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Monday, March 4, 2019
The Earth Will Shake reading group, Week Two
Francesca da Polenta, enjoying her ill-fated love affair with Paolo Malatesta. (Francesca da Rimini (1837), by William Dyce.)
This week, please read from page 20, "Sigismundo said good morning to everybody without looking at anybody," to page 43, "where were found the avatars of Satan himself, the violent against God and man."
I looked up some of the references in this section:
Naples has a long entry on Wikipedia; as Wilson says, it was a Greek, like many cities in southern Italy.
Uncle Pietro mentions that the ancestors of the Malatestas are "the princes of Rimini" who "once had interests that went beyond money grubbing and commerce," page 24. There is a Wikipedia entry for the House of Malatesta that ruled over Rimini. Some of the Malatestas are famous in literature, the entry says: "Giovanni Malatesta is chiefly famous because he murdered his wife Francesca da Polenta and his younger brother Paolo in 1285, having discovered them in adultery, and the murder is recorded in Dante's Inferno as well as in a story by Giovanni Boccaccio." Rimini is a city in northern Italy on the Adriatic coast. Lines from Inferno referring to the murder are alluded to in James Joyce's Ulysses.
Giuliano de' Medici, whose murder at age 25 in a Florence cathedral apparently inspired the murder that opens The Earth Will Shake
Guilliame de Medici, mentioned in the text on page 42, is rendered on Wikipedia as Giuliano de' Medici. He was murdered in Florence Cathedral in 1478, the beginning incident of the Pazzi Conspiracy. The conspiracy failed, although it apparently had the support of the Pope.
The Carbonari are discussed on Wikipedia as a secret society in Naples and elsewhere, with members who included Lafayette and Lord Byron. The Alumbrados also merit an entry.
"Marta Alla Francia, Italia Anela," page 28. This is another copyediting mistake; it should be "Morte." When you have the correct phrase, you can look it up and read about the two theories about the origin of the word "mafia."
"Leave murder to the professionals." Page 33. Fortunately, the study of literature can be carried out by amateurs.
I looked up the cathedral where Leonardo Malatesta is murdered, the Cathedral of San Francesco di Paola in Naples. It was built in the early 19th century, according to Wikipedia, so using it as the site of the murder may be a mistake.
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Yesterday marked Vivaldi's birthday. I listened to a lot of Vivaldi, Telemann, and Scarlatti this week to help me tune into the early parts of this novel.
The passage on the top of page 21 makes me think of Bruno's "coincidence of opposites" - "every time you laughed and celebrated somebody else was alone and weeping".
I don’t think that the reference to the cathedral was a mistake. Pound’s Cantos VII-XI are known as the Malatesta Cantos and focus on Sigismumdo Malatesta who ruled Rimini in the 15th century. One of his accomplishments was sponsoring the reconstruction of the church of San Francesco. Maybe RAW confused the two San Francescos, but I think it’s more likely, given his familiarity with the Cantos, that it was just RAW having some fun. Or maybe it’s just coincidence.
@Eric, I've been listening to Scarlatti a lot. I'll probably write about him this week.
Also see historical figure Sigismundo Malatesta and Ezra Pound's Cantos, numbers VIII and IX.
Van Scott, Sigismiundo Malatesta had a temple rebuilt in Rimini. (Bobby Campbell has done some great drawings of that beautiful temple.) "The Earth Will Shake" has taken place in Naples so far.
Hello, Michael Johnson. I hope all goes well.
Top of page 20: "...as if we of all the world have been selected to solve a dark riddle ...," the riddle of Death.
Two paragraphs later we get introduced to Sigismundo's brother and sisters. "Beatrice at 8" recalls Beatrice from the "Divine Comedy" Looking up the gematria of 8 in Crowley's "777" reveals some of that character's attributes; she serves as Dante's guide to Paradisio in that classic. Sigismundo's brother and father's name is Guido as if to emphasize the guide function. "...Guido at the age of 4, understood enough to be subdued," qabalistically indicates the nature of Beatrice's guidance in the "Divine Comedy." An explicit reference to the "Divine Comedy" appears on the next page.
