Sunday, February 25, 2007

Post Number Fifty-Five: The Worst Possible World

In the 18th century, the French Illuminist Voltaire wrote a philosophical novel titled "Candide", where the view that we live in the "best world possible" is mocked mercilessly.

I am no Voltaire and I don't mean to write a philosophical novel, but let's face it: this is hardly the best world possible from any point of view.

I'll be blunter and more straightforward: I used to like the world much more than I do now. In fact, this is not the world I want to live into. One might say, "It's not like you have much of a chance to stop the world and jump off it right? So get used to it and live by". My simple answer: "No, I can't jump off, but sure as hell I am not going to live by as well". I am going to complain, to point out what makes this world so unpleasant and induce people to think about it. And while I don't trick myself into delusions of changing the world, I will at least take my time to condemn the involution of civilization we are living through.

I am not really concerned with Iran's attempts at enriching Uranium, despite I positively assume that their plan consists in using that Uranium to build up nukes. Why, shouldn't I be terribly afraid that Muslim fanatics are getting armed?
No, I shouldn't.
In case someone in the USA missed this factual point, for each action we perform we provoke a reaction, most of the times a predictable reaction, and sometimes a scarely unpredictable reaction. But a reaction is provoked nonetheless. Indeed.
Why, we are sitting on a planet that is packed with nukes. You can count them in the thousands across the world. The UN "authorised" five nations to arm themselves with nuclear weapons: the US, USSR, UK, France and China. Sure.
And how long did they believe they could prevent others from building them? In the meanwhile, India, Pakistan, Brazil and presumably Israel have built their own nuclear arsenal. Iran and North Korea are next in the line. Welcome aboard, pals!
What did they expect, when they built that first nuke they so irresponsibly used to scare the wits off Russia by blowing off Japanese cities in a futile show of military strength? That the rest of the world would stare in awe of the mighty power of the United States and bow to their whimsical desires of world dominance in fear of their new weapon?
Heck, people are stupid, generally speaking, but their amount of stupidity always manages to surprise me. There's no way other nations can be prevented from building a nuclear arsenal. Once you create a weapon, the weapon gets used. Welcome to the real world friends.

So here we are, facing this "new threat", which by the way is no threat at all. The real threat is the thousands of nukes sitting right under the American and Russian soils, weapons that retain an immense destructive potential thanks to their sheer numbers.
At the basis of this, there is one particular cause: the thwarted plan conceived by conservative Americans to reassert the might of their decaying nation in the new century. Another example of futile attempts.
In case the Republicans in the US, Dick Cheney in particular, failed to notice it, the Americans don't scare anyone anymore, apart from their allies perhaps. They have failed to win in Vietnam and now they have failed to win in Iraq. All their technological warfare is nothing when confronted with the new means of modern war. Unable to counter the Americans with weapons, the weaklings resort to different arms: such as terrorism, for example. Terrorism is what people do when they are frustrated by the inability to oppose military strength to someone that is meddling with their national interests.

This is not going to be an American century, despite the efforts set forth by Cheney and his contorted plans of world domination. New powers are rising everywhere. India, China, and who knows whom else. This is going to be a century of stupid, futile and pointless conflict caused by the immense stupidity of man. More than ever, this world we live into is dominated by greed, a thirst for power, and a general decadence of Western civilization.

We thought that Westerners had learnt from their mistakes, and that the civilization we represent had become somewhat more enlightened, less prone to condemn others and more inclined to diplomacy, understanding and peace.
Totally wrong.
Westerners today are calling for a civilization clash against the Muslims, with tones that sound reminiscent of those of the delirious Christians of the Middle Ages. Just like those ancient delusional, fanatic assassins, we rally again condemning peoples and religions and hatred becomes so common among us that we fail to recognize it.
See, I am not in the least concerned with Muslim fanatics. There are Muslim fanatics, maybe it's a side effect of living in hot countries or being ruled by testosterone-intoxicated males. There also are a majority of Muslim moderates that do not crave the death of every unbeliever on Earth. What concerns me is Western fanatism. In case we didn't notice, it's us who provoked their anger. It doesn't really take Marx and Engels to realize that if someone is bloody rich at the expenses of someone else, that someone else is going to be damn disappointed.

