Italy literature summaries - 2023
Short summary - Trecentonovelle
In the preface to his book, the author admits that he wrote it following "the example of the excellent Florentine poet, Messer Giovanni Boccaccio." “I, the Florentine Franco Sacchetti, an ignorant and rude person, set out to write the book offered to you, collecting in it stories about all those extraordinary cases that, whether in the old days or now, took place, as well as some of those that I myself observed and witnessed, and even about some in which he himself participated. In the short stories, both real-life and fictional persons act, often this is another embodiment of some kind of “wandering plot” or a moralizing story.
In the short story, the fourth Messer Barnabo, ruler of Milan, a cruel man, but not devoid of a sense of justice, once became angry with the abbot, who did not adequately support the two setter dogs entrusted to his care. Messer Barnabo demanded the payment of four thousand florins, but when the abbot begged for mercy, he agreed to forgive him the debt, on condition that he answer the following four questions: how far is it to heaven; how much water is in the sea; what is done in hell and how much is he himself, Messer Barnabo. The abbot, in order to buy time, asked for a respite, and Messer Barnabo, taking from him a promise to return, let him go until the next day. On the way, the abbot meets the miller, who, seeing how upset he is, asks what is the matter. After listening to the story of the abbot, the miller decides to help him, for which he changes clothes with him, and, having shaved off his beard, comes to Messer Barnabo. The disguised miller claims that there are 36 million 854 thousand 72.5 miles and 22 steps to the sky, and when asked how he proves this, he recommends checking, and if he is wrong, let him hang. The waters in the sea are 25,982 million horses, 7 barrels, 12 mugs and 2 glasses, at least according to his calculations. In hell, according to the miller, "they cut, quarter, grab with hooks and hang," just like on earth. At the same time, the miller refers to Dante and offers to contact him for verification. The miller determines the price of Messer Barnabo at 29 denarii, and Barnabo, enraged at the meagerness of the amount, explains that this is one piece of silver less than Jesus Christ was valued. Guessing that it was not the abbot in front of him, Messer Barnabo finds out the truth. After listening to the miller's story, he orders him to continue to remain abbot, and appoints the abbot as miller.
The hero of the sixth story, the Marquis Aldobrandino, ruler of Ferrara, wants to have some rare bird to keep in a cage. With this request, he turns to a certain Florentine Basso de la Penna, who kept a hotel in Ferrara. Basso de la Penna is old, of small stature, and has a reputation as an outstanding and great joker. Basso promises the marquis to fulfill his request. Returning to the hotel, he calls the carpenter and orders him a cage, large and strong, “so that it is suitable for a donkey,” if Basso suddenly comes to mind to put him there. Once the cage is ready, Basso enters it and tells the porter to take him to the Marquis. The Marquis, seeing Basso in a cage, asks what this should mean. Basso replies that, thinking about the request of the Marquis, he realized how rare he himself was, and decided to present himself to the Marquis as the most unusual bird in the world. The marquis tells the servants to put the cage on a wide windowsill and swing it. Basso exclaims: "Marquis, I came here to sing, and you want me to cry." The marquis, having kept Basso all day at the window, releases him in the evening, and he returns to his hotel. Since then, the Marquis has been imbued with sympathy for Basso, often invites him to his table, often orders him to sing in a cage and jokes with him.
Dante Alighieri acts in the eighth short story. It is to him that a certain very learned, but very thin and undersized Genoese, who specially came to Ravenna for this, turns for advice. His request is as follows: he is in love with a lady who has never even honored him with a look. Dante could offer him only one way out: to wait until the lady he loves becomes pregnant, since it is known that in this state women have various quirks, and perhaps she will have a penchant for her timid and ugly admirer. The Genoese was hurt, but realized that his question did not deserve another answer. Dante and the Genoese become friends. The Genoese is a smart man, but not a philosopher, otherwise, mentally looking at himself, he could understand “that a beautiful woman, even the most decent one, wants the one she loves to have the appearance of a man, and not a bat.”
In the eighty-fourth short story, Sacchetti depicts a love triangle: the wife of the Sienese painter Mino gets herself a lover and takes him home, taking advantage of her husband's absence. Mino unexpectedly returns, as one of his relatives told him about the shame that his wife covers.