This passage shows the different layers of meaning and allusion Wilson employs. Beatrice suggests and seems an obvious reference the "Divine Comedy" to anyone who has read it particularly considering her brother's name Guido. The gematria of 8 appears a slightly less obvious reference to this character - very obvious to anyone aware of gematria and knows how to use the dictionary (i.e. "777" which can get accessed online), but the average reader has to know that RAW uses Cabala and has to know where to look it up. The phrase, "...Guido at the age of 4, understood enough to be subdued," takes a little more knowledge of Cabala to interpret - one has to know or be able to look up the path indicated by the key number 4 and to know what sphere "understood" corresponds to. Yet a deeper layer can get mined through interpreting the word "subdued" through the Cabala filter in a Joycean fashion. I can see another even more obscure, but very interesting level, but will have to comment on that later.
There's a short passage about Sigismundo Malatesta in RAW's "Wild Sex Freaks Of History" article.
Eric. Maybe I wasn’t clear in my comment. I know that the temple that Malatesta had rebuilt was in Rimini. I think RAW was probably aware of this as well and chose that name on purpose, even though he knew that the similarly named temple in Naples hadn’t been built yet. This seems to me to be an example of him having a little fun with history and to be consistent with his sense of humor. I hope this makes sense and clarifies things.
Martin, thank you for sharing that link.
Sigismundo Malatesta also got accused of necrophilia, and became the only person ever canonized by the Catholic Church as a saint of hell. I would love to visit Rimini someday and see the Tempio Malatesta. I did see Sigismundo's portrait by Fra Lippo Lippi in the Louvre though.
Van, thank you for the clarification.
The subject of philosophy gets referenced frequently in this week's reading. The dialectic method is mentioned and Plato is brought up regarding his opinion that original music should be forbidden in an ideal society which he writes about in "The Republic."
RAW was a big fan of Nietzsche. One of Nietzsche's stated philosophical projects was to overturn Platonism. Casting Sigismundo as a composer/musician with frequent references to other historical composers seems intended to overturn or dialectically oppose Plato's opinion about music.
Aleister Crowley employed a linguist/magick trick of encapsulating magick formula in simple words. A clear example can be found in Ch. 23 of "The Book of Lies" where he makes the word OUT into one such formula. One of the most significant of these formulas turns up in the word ON. Former OTO Head and participant in one of RAW's Crowleymas parties, Grady McMurtry, someone knew Crowley personally, emphasized the importance of this formula and said that this is why Crowley began nearly every chapter title in "The Book of Wisdom and Folly" with "On ..."
Page 20 shows RAW qabalistically giving this ON ideogram beginning with the introduction of the dialectic of God and Death who appear here as personified capitalized nouns. The tarot card Death corresponds with the letter N. Then we see the ages of Sigismundo's sisters - Beatrice who is 8 and Bianca 6. The path going between the sephira Hod 8 and Tiphareth 6 corresponds with the letter O
This isn't the place to go far into the meaning/function of the ON formula, just pointing out an avenue of exploration. Its function is related to the Fool tarot card, the title of this chapter. The Fool card portrays a hermaphrodite, balanced and joined male and female energies. O = male energies, yang; N = female energies, yin. McMurtry's protege Jerry Cornelius is the best source for exegesis about this that I know of.
A way to help verify this contention is to see if it repeats. At p. 22 near the middle we have these two phrases: " - and the painted you-knows, almost numerous as the oxen." Oxen corresponds with the path of Aleph = The Fool. The initials of the first phrase add to 120. O + N = 120.
Calling Dr. Johnson: Michael, what do you think about Bob's use of Vico on page 27?
I find it interesting how often Sigismundo uses opera metaphors. Opera served as the popular music of Europe for hundreds of years.
The scene with the gun on page 39 echoes a similar scene in Illuminatus! with Hagbard and a gun.
I have only read through this trilogy once, and the story line following Sigismundo' initiation gets convoluted,but the following quote in reference to Alexander the Great at location 779 in the ebook seems to me to be a description of what one of the groups (or a few groups?) Are attempting to do with Sigismundo: "Any violent, emotional person can easily be converted into an oracle, a trance medium, a virtual automaton by those who know the techniques of mind control."
p.42: "It was an Egyptian oracle - intoxicated on wine and strange drugs - ..." suggests a "Book of the Law" reference. "Wine and strange drugs" is a direct quote. The whole book comes replete with ancient Egyptian mythology and symbolism. This also seems a little synchronous with the posting about the new book by Erik Davis, "High Weirdness."
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