia, Niccolo Toldo, condemned to death for speaking 
critically of the Sienese government.^ There are, however, significant differences 
between the two texts. Maraini's heroine is deeply affected by the man's 
dignified, defiant attitude, whereas Catherine inspires the terrified youth to 
accept the will of God and even share her own exaltation at the moment of death. 
Furthermore, in Catherine's ecstatic vision the soul leaves the dead man's body 
and is transported to the divine by the Savior's otherworldly Grace. For 
Alice/Agnese, ecstasy is instead a moment of immanent transcendence: an 
exteriorization of the self through shared sentiment with the other, resulting in 
her assumption of the victim's call for a better world: "insurrezione quotidiana 
ed espansione dell'anima" (120).^ Because she feels incapable of transforming 
the world that surrounds her ("Non potevo infrangere la vita dal di fuori" 1 12), 
the heroine chooses reclusion as a way of changing things from within — a way 
of aspiring to that "ideal city" which is justice on earth. People, she decides, can 
fight with the little means they have, as the innocent man did, with his 
countenance before an unjust sentence: 

Se la citt^ ideale e I'idea che I'uomo si fa della vita, se t veramente raspirazione di tutta 
la gente che chiede giustizia, se b la meta dell 'espansione della loro coscienza, se b di 
questa citta che pariano i riformatori, i predicatori, i rivoltosi e tutte le persone che nella 
loro vita quotidiana percorrono le strade guradando al di 1^ oltre, lontano, al modello 
esempiare che ancora ci sfugge, ebbene, ailora bisogna cercare di rendere questa citta 
possibile. 

Come? lo non lo so. Non sono un condottiero, un rivoltoso con le armi. Sono qualcuno 
che nella vita non ha potere sulle cose, che non ha presa sulla materia. Ho volutofare del 
mio corpo un ponte. Non ho ripudiato la realta, ma I 'ho in un certo senso inghiottita; 
lanciata in una via a strapiombo perchd in questa terra esista un corpo, uno dei tanti, 
perpendicolari al cielo. 

(119; emph. added) 



^ See letter CCLXXII, "A Frate Raimondo da Capua dell'Ordine de' Predicatori" 
(Misciattelli 173-78). 

^ On this narrowest meaning of ecstasy as "ex-stasis," or the exteriorization of the self, 
see Maffesoli 43. Maffesoli discusses the role of the ecstatic experience of shared 
sentiment in every-day life, arguing that it is the driving force in basic mechanisms of 
identification and participation upon which the social bond is built. According to 
Maffesoli, such archaic, tribal mechanisms characterize the climate of eras, like ours, in 
which people feel alienated from the distant economic-political order: "[...] at certain 
periods of history, when the masses are no longer interacting with those in government 
[...] the political universe dies and sociality takes over. [...] I believe that this movement 
is a swing of the pendulum, proceeding by saturation; on the one hand, direct or indirect 
participation predominates; on the other hand, there is an increased emphasis on 
everyday values" (46). 



Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 329 

Passages such as this lead us to venture an interpretation of the novel's 
central image: the protagonist's exile in a cell attached to a wall that encloses "a 
metaphor of the world itself {Sealed in Stone 10). This image can be related to 
a most influential trope of twentieth-century Italian poetry: the wall that defines 
the horizon of Eugenio Montale's poetic world. For Montale, this trope figures 
existence as exile from meaning: the poet searches for the breach in the wall that 
may afford him a glimpse of the absolute, but fears an engulfing void, which 
awaits him beyond the sheltering screen of his limited perception. Similarly, 
young Alice feels trapped by the opaque screen of a senseless "spettacolo 
ingannatore" (36), and envisages a total, annihilating "absence": 

Ero gia murata allora, quando correvo 1^ dove si bruciano i covoni del grano e vedevo 
d'un tratto davanti a me delle montagne di polvere fina fina e trasparente. Ogni cosa era 
quella e remblema di un'altra. Come se stessi vivendo neila fessura di un'immagine; nel 
riflesso di un doppione. Allora mi fermavo e tutto diveniva translucido. Quel momento 
era cristallizzato eppure liquido. Era sonoro; sentivo il sibilo violento della forza magica 
che tiene tutto compatto. Presente, intenso e pronto. II sole, i campi attomo, ogni 
dettaglio e sasso, uscivano da me eppure loro stessi mi contenevano in uno spazio tondo 
come un alambicco di cristallo. In qull'istante coincidevano tutti i nostri battiti 
accumulati: del mio corpo, delle foglie, delle pietre, delle nuvole. II resto era la morte, la 
morte piu terribile e totale: I'assenza di me e I'imputridimento. 

Restavo cosi sinch6 qualcuno mi chiamasse; allora una rete invisibile mi ripiombava 
addosso e mi rendeva piii prigioniera e assente che la terra e le mura che mi rinchiudono 
qui, adesso, in questo spazio afoso. 

(33) 

This passage recalls, in particular, the "miracle" that Montale foresees in 
"Forse un mattino andando in un'aria di vetro."^ But in Montale's poem the 
poetic "I" anticipates a moment of stupefied terror: he expects to find sheer 
nothingness behind the simulacrum of things, and will therefore return to face 
"I'ingarmo consueto" in isolation, harboring a terrible secret. Maraini's heroine, 
instead, experiences a moment of intense correspondence with nature. And later, 
by identifying with a victim of injustice, she will have a positive epiphany. 
Moving then into a liminal space in the wall, she will see through society's 
deceptive constraints without fear of losing herself, and will thus solidify her 
connection with life. 

The "immured" also connects with history by becoming a bridge through 
which others can pursue their own ways to consciousness. Her path converges 



^ "Forse un mattino andando in un'aria di vetro, / arida, rivolgendomi, vedr6 compirsi il 
miracolo: / il nulla alle mie spalle, il vuoto dietro / di me, con un terrore di ubriaco. // Poi 
come s'uno schermo, s'accamperanno di gitto / alberi case colli per I'inganno consueto. / 
Ma sari troppo tardi; ed io me n'andr6 zitto / tra gli uomini che non si voltano, col mio 
segreto" (Montale 40). 



330 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

with those of three other characters, who share a condition of exile or 
estrangement, and are driven by a common unrest: "il Gran Turco," a beggar 
poet and "vaga/mondo," who must contain his wandering within the cemetery — 
the asylum for all refugees; "il Boemo," a Bohemian heretic, who has been 
banished and condemned to be a perpetual pilgrim for his political radicalism; 
and "il Lombardo," a young Valdese, who seeks new outlets for the rebellious 
spirit he has inherited from his ancestors. The recluse feels an affinity with the 
beggar poet and addresses him in her mental monologues. The poet, in turn, 
talks to her as to a guiding presence: "Una cosa che metti nella tua testa e la 
porti via, le parli e viene ogni tanto in sogno per liberarti da un incubo" (64). 
And the wandering Lombard receives direction from the Bohemian intellectual, 
who incites him to fight for social justice. From the recluse, to whom he appeals 
for a sign, he receives the fmal answer that gives him the necessary source of 
inner sfrength: a call to be part of "il divenire della coscienza" (164). We can 
find a gloss to this message earlier in the text, when the authorial voice interjects 
in the Lombard's internal monologue, as if responding to his doubts about the 
reason for Alice's choice: 

Una spiegazione infatti, non c'd, se non quella di una confrontazione storica fra una 
realty e un individuo, Alice/ Agnese in questo caso, una giovane donna altrettanto tenace 
e vulnerabile quanto il Lombardo. E in queU'epoca di contraddizioni, persino un uomo 
cosi insolito come il Boemo, un individuo inaspettato in quella citt^ — un comunista 
hussita membro di un popolo in rivolta e portavoce del pietismo laico dei Fratelii della 
Legge di Cristo — t ugualmente uno che cerca delle risposte assolute. — Altrimenti — 
diceva — saremmo materia e non discemimento. — Questi individui cosi diversi per 
educazione e origine, coscienti e visionari, abitati da strani monologhi, da contrasti e 
tension! inconciliabili, non t un caso che convergano verso le stesse idee e le stesse 
aspirazioni, tanto grande t il bisogno di qualcosa di nuovo. 

(142-43; emph. in original text) 

If we focus, from a feminist perspective, on the "becoming of the 
consciousness" of woman as a historical subject, the protagonist's exile bears 
witness to a historical predicament. To an independent fifteenth-century woman, 
reclusion could appear as the only way to escape the social constraints stifling 
her existence. As we have seen, however, the heroine's choice is also symbolic 
of a universal predicament, and is intended to inspire all those who still search 
for answers to unsettling questions. 

Maria Corti's introduction underscores the originality of this "[sjtrano e 
mirabile libro" by arguing that it offers a brave message at a time when narrative 
is characterized by a new kind of conformism: "[...] lo sperimentalismo in 
narrativa comincia a farsi maniera di se stesso e un nuovo conformismo porta a 
celebrare con qualche monotonia e compiacimento la crisi o la negazione dei 
valori" {Anno 1424 3-4). Going against the current, Maraini writes a book about 
the real world hidden behind the false one, a world which is not "un accumulo di 



Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 33 1 

eventi o di segni linguistici, ma un concorrere di atti di coscienza" {Anno 
1424 4). "Strange," according to Corti, is the sensation that we, the readers, 
experience in discovering that the novels' characters, who wander "nella 
geografia del nostro io," gravitate around a common principle — the awakening 
of consciousness, the "Thing" buried deeply within the self, without which 
reality remains "un insieme di immagini illusorie" {Anno 1424 3). Presumably, 
such a sensation is called "strange" because readers do not expect — from a 
contemporary author — a strong, positive message: a call to find a point of inner 
strength through introspection and a critical, yet constructive involvement in 
history. 