What a nice world we live into, with no sense of humanity left anywhere. We prove to be just beasts, wild beasts tearing at each other with paws and fangs and killing for the sake of killing. We are a species of murderous apes, evolved from murderous apes and condemned to extinction in the long run, which is probably for the best of the planet.
Let's have fun then, let's show off muscles and strength and be oh-so-manly, with all the nukes and the greed and the Dick Cheneys and the darned stupidity of this forsaken land of sorrows. It would only take that insignificant hint of vision to understand that we share the same planet, the same resources and the same rights, that we are a bunch of irrelevant beings that nature can annihilate in a blink, even without our aid. But no, we lack that vision. Our species is magnificently short-sighted. All we are skilled at is tearing at each other, hating each other, stealing food to Africans and Middle Easterners and then complain if they want to nuke us. And maybe nuke them first, so that some other guy elsewhere will think we are a bunch of bastards and will blow himself off in a restaurant somewhere. And so on. Sure, let's blow everything off. Dammit, isn't that what we do best? Blowing off all the good the best of us could create?
Murderous apes, intoxicated with their testosterone and unable to think with anything else but their balls. This is not a world, it is a hell. There's no place for peace, understanding, mercy and beauty. So go on, human species, follow your path to annihilation, blow yourself off and go to hell, together with all your capitalism, your greed, and your immense, sheer, fantastic, unmatched stupidity.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Post Number Fifty-Four: Inferno

Hello, dear readers.

Whether I still have readers to express my thoughts to, or not, at this point, is unknown to me. It appeared that addressing the matter of Sarong Party Girl's blog attracted a relatively vast audience from Singapore to my musings, if we are allowed to call them such. I have missed from this blog of mine for such a long while, though, that I suppose most of my readers have given up hopes to see me back.
For those who are still reading me, a warm hello.

Many things have been said in my blog, and many remain to be said. On the other hand, I would like to leave aside my passion for the British Islands, and more precisely for the culture of the people that inhabits them, as well as my other fixations (which are known already by those who read my previous posts). Indeed, I would like to catch this occasion to report a piece of poetry.
Presumably, the name of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri is renowned world-wide. Dante was for poetry what Shakespeare was for drama. Undoubtedly, Shakespeare trascends his time and his culture, as it can be easily proved by recognizing the universal acceptance of the Bard's writings, even from totally different cultures. Akira Kurosawa's Japanese interpretation of Shakespeare's dramas is a paramount example. If Macbeth can be rewritten as a Japanese medieval drama without losing a jot of its poignancy, then it certainly is safe to state that Shakespeare trascends his culture.

What we can say of Shakespeare (who, obviously, I deem one of the greatest writers ever born), I believe can and should be said of Dante Alighieri as well. Dante (his real name was Durante degli Alighieri, born in Florence in 1265) was a man of the Middle Ages, and his writings (especially the "Commedia" or "Comedy", later christened "Divine Comedy" by the contemporary writer Giovanni Boccaccio) reflect and somewhat summarize the entire culture and knowledge of the late medieval age. Still, when I read Dante (in Italian), I perceive a sense of "whole" that totally and thoroughly trascends Dante's time. While taking full note of the fact that Dante is and couldn't be but a Catholic of the Middle Ages, still his writing and the analysis of merely human passions can't be limited to his age. But most of all, Dante sounds beautiful. Extraordinarily so.

