Skip to main content

Atto Melani in 'Imprimatur'

Imprimatur by Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti (2002) and translated from Italian into English by Peter Burnett (2008) features Atto Melani, a castrato singer and abbot who is a friend of the narrator's on a 17th-century Da Vinci Code-esque adventure. He was a real person – "a castrato opera singer, also employed as a diplomat and a spy," according to his Wikipedia entry – who appears in this novel as a fictional character.

The narrator knows early on that Atto is a eunuch. “I realized at that point that I had not asked the abbot whether he was a composer, an organist or a choirmaster. Fortunately, I withheld that question. His almost hairless face, unusually gentle and womanish movements, and above all his very clear voice, almost like that of a small boy who had unexpectedly attained maturity, revealed that I was in the presence of an emasculated singer.” (pp. 22-23) At one juncture, Atto sings “non ti chiedo mercĂ©” [I ask you no mercy] and “Lascia ch’io mi disperi” [Let me despair]. (p. 253)

He knows Nicolas Fouquet, who is described as “a mere bell-ringer’s son who, from his beginnings as a poor castrato, had so risen as to dispense counsel to the Sun King.” (p. 80) This does not entail that he always acts with decorum nor that he always receives respect. Atto prods Dulcibeni: “You should thank Huygens and that slobbering old Feroni if they did her the honor of ripping open her maidenhead before they threw her into the sea.” To which Dulcibeni responds: “Silence, castrato, shame of God, you who can only get your arse ripped open...That you liked plunging your cock in the shit, that I knew; but that you head was full of it too...” (p. 461)

Overall he has a strong attitude:

“Very well,” conceded Atto, reaching forward with his lantern to show the way. “It is always up to me to resolve everything.” (p. 84)

The posse includes a sidekick Ugonio who speaks like this: “To obtain more benefice than malefice, and to be more padre than parricide, I abominate the artefactor of this revolting, merdiloquent and shiteful spectacule. He is a disghastly felonable!” (p. 391) They are fixated on medications to ward off plague, such as this recipe: “four drachms of Armenian bole, terra sigillata, zedoary, camphor, tormentil, burning bush and hepatic aloes, with a scruple of saffron and cloves, and one of diagrydium, juice of savoy cabbage and cooked honey.” (p. 54)

Rita Monaldi and Francesco Sorti. Imprimatur. (2002) Translated from Italian to English by Peter Burnett (2008). Edinburgh: Polygon, 2008.

The sequel is Secretum:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Castration at the Battle of Adwa (1896)

On March 1, 1896, the Battle of Adwa "cast doubt upon an unshakable certainty of the age – that sooner or later Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans." In this battle, Ethiopians beat back the invading Italians and forced them to retreat permanently. It was not until 1922 that Benito Mussolini would again initiate designs against Ethiopia; despite Ethiopia's defeat in 1936, the nation ultimately retained its independence. "Adwa opened a breach that would lead, in the aftermath of world war fifty years later, to the rollback of European rule in Africa. It was," Raymond Jonas wrote, "an event that determined the color of Africa." (p. 1) It was also significant because it upheld the power of Ethiopia's Christian monarchy that controlled an ethnically diverse nation (p. 333), a nation in which, in the late 19th century, the Christian Emperor Yohannes had tried to force Muslims to convert to Christianity. (p. 36)The Victorian English spelling…

Review of Cliff Sims' 'Team of Vipers' (2019)

After he resigned his position, Cliff Sims spent two months in Fall 2018 writing Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House. Many stories are told, some already well known to the public, some not. One buys this book, most likely, to gape at the colossal flameout spectacle that is Donald Trump, as with most things with Trump's name. Sims exposes the thoughtlessness, the chaos, the lack of empathy among his fellow insiders in the campaign and later in the White House, but he does not at all acknowledge the real consequences for ordinary Americans — there might as well be no world outside the Trump insider bubble, for all this narrative concerns itself with — and therefore falls far short of fully grappling with the ethical implications of his complicity.Previously, Sims was a journalist. "I had written tough stories, including some that helped take down a once-popular Republican governor in my home state," he says. "I had done my best to be acc…

It is not journalists' job to vet political nominees, but...?

The position of U.S. national intelligence director is open, following the resignation of Daniel Coats. John Ratcliffe withdrew his name from consideration on August 2, 2019, only five days after Trump nominated him. An article in The Guardian about why Trump picked Ratcliffe:Ratcliffe is a frequent Trump defender who fiercely questioned the former special counsel Robert Mueller during his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee hearing last week.Even as Mueller laid bare concerns that Russia was working to interfere with US elections again, Ratcliffe remained focused on the possibility that US intelligence agencies had overly relied on unverified opposition research in investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.Unfortunately for Ratcliffe, he had embellished his credentials. According to Vox: He had "frequently boasted about overseeing the arrest of 300 illegal immigrants in one day at a poultry plant in 2008," but the operation was much smaller and his role w…