A different introduction, penned by Alberto Moravia, appears in the novel's 
1991 edition entitled La murata, and in the 2002 English translation, Sealed in 
Stone.^ Moravia also calls the book "strano e necessario" because of its 
affirmative message; but unlike Corti, he further distances himself from it. The 
opening lines of Moravia's piece offer an apocalyptic perspective that causes 
any positive approach to appear illusory and vain: 

Viviamo in un'epoca indecifrabile, ostinatamente e perversamente insignificante. Contro 
I'epoca cozza invano la tendenza costituzionale deH'umanit^ a cercare, a! di 1^ del reale 
apparente e provvisorio, una realty invisibile e definitiva. Di fronte a questa eversivit^ 
enigmatica, almeno nel campo deJla ietteratura, si possono notare due atteggiamenti 
fondamentali: quello di chi accetta rinsignificanza del mondo e si studia di riprodurla nel 
gioco rigorosamente convenzionale della scrittura, e quello di chi, invece, cerca — 
appunto — il significato a! quale sembra riferire I'insopportabile e assurdo significante. 
Ma il guaio t che I'epoca non t soltanto insignificante ma, anche, oggettivamente 
catastrofica e dunque, in tnodo tutto nuovo (I'Ecclesiaste dice: niente di nuovo sotto il 
sole, ma I'Ecclesiaste era un contadino dell'eti del bronzo e si sbagliava) praticamente 
invivibile. ' 

(5; emph. in original text) 

Since Maraini interrogates the past in search of analogies, "per dare un senso al 



^ A note to the introduction in La murata indicates that Moravia wrote it in 1976 "per 
I'edizione americana" (8). A slightly abridged translation of Moravia's piece appears in 
Sealed in Stone. In a recent e-mail communication to me, Maraini has explained the 
history of this preface as follows: "[...] la prefazione di Moravia era stata scritta prima 
ancora che Anno 1424 fosse pubblicato; lui aveva letto le bozze e si era entusiasmato. 
Ma io non I'avevo usata e avevo scelto quella di Maria Corti perch6 volevo evitare un 
nome troppo famoso e troppo vicino alia mia famiglia. Poi fu ventilata la proposta, nel 
1976 stesso, di un editore americano e pensai di lasciare per quella edizione la prefazione 
di Moravia. Ma ero tomata in Marocco e non mi occupavo delle mie cose, cosi non se ne 
fece pill nulla. L'edizione americana attuale b cosa del tutto nuova, il contatto e stato 
trovato grazie alia tenacia di Arthur Bierman che anni fa aveva tradotto il libro e se ne 6 
occupato con passione. E stato lui a suggerire di riprendere il testo di Moravia, visto che 
era rimasto inedito in inglese." 



332 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

nostro future" (6), she is to be placed among those who have not given up 
looking for meaning. Moravia's observations on the unprecedented 
senselessness of our time are, therefore, at odds with the author's view of 
history, which is announced in an epigraph: "Nel presente che ci circonda non vi 
^ meno di fittizio che nel passato il cui riflesso chiamiamo storia. Soltanto se noi 
interpretiamo una forma del fittizio con I'altra, nasce qualcosa di non vano" (9).^ 
Despite such a difference in perspective, Moravia is clearly drawn to the novel, 
which he praises for a writing that infuses history with poetry ("una scrittura 
ferma e oggettiva sotto la quale, per6, scorre, ininterrotta, una tensione lirica," 
7). The final lines of his introduction, highlighting the book's affirmative 
message, might even be read as an endorsement: "Quello che questo libro 
afferma b che i nostri dubbi e le nostre paure possono trovare una risposta nella 
scoperta individuale della consapevolezza e della coscienza" (8). In the 
translation, however, these lines are omitted. As a result, the contrast between 
the introduction and the novel appears to be accentuated. 

While Moravia's words resonate with the postmodern notion of the end of 
history, Maraini's approach calls to mind reflections on history by various 
feminist writers, who question the politically indifferent attitude of much 
postmodern culture. I refer, for instance, to the proceedings of a series of 
seminars on the theme "II viaggio/le donne tra nostalgia e trasformazione," 
where woman's movement in time is recurrently described through figures of 
wandering and spiraling progress.'^ One can also draw connections with the 
Italian historicist tradition, from Vico — whose definition of the intrinsic 
relationship between the history of civilization and the modifications of the 
individual mind is quoted at the begirming of the novel — to the contemporary 
debate on hermeneutics and pensiero debole. ' * But as we proceed to examine 
Maraini's later writings, which portray her authorial persona as an exile and 
wanderer, it becomes apparent that her work cannot be squarely set against the 
background of any single movement, theory, or tradition. 

Wandering in a Land of Exile 

Like exile, wandering is a ubiquitous trope in contemporary literature. As a 
recurrent figure for women's intellectual projects, it conveys the shared desire to 
depart fi"om hegemonic schemes of thought. Rejecting exclusionary views of 



^ This quote is from an unidentified text by the Austrian playwright, poet, and essayist, 
Hugo Von Hofmannsthal (1874-1929). 

^^ See, in particular, Fraire's essay, which defines woman's journey as "viandanza" and 
describes it as a spiraling movement, a continuous return to a new point of departure. 
" See Borradori's introduction to Recoding Metaphysics for relevant comments on the 
"phenomenological structure" of pensiero debole, which "precludes the analysis of the 
unconscious [...] but not the analysis of the anamnesis of the historic and formal 
accretions of its appearing" (13). 



Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 333 

subjectivity, nomadic discourses commonly emphasize process, dynamic 
interaction, and fluid boundaries. There can be, however, significant variation 
among the intellectual trajectories figured by this trope. A good parameter for 
measuring divergence is the horizon of referents within which wandering takes 
place. I will briefly outline one prominent itinerary as a way of introducing 
Maraini 's view of her own estraneita from Western approaches to cultural 
identity, including those currently explored by feminist thought. 

Rosi Braidotti's Nomadic Subjects is a major contribution to the Western 
feminist debate and an unavoidable point of reference for any critical discourse 
on nomadic writing. In exploring nomadism as a figure for contemporary 
subjectivity, the cosmopolitan Braidotti establishes direct connections with 
various feminist theories of gender and with French poststructuralist thought.'^ 
In particular, she refers to Gilles Deleuze's emphasis on the positive role of the 
unconscious, connecting her trope of the nomadic subject to the metaphor of the 
rhizome, which for Deleuze represents "the labyrinthine dispersion of the 
desiring subject."'^ Such an approach must negotiate a theoretical crux: namely, 
how to reconcile the political necessity to posit female subjectivity with the 
postmodern deconstruction of the subject. Like other feminists who engage in a 
dialogue with French poststructuralism, Braidotti negotiates the crux by 
theorizing "a subject in transit and yet sufficiently anchored to a historical 
position to accept responsibility" (lO).''* Invoking the Kristevan notion of a two- 
tiered level of becoming, Braidotti represents history as a discontinuous line, 
which twists and turns through different levels of experience, crossing the 
boundaries between body and mind, unconscious structures of desire and 
conscious political choices. She thus posits a fluid foundation for feminist 
consciousness and political agency. Maraini similarly adopts an associative logic 
to bridge traditional dichotomies, but situates her wandering in a political and 
cultural context other than those commonly addressed by feminist thought. As 
we shall see, in distancing herself fi^om the Western intellectual milieu, she aims 
to re-establish severed connections not only between different levels of 
experience, but also, and most importantly, between different cultural traditions. 



'^ Bom in Italy and raised in Australia, Braidotti was educated in Paris, and is Professor 

of Women's Studies at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. 

'^ The phrase is Borradori's (13). Braidotti characterizes Deleuze's key metaphor as 

follows: "The rhizome is a root that grows underground, sideways; Deleuze plays it 

against the linear roots of trees. By extension, it is 'as if the rhizomatic mode expressed 

a nonphallogocentric mode of thinking: secret, lateral, spreading, as opposed to the 

visible, vertical ramifications of Western trees of knowledge" (22-23). 

''* In elaborating her theory of the nomadic subject, Braidotti refers to Rich's notion of 

"the politics of location" (38). Rich coined this expression in Blood, Bread, and Poetry. 

Other important references include Teresa De Lauretis, Caren Kaplan, Donna Haraway, 

Luce Irigaray, and Julia Kristeva. 



334 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

Maraini's notions of intellectual exile and "vivere vagabond©" are best 
articulated in Ultimo te a Marrakesh, a series of "racconti da una terra di esilio" 
written during the 1990s.'^ Drawing upon her experiences in Morocco, where 
she lived from 1964 to 1986, Maraini combines dialogues, poetic visions, 
memories of daily life, philosophical reflections, and political arguments to 
present a complex picture "di una terra da conoscere, una terra amata come 
'frammento di patria universale. '"•^ Although a member of an intellectually 
prominent family — suffice it to mention her sister Dacia — Maraini assumes 
the authorial persona of an exile from the Italian and Western intellectual 
establishment. In ''Al-Ghorba o le confessioni di una esule," she evokes 
autobiographical memories of an early, forced uprooting and estrangement from 
the familiar to explain her understanding of exile and other conditions that she 
associates with it: migrazione, erranza, and estraneita. Bom in Japan during 
World War II, Toni experienced life in a concentration camp at a very tender 
age, because her parents refiised to declare allegiance to the Repubblica di Sal6; 
after the war, she had to leave the place she felt to be her homeland. To these 
traumatic events Maraini atfributes her premature awareness of the 
precariousness of human existence, and the choice of exile and migration as 
"I'ultima Utopia del mondo" — a free choice she distinguishes from the forced 
one of emigration, "I'ultima maledizione" (94): 

E mentre la distanza dalla sponda si faceva sempre piu grande soverchiando di dolore e 
paura il corpo infantile, soreiie e genitori — che in prigionia, durante la guerra, avevano 
costituito una vera famiglia — si preparavano a un destino diverse dal mio. La famiglia, 
di li a poco, si sarebbe dispersa. E da allora, I'avrei a lungo sentita in qualche modo, e 
malgrado I'affetto, estranea; non tanto perchd considerata vagamente responsabile di un 
distacco che nessuno aveva trovato le parole giuste per spiegare, ma perchd, di ritorno in 
Italia, si era sentita a casa mentre io questa sensazione — precariamente conquistata e poi 
in pochi anni persa tra i giardini di Bagheria — non I'ho mai potuta avere. [...] La 
bambina arruffata, ridanciana e scontrosa si rinchiuse nel suo mondo, per sempre 
chiamato altrove. 

E cosl che ho organizzato un giomo la mia vita assumendo la mia condizione di 
migrante. II dizionario etimologico dk alia radice di migrare il senso di cambiare, 
passare. Ma nella radice di migrare vi t anche il significato di muoversi, barattare, 
scambiare, prendere e dare e, anche, mutare. Migrare e mutare sono due condizioni 
essenziali. In un certo senso, siamo tutti migrant! e migratori, in noi stessi e nel tempo 
prima ancora di esserlo con gli altri e nello spazio. Forse, si tratta della vera condizione 



'^ Exile and wandering are also central figures in Maraini's poetry. See, for instance, the 
poem "Esilio errante" in Poema d'Oriente. 

'^ This phrase appears in the blurb on the cover. All quotes refer to the 2000 edition, 
which includes nine texts already published in 1994, and five new stories: "Ddpliant 
borderline," "Una giornata, un fiume," "L'esilio su una panchina," "L'ultimo pane," and 
"Una risata transmoderna e neofijtura, ovvero: il Convito d'ombre." 



Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 335 

umana; anche se alle society sedentarie questo disordine geografico fa paura perch6 
testimonia della caducity delle cose, deirirrilevanza dei possessi, dell'universalit^ delle 
patrie. 

(91-92; emph. in original text) 

To take on the human condition of migranza requires living as if you were 
always a guest in a foreign land, loving the land as if it were your own, accepting 
"cio che questo comporta in attenzione, convivenza e precariet^," and at the 
same time, embracing "la scelta di estraneita come totale adesione alia esistenza 
stessa, come se la terra altrui fosse una parcella della Patria" (93). But for any 
Western intellectual, remarks Maraini, this is a "[p]eccato mentale grave per 
tutte le frontiere cosi annullate, anche se rispettate e non ignorate; peccato 
mentale grave, pagato con quotidiana pazienza e fatica nel ritomo stesso a un 
Occidente ostile a simili trasgressioni" (93). 