Dante Alighieri basically invented the Italian language. Ever since the fall of the Roman Empire during the fifth century AD, Latin started a decline that was only limited by the Church's choice to use it as its official language (a choice for which we should really thank the Catholics, for once, as the Latin language is a marvel of intricacy and logical beauty that no other modern language seem to achieve, at least not at such levels). New, "vulgar" languages developed from Latin in Italy and elsewhere (one, the "Langue d'Oil", was to become French). A new dialect was fully developed in Florence by the time Dante started to write his Comedy. By accepting the fact that only scholars and the clergy knew Latin at that point, Dante Alighieri chose to write his Comedy in the "vulgar dialect" of Florence. This, to maximise the spread of his opera, which, in Dante's intent, was to become a beacon for the already unruly Italian people. In his adaptation of the dialect to his poetic intent, Dante in fact invented a new language, and he was so succesful at this, that the new idiom was to become the official language of literature and poetry throughout the Italian peninsula for centuries to come. As a matter of fact, Dante had invented the Italian language, although it remained a literaly, written-only language that only people from Florence actually spoke. That remained relatively true until the second half of the twentieth century, when a huge effort by the Italian National Broadcasting Company "RAI" promoted the diffusion of the Italian language in the country. It suffices to say that the language I speak in my country nowadays doesn't differ too much from Dante's "vulgar". Indeed, Dante is perfectly intelligible by any educated Italian. Thinking of Beowulf's English can give an idea of what this means for my language.

Unluckily, much as I'd love to post here an example of Dante's Italian, I suspect that very few of my readers would be able to understand it. But as a hommage to this great man's poetry, I would like to post the first Canto of Dante's Comedy. But before doing so, let me quickly explain what the Comedy is about.

Dante Alighieri tells us a story. It is a fictional story of course, but he tells it as if it were true. He narrates of his finding himself in a dark forest, and pressed by dangerous wild animals he fears for his life, when the Latin poet Vergilius (another great name of world poetry) comes to rescue him. Vergilius tells Dante that he was sent by God himself to accompany the Italian poet on a journey that will lead him through Hell, the Purgatory and Paradise, as that is the only way out of the mysterious forest where Dante got lost at the beginning. So Dante's adventure begins, during which he will meet many famous humans (contemporary and non) and will talk to them, learning more and more about Florence's, Italian and European politics and culture of the Middle Ages. Dante's journey is an epic adventure that should really be counted as one of the best achievements of worldwide poetry.
Enough said, I leave the readers to Dante's words. I post them in English, in the translation by Rev. H.F. Cary, M.A.. If this post serves the purpose of interesting even one new reader to Dante's Comedy, I shall state that I fulfilled my purpose.

Enjoy the reading.


