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The Macaronic Dream of Casa Girasole 02

Marco Frascari

I remember the first time I saw Casa Girasole. It was during the cherry
season, at the end of my final year of high school. My father, knowing that
I planned to go on to study architecture, and having heard from a friend
about an amazing summer retreat, a rotary villa, took me there one
Sunday afternoon. Before lunch we had gone to nearby Lonigo to see
Vincenzo Scamozzi’s youthful masterpiece, the splendid and solitary Rocca
Pisana.1 Rocca Pisana was not conceived as a home to live in, but was more
a retreat for relaxation and contemplation during the long hot days of
summer. With its central domed space, it was also, on a higher level, a
built expression of Renaissance cosmology. When I saw Casa Girasole, I
realised it too was a cosmological machine, while Rocca Pisana was in turn
a rotating villa. I felt, intuitively, that there was no big difference between
the two. Both villas were machines, one rotating physically and the other
virtually. Both resulted from the merging of three arts: the arts of living
well, building well and thinking well. Several years later my intuition was
confirmed when I came across a sectional drawing of Villa Bardellini, the
plan of which is very similar to Rocca Pisana. The drawing shows the
tracings of sunlight and shadows circling all around the villa and entering
directly from every opening, even from the north, although a Rose of the
Winds clearly marks the orientation of the villa towards the sun.2
Rocca Pisana and Casa Girasole are emotive edifices in the tradition of
the Veneto villa. They are cosmological representations that transgress the
barrier separating material and immaterial existence, to create an
intimate relation between men and gods. Of paramount importance to the
cosmological representation is the sense of a motor force linking human
action to a divine destiny. As Palladio persuasively states in the Foreword
to the First Book of his treatise, this motor force can be supplied by singular
buildings, emphatic and distinctive products of individual expression,
aggregating to make a possible cosmos:

I thought it would be most appropriate to begin with singular


Above: Vincenzo Scamozzi, houses (case particolari); for it is plausible that they supplied the
Villa Bardellini, Monfumo,
1594, from L’Idea models for public buildings, since it is very likely that
dell’Architettura Universale.
Left: Thomas Diges, A Perfit man previously lived by himself, and then, seeing that he needed
Description of the Caelestial Orbes,
1576. Dating from the same the help of other men in providing those things which would
year that Rocca Pisana was
built, the chart epitomises a make him happy (if happiness can be found down here), he quite
new conception of nature,
with the sun at the centre of naturally longed for and loved the company of other men: so they
the orbiting planets, and the
previously fixed sphere of stars formed settlements from a number of houses and from settlements
broken to create an infinite
cosmos. cities in which were public places and buildings.3
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In their form and in their making, the two villas echo this suave view as the axle of the machine of the world, rotating virtually through its
of the cosmos. They are microcosms mirroring the macrocosm; quadripartite symmetry.
machineries for edification. The intrinsically cosmological nature of the At the time of that first visit to Casa Girasole, I knew little about
machine is described by Daniele Barbaro in his 1556 translation and Veneto architecture but was an avid reader of a contemporary of Palladio,
critical edition of Vitruvius’s On Architecture – a text that Scamozzi admits Teofilo Folengo.10 It was Folengo who instilled in me an enthusiasm for the
to having read several times.4 Macaronic art, so called from macaroni, an ancient savoury foodstuff
‘bound together with flour, cheese and butter, which is fat, coarse and
First, every machine is born from the nature of things, and is rustic (quoddam pulmentum farina, caseo, botiro compaginatum, grossum rude,
controlled by the masterly courses of the heavens. Considering the et rusticanum)’.11 Macaronic thinking conceives of infinite possible worlds
continuous (continuata) nature of the Sun, Moon and the other five whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference nowhere, that have
stars, if the machine did not rotate then we would not have light no beginning and no end. By means of intuition, individuals can harness
on earth and the ripeness of fruits … and in the many convenient these infinite worlds. Through their changing corporeal presence, they can
things surrounding life.5 define their core, creating an intelligible sphere. Adopting a typical
Renaissance image, this sphere can be seen as a zucca (pumpkin) – as a
Barbaro writes that a machine is an amalgam of ‘force and imagination head, an empty container, or both: an inhabitable intellectual sphere.12
(fantasia)’; it is the result of the art of thinking well, of ‘the thinking …that Towards the end of Folegno’s mock epic masterpiece Baldus, the
makes us devise machinations (il pensiero… che ci fa macchinare)’. 6
eponymous hero and his companions, a group of young outlaws fleeing
The idea of the building as a stunning apparatus, a man-made echo of from the small village of Cipada, make a final descent into Hell. There they
the cosmic order, is restated by Andrea Palladio in the preface to the Fourth find an enormous dried up pumpkin, big enough, had it still been squashy
Book of his treatise: and edible, to make a soup (minestra) to feed the entire world. The hollow
pumpkin is filled with fraudsters, with those who propagate fables and
Indeed if we consider what a beautiful machine the world is, Zucca caption please cultivate vanities: philosophers, poets, singers, astrologers. In the
the marvellous embellishments with which it is filled, and how pumpkin, they are punished: for every lie they have told while they were
the heavens change the seasons of the world by their continuous alive, demons pull out a tooth; and as each tooth is pulled, a new one
revolutions according to the demands of nature and how they erupts in its place. At this point, Folengo interrupts the narration and
maintain themselves by the suave harmony of their measured inserts himself into the tale to affirm: ‘the pumpkin is my fatherland
movements, we cannot doubt that … these small temples which (zucca mihi patria est)’. Baldus and his friends can go on to defeat the
we build must be similar to this vast one which He, with boundless demons, but Folengo will halt in machina grandis of his Parnassus, the
generosity, perfected with but a word of command.7 cosmological machine of the zucca.
Macaronic thinking takes an ironic view of political, religious and
Furthermore, in his guide to the antiquities of Rome, Palladio again uses visual beliefs grounded in customs and cultures that are vitiated by
the expression ‘macchina del Mondo’ in describing Nero’s Domus Aurea: prejudice. Informed by an open-ended and cynical universal negation, it
takes humour to the point of absurdity through its stylistic and diachronic
The main hall was round and was turning constantly, akin to the twists. Macaronic thinkers are not revolutionaries, but are purveyors of a
machine of the world.8 permanent contestation, one that goes beyond any specific political,
religious or moral polemic to lay siege to the foundations of our
Palladio’s own best-known macchina is the Villa Rotonda, a summer comprehension and representation of the world. The Macaronic pulverises
hideaway on the outskirts of Vicenza. In his treatise, Palladio points out and dissolves into nothingness any abuse of reason resulting from
that it sits amid hills ‘which resemble a vast theatre’.9 The villa can be seen fraudulent words, but at the same time constructs possibilities for dreams.
5 6