Maraini is bitterly critical of the West for past and present practices against 
the so-called third world: having used emigration as a weapon of invasion and 
destruction, "[I'Occidente] ha dimenticato e tradito la natura stessa — fatta di 
non possesso e di rispetto dell'ospitalit^ altrui — dei concetti ideali di esilio e 
migrazione. E, cosa paradossale, si sente oggi minacciato. La sua arrogante 
chiusura accompagna e provoca la chiusura di tanti confmi reali e simbolici" 
(94). The Italian intellectual establishment, in particular, is chastised for failing 
to perform its function of investigation, illustration, and guidance: 

La cultura, almeno in Italia, ha per decenni voltato le spalle a! resto del mondo, o si d 
soddisfatta di luoghi comuni, e, al momento storico attuale, b incapace di svolgere il 
proprio ruolo. Non ha saputo approfondire, e divulgare, in tempo, idee, conoscenza e 
riflessioni adeguate per impedire che la politica — le politiche — e la cosiddetta "cultura 
di massa" si riducessero a un "brodo" di preconcetti. Apocalittici e eurocentrici. / 
problemi, certo, sono tanti: nazionali, internazionali, pianetari, fisici e metafisici . . . ma 
fanno parte dell'ordine delle cose, dei ritmi del divenire e della storia e come tali 
bisogna ajfrontarli. 

(165; emph. added) 

Distancing herself from the impasse of a culture that looks back, 
melancholically, at lost certainties, Maraini champions exile from the "arrogant" 
confines of Eurocentrism as a dynamic, constructive choice: the precondition for 
intellectual migration, which leads to the acquisition, through historical memory, 
of "parametri al contempo antichi e assolutamente nuovi" (50). 

The wandering writer claims affinity with an ideal "tribe" of Arab 
intellectuals, friends, and acquaintances. Her exile is thus not a lonely one; on 
the contrary, the convito is a central structuring situation in her stories. Her most 
recurrent narrative sfrategy consists in staging conversations among commensals 
that at times cross cultural and temporal boundaries, evoking what she defines 
"un Convito d'ombre": "Frammentario e confuso. Un atto incompleto; sospeso a 



336 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

una moltitudine di atti mancanti. Un soliloquio senza epilogo. Un monologo con 
parvenza di dialoghi (tutti veridici pur tuttavia). Un racconto senza trama" (77). 

Maraini's ideal tribe also includes unnamed Westerners who, like her, are 
"[m]utanti occidentali in dissenso con I'Occidente eppure depositari di una 
credits, una sorta di quintessenza alchemica. Una eredit^ funzionale, non contro 
tutti ma con tutti" (47; emph. in original text). The stories indeed refer to a vast 
legacy, ranging from religious parables to historical interpretations, from mystic 
visions to enlightened principles of justice, from traditional artifacts to modem 
art.^^ This heritage constitutes the "revered vestiges" in which our collective 
historical memory is condensed — knowledge whose roots reach deep into a 
remote past of "sincretismo mediterraneo" (56). 

Maraini is not concerned with tracing theoretical boundaries between 
logocentric and poststructuralist philosophies. Within her intellectual 
community, "il postmodemo b stato liquidato come pallida parodia di quella 
avventurosa esperienza che gli occidentali chiamano oggi, sovente con disgusto 
— ma pur sempre con grande passione possessiva — 'modernity'" (58). 
Modernity is defined as "I'avvento, nei punti nevralgici di una cultura, paese, 
epoca o storia, di un pensiero della ragione (non razionalita) e di un process© di 
liberazione dalle visioni costrittive o riduttive collettive. [...] una metafisica 
dell'individuo, una prassi universale di mutazione sociale per una maggiore 
intesa ideale di tutti" (67). 

While Western women are characterized as "paternalistic" and 
"Eurocentric," Moroccan women play a prominent role in many of Maraini's 
stories.'^ In "Una giomata, un fiume," for instance, we meet Fatima and her 



'^ References include, among many others, Hannah Arendt, Ibn 'Arabi, Jorge Luis 
Borges, Carlos Castaneda, Frantz Fanon, Gialal ad-Din Rumi, Julia Kristeva, and, 
finally, such works as the Gospels, and the Koran. Several contemporary Moroccan 
intellectuals and artists are mentioned by their first names, or by their initials. An entire 
story, "L'ultimo pane," is dedicated to Lla Rhimu, an illiterate old woman who practices 
a rare, matrilineally transmitted art of bread making. Maraini describes Lla Rhimu's 
"pane omato della Grande Festa" ("la madre di tutti i pani" 52) as a compendium of 
ancient symbols: "Abbiamo un sole/ruota coi suoi raggi e coi suoi denti. Un omphalos 
mundi con le sue quattro direzioni. Un cerchio lunare con le sue fasi e i suoi simboli. II 
cosmo nella sua unita: dispensatore di energia, misuratore del tempo ciclico, propiziatore 
astrale garante di fertility. II pane del Sacrificio t anche pane propiziatorio. Mircea 
Eliade e Jung lo collocherebbero tra i mandala e le imago mundi del nostro universo 
immaginario" (54). Maraini's aim is to allow for things such as Lla Rhimu's traditional 
bread to tell "una storia della Storia" (57). 

'^ This characterization is attributed to a Moroccan activist: "Abbiamo [...] capito che 
non dobbiamo contare sulle donne dell'Occidente. Saremmo liete di farlo, ma tutto lascia 
supporre che non ci capiscano e, soprattutto, che non facciano uno sforzo reale per 
conoscerci. Hanno spesso interiorizzato attitudini e idee eurocentriche e patemalistiche, e 
non procedono a quella autoanalisi critica che, invece, pretendono da noi" (163). 



Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 337 

daughter, Aisha. "[S]oiTetta da un adamantino rispetto della dignity, sua e 
degli altri," Fatima worked hard to make it possible for her daughters to have an 
education; she disapproves of fundamentalism without losing faith in her 
ancestral heritage; and she has in mind the ideal project of a society built on 
principles of coexistence, justice, and equality (30-31). Similarly, Aisha is 
driven by "tenace volont^" and " ideal i radicati nei movimenti di riforma e 
emancipazione gi^ delineatisi ancor prima del colonialismo" (31). Described as 
"tradizional-modem[e],"'^ these women serve as the prime example of how 
distinctions between tradition and modernity can be misleading and 
counterproductive : 

[...] dove porre il confine tra modernity e tradizione? Come spiegare che I'apertura ai 
Tempi Nuovi non appartiene alle sole elites, che non t questione di occidentalizzazione, 
che non ipotizza perdita delle usanze, che risponde a diffuse e legittime aspirazioni che 
scaturiscono lentamente dairintemo stesso della storia sociale opponendosi 
aH'islamismo politico che oggi pur sfrutta le ambiguita e tensioni causate dall'incepparsi 
del movimento verso 11 ftituro? 

(31) 

For Maraini, the vital challenge is to avoid the looming danger that "the end 
of all ideologies" may result in the victory of a reactionary one (74). In these 
racconti, written after her return to Italy,^^ she disavows the confident, youthful 
vision of a clearly defined path toward change which inspired her activism 
during the years she spent in Morocco. Questioning her own ability to build 
cultural bridges between peoples, she envisions a destiny of neglect for her 
words, "che diventeranno illeggibili, scolorite dal vento e dal sole, si 
trasformeranno in frammenti di parole smarrite e disseminate lungo cammini che 
forse nessuno percorrer^" (125). Nevertheless, refusing the nihilistic conclusion 
that history is "dead," she evokes the image of a "perennial," though often 
submerged stream, branching out toward different horizons and continents (90). 
Along this web of percorsi, she searches for "tracce della nostra memoria 
antica" (120) — traces of a human heritage on the basis of which a common 



'^ "Anche lei [Aisha] b una donna tradizional-modema — cioe in cammino nella storia, 
non lacerata tra due contrapposizioni ma in movimento lungo un asse che ne incorpora 
dinamiche e flinzioni. Vive questo 'passaggio' senza incompatibility traumi o perdita 
d'identiti. Madre e figlia sarebbero forse accusabili di essere 'alienate occidentalizzate'? 
L'unico loro trauma t la difficile vita di lavoro per guadagnarsi da vivere in una citti 
sempre piu sommersa dai mali di un inurbamento rurale mal gestito dalla incompetenza e 
corruzione delle autoriti" (31-32). 

2<^ After moving back to Italy in 1987, Maraini visited Morocco every year. The racconti 
were "assembled" from notes that she took during these visits: "ad ogni viaggio prendevo 
appunti e poi li ho riuniti in racconti" (Maraini, e-mail). 



338 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

ground of values may be found.^' 

Maraini's journey beyond the postmodern impasse often follows the path of 
popular mysticism from ancient times to our day. In "Visita al santuario" and 
"Viaggio a Thamusida," for instance, she pursues the migrations and 
connections of different religious traditions — in particular, pagan cults, Islamic 
sufism and Jewish cabalism. Symbolic residues of these connections, forged at 
the Mediterranean crossroads of European, African and Asian cultures, can still 
be found among the ruins of ancient places of worship, situated "[a]l confluire 
tra il sacro e il profano" (97), whose memory was repressed by the conflicting 
ideologies of colonialism and Islamic nationalism. Though abandoned to a 
destiny of ruin, this pre-Islamic past has survived by flowing into the vital 
crucible of popular traditions. For Maraini, "la cultura popolare maghrebina, [6] 
depositaria delle molteplici dimensioni d'un passato che 6 fondamento, archetipo 
e linguaggio simbolico. Per chi cerca di rintracciare e capire le radici e le 
fratture comuni della cultura mediterranea, questo patrimonio h inestinguibile 
lezione. Anche quando si presenta a noi come leggenda, sparizione e rovina" 
(121). 

What lesson does Maraini derive from the traces of ancient religions? Her 
interest in rituals of ecstatic trance is especially telling. The common practice of 
"danze estatiche" points to connections among various cults — from the 
Dionysian mysteries to Hinduism — which undermine stereotypical distinctions 
between Western rationality and Eastern irrationality: "11 confluire sotterraneo e 
complementare delle loro diverse interpretazioni e visioni del mondo costituisce 
la base di una storia perenne. Tunica che a me sembra importante cercare di 
capire e decifrare" (124; emph. in original text). Unearthing such links is a way 
of reconstructing a genealogy of "embodied" spirituality: "Piii che di 
spirituality," explains Maraini, "si tratta di rispondere a una sollecitazione 
profonda radicata nell'evoluzione biologica stessa del nostro corpo che in 
qualche modo tenta simbolicamente — e in modi diversi — di oltrepassare i 
limiti del visibile e dell'ordine materiale delle cose" (124). 