Canto I
IN the midway of this our mortal life,
I found me in a gloomy wood, astray
Gone from the path direct: and e'en to tell
It were no easy task, how savage wild
That forest, how robust and rough its growth,
Which to remember only, my dismay
Renews, in bitterness not far from death.
Yet to discourse of what there good befell,
All else will I relate discover'd there.
How first I enter'd it I scarce can say,
Such sleepy dullness in that instant weigh'd
My senses down, when the true path I left,
But when a mountain's foot I reach'd, where clos'd
The valley, that had pierc'd my heart with dread,
I look'd aloft, and saw his shoulders broad
Already vested with that planet's beam,
Who leads all wanderers safe through every way.
Then was a little respite to the fear,
That in my heart's recesses deep had lain,
All of that night, so pitifully pass'd:
And as a man, with difficult short breath,
Forespent with toiling, 'scap'd from sea to shore,
Turns to the perilous wide waste, and stands
At gaze; e'en so my spirit, that yet fail'd
Struggling with terror, turn'd to view the straits,
That none hath pass'd and liv'd. My weary frame
After short pause recomforted, again
I journey'd on over that lonely steep,
The hinder foot still firmer. Scarce the ascent
Began, when, lo! a panther, nimble, light,
And cover'd with a speckled skin, appear'd,
Nor, when it saw me, vanish'd, rather strove
To check my onward going; that ofttimes
With purpose to retrace my steps I turn'd.
The hour was morning's prime, and on his way
Aloft the sun ascended with those stars,
That with him rose, when Love divine first mov'd
Those its fair works: so that with joyous hope
All things conspir'd to fill me, the gay skin
Of that swift animal, the matin dawn
And the sweet season. Soon that joy was chas'd,
And by new dread succeeded, when in view
A lion came, 'gainst me, as it appear'd,
With his head held aloft and hunger-mad,
That e'en the air was fear-struck. A she-wolf
Was at his heels, who in her leanness seem'd
Full of all wants, and many a land hath made
Disconsolate ere now. She with such fear
O'erwhelmed me, at the sight of her appall'd,
That of the height all hope I lost. As one,
Who with his gain elated, sees the time
When all unwares is gone, he inwardly
Mourns with heart-griping anguish; such was I,
Haunted by that fell beast, never at peace,
Who coming o'er against me, by degrees
Impell'd me where the sun in silence rests.
While to the lower space with backward step
I fell, my ken discern'd the form one of one,
Whose voice seem'd faint through long disuse of speech.
When him in that great desert I espied,
"Have mercy on me!" cried I out aloud,
"Spirit! or living man! what e'er thou be!"
He answer'd: "Now not man, man once I was,
And born of Lombard parents, Mantuana both
By country, when the power of Julius yet
Was scarcely firm. At Rome my life was past
Beneath the mild Augustus, in the time
Of fabled deities and false. A bard
Was I, and made Anchises' upright son
The subject of my song, who came from Troy,
When the flames prey'd on Ilium's haughty towers.
But thou, say wherefore to such perils past
Return'st thou? wherefore not this pleasant mount
Ascendest, cause and source of all delight?"
"And art thou then that Virgil, that well-spring,
From which such copious floods of eloquence
Have issued?" I with front abash'd replied.
"Glory and light of all the tuneful train!
May it avail me that I long with zeal
Have sought thy volume, and with love immense
Have conn'd it o'er. My master thou and guide!
Thou he from whom alone I have deriv'd
That style, which for its beauty into fame
Exalts me. See the beast, from whom I fled.
O save me from her, thou illustrious sage!"
"For every vein and pulse throughout my frame
She hath made tremble." He, soon as he saw
That I was weeping, answer'd, "Thou must needs
Another way pursue, if thou wouldst 'scape
From out that savage wilderness. This beast,
At whom thou criest, her way will suffer none
To pass, and no less hindrance makes than death:
So bad and so accursed in her kind,
That never sated is her ravenous will,
Still after food more craving than before.
To many an animal in wedlock vile
She fastens, and shall yet to many more,
Until that greyhound come, who shall destroy
Her with sharp pain. He will not life support
By earth nor its base metals, but by love,
Wisdom, and virtue, and his land shall be
The land 'twixt either Feltro. In his might
Shall safety to Italia's plains arise,
For whose fair realm, Camilla, virgin pure,
Nisus, Euryalus, and Turnus fell.
He with incessant chase through every town
Shall worry, until he to hell at length
Restore her, thence by envy first let loose.
I for thy profit pond'ring now devise,
That thou mayst follow me, and I thy guide
Will lead thee hence through an eternal space,
Where thou shalt hear despairing shrieks, and see
Spirits of old tormented, who invoke
A second death; and those next view, who dwell
Content in fire, for that they hope to come,
Whene'er the time may be, among the blest,
Into whose regions if thou then desire
T' ascend, a spirit worthier then I
Must lead thee, in whose charge, when I depart,
Thou shalt be left: for that Almighty King,
Who reigns above, a rebel to his law,
Adjudges me, and therefore hath decreed,
That to his city none through me should come.
He in all parts hath sway; there rules, there holds
His citadel and throne. O happy those,
Whom there he chooses!" I to him in few:
"Bard! by that God, whom thou didst not adore,
I do beseech thee (that this ill and worse
I may escape) to lead me, where thou saidst,
That I Saint Peter's gate may view, and those
Who as thou tell'st, are in such dismal plight."
Onward he mov'd, I close his steps pursu'd.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Post Number Fifty-Three: A brief note

How long since I last typed a word here... There might be something worth a thought or two with me typing something again right today. It's midnight, and so in this moment it's Sept. 17th, 2006. For those who mind my records, this is the 32nd anniversary of my birth. But I am not 32 yet. I will turn 32 at 9:00 am local time (8:00 am GMT, 3:00 am EST, 3:oo pm GMT+7 - which is Singapore time).
For those who might still drop by, I have decided to finally post a picture that shows me in Sweden. To be precise, that is me in Stockholm, right in front of the tower of the City Hall, on a pleasantly warm day and below a breath taking blue sky.
A greeting to all those who still read my words, and who knows, I might be back here sooner or later. I have, after all, a lot more to say. But those who know me, also know that I might take a very long time to state what I have to state...
Goodnight, and if you have a chance to, pay a visit to Sweden.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Post Number Fifty-Two: Christmas?