Macaronic thinking is a monstrous technique: a constructive dream The palace of King Hugh is a pneumatic apparatus, with a nielloed silver
that when applied to the built world reveals that the architecture is still pilaster at its centre,19 whereas Folengo’s cloister is a motorised device,
and always will be sustainable, flexible and fertile. So, when I visited Casa generating bizarre noises that draw Baldus towards the centre of the
Girasole, I did not make the facile connection between it and the health- rotating apparatus.
orientated architecture of the period, as epitomised by the buildings of the
Fascist Colonie, configured to draw maximum benefit from the sun. Instead, One hears nothing other than the murmur produced by the
with the reading of Baldus fresh in my mind, it occurred to me that the building. Baldus’s objective is to locate the source of the
designer of this rotating construction, the Veronese engineer Angelo hammering, therefore, seeing a stair, a nautilus spiral, he begins
Invernizzi, was under a Macaronic influence. The most likely source of this to climb it, but he continues to rotate as before, and his circular
influence: the remarkable writings of the contemporaneous Veronese motion is doubled because the whole machine rotates and carries
historian Luigi Messedaglia (1874–1974), who was a great Folengo scholar.13 the stairs with it while the stairs in turn rotate and carry the steps.20
Of course, this mental leap owed more to imagination than ingenuity
(Folengo’s Macaronic technique of phantasia … plus quam phantastica). At the centre of the rotary theatre, Baldus finds the astral court of
At the centre of Casa Girasole, in its axis mundi, a spiral stair rises in a Manto, legendary founder of the city of Mantua. His helicoidal movement
tower topped by an elegant lantern. When I saw it, I immediately thought up the stair is an ascent from the terrestrial dimension of the sublunar
of the fantastic and bizarre episode of Baldus’s visit to the rocky island of world to the heptenary sequence of Ptolemaic cosmology. At the top of the
Manto. Going through a grotto, our hero and his companions come upon rotating cloister he enters a vision of the Ptolemaic machine of the seven
an extraordinary astronomical and alchemical structure, a square spheres, beginning with the Moon manufactured in bronze and ending
surrounded by an arcade of bronze binary columns supporting silver with Saturn fabricated in lead – an allegoric celebration of alchemy.
arches. This metallic cloister rotates upon itself, like the celestial spheres Folengo does not think of the mythic and the scientific as opposing
rotate. Or better, as Folengo states (bringing the analogy into the discourses. Rather, his works invite us to extract the abstract and
Macaronic realm of the infraordinary), it turns around like the threading philosophical message hidden in the allegory, a process that is itself quite
spools used by the spinners in Modena and Bologna. Folengo defines this rational. Alchemy is thinking with materials, whereas chemistry is
bizarre construction as a revolving theatre and a machine of the world.14 thinking about materials. Alchemy, in its most traditional interpretation,
The model for it appears to be a description of the astonishing palace of is nothing other than the human ability to transform ‘inanimate’ matter
’Hugh the Strong’, King of Constantinople.15 into potent substances.
Invernizzi’s motto – were he to have had one – could have been ‘With
The palace was vaulted and closed at its summit Reinforced Concrete A Mechanical Precision Can Be Achieved’.21 He was an
And built with the use of the compass and nobly finished … alchemist of that material and its structural possibilities. In Casa Girasole,
If from the sea, the Northwestern, the Northern by perfectly balancing elasticity and tension, he transforms the traditional
or any other wind blows static leadenness of reinforced concrete into a golden materiality of
Striking the palace from the western side dynamic loads.
It causes it to rotate rapidly and continuously There is a further point that reinforces the case for the Macaronic
Like the wheel of a cart going downhill. 16
nature of this building. Invernizzi brought together a trinity of
collaborators – architect Ettore Fagiuoli, interior decorator Fausto
The source of Hugh’s palace has been traced in turn to the cosmological Saccarotti, and mechanical engineer Romolo Carapacchi – to make his
room in Nero’s Domus Aurea mentioned earlier.17 In The Lives of the Caesars, villa a compound of gravitas, levitas and vanitas. Gravitas is expressed in the
Suetonius describes this room as ‘constantly rotating day and night, like base of the building, in the entry and the ostentatious arcade designed by
the heavens (perpetuo diebus ac noctibus vice mundi circumageretur)’.18 Fagiuoli; levitas in the structural vierendeels and machinery; and vanitas in
7 8