One might object that valorizing primitive cults and traditions is a 
regressive move, which contradicts Maraini's emphasis on the intellectual legacy 
of the Enlightenment ("un pensiero della ragione" 67). Such an emphasis, in 



^' "Forse siamo stall guidati dagli ultimi indizi di una storia che alcuni sostengono essere 
finita come i viaggi. Ma la storia t una catena dai tantl anelli diramanti ricollegati ad aitre 
catene che attraversano 11 tempo con invidiabile affascinante disinvoltura e farla morire t 
arduo; anche se gii si dissolve nel continuo presente del brodo mediatico. Per chi come 
noi si ostina ad amarla e interrogarla, tutto t ricollegato in una trama di tasselli e fiH 
trascinati dal tempo. Etemo ritomo o fiume pitagorico che sia, fluisce costante e lascia 
segni. Finita o non finita, questa epopea di memorie ci aiuta ad affrontare oggi il frullato 
omogeneizzato dei segni. Alia loro ricerca, i nostri spostamenti sono avvenuti nello 
spazio e nel tempo" (15). 



Toni Maraini 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 339 

turn, may be considered (by postmodern standards) conservative, and hence at 
odds with her transgressive textual practices, which undermine conventional 
principles of narrative progress. I believe, however, that the valorization of a 
given heritage is not necessarily a regressive or conservative move, just as the 
experimental breakdown of conventional forms is not necessarily a progressive 
one. In both cases, one must ask what is at stake from a political and ethical 
standpoint. Maraini shows that it is possible to undermine claims to cultural 
mastery by appealing to tradition. At the same time, she suggests that the 
opposite result — establishing cultural mastery — can be achieved not only by 
celebrating past triumphs, but also by deconstructing them, "sovente con 
disgusto — ma pur sempre con grande passione possessiva" (58). 

Over the past century, many influential representations of ecstatic, epiphanic 
experiences were inspired by the Nietzschean notion of the Dionysian as a 
solipsistic escape from the daily. Maraini, on the contrary, tends to place such 
experiences in a convivial context.22 p^^ the protagonist of "Visita al santuario," 
for instance, the journey's crucial moment of "ex-static" revelation is an 
encounter with a group of pilgrims: 

I pellegrini ti offrono ancora del it. Nebbia e grande solitudine del luoghi. "Sidi 'Abd ar- 
Rahman h veramente grande", dice una vecchia donna. "Ma tu, da dove vieni?" chiede un 
altro. Tu rispondi che vieni da lontano. "Quanto lontano pu6 essere?", dice ridendo la 
vecchia donna "non puo esserci piii lontano della morte! . . .". Qualcuno ti da un leggero 
colpetto sulla spalla, ti versa ancora del it, e per farti capire il senso di quella frase dice 
"anche la cosa che sembra piu lontana, h vicina; niente t veramente lontano; siamo tutti 
vicini." 

(100) 

Words such as these, for Maraini, are not simply residues of popular wisdom; 
they are the quintessence of a precious heritage, which has been transmitted "in 
una catena di travasamenti, nel corso della storia delle culture, lungo cammini 
imprevedibili e molteplici" (133). In order to be part of "the becoming of 
consciousness," one must connect with this flow, wandering in time and space. 

Like Alice's "divenire della coscienza," the wandering of the 
"Incorreggibile Viaggiatrice" (125) is a journey of initiation to the "total being" 
(127), understood not as a complete experience of metaphysical abstraction, but 
as a recurrent mental experienced^ In Maraini' s "vagabondo vivere" (120), in 
fact, the construction of the self is an ongoing project, which cannot depart from 
the concreteness and contradictions of history: "Ripiombiamo nella storia. 



22 See Maffesoli on commensality as a custom that permits an "ex-stasis" within 
everyday life (25). 

2^ "Si, divaga il pensiero. E insistente ripercorre il cammino di quell'attimo d'iniziazione 
verso cui t stato sospinto. E la Viaggiatrice intuisce che in qualche iuogo del suo essere 
irreale il viaggio a Thamusida non avri mai fine" (127). 



340 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

Ognuno di noi ne conosce ingiustizie e orrori; ognuno assume la propria 
consapevolezza. Coscienti che senza visione deWessere totale, questa 
consapevolezza non potr^ condurci oltre il millennio" (127; emph. added). The 
ultimate lesson is that the ontological and the historical path must be integrated. 
Awareness that we all belong to the same "patria universale" must provide an 
ethical point of reference for a constructive approach to history. 

Maraini has no pretense or hope of recovering the power of the "pure" word 
to convey supreme moments of illumination, in the mode of hermetic poetry. She 
does not indulge in nostalgia for a lost "paese innocente."^"* Nor does she 
approach writing in a fetishistic, exoticist mode, as a way to compensate for loss 
of authenticity. She attacks, in fact, the self-indulgent exoticism of expatriates 
like Paul Bowles, whose famous novel, // te nel deserto, may have inspired her 
Ultimo te a Marrakesh?^ Maraini was acquainted with the deracinated Western 
writers living in Morocco, and describes them as "ancorati a una visione 
approssimativa del paese, a una illusione scenografica" (139). She compares the 
voluntary uprooting of the lost generation to the forced uprooting of the 
colonized, who were abused and reduced into dire poverty: 

Quando Port, I'eroe del libro di Bowles // te nel deserto, approda in Nord Africa nel 
1931, la prima cosa che nota 6 "lo sguardo famelico del passanti." [...] Ma questa fame, 
nel suo romanzo, resta inspiegata e inspiegabile. Come gli etnologi coloniali, Port pensa 
che il fardello delia storia appartenga soltanto agli occidentali. Si avvolge nella propria 
nausea esistenziale e in quella fredda indifferenza, in quella sinistra e vezzosa spavalderia 
ostentata dalla lost generation. [...] Nel romanzo di Bowles, la fame serve per rendere gli 
arabi piu tetri e "bestiali." 

(141) 

The contrast between the dehumanizing hunger of Bowles's Arab "extras" and 
the conviviality at the center of Maraini's stories highlights the distance between 
the two books. Many other examples could be quoted. The aforementioned 
exchange among the pilgrims at the sanctuary, for instance, can be compared to 
Port's "superstition" about "the laboring classes": the romantic notion that 
"gems of wisdom might yet issue from their mouths," which Port has come to 
recognize as an "unreasoning belief (Bowles 15). Only the contemplation of 
untainted nature — the desert and the sky — can inspire in Bowles's (anti)hero a 
sense of ecstatic communion with the Other; but to one so "unhealthily 
preoccupied with himself (Bowles 164), "proximity to infinite things" 
predictably brings feelings of utter solitude and emptiness (Bowles 99). 

Maraini's book leads to routes other than those made familiar by exoticist 
literature and by the tourist industry. Each reader is invited to pursue a different 



'^^ The quote is from Giuseppe Ungaretti's poem "Girovago" {Vita d'un uomo 85). 

^^ // te nel deserto is the title of the Italian translation of The Sheltering Sky (1949), 

whose first part is entitled "Tea in the Sahara." 



Toni Mar ami 's vivere vagabondo: Exile as the Last Utopia 341 

itinerary while also sharing, in the convivial act of reading, the author's 
experience: her practice of "smarrimento" as a "segreta arte di vita."^^ Getting 
lost means allowing the force of history to blow away chronic certainties that 
constitute a barrier to historical understanding: "La forza della storia scardina 
eventi e certezze. Beato chi ne aveva poche, delicate, vaganti e ab origine. 
Umane" (79). The expanded version begins with a piece, "D^pliant borderline," 
which declares the book's aim to guide us in becoming exiles, "strangers to 
ourselves."^^ We are encouraged to be travelers (not visitors) in Morocco, and 
we are warned against the main obstacle to traveling: an archive of images that 
create a virtual country, a caricature, at once seductive and repulsive, beyond 
which Morocco remains ''terra incognita" (11). Travel is an arduous, haunting 
experience, not an enchanting one; it involves discovering, in Maraini's words, 
"I'etema comune umanit^ in cammino nella stessa Storia con complicate 
situazioni poiitiche e poliziesche, conflitti sociali e ideologici, problemi che non 
si addicono a visite turistiche, nonch6 lumi intellettuali, fermenti artistici, 
venerabili storie e aspirazioni universali che credevate riservati soltanto al vostro 
mondo" (12). Exile, from this perspective, is not the conventional metaphor for 
an intrapsychic state of existential alienation, but a revived figure for an ethically 
and politically driven move toward intercultural understanding. It does not evoke 
nostalgia for lost origins, authenticity, and meaning; it points instead to a place 
beyond "le frontiere del sapere comune" (43), where it is still possible to follow 
"le coordinate comuni dell'umano" (47). 

The University of Iowa 



2^ "Lo smarrimento, io rho praticato come segreta arte di vita, arte di far perdere le 
tracce, di giocare me stessa inseguendo i segni del tempo e della storia disseminati tra 
caverne e termitai. Col rischio, non previsto allora, di perdere le tracce di me, unica 
perdente-e-vincente di un gioco solitario la cui estrema presunzione era quella di 
diventare un giomo un vostro segreto ricordo" (80; emph. in original text). 
2' Maraini borrows this notion from Kristeva's Etrangers a nous-memes, which she 
quotes in closing: "I'estraneiti t in noi stessi; siamo i nostri stranieri; ma se io sono 
straniero, non ci sono piu stranieri al mondo; [o c'^] un cosmopolitismo di tipo nuovo, 
trasversale ai govemi, alle economic e ai mercati" (19). 



342 Cinzia Sartini Blum 

Works Cited 

Borradori, Giovanna, ed. Recoding Metaphysics: The New Italian Phylosophy. Evanston: 

Northwestern UP, 1988. 
Bowles, Paul. The Sheltering Sky. 1949. New York: Vintage International, 1990. 
Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary 

Feminist Theory. New York: Columbia UP, 1 994. 
De Marco, Giuseppe. Mitografia dell'esule. Da Dante al Novecento. Napoli: Edizioni 

Scientifiche Italiane, 1996. 
Fraire, Manuela. "La linea d'ombra." AA.VV. Tra nostalgia e trasformazione. Atti dei 

seminari: II viaggio/Le donne tra nostalgia e trasformazione. Firenze: Centre 

Documentazione Donna e Libreria delle Donne, 1986. 28-34. 
Kristeva, Julia. Etrangers a nous-mimes. Paris: Fayard, 1988. 
Luzi, Mario. "L'esilio, Dante, la poesia." Naturalezza del poeta. Saggi critici. Ed. 

Giancarlo Quiriconi. Milano: Garzanti, 1984. 200-08. 
Maffesoli, Michel. The Time of the Tribes: The Decline of Individualism in Mass Society. 

Trans. Don Smith. London: Sage Publications, 1996. 
Maraini, Toni. Anno 1424. Introd. Maria Corti. Venezia: Marsilio, 1976. 

E-mail to the author. 6 Aug. 2002. 

. La murata. Romanzo. Introd. Alberto Moravia. Palermo: La Luna, 1991. 