Of the Season

It is generally assumed that everyone must be good on Christmas. Why on Christmas and not on the other days of the year I wonder... But what does Christmas mean nowadays?
This holiday is celebrated worldwide by many different cultures, most of which have nothing to share (luckily for them) with the Catholic religion. So technically speaking what Christmas really *is*, is a consumist frenzy centered on doubling the profits of producers and sellers. That's why it's celebrated by virtually everyone.
What is Christmas for me?
Christmas is what remains of the ancient Roman celebrations of the Saturnalia, a week-long holiday dedicated to Saturnus, God of the Sky. The Christians, looking for a day to celebrate the birth of their Jesus (and ignoring when he was born), borrowed the Saturnalia from the Romans and reverted it into Christmas. It was already customary before the coming of Christianity, to exchange gifts during the week of Saturnalia. I am willing to celebrate Christmas for this reason: because it is an ancient Roman celebration. It bridges the gap between the uncivilized world of today's Italy, and its greatest moment of history (Rome). So, as far as I am concerned, I am still celebrating the Saturnalia, and to hell with Christmas.

My two cents on the topic. Happy holidays, dear readers.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Post Number Fifty: Chapter 1, part 2

No need for much of an introduction: those who are reading this presumably read my two previous posts so they should know what this is all about.

Enjoy the second part of Chapter 1.


Elena knew that arguing with Manuela would be pointless, as she had no fault for the requests of Mr. Valeri, but thinking that the disgusting individual wanted to see her right away, for an "emergency", when they were right in the middle of the hottest hours of a suffocating summer Sunday, well, Elena really wished she hadn't picked up the phone.
She turned the handle of the door of the room, feeling even hotter for the annoyance, and she was almost leaving when she realised she was only wearing her underwear, and however modest that was, it certainly wasn't the most suitable clothes to exit the room with. Snorting again for the effort it would cost her to wear something, go out under that sun and drag herself to her job place, Elena picked up her jeans and a short top from the chair, and she wore them, after uselessly trying to wipe her sweat with a towel. With a last sigh, she opened the door and reached the corridor. The rented rooms of the other students were shut, probably because, Elena thought, they could afford the luxury to be left alone. She tried not to make any noise while she reached for the living room, where she found Mrs. Corte. The woman, closer to her sixties than she was to her fifties, sat on her old favourite couch, directly in front of the TV, which transmitted some banalities. It had to be something really boring, for Mrs Corte had fallen asleep, obviously helped both by the heat and by the quality of the entertainment. Elena sighed, thinking of how much she wished to be at that woman's place right then. Anyway, she recollected her energies and left the house.
Immediately she was greeted by a puff of intense heat, coming not as much from the sun as it came from the burning pavement under her feet. The impact with the external air was so traumatic that for a moment Elena felt she couldn't breathe and was caught by a sudden vertigo. She pondered over which physical torture she wanted to inflict on Mr Valeri for forcing her out with such heat. Unable to find any she liked, and being too hot to be willing to think, Elena decided to make it brief and reach the music shop taking the most shadowed path possible. Luckily, a small park – little more than a garden – decorated the square she was supposed to cross to reach her destination, and the leaves of the trees would provide the necessary protection from the merciless sunbeams. There wasn't anyone around. In fact, many citizens were on holidays, perhaps at the seaside, and those few that for the most various reasons were forced to stay in the city, certainly didn't choose to go out at three p.m..
"I am the only jerk around at this time…", Elena thought, while she reached the shadow of the trees in the small park. The sun stunned her and she felt she should hide from its blazing rays as soon as possible. Not a gust of wind moved the leaves. The plane trees and the elms stood motionless in the humid air. At each step on the burned and straw-yellow grass, Elena lifted small clouds of dust and dry earth which found their way through her open shoes, annoying her even more. After a few steps, however under the shadow of a tall plane tree, Elena realized she was feeling sick. She stopped, taking one hand to her chest. She couldn't breathe. She touched her face. Suddenly it wasn't sweating anymore. The girl felt her legs giving in and she let herself fall, hitting her knees, luckily not too hard, on the earth of the park, lifting a puff of dust. She brought her hands to her head which felt like on the verge of exploding. All around, she saw the plane trees float, the buildings facing the square moving towards her and away… for a few instants she felt the whole street was the deck of a ship in the middle of a stormy ocean. She tried to shake herself but the heat took her breath away. With an effort she tried to stand up, in vain. All the world tumbled around her, the sun kept hammering on her head. She saw the sky, greyish for smog and humidity, and the fronds of the trees ran through it like the hands of a crazy clock.Elena fall on her side losing her senses. The thud lifted a last cloud of dust which rested slowly around her.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Post Number Forty-Nine: More Fiction