Casa Girasole can be further understood through the critical swivelling


lens of a modern Macaronic writer, Carlo Emilio Gadda, who was a
contemporary of Angelo Invernizzi.23 An ‘elusive author’, as William
Weaver called him,24 Gadda provides a key to tackling this Macaronic
question of architecture. As an engineer, he had very precise ideas about
architecture. As a writer, he described a cosmological view in which every
element of a system contains within it another system, and each
individual system is in turn linked to a genealogy of systems.
Italo Calvino begins ‘Multiplicity’, the fifth of his Six Memos for the
Next Millennium, by quoting extensively from Gadda’s That Awful Mess on
the Via Merulana. He points out that Gadda represents ‘the world as a knot,
the Novecento style of the exterior elevations and interiors. All these things a tangled skein of yarn… without in the least diminishing its inextricable
Invernizzi skilfully treads together. complexity’.25 His method of knowledge, his ‘encyclopedism’, works by
In the flavourful analogical definition of the Macaronic art mentioned multiplying around its starting point, encompassing ever vaster horizons
earlier, Folengo binds together three components: refined flour, ordinary until, if allowed to continue, it would end by embracing the entire
cheese and fatty butter. This characterisation highlights the essentially universe. To formulate this point, Calvino quickly summarises two
tectonic nature of the Macaronic art, as a mixture of three different short texts.
mindsets belonging to distinct and sometimes opposing realms.
Architecture and the Macaronic art share a comparable mix of tectonic For example Gadda’s recipe for ‘Risotto alla Milanese’… is a
technology. Buildings are erected using a mix of low, crude technologies masterpiece of Italian prose and practical advice in his description
(e.g., mortar bricks, snap-lines) and highly sophisticated technologies (steel of grains of rice still partly in their husk (‘pericarps’, as he calls
beams, lasers) paired with sharp hybrid metaphorical images. Before them), the most appropriate casseroles to use, the saffron, and the
I pursue this argument, however, a clarification is necessary. In the successive phase of cooking. Another text is devoted to building
Macaronic art, the initial mix is between two opposing groups of features: techniques where the use of prestressed concrete and hollow bricks
the erudite and sophisticated together with the rough and ready. no longer isolates houses either from heat or from noise. There
In terms of language, this broadly means a learned Latin idiom together follows a description both of his life in a modern building and of
with an unsophisticated Mantuan slang. Folengo then adds a third his obsession with all the noises that assault his ears.26
ingredient, a leavening Italian – an artificial tongue composed of Latin,
Greek and other linguistic leftovers transcendentally blended into a tangy The comments about good risotto and bad buildings provide a key to
Florentine vernacular soup. The usual opposition between high and low
22
Gadda’s understanding of architecture as a compounding of the arts of
is transformed with the introduction of a third index that advocates a living well, building well and thinking well. Gadda’s Macaronic work is
hybrid system of knowledge accommodating the polyphonic and multiple based on solid layers of erudition (often didactically demonstrated) drawn
presences of robust, vulgar and transcendent traditions. The extreme from encyclopedic sources: grammars of familiar and exotic languages,
artfulness of the application accentuates the inanity of the object, literary history, dictionaries of general botany, treatises on architecture,
while the mixing and remixing of techniques and objects generates a gardening or silkworm breeding, and a volume that was surely also in
broad range of processes of signification. Irony, fuelled by an odd mix of Invernizzi’s library: Colombo, the great Italian handbook of engineering.
rational thinking, low mockery and the ethereal sublime, is the original It is formed by a combinative process that goes back to genealogical and
Macaronic device for going beyond the worldly and the finite to reach the concomitant causes, connecting all the histories, in a heroic attempt at a
spiritually infinite. cognitive tangle. Gadda’s objective is an unfolding of the system of
9 10