. Poema d'oriente. Roma: Semar, 2000. 

. Sealed in Stone. Trans. Arthur Kalmer Bierman. Pref. Toni Maraini. Introd. 

Alberto Moravia. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2002. 

. Ultimo te a Marrakesh. Racconti. Roma: Edizioni Lavoro, 1 994. 

. Ultimo te a Marrakesh e nuovi racconti. Roma: Edizioni Lavoro, 2000. 



Misciattelli, Piero, ed. Le lettere di S. Caterina da Siena. Vol. 4. Firenze: Marzocco, 

1939. 
Montale, Eugenio. L 'opera in versi. Ed. Rosanna Bettarini and Gianfranco Contini. 

Torino: Einaudi, 1980. 
Rich, Adrienne. Blood. Bread, and Poetry. London: The Women's Press, 1984. 
Said, Edward W. "Reflections on Exile." Reflections on Exile and Other Essays. 

Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2000. 173-86. 
Ungaretti, Giuseppe. Vita d'un uomo. Tutte le poesie. Ed. Leone Piccioni. Milano: 

Mondadori, 1982. 



Laura Rorato 



Uarte di perdere peso di Mario Fortunato,' 

owero il paradigma dell'esilio in eta contemporanea 

II presente lavoro intende illustrare come il concetto di esilio in et^ moderaa e 
postmodema smetta di avere connotazioni regionali o territoriali precise per 
diventare simbolo della condizione umana (Brooke-Rose 12). Come sostiene 
Celati in Finzioni occidentali, il dramma dell'uomo contemporaneo h quelle di 
essere senza origini, consapevole che "nessuna identity va bene, nessuna 
interiorit^ o origine ci appartiene (semmai: noi apparteniamo all'indifferenziato 
terreno di ogni origine, come le cose e le piante)" (Celati, Finzioni occidentali 
207). Sempre secondo Celati, si tratta di una condizione che pu6 essere 
sintetizzata attraverso il principio della differenza, la poetica archeologica e 
I'effetto letterario dello straniamento che, portandoci costantemente su un 
"terreno estraneo", ci costringono fmalmente a fare i conti con I'esistenza 
dell'altro {Finzioni 197). Ed k proprio questo scendere a patti con I'altro, 
espresso essenzialmente tramite la metafora della malattia o dell'omosessualit^, 
che ci aiuta a comprendere il significato dell'esilio in L 'arte di perdere peso. 

La prima cosa che colpisce il lettore nell'opera di Mario Fortunato h il fatto 
che tutti i personaggi o muoiono o, se soprawivono, come il Dott. Blasi o 
Madame Lebrun, sono ridotti a larve. Molti personaggi inoltre sono di origine 
ebrea, e quindi esiliati per eccellenza (Kolakowski, In Praise of Exile 189-90), 
oppure, come si e gi^ accennato, omosessuali. Per quanto riguarda le donne, 
invece, sono quasi tutte vedove o separate, ed in generale il mondo dei 
personaggi di Fortunato risulta caratterizzato dall'assenza di un'autorit^ 
patriarcale, aspetto che sembra simboleggiare questa particolare forma di esilio 
esistenziale^ o, piii in generale, la condizione postmodema, dove k il concetto 
stesso di autorit^ a venir messo in discussione. Se, come ci ricorda William 
Gass, per i Greci la nascita rappresentava la prima esperienza di esilio (Gass 4), 
per molti personaggi di L'arte di perdere peso h il proprio corpo a farsi 



' Tutte le citazioni si riferiscono aU'edizione Einaudi del 1997. Mario Fortunato (1958) 
vive e lavora a Londra dove dirige I'lstituto italiano di cultura. Con Einaudi ha pubblicato 
anche: Luoghi naturali, II primo cielo, Sangue e Amore, romanzi e altre scoperte. Con 
Theoria ha pubblicato il libro inchiesta Immigrato (con Salah Methnani) e i reportage 
Passaggi paesaggi. II suo ultimo romanzo si intitola I 'amore rimane, Milano, Rizzoli, 
2001. Fortunato scrive anche per "L'Espresso" e "La Stampa" e tutti i suoi libri sono 
tradotti in varie lingue. 

^ Bakhtin, ad esempio, ritiene che la condizione di homelessness rappresenti un rifiuto a 
sottometersi al potere patriarcale e dia connotazioni positive all'esilio da lui inteso come 
forma di liberty intellettuale. A questo proposito si vedaNeubauer 278. 

Annali d'italianistica 20 (2002) 



344 Laura Rorato 

portavoce di questo stato: "[...] non ero bello come bambino", dice Oku, il 
tecnico delle luci giapponese, "e forse questo acuiva il senso di separazione tra 
me e il mondo" (160). "Vivere come individui, nella separatezza del corpo 
proprio, con una faccia che non abbiamo scelto, e certi manierismi che 
comunque ci consegnano a una rappresentazione dell'umano" fa parte, secondo 
Celati, di quei limiti che affliggono qualsiasi uomo.^ Per i personaggi di 
Fortunato, per6, il tutto e aggravato dalla coscienza della propria diversita e/o 
dalla malattia, simbolo della frammentazione che affligge I'et^ postmodema 
(Morris 67) e, per usare le parole di Francis Scott Fitzgerald, inserite da uno dei 
protagonisti, il fotografo David Pradine, nel proprio diario, "quando si e soli nel 
corpo e nello spirito si ha bisogno di solitudine e la solitudine causa altra 
solitudine" (174). Infatti, sebbene esistano dei fili che accomunano tutti i 
personaggi di questo romanzo essi ne restano inconsapevoli anche quando il 
caso li fa incontrare: "[...] si specchiano I'uno nell'altro in maniera misteriosa" e 
traspare una trama, ma n^ a noi n€ a loro ^ lecito decifrarla (Van Rossum 213). 

Tuttavia, per comprendere pienamente il significato di tale tema in un 
romanzo in cui ben nove capitoli sui complessivi ventidue sono intitolati 
"esilio", b necessario seguire il percorso esistenziale di alcuni suoi protagonisti 
principali (il dottor Balsi, Myriam Levi, il professor Fabre ed il fotografo 
Pradine), cercando di comprendere il significato che la malattia acquista per 
ognuno di essi, e analizzando I'espressione spaziale che I'esilio assume nei 
singoli casi. 

Cominceremo con il Dott. Benedetto Blasi, un medico italiano che 
incontriamo nel momento in cui, rientrando a casa, scopre il cadavere della 
moglie Dina, morta suicida. Blasi e la moglie, di origine ebrea, erano stati 
sposati per diversi anni ma non tutti quegli anni erano stati felici. Gi^ prima 
della malattia della moglie, che I'aveva costretta a subire un'operazione al colon 
(9), il loro rapporto si era incrinato in seguito ad una misteriosa lettera, 
indirizzata a un certo Lee, che aveva fatto supporre a Balsi che Dina avesse 
avuto un amante.'' Di lui sappiamo anche che aveva partecipato alia seconda 
guerra mondiale come ufficiale medico e che la sua vita era stata segnata dal 
senso di colpa per aver negato, durante la campagna d'Africa, il soccorso ad un 
ragazzo sardo di nome Franco che, come Blasi, "aveva preferito perdersi 
piuttosto che rimanere in mezzo a quel massacro" (122). Pur essendo entrambi 
affetti da dissenteria amebica, Blasi aveva fmito di tenere per s6 Tunica boccetta 



^ Celati, Introduzione, in Melville, Bartleby lo scrivano xiii. 

"* Dina in realty era stata una ragazza madre e Lee era il nome del figlio che aveva avuto e 
che lei, vista la sua giovane et^ aveva dato in adozione a degli zii. Dina non aveva mai 
detto niente in proposito al marito e anche quando Lee, scoperta la vera identity della 
propria madre, inizia a contattaria, non riesce a trovare il coraggio di svelare il proprio 
segreto. E questo uno dei tanti esempi di come la catena deH'incomunicabilit^ e della 
solitudine si ripetano all'infinito. 



L 'arte di perdere peso di M. Fortunate, ovvero il paradigma dell'esilio 345 

disponibile di emetina e di abbandonare il ragazzo in una fattoria dove per 
alcuni giomi avevano trovato rifugio insieme. Ironicamente, Franco era 
sopravvissuto a quella terribile awentura ma era morto di droga all'et^ di 
ventiquattro anni. Blasi per6 non aveva mai piii avuto sue notizie e dal giomo 
dell'abbandono il ragazzo continuava ad apparirgli, direttamente o 
indirettamente, in terribili incubi. II piu inquietante di tutti gli incubi riguarda il 
risultato di un esame chimico microscopico delle feci che emerge dal vuoto su 
un foglio bianco "che alle volte h tanto grande da sembrare un sudario" ma che 
Blasi non riesce a decifrare e i cui dettagli svaniscono appena si sveglia (10). 

II sogno, per Celati, "e la metafora dell'estraneita, o del taglio da ci6 che h 
perduto" e pertanto e paragonabile all'esilio, ma come "non si pu6 parlare del 
sogno se non a partire dalla veglia, non si pu6 parlare dell'altro se non a partire 
dall'io". Paradossalmente, e solo imparando a conoscere ed accettando se stessi 
che si possono intravedere delle alternative (Finzioni 200-01) e arrivare a 
superare i limiti del proprio io. Quando ci6 avviene, I'esperienza dell'esilio 
assume connotazioni positive. Spesso, per6, non si ha il coraggio di guardare a 
se stessi e la vita si trasforma in una ftiga: "[...] e cosi scappai, come ti fa 
scappare la paura [...]. Pensavo al mare come a un punto di fiiga universale" 
(119), dice Blasi a proposito della propria esperienza durante la guerra. 