Most unexpectedly, one reader of my awkward Prologue posted his/her appreciation to my post. I believe that what we do, whatever it is, is meant for others to enjoy. It would be a very poor and limited conception of art, that of one who believes that the creation of an artist is intended for the artist alone. I am not an artist, but if I do something I try to give it to others. There is no point in learning if you don't teach, no point in knowing if you don't share knowledge. What progress would mankind do if the early tamer of fire kept his secrets for himself?

My unfinished novel dissatisfies me, and I plan to start a new one very soon, but if even one person appreciates what I wrote, I feel compelled to post a bit of the rest and see what reaction I get.

This is the first part of chapter 1. I hope you will enjoy it.



It was a hot, humid and exhausting day, or such it was for those that, like Elena, barely put up with summer's heat. In fact, at least in this case, Elena's unease was shared with a great majority of the people of the city, for whom even a drop of rain could be a blessing. Sunbeams instead flooded the room as they had done every day for two weeks, mercilessly, overheating its air, baking the floor and causing a real torment for someone seeking rest among those walls.
Crippled by the heat and stunned by the light, Elena lay on the bed, hot, watching the ceiling. Sleeping, simply wasn't an option, despite her being dozy, because of that vague sluggishness that often catches us after lunch under the summer's incalescence. She would have stayed there, the whole day round, lying on the mattress, covered by a sheet drenched by her incontrollable perspiration, weren't it been for the importune as much as unnerving ring of the phone. Elena considered for a few instants the quite inviting hypothesis of ignoring it. She was too exhausted, too hot, to drag her body off the mattress and force it to make the gargantuan effort to cross the room and reach the desk, where the phone lay. She felt a slight pleasure imagining that whoever was at the other end of the line was punished for the annoyance he caused to her in such an efficient way, one that at the same time cost so little effort on her side. She simply had to stay where she was, watching the ceiling… sooner or later it would have stopped ringing… a ring… another… another one…
"Damn", mumbled Elena, barely audible. She realized she couldn't cope with this. She was too hot even to stand that unbearable ring that rumbled in her head with such insistence. Elena recollected her energies and managed to sit down, although even that simple movement made her blush, and she briefly moved her wet hand across her forehead, verifying that it too was equally drenched. With a snort, the girl rose from the bed and unwillingly dragged herself to the origin of that unbearable ring.
"Coming!" she grunted, as if the phone could hear her. She lifted the receiver and brought it to her ear.
"Ah, thankfully you are there!", answered a feminine voice that Elena recognized immediately.
"Manuela… is it you?", she said, and her voice sounded much more tired and sleepy than that of her interlocutor.
"What's up, are you sick?", she said, worried, perceiving her lack of energies.
"No, it's just this heat… It’s killing me! Come on, tell me what's up, so I can fall back on the bed and forget what you said."
"I am sorry Elena…", she began, and Elena realized by her tone that by the end of the sentence she was going to share the regret, "… fact is that Mr. Valeri needs you today."
Manuela was Elena's best friend, even if in this moment Elena's only thought was that she had forced her off the bed to give her bad news. Mr Valeri, instead, was the oily and stingy owner of a small music store where both Manuela and Elena used to work, at the sole purpose of rounding up the wages they received weekly from their parents and give themselves at least the impression they were slightly more independent than they were as children. It wasn't unusual that youngsters, students, were forced by need more than by choice to ask for their parents' help to survive. On the other hand, however, not everyone liked it, and some had the luck to be able to choose. Elena, who was an adopted child and felt a sense of gratitude towards her parents for letting her in their family, had opted for a job at a music store which was not far from her house, although it would have been more appropriately called a room, since that was what she had chosen to rent; this, to help their parents save money, and because, somehow, it gave her fewer responsibilities. At least, the landlady was a good woman, although sometimes a bit strange, and she lived in a flat that she had shared with a husband and five sons, but which became too large when her children formed their own families and her husband left her for another woman. For this reason, Mistress Corte rented the empty rooms that once had seen her children grow up, to students of the nearby University. She preferred to host girls, because, as she often jokingly put it, "in a house where six men lived there is a desperate need for women to clean up". Mistress Corte asked only for her rented rooms to be kept clean and reasonably neat. In exchange for that, she cooked for all her guests (which, invariably, ended up including some guys) and chatted lively with them all, to the point that some had started calling her "second mum".So pleasant was Mistress Corte, so unpleasant was Mr. Valeri. A person devoted to a single good: his own. He had eyes for his shop only, he had heart for his money alone. Employing personnel regularly to serve customers would cost him obviously more than he meant to spend. But he had the luck to be a few hundred yards away from the University, a place he had no respect for, but that provided him with a significant amount of low-cost employees. Students had little requests, they were satisfied with ludicrous salaries and they could be mistreated at will without fear they would inform trade unions or worse. For one who chose to quit the job, there could be another right away who despaired to gain some money, and anyway, considering the expenses for a youngster who lives far from home, there certainly weren't many that chose not to catch the occasion. Among those, certainly Elena wasn't one, since she had studied at the University for ten months and since five she had worked for Mr Valeri's shop. She studied Anglo-American Literature and this gave her a chance to work and study at the same time, taking her books to her job place and reading them in her spare time between two customers, which happened frequently. She found classical English Literature very attractive, but her passion was for those fantastic novels which told of kings and princesses, knights and fire-breathing dragons, which she had started loving as a child and which she kept on being fond of now that she had grown up. As she often repeated to her schoolmates, "there is something charming with fantasy, something that transcends reality and seems to call for us, and I can't resist that call". Elena thought that a lightning was more poetic than a light bulb and the passions of princesses and knights more exciting than those of her neighbors.