Hearing a knock on the door and seeing her husband, the wife hides her lover in the workshop. Mino mainly painted crucifixes, mostly carved, so the unfaithful wife advises her lover to lie down on one of the flat crucifixes, arms outstretched, and covers it with canvas so that in the dark it would be indistinguishable from other carved crucifixes. Mino searches unsuccessfully for a lover. Early in the morning he comes to the workshop and, noticing two toes sticking out from under the canvas, he guesses that this is where the person lies. Mino chooses from the tools that he uses when carving crucifixes, a hatchet and approaches his lover in order to "cut off from him the main thing that brought him to the house." The young man, realizing Mino's intentions, jumps off his seat and runs away, shouting, "Don't mess with the axe!" The woman easily manages to smuggle clothes to her lover, and when Mino wants to beat her, she herself cracks down on him so that he has to tell his neighbors that a crucifix fell on him. Mino puts up with his wife, but thinks to himself: "If the wife wants to be bad, then all the people in the world will not be able to make her good."
In the short story one hundred and thirty-six, a dispute flares up between several Florentine artists during a meal, who is the best painter after Giotto. Each of the artists calls some name, but all together agree that this skill "has fallen and is falling every day." They are objected to by maestro Alberto, who skillfully carved marble. Never before, says Alberto, "has human art been at such a height as it is today, especially in painting, and even more so in making images from a living human body." The interlocutors meet Alberto’s speech with laughter, and he explains in detail what he means: “I believe that our Lord God was the best master who ever wrote and created, but it seems to me that many saw great shortcomings in the figures he created and are currently being corrected. Who are these modern artists involved in the correction? These are Florentine women”, And then Alberto explains that only women (no artist can do this) can make a dark-skinned girl, plastering here and there, make “whiter than a swan”. And if a woman is pale and yellow, use paint to turn her into a rose. (“No painter, not excepting Giotto, could have applied paint better than they did.”) Women can put in order “donkey jaws”, raise sloping shoulders with cotton wool, “Florentine women are the best masters of brush and cutter ever or those that existed in the world, for it is quite clear that they are completing what nature has left unfinished. When Alberto addresses the audience, wanting to know their opinion, everyone exclaims with one voice:
"Long live Messer, who judged so well!"
In the short story two hundred and sixteen, another maestro Alberto, "originally from Germany," acts. Once this worthy and holy man, passing through the Lombard regions, stops in a village on the Po River, with a certain poor man who kept an inn.
Entering the house to have dinner and spend the night, Maestro Alberto sees many fishing nets and many girls. After questioning the owner, Alberto learns that these are his daughters, and he earns his livelihood by fishing.
The next day, before leaving the hotel, maestro Alberto makes a fish out of wood and gives it to the owner. Maestro Alberto orders to tie her to the nets for the time of fishing, so that the catch is big. Indeed, the grateful owner soon becomes convinced that Maestro Alberto's gift brings him a huge amount of fish in the net. He soon becomes a rich man. But one day the rope breaks, and the water carries the fish down the river. The owner unsuccessfully searches for wooden fish, then tries to catch without it, but the catch turns out to be negligible. He decides to get to Germany, find maestro Alberto and ask him to make the same fish again. Once at his place, the owner of the inn kneels before him and begs, out of pity for him and his daughters, to make another fish, "so that the mercy that he bestowed on him earlier would return to him."
But maestro Alberto, looking at him with sadness, answers: “My son, I would gladly do what you ask me to do, but I cannot do it, because I must explain to you that when I made the fish I then gave you , the sky and all the planets were located at that hour in such a way as to communicate this power to her ... ”And such a minute, according to Maestro Alberto, can now happen no sooner than in thirty-six thousand years.
The owner of the hotel bursts into tears and regrets that he did not tie the fish with iron wire - then it would not have been lost. Maestro Alberto consoles him: “My dear son, calm down, because you are not the first to fail to keep the happiness that God sent you; there were many such people, and they not only failed to manage and take advantage of the short time that you took advantage of, but they did not even manage to catch the minute when she introduced herself to them.
After much talk and consolation, the innkeeper returns to his difficult life, but often glances down the Po River in the hope of seeing the lost fish.
“So does fate: it often seems cheerful to the gaze of one who
knows how to catch it, and often the one who deftly knows how to grab it remains in one shirt. Others seize her, but can only hold her for a short time, like our innkeeper. And hardly anyone manages to regain happiness, unless he can wait thirty-six thousand years, as Maestro Alberto said. And this is quite consistent with what has already been noted by some philosophers, namely: "that in thirty-six thousand years the light will return to the position in which it is at the present time."