A conferma delle parole di Fitzgerald sopra citate, I'esilio finisce per 
produrre altro esilio e da origine a un moto perpetuo che sembra giustificare la 
definizione di Thomas Pavel che vede "I'esilio propriamente inteso" come una 
sottospecie della piu generale nozione di mobilita umana (Pavel 26). I 
personaggi di Fortunato, infatti, risultano affetti da un perenne bisogno di 
muoversi e di viaggiare e non riescono a restare fissi in un luogo per troppo 
tempo. Questa tendenza al nomadismo risulta direttamente proporzionale alia 
loro irrequietezza interiore, all 'impossibility di dare risposte definitive ai propri 
quesiti esistenziali. Come illustra chiaramente Mark Aug6, a proposito dei "non- 
luoghi della supermodemit^", I'uomo contemporaneo, ontologicamente fragile, 
finisce per trovarsi a proprio agio solo in luoghi di transito (aeroporti, stazioni di 
servizio, supermercati, autostrade, ecc.) dove pu6 celarsi dietro ad una 
temporanea identita collettiva (viaggiatore, autista domenicale, cliente, ecc.) e 
godere di un'anonimit^ liberatoria in uno spazio "duty-free" (Aug6 100-01). La 
sovrabbondanza di eventi e "I'accumulo di discussioni secondarie" che 
caratterizzano I'et^ contemporanea creano, secondo Dainotto, nell'autore 
postmodemo (ma anche nel semplice individuo inteso come soggetto) una 
situazione di blocco che per certi versi sarebbe simile al sublime Kantiano, alia 
paura e alio stupore che si provano davanti ad una forza schiacciante senza limiti 
(Dainotto 150). Nel sublime postmodemo per6 il blocco e di natura ironica e ad 
esso segue una fase di liberazione spesso rappresentata tramite la metafora della 
defecazione (Dainotto 154-55). Non sorprende quindi che molti personaggi di 
L 'arte di perdere peso soffrano di disturbi gastrointestinali o di malattie legate 
all'assunzione del cibo, quali la bulimia. Nel caso di Blasi, ad esempio, sebbene 



346 Laura Rorato 

non sia affetto da nessuna particolare patologia, appare ugualmente ossessionato 
dal proprio apparato digerente tanto che spesso si abbandona a "riflessioni 
teologiche sui nostri, come dire? process! escrementizi, sull'essenza e le forme 
della defecazione o sulla [...] transustanziazione della materia organica [...]" 
(32). Secondo Dainotto, questo b il prezzo che il soggetto postmodemo deve 
pagare per soprawivere: "[...] rinunciando a qualsiasi consistenza metafisica 
questo tipo di soggetto diventa, quasi letteralmente, un escremento, un surplus 
che non pu6 essere codificato ed iscritto nelle fabbricate nozioni di 'realt^'" 
(156). 

Eccoci quindi ancora una volta difronte ad una forma di esilio volontario 
inteso a negare il concetto di soggettivit^, o meglio a sottolineare — di nuovo 
secondo Dainotto — che "la soggettivit^ pu6 esistere solo come processo 
digestivo in una sublime manipolazione di categoric preesistenti" (156). Non si 
puo tuttavia dimenticare che il titolo di questo romanzo sembra anche un 
omaggio alia prima delle lezioni americane di Calvino, interamente basata 
sull'opposizione leggerezza-peso, in cui la leggerezza viene vista come un 
valore da perseguire e consistente non in un rifiuto della realta a favore di fiighe 
nel sogno o nell'irrazionale, bensi in un rifiuto della visione diretta e nella 
capacita di aprirsi a una nuova ottica di guardare il mondo che accetti la 
precarieta dei processi che creano o determinano le forme viventi (Calvino 9, 12, 
26) o, per usare ancora le parole di Dainotto, la natura fittizia delle strutture di 
potere (159). II fenomeno qui descritto ricorda quello che Sveltana Boym 
chiama "ironic nostalgia", grazie a cui, sottolineando r"algia" rispetto al 
"nostos", si arrivano ad accettare (anche se non ad apprezzare) i paradossi 
dell'esilio e dell'alienazione (Boym 242). Come sostiene Czeslaw Milosz, 
inoltre, "I'esilio accettato come destino, come si accetta una malattia incurabile, 
dovrebbe aiutarci a riconoscere le nostre illusioni" (36). Non si tratta per6 di un 
processo quale fine a se stesso, quasi apocalittico, bensi di qualcosa che 
permettera finalmente al soggetto di immaginare nuovi intrecci, nuove storie, 
nuove vite da raccontare (Dainotto 159), anche se il processo stesso, ovvero il 
movimento tra ritenzione e liberazione, si rivela piu importante del risultato 
finale, tanto che si cercher^ di ritardare allMnfinito la produzione di un 
significato definitivo (Dainotto 161). 

Benedetto Blasi, tuttavia, non ha ancora raggiunto questa consapevolezza e 
I'ossessione per il proprio corpo e I'osservazione maniacale dei propri 
escrementi flinzionano, come sosteneva sua moglie Dina, da barriera "utile a 
proteggersi dall'imprevedibilit^ della vita" (14). Non sono altro che un'illusione, 
quindi: un'altra fiiga che non fa che ripetere per I'ennesima volta quella in cui 
aveva abbandonato il ragazzo sardo in fin di vita e che I'aveva spinto a tomare a 
Djerba, dopo tanti anni, proprio per "un personale bisogno di espiazione" (17). 
Blasi, per6, si rivela incapace di trascendere i propri limiti ed 6 per questo che 
finisce per lasciarsi spegnere, ridotto ormai ad una larva, nel penitenziario di 
Gab^s, senza nemmeno cercare di ribellarsi alle ingiuste accuse dell'omicidio di 



L 'arte di perdere peso di M. Fortunato, ovvero il paradigma dell'esilio 347 

Fabre, o almeno riferire "ci6 che aveva visto nei visceri di Fabre, il giomo in cui 
aveva partecipato all'autopsia" (199), fatto che avrebbe gettato luce sulle vere 
cause della morte del professore francese. Ironicamente, per un uomo a cui una 
"mancata deiezione" provocava un terribile abbattimento (24), Blasi resta fermo, 
secondo la metafora di Dainotto, alia fase di blocco. 

Altro fondamentale personaggio di questo romanzo e Myriam Levi. Di lei 
sappiamo che e nata in America, che e ebrea di origini italiane, e che aveva 
avuto un marito italiano da cui si era separata. E sovrappeso e soffre di bulimia. 
Per molti anni aveva lavorato come fotografa, mestiere che in realta detestava 
(viste anche le dimensioni del proprio corpo) e che aveva finite per abbandonare 
per scrivere libri di cucina: L'arte di perdere peso h il titolo che intende dare al 
suo primo libro. Ancora una volta h il corpo a farsi portavoce dell'inevitabile 
condizione di esilio che caratterizza I'uomo contemporaneo. Come illustra 
David Morris, in eta postmodema I'utopia perde le tradizionali connotazioni 
sociopolitiche e persino quelle temporali che la situavano in un lontano ftituro e 
finisce per trasferire il proprio luogo al solitario e privato corpo individuale. 11 
corpo postmodemo, sempre secondo Morris, viene reinventato come oggetto 
visivo e la patinata foto commerciale ne diventa la massima espressione {Illness 
and Culture 137-38). Non potrebbe esservi quindi destino piii crudele per una 
donna come Myriam che, oltre ad essere sovrappeso, e costretta perennemente a 
muoversi, visto il proprio lavoro, tra corpi perfetti, secondo i canoni dell'utopia 
postmodema, che non farmo altro che ricordarle la propria colpevole diversity. 
Come molti personaggi di questo romanzo, Myriam reagisce riproducendo 
volontariamente ulteriori forme di esilio. II ferreo regime dietetico a cui si 
sottopone ne b un esempio: 

In pochi minuti, la colazione era terminata. Myriam dedicd una panoramica struggente e 
desolata a tutte le vivande che avrebbe potuto far sue: accarezzd con gli occhi le 
marmellate, i diversi tip! di miele, ammir6 i panini caldi aU'oiio [...]. Prima di alzarsi [...] 
Myriam si sent! come una creatura costretta a una sorta di volontario esilio, condannata a 
vagare in una terra crudelmente priva di sapori. 

(19-20) 

Myriam, come si h precedentemente accennato, soffre anche di bulimia, 
malattia che secondo Yudice simboleggia I'impossibilita di gestire il proprio io 
tipica dell'epoca contemporanea in cui il soggetto, soprattutto quello femminile, 
h costantemente sottoposto a stimoli contraddittori. La society dei consumi da un 
lato pone al centro della nostra cultura I'immagine femminile, per il suo potere 
di seduzione, e dall 'altro impone la repressione della natura essenziale del corpo 
femminile, presentando come ideale un corpo magro, ma alio stesso tempo 
muscoloso e quasi virile (Yudice 23). Questa serie di impulsi conflittuali porta a 
quella situazione di blocco descritta da Dainotto in cui il soggetto, sopraffatto da 
forze schiaccianti, finisce per sentirsi paralizzato. Come confermano il caso di 



348 Laura Rorato 

Myriam (37) e di Fabre (44), questo fenomeno si manifesta con attacchi di 
letargia spesso accompagnati da un complete disinteresse per il proprio corpo, a 
cui non si presta piu alcuna cura, in quanto percepito come inutile eccedenza . A 
questo proposito 6 interessante notare che Myriam, in una delle varie lettere che 
scrive al dottor Balsi, definisce I'escremento in termini di cibo originario (34) e, 
dal momento che secondo Sartre il cibo rivela una scelta esistenziale (344), 
viene spontaneo concludere che Myriam, almeno nelle fasi di depressione acuta 
che accompagnano gli intervalli tra episodi bulimici, si identifichi con 
I'escremento. Myriam, tuttavia, cerca di combattere il proprio "Male", come lei 
stessa lo chiama (36), e riuscir^ a perdere peso quando abbandoner^, in primo 
luogo I'America — paese che secondo Patella incama la condizione 
postmodema in cui "I'uomo ha perduto il centro, il luogo privilegiato che lo 
vedeva nel mezzo del mondo" (Patella 109) e, quindi, sinonimo di esilio — e, in 
secondo luogo, la fotografia. Come viene suggerito da Calvino, Myriam impara 
a guardare il mondo da un'altra ottica (Lezioni 12) e il suo gesto di abbandono 
della fotografia a favore dello scrivere sembra voler sottolineare quella che 
Calvino chiama "flinzione esistenziale della letteratura", dove la ricerca della 
leggerezza 6 "una reazione al peso del vivere" {Lezioni 33). Le sue ricette sono 
I'espressione di questo nuovo approccio alia vita e costituiscono, per dirla 
ancora con Calvino, "un'immagine figurale di leggerezza" che assume valore 
emblematico {Lezioni 22). II messaggio che Myriam vuole lanciare ^ che 
mangiare non deve essere necessariamente una tragedia,^ o una forma di suicidio 
rituale, come era sempre stato per lei, ma pud diventare un piacere dello spirito, 
"un esercizio di rinuncia, una forma di erotismo: il primo passo verso una nuova 
vita" (132). Si tratta, tuttavia, di un passo difficile, di una transizione che non 
pu6 awenire all'improvviso e, nonostante i buoni propositi, una volta raggiunto 
il peso forma, Myriam riprende leggermente ad ingrassare. E come se il suo 
corpo, che per anni si era espresso in un certo modo,^ si rifiutasse di apprendere 



^ A questo proposito e interessante notare che Shammas (86) vede I'esiiio come una 
condizione mentale che comporta un allontanarsi dallo stile tragico per andare verso la 
commedia, verso un personaie linguaggio di grazia. Myriam stessa dice di aver scoperto 
nel cibo la sua vera lingua (133) e il termine grazia sembra adatto a descrivere le sue 
ricette in cui i vari ingredienti si fondono armoniosamente dando origine a piatti gustosi 
"quanto impalpabili" (131). 