(to be continued)

Friday, October 14, 2005

Post Number Forty-Eight: Fiction

Dear friends and readers, I can't believe it's been a month already since I've last updated my blog. I didn't realize how fast time passes by. I have been busy and distracted, and so it happened that nothing was added to this long list of thoughts of mine.
I suppose that I should apologize for the lack of updates. After all, a number of readers were interested in my musings...

Today, for everyone's delight (so to say), I am willing to post the Prologue of a novel I started writing and that most likely I won't continue. Though the original text is in Italian, I made an awkward translation in English for the charming eyes of my Russian mate; yet I wonder if someone else here is interested in reading the beginning of a fantasy novel, so here you are. I hope you will enjoy it. And if you don't, I can understand you. Personally I didn' t like the outcome myself.

I would like to add, this is for all my readers, but for one in particular, a Singaporean Chinese girl called Iris. I don't know her, but I have read a few entries of her blog. She likes fantasy for sure, and she seems often depressed. I usually feel compelled to help people out of depression because I was depressed myself and know how it feels. There is very little I can do for someone I don't know and who lives on the other side of the planet, but if she likes fantasy, then I presume she might enjoy reading the Prologue I am about to post. If a trace of pleasure is stirred up in her mind as well as in any other reader's of mine, then I'll take it my goal is fulfilled.

To everyone, and to Iris the Chinese Singaporean, have fun.



