Monday, July 05, 2004

The Allegrezza ficcione, Part Three

In societies where oral traditions are not strong, family histories do not flow in a linear way. They jump generations, or side track down through other branches.

Umberto Allegrezza encountered the story of the journey to the East only once in his immediate family. An overheard conversation between his parents, accompanied by laughter. When he asked about it he was told it was a foolish tale, primitive, unsuitable for these times. No further explanation.

He found out more from his great great uncle Nestore, Franco's brother. But even then it was sparse, with missing pieces, like a skeleton that has been disturbed by wild dogs. More emphasis on the Chinese connection, as if it were an integral part of the story rather than an anecdote.

Ironically, it was at Nestore's funeral that the story took on substance, through his only grandchild, destined to be the last of that particular line. Christened Gemma but now known as Sister Raffaela, employed as a specialist restorer in the Vatican archives.

She & Umberto sat next to one another at the funeral; & after the burial, at the small family gathering that followed, prompted by Umberto's reminiscing about how he had learnt more of the family history from Nestore rather than from his own parents, Gemma/Raffaela told him of her work, part of which involved x-raying manuscripts to see if there was anything of more or equal importance that had been scraped off & written over.

Because she, too, had been told the story by her grandfather, she had investigated the original manuscript by Rustichello of Pisa of the journey of the Polos. Had discovered in an early chapter outlining the reasons for the expedition to the court of Kublai Khan a phrase that had been written over not once but twice.

It was her surmise that the Polo's wished to claim complete responsibility for the idea, & that at their bidding Rustichello had covered over with a mixture of chalk & gum the words he had originally written. What appeared now as "the journey of allegory" had been before that written as the journey "del allegrezza", the journey of joy.

But that, apparently, was still not far enough away from the truth for the Polos. The original wording had been "del Allegrezza". The journey of (an) Allegrezza.

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1 comment:

bill said...

great stuff. i'll add it to the family history.