* Secondo Medeiros, chi soffre di disturbi legati all'alimentazione cerca sempre di porsi 
al di fuori della societa e di trascendere i limiti del proprio io fino a confondersi con lo 
spazio circostante. Sebbene Medeiros prenda essenzialmente in esame il lasciarsi morire 
di fame dell'anoressico e porti come esempio il protagonista del racconto The Hunger 
Artist di Kafka che, a forza di rifiutare il cibo, riduce il proprio corpo a tal punto che 
sembra davvero svanire tra la paglia che ricopre il fondo della gabbia in cui t rinchiuso, 
un simile processo, secondo Baudrillard, si verifica anche nell'obeso. II continuo 
accumulo di peso k, un modo di scomparire del corpo, un modo di cancellare quel 
margine segreto che delimita la sfera del corpo. E come se il corpo, abolendo ogni limite. 



L 'arte di perdere peso di M. Fortunato, ovvero il paradigma dell'esilio 349 

un nuovo linguaggio. Se Myriam riesca o meno a vincere la propria battaglia e a 
rompere la catena dell'esilio rimane un mistero perch6 di lei si perdono le tracce. 
La notizia della sua morte, che casualmente apprendiamo da una lettera di Susan 
e Steve Serrano a Lina Cuccu, ma che non ne specifica le cause, compare nel 
testo addirittura prima del capitolo dedicate alia sua arte culinaria e al suo 
proposito di riuscire ad aiutare persone come lei "a liberarsi di bulimia e 
anoressia come di un velo inutile e ipocrita" (133). 

Uno studio su L'arte di perdere peso, tuttavia, non potrebbe essere 
complete senza un'analisi di Julien Fabre, il personaggio la cui morte misteriosa 
lega e allontana le esistenze inquiete — come dice la quarta di copertina — di 
tutti gli altri personaggi del romanzo. Si tratta di un professore omosessuale 
francese che col passare degli anni fmisce per diventare quasi un pedofilo. 
Incapace di accettare e vivere serenamente la propria diversity, Fabre si riftigia 
in occasionali incontri sessuali regolati dal denaro e non complicati dai 
sentimenti. Sceglie ragazzi sempre piii giovani proprio per non dover 
comunicare con loro e non farsi troppe illusioni (41). II suo atteggiamento nei 
confronti del sesso b simile a quello di Myriam nei confronti del cibo: appare 
dettato da un bisogno di punizione, da una diversity vissuta come colpa: 

Fabre awertiva il proprio corpo come un materiaie esibito e intercambiabile, e questo 
annientamento, questa riduzione di s6 a cosa, era insieme il trionfo e la negazione della 
sua personality. 

(42) 

Paulo Medeiros, nel suo studio dedicate alia rappresentazione letteraria di 
bulimia ed anoressia, afferma che, per i personaggi dei racconti da lui presi in 
esame, i disturbi legati all'assunzione del cibo costituiscono I'unico strumento 
che questi hanno per affermare se stessi come individui {Disorderly Eaters 13). 
Lo stesso sembra potersi dire per i brevi amori clandestini di Fabre, ed h ancora 
una volta un testo dedicate ai disturbi deH'alimentazione ad aiutarci a capire il 
comportamente sessuale del professore francese. Yudice, in un'analisi del 
rapperto tra mistico e anoressice, ad esempio, sostiene che per molti il perenne 
sense di perdita, legate al ridursi dell'esperienza tipico dell'et^ centemporanea, 
diventa il punto di partenza per un desiderio di gloria, grandezza e potere 
{Essays in Postmodern Culture 16-17). Ed 6 proprio una sensazione di controllo 
e conquista che Fabre deriva dalla caccia nottuma di un pessibile amante. 
"Uscire di casa, dope una giomata di lavoro e di impegni sociali", inoltre, come 
egli stesso afferma, comporta un certe rischie (41). 

E il rischie, come sostiene Vattimo, rappresenta un aspette fondamentale 
del pensiero mortale, termine con cui si intende quel pensiero che "in quanto 



non si opponesse piu ad un mondo estemo ma cercasse di digerire lo spazio nel proprio 
aspetto. Si vedano rispettivamente: Medeiros 21; Baudrillard 27. 



350 Laura Rorato 

mortale, risponde alio Zuspruch di un dare che, nell'atto di dare, si ritrae, e con 
il quale pu6 mettersi in rapporto solo mediante un risalimento in infinitum" 
(Vattimo 140). Questo "risalimento aH'infinito", sempre secondo Vattimo, 
"sospende la perentoria seriet^ del tessuto-testo dell'esistenza e svela il 
continuum storico come segnato, da ultimo, da una discontinuity" (Awenture 
140) e "sospendendo la perentoriet^ e cogenza dei contesti in cui I'esistenza 
storica 6 di volta in volta gettata, libera I'esserci per altri contesti" e lo pone "in 
condizione, esso stesso di sospensione" (Awenture 141). Fabre, tuttavia, 
fondamentalmente teme ogni incertezza, per cui preferisce percepire la propria 
solitudine come "una specie di malattia, una malattia che fa parte del corpo, 
della natura di un uomo" (41). Come Balsi, Fabre non ama le imprevedibilit^ 
della vita ed 6 per questo che si abbandona a un male che diviene, come egli 
stesso afferma, "fisiologia" (41), in quanto unico strumento in grado di creare 
un'illusione di ordine nel caos della vita: 

La sua esistenza non avrebbe piu potuto tollerare I'intrusione permanente, sia pure 
gratificante, di un aitro individuo: provare a modificarla avrebbe significato distruggerla. 

(41) 

L'esilio diventa quindi "una sorta di prigione liberatoria" in cui ogni giomo 6 
uguale all'altro e il tempo sembra correre in fretta, senza concedere neppure un 
attimo per pensare, e dove tutto appare "ordinato e classificato" (43). 

Infme, I'altro personaggio essenziale per capire il significato dell'esilio 
nell'opera di Mario Fortunato 6 il fotografo americano David Pradine. Di madre 
ebrea, aveva avuto un'infanzia difficile perch^ il padre non lo accettava e viveva 
nel mito dei figli dei vicini, "ragazzi molto sportivi, molto estroversi, che 
cambiavano fidanzata ad ogni ballo della scuola" (56). David, invece, fm da 
bambino aveva scoperto di essere omosessuale, parola che "con quel suo tono 
scientifico, asettico, faceva pensare di essere parecchio malati e di doversi 
rivolgere a un medico" (57). David, in realta, si sentiva bene e per molto tempo 
era vissuto nell'illusione "che tutto il mondo (cio6 Long Island) fosse un posto 
esaltante" (57). II primo vero impatto con l'esilio si verifica con la perdita di 
Bill, I'amico di cui si era invaghito da ragazzino e che improwisamente, un 
giomo, si trasferisce in Illinois con la famiglia, e che non rivedr^ mai piii. Per un 
certo periodo della propria vita, David aveva desiderato di diventare scrittore e, 
per paura di non sapersi esprimere adeguatamente, aveva collezionato le parole 
dei filosofi o degli scrittori che piii lo colpivano (178). Resosi conto, dopo la 
lettura di Musil, che scrivere doveva corrispondere "all'incirca a un'uscita da s^, 
a un andare oltre verso la propria fine" (59) aveva abbandonato le proprie 
velleit^ letterarie ed era passato alia fotografia la cui essenza "era piu ambigua 
di quella dello scrivere" (60). Nonostante il rapido successo, David aveva 
faticato a trovare una sua lingua autentica perch6, come suggeriscono le parole 
di Roland Barthes, da lui stesso citate, avrebbe dovuto penetrare maggiormente 



L 'arte di perdere peso di M. Fortunato, ovvero il paradigma dell'esilio 351 

dentro di s6 per trovare "I'evidenza della fotografia" (65). Come gli rimprovera 
spesso Oku, il tecnico delle luci giapponese, invece, parole e immagini avevano 
per lui una "funzione anestetizzante" e rivelavano la sua paura di confrontarsi 
col vuoto (64). Ironicamente, sar^ la malattia che aiuter^ David a trascendere i 
limiti del proprio io e a fargli vedere nella morte, come sostiene Vattimo, una 
funzione possibilizzante dell'essere {Awenture 138), spingendolo ad accettare 
anche gli aspetti piCi crudeli del proprio destine quali la cecity, condizione 
particolarmente disastrosa per un fotografo. Sebbene non venga mai 
esplicitamente detto, si pu6 dedurre che Pradine sia affetto da AIDS, la "meta- 
malattia" specchio di tutte le incertezze postmodeme {Illness & Culture 59). 

Come sostiene Allison Fraiberg, inoltre, il discorso sull'AIDS pu6 essere 
visto come I'espressione della fase evolutiva del tradizionale superamento, o 
meglio dell'abolizione, dei confmi tipico dell'epoca postmodema. La necessity 
di isolare il corpo malato per prevenire il contagio riporta il concetto di margine 
in primo piano per enfatizzare, per6, il potere sowersivo di ci6 che d contenuto 
in esso. L'insistenza sulle regole del safe sex fa si che, proprio perch6 i confmi 
sono illusori (o artificiali), il corpo riaffiori come entity distinta. Sempre 
secondo la Fraiberg, il riaffiorare del corpo diventa il meccanismo grazie a cui 
I'agente pud essere costituito: dentro o fliori dalla zona offuscata dalla 
scomparsa dei confmi pud trovarsi un agente risuscitato pronto ad agire, pronto 
a sovvertire i tradizionali luoghi deH'autorit^ (Fraiberg 50-53). Diventa quindi 
comprensibile perch6 Pradine sia I'unico dei personaggi di Fortunato a superare 
la condizione dell'esilio e a percepire la propria morte come un autentico ritomo 
alle origini. II suo uso del termine "accogliere" ricorda un brano di Celati in 
Verso la face dove il vuoto viene descritto come "I'accogliente" (46), ovvero 
come cid che abbraccia ogni cosa e, quindi, da cui ogni cosa ha origine. Che 
neir ultima fase della propria vita Pradine non tema piu il vuoto sembra 
confermato dal fatto che desidera la pioggia (148), elemento che gia per Albert 
Camus (307-10) era simbolo dell'estrema solitudine che avvolge ogni uomo, ma 
anche dell'esistenza nel mondo di un luogo di liberazione dove I'individuo, 
insieme ad un intero popolo, e per tutto il tempo che vuole, pu6 perdersi per 
sempre. Grazie alia malattia, Pradine riesce anche a comprendere come persino 
la gravity possa contenere leggerezza (Calvino 16) e come la leggerezza nasca 
dalla consapevolezza della "parity di tutto ci6 che esiste" (Calvino 18). Non 
sorprende quindi che per Pradine, come per Cavalcanti e Dante (gi^ citati da 
Calvino), sia la neve a diventare espressione di un mondo "costituito d'atomi 
senza peso" (Calvino 19) e a creare queir"atmosfera di sospesa astrazione" 
(Calvino 18) che riesce fmalmente a farlo sentire appagato (176), in armonia con 
la realta circostante. Si tratta di un benessere che nasce anche dall'aver 
compreso, come sostiene Magris, che "il destino di ogni uomo e della storia 
stessa, assomiglia a quello di Mos6, che non raggiunse la terra promessa ma non 
smise mai di camminare nella sua direzione" (11), perch^ "la salvezza non 
arriva una volta per tutte ma h sempre in cammino fino alia fine dei tempi" (13). 