The young guy would hardly find the courage to break into the large hall hadn't it been for the incredible urgency of the message he carried with him. His short, curly dark hair stuck to his sweaty forehead, more due to anxiety than for the run to climb the many stairs; the youngster halted when he entered the hall and looked around, anxiously.
The man he looked for, an elder with a flowing white beard, was sitting at the reading table, deep into one of the many books of his richest library. He was giving him his back, and showed no sign of having noticed the young man’s arrival. Drawing from the little courage he possessed, the youngster spoke: "Sir, I beg you to forgive my intrusion, I wouldn't disturb you but I believe this news deserves your… immediate attention, Sir". He conceded himself a pause before concluding the sentence: he knew all too well what the old man thought of haste and "immediacy". Evidently, his opinion hadn't changed, since the elder didn't reply, nor he lifted his head from his reading, to the point that the young guy wondered whether he had spoken too softly.
"Sir…!", he repeated, louder.
Without lifting his eyes, the elder answered with a persuasive voice, one that years appeared not to have affected if not barely. It didn't sound authoritarian, nonetheless it commanded respect in those who heard it.
"I am old, my child, but I am not deaf. Not yet, at least."
Blushing, the youngster was stunned. The elder raised his back but didn't turn around. Again, he spoke.
"Well? What have you come to tell me?"
"Sir, I believe it is better if you read this message yourself. It was delivered a moment ago."
"Then give it to me, child!", said the elder, yet not with disappointment, rather, almost amused by the youngster's embarrassment. He seemed to turn around to watch him on purpose, as if he meant to enjoy the scene of another confused guy in his presence.
"Sure! Here you are!", the youngster quickly answered, and handed him a rolled up scroll, tied by a narrow red stripe.
The elder took the parchment and untied the knot that held it in position, giving the impression of having read many messages without ever being struck by any in particular.
He started reading, mumbling some words, when he suddenly opened his sky-blue eyes wide. The wrinkles on his forehead corrugated in the expression of surprise that pervaded his face.
Expecting this reaction, the youngster wasn't taken aback by it. He had been told the contents of the message some minutes before and had reacted similarly.
"Is it authentic?", asked the elder, apparently he himself confused by the incredible news he had learnt.
"Yes, Sir. The signature is…"
"… Is the one we expected…. Yes… but this means that…"
"… We found her, Sir."
"But this letter says she is…"
"On the other side. I know Sir, I read it too."
"We must induce her to come here."
"What is it, child?", asked the elder, raising his eyes towards his interlocutor.
"The Enemy too knows we found her."
The elder stood up suddenly. One who hadn't known him for long would be surprised to see him so full of energies at his obviously not young age.
"How can it be?"
"One of our envoys was a spy, Sir. Our men stopped him but it was too late, he had forwarded his message already."
"Then we are in danger! So many years to reach this point and suddenly we lack time! We must act quickly. If she fell in the hands of the Enemy, it would be the end."
The elder turned around and opened a drawer. He took out a parchment, on which he quickly wrote a message using a goose feather he found on the table. He didn't even sit down to write. He rolled the parchment and turned towards the youngster.
"Here you are, take this. Those are instructions that you must forward to our envoys. Tell the guys downstairs to hurry, we don't have time. We must be quick."
The guy found it incredible, that even considering the circumstances the elder was using the word "hurry". He didn't remember him uttering that word aloud if not together with criticism about the foolishness of youngsters.
"Sir? Please forgive me… what are the plans? How…?". The elder didn't give him the time to complete his sentence: "There only is one way and it doesn't depend upon us, as you perfectly know. You are too young to remember it, but there has been another case when it was necessary to take something to the other side… although in that occasion that was the destination, not the starting point. Anyway, if the guys downstairs will follow my instructions literally, we do have good chances to succeed… otherwise… well, otherwise there won't be any place into which taking someone. "The youngster was caught by a thrill at the perspective he was being suggested, no matter how unlikely. He couldn't but trust the bearded man. Anyway, knowing him, and knowing how wise he was, he had no problems trusting his word.
"I'll be quick, Sir!", he declared, glad for an instant to be able to utter that word without being criticized.
"Good… and may Fate assist us. I only hope it's not too late already."
The youngster rushed to the stairs, while the elder scratched for a moment his bearded chin, thinking. He looked at the large book with leather covers, lying on the table. He didn't have the necessary concentration to keep reading it anymore. He closed it and mumbled: "This is our only hope… It is time to do my part". Therefore, he exited the large hall passing through a richly decorated side door made of white wood, leaving the book he was reading closed, on the table.Most likely for a long time.