352 Laura Rorato 

Utopia e disincanto sono ugualmente importanti e "anzich^ contrapporsi devono 
sorreggersi e correggersi a vicenda" (Magris 12); il disincanto t una forma 
ironica e malinconica della speranza di cui "ne modera il pathos profetico e 
generosamente ottimista che facilmente sottovaluta le paurose possibility di 
regressione, di discontinuity, di tragica barbaric latenti nella storia" (Magris 14). 

Anche se in epoca postmodema I'aspetto geografico dell'esilio ha un ruolo 
secondario, per concludere lo studio di L 'arte di perdere peso, h essenziale 
analizzare la dimensione spaziale di questa condizione esistenziale. L'evento 
principale del romanzo si svolge a Djerba, isola che gi^ per Foucault aveva 
assunto un valore simbolico/ e dalla Sardegna a Creta 6 quasi sempre su isole 
che incontriamo i vari personaggi, anche quelli minori come la madre di Fabre o 
Lina Cuccu. Storicamente, 1' isola 6 stata spesso luogo di esilio (basti pensare 
all'Elba e alia Sant'Elena di Napoleone) ma anche espressione di utopie, come 
la Laputa di Swift di cui parla Calvino in Lezioni americane (29). Si presta, 
quindi, ad un discorso che, come si b visto a proposito di Pradine, miri, pur nel 
disincanto della consapevolezza della perdita delle proprie origini, a sottolineare 
la speranza, insita proprio nello spirit© utopico custodito nella civilta ebraica 
(Magris 14), e a fare dell'esilio un'esperienza positiva. Per Myriam e Pradine, 
tuttavia, b I'Olanda a diventare massima espressione deU'esilio in quanto 
all'isolamento fisico, tradizionalmente associato all'isola, si aggiunge I'ostacolo 
linguistico che rende quasi impossibile ogni forma di comunicazione con I'altro 
e, come afferma Horst Bienek, la perdita della lingua h il fattore piu decisivo nel 
determinare I'esilio (41). Si tratta inoltre di "un paese d'acqua, fittizio" (34), 
dove spesso si cammina su un polder, owero un terreno bonificato sotto il 
livello del mare, protetto da argini ma pur sempre precario, e dove le stesse 
condizioni atmosferiche, le infinite quality di pioggia (29), sembrano fame il 
simbolo di quel luogo dove tutto scompare ma pu6 anche rinascere. Durante la 
gita a Den Oever con Margje, sua vicina di casa, Myriam afferma: "[...] 
sembrava che il mondo davanti a noi comparisse per annientarsi subito, appena 
sorpassato. Ogni cosa era lontana, lontanissima" (39). Eppure il capitolo 
dedicato al soggiomo olandese di Myriam si chiude con un'immagine di 
leggerezza: la macchina scossa dal vento che sembra alzarsi in volo e, cosi 
facendo, ricorda la figura di Cavalcanti che volteggia sopra la pietra tombale 
della novella di Boccaccio usata da Calvino (22) per esemplificare le varie 
accezioni del termine Iggerezza. II volo, inoltre, k simbolo di speranza e quindi 
della possibility di uscire dalla condizione di esilio. 

Riassumendo, k importante ricordare che, storicamente, il termine esilio si 



' Nel 1962, Foucault aveva osservato, dopo il decollo dell'aereo su cui si trovava 
dall'aeroporto di Djerba, I'orizzonte svanire nel mare e aveva commentato che si poteva 
scommettere che anche il tradizionale concetto di uomo del diciannovesimo secolo 
sarebbe potuto svanire come un volto fatto di sabbia su! bagnasciuga per lasciar posto alia 
creazione di una futura immagine. Si veda a questo proposito {Dits et ecrits). 



L 'arte di perdere peso di M. Fortunate, ovvero il paradigma dell'esilio 353 

opponeva a quelle di origine e si trattava di un fenomeno che per I'individuo 
aveva sia risvolti fisici che psicologici. Allontanato dal proprio ambiente 
familiare, o dalla propria citt^, per motivi politici o religiosi, e costretto a 
stabilirsi in una terra straniera, I'esiliato soffriva a causa della distanza che lo 
separava dalla propria casa e, al senso di non-appartenenza nei confronti del 
nuovo mondo in cui era costretto a vivere, si aggiungeva un indebolimento della 
propria identity. In epoca postmodema, con la progressiva perdita di fiducia 
nella storia e in qualsiasi forma di narrazione universale capace di risalire 
inequivocabilmente alle origini di un evento, e alia sempre maggiore 
frammentazione dell'identit^, h come se al termine esilio venisse meno il 
referente origine. L'esilio, quindi, si trasforma in una condizione esistenziale 
permanente. Resta il vago disagio della perdita di un qualcosa che non pud 
essere conosciuto e a cui non si potr^ risalire, a meno che non si sia pronti a 
vedere nella propria morte un ritomo alle origini, inteso come un ritomo alia 
sfera della potenzialit^. In questa condizione tipica dell'uomo contemporaneo, 
tuttavia, si verifica una frattura fra dimensione fisica e psicologia simile a quella 
della classica nozione di esilio. Essendo per6 venuto meno il punto di 
riferimento che determinava e dava significato all'esilio, questa lacerazione pu6 
solo avvenire aH'intemo dell'individuo: corpo e mente diventano i nuovi poli di 
questa dicotomia. Ma se il corpo 6 il luogo dell'esilio, h anche la nostra unica 
possibile "casa". Ecco quindi spiegata I'attenzione maniacale per il proprio 
corpo di molti personaggi di questo romanzo che cercano, focalizzandosi sulla 
propria fisiologia, di ricreare quel senso di ordine nel caos della vita che k tipico 
del sentirsi a casa. L'io e I'altro in questa condizione coincidono ed h anche per 
questo che si insiste suU'importanza di conoscere se stessi o di scavare dentro di 
s^, come dice Pradine, per trascendere la condizione dell'esilio trasformandola 
in una fiinzione possibilizzante dell'essere. Come dimostrano gli studi di 
Dainotto e Magris, cid che importa h il processo, non il prodotto finale: h 
essenziale procedere nella direzione della terra promessa pur sapendo che il 
raggiungimento della meta verr^ differito fino alia fine dei tempi. Trascendere la 
condizione dell'esilio significa accettare la precariet^ e la mortalita di tutte le 
cose, imparare a guardare il mondo da prospettive diverse, owero, come insegna 
Calvino, apprendere Parte di perdere peso. 

University of Wales Bangor 



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1994. 
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354 Laura Rorato 

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Creativity 241-62. 
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Mondadori, 1993. 
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, Introduzione, in Herman Melville, Bartleby lo scrivano vii-xxvi. 

, Verso la foce. Milano, Feltrinelli, 1992. 

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Graham, Pennsylvania, The Pennsylvania State UP, 1992. 
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Oxford UP, 1993. 
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Gallimard, 1994. 
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the Postmodern, in Essays in Postmodern Culture 37-67. 
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Literature, in Disorderly Eaters \ 1-27. 
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1998. 
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Novel, in Exile and Creativity 263-80. 
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L 'arte di perdere peso 212-15. 
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Sabina Gola 



Grammatica o ''Nuova grammatical dell'esilio 

L'esiglio, la poverty si sono sempre lo stesso, ma non abbiam riposto una parte della 
nostra felicity nei progress! della liberty nell'avvenire dell'Italia? e questo avvenire 
non b piu sereno dal 1823 in poi? Abbiam dietro le spalle nove anni di patimenti, 
tanti anni scontati sulla somma che ci e destinata. Gli abbiam sostenuti con energia e 
dignita, invece d'esser abbattuti dall'avversita, ne siamo esciti migliori e purissimi. 
E ci diremo tanto miseri? Anche in patria v'6 la stoffa di cui si formano le disgrazie, 
ma meschine, avvilenti, rovine di famiglia, discordia, matrimoni infelici, le nostre 
sciagure le abbiamo sortite splendide, solenni, utili, storiche anche se vuole, giacch6 
la vanita vuole ovunque aver la sua parte 

(Costanza Arconati Visconti, Parigi, 27 febbraio 1830, in Van Nuffel 20) 



Esilio. Dolore. Sofferenza. Privazione. Memoria. Ricostruzione. Rinascita. 
Separazione. Estraneita. E molti altri ancora sono gli stati d'animo e le situazioni 
in relazione all'esilio e che con esso si confondono; altre le condizioni umane 
che ne richiamano i contenuti. ' 

Che definizione dare dell'esilio? Tralasciando per un momento il significato 
propriamente giuridico della pena e considerandone I'effetto, cio6 
I'allontanamento, dal punto di vista etico e psicologico, I'esilio cos'6? Punizione 
o decisione personale? Dolore o liberazione? Disgrazia o motivo di 
purificazione? E come definire I'esule? Un mutilato o un privilegiato dalla 
sorte? E ancora: a cosa porta I'esilio? A Dio? A comprendere il valore autentico 
delle cose e a dar loro il giusto peso? Alia morte? 

Studiosi di varie discipline si occupano di letterature dell'esilio (Marges et 
exils. L 'Europe des litteratures deplacees). C'e chi tenta una classificazione — 
esilio forzato, volontario o metaforico.^ Un compito arduo: in fondo I'esilio k, 
strettamente legato all'esule ed esistono tanti e diversi tipi di esilio quanti sono 
gli esuli. 

Claude Drevet, nel suo saggio su "L'exil int^rieur", esprime fin dalle prime 
righe I'impossibilita di definire oggettivamente I'esilio e di partire quindi dal 
concetto di "ddplacement d'un corps vivant" tout court (L'Exil 211-26). Un 
movimento che parte da una supposta terra d'origine diretto verso una terra di 



' Per es., fuga, schiavismo, proscrizione, migrazione, esodo: si veda Buttino 5-324. 

^ Exil et Litterature. II volumetto raccoglie i saggi di vari ricercatori sul tema "Viaggio e 



esilio". 

Annali d'ltalianistica 20 (2002) 



356 SabinaGola 

adozione, che pud diventare per I'esule una nuova patria. 

Non un cambiamento di luogo, ma una fliga da se stessi, nel caso particolare 
dell'esilio interiore. La vita prende la forma di un anello che interrompe 
qualsiasi rapporto con I'estemo e dentro di esso si fortifica: 

L'homme de la modemitd, quand il n'est pas schizophrdne, est volontiers schizoide; 
incommunicabilitd, solitude, ennui, morosit^, d6gout, ces maitres mots de sa d6tresse 
subie et acceptde rdsument son experience [...]. L'exil intdrieur devient la condition de 
chacun; les relations fantasmatiques I'emportent sur les relations rdelles; I'espace 
intdrieur sur I'espace extdrieur; I'imaginaire individuel sur le social et le colle