relations between things to produce an encyclopedia of infinite delightful temperature: the temperature of boiling eggs.
possibilities: an encyclopedia that corresponds to a network with no Enough already with the list of rational inventions.
centre, to a labyrinth with no exit, or to an inferential model that is Among the villas of the San Juan coast, on the road of the Prado
infinitely open to new elements. (the red reflections of their glass panels shooting through the silent
A text by Gadda demonstrates perfectly how Casa Girasole stands sunset), there was also Villa Maria Giuseppina, owned by the
out among its contemporaries in the heliotherapeutic landscapes of Bertoloni family. In the twilight the gloomy, faraway facade
Northern Italy. appeared streaked, now and again, by long horizontal stripes,
ashen grey and blood red. The villa had two towers, and two
… Everything had gone through the minds of the Pastrufazian* lightning rods, at the two ends of a low and long central body; such
architects, except perhaps for the elements of Good Taste. Passé the as to recall the image of two giraffes that were Siamese twins, or
styles of Umberto and Guglielmo and the Neo-classical and the Neo- that had been connected after backing up onto each other, sharing
Neoclassical, and the Empire; hence we have the Liberty, the their unified posterior parts. Of the two lightning rods, one seemed
Floreale, the Corinthian, the Pompeian, the Angioino and the to be hatching some malicious plan towards the northwestern side.
Egyptian-Sommaruga and the Coppede’-Alessio and the casinos of Ah! Something new but diabolically functional: the other seemed to
Biarritz and Ostend made with caramelised plaster, the Paris–Lyons be doing exactly the same thing, but towards the southwest side –
Mediterranée’; and Fagnano-Olona, Monte Carlo, Indianapolis; the and that was of running the lightning through the right-hand
Middle Ages, that is, an accommodating Filippo Maria arm-in-arm neighbouring building, the other one through the left-hand one
with the Caliph; and even Queen Victoria (of England), albeit instead: respectively Villa Enrichetta and Villa Antonietta. [Those
recumbent on a Turkish ottoman. At that moment the functional villas] seemingly squatting down there, in a modest attitude,
twentieth-century style was at work on the place, with its many subdued to the two prostheses of Villa Giuseppina (the giraffes),
functional leg-breaking stairs, in pink marble; and you would not painted in light colours, had that mild and lymphatic appearance
believe the windows in the ‘ox-eye’ style, real nautical portholes, which excites the cruel sadism of the elements, or at least seems to
for the laundry room and the kitchen; with the morning room do so.27
called the office (this word exercising an unimaginable charm on * Pastrufazian: adj. from pastrufaziana = pastrocci-facere, inept bungle

the new Vignolas of Terepattola). Bathrooms so small you cannot fit


in them except by getting totally stuck, with their rational The English verb ponder, like the Italian and French pensare and penser,
dimensions, fifty-five centimetres by forty-five; or, when you get in combines an action – thinking – with the notion of something pending or
there, one cannot even begin to fathom how to get comfortable: hanging in suspense. Macaronic thinking, being organic and ‘alive’, is
that is, how to freely express your will. Because certain expressions, wholly based on pending thoughts. This makes it a supremely apt form for
although free, are sometimes stringent and require a certain space architectural thinking related to construction or to writing, an ideal device
for manoeuvrability. Furthermore [these villas have] a gym for the for weaving the written fabric of architectural theory within the marble
kids to use during the summer vacations, should they consider loom of its construction.
themselves insufficiently supple and limber between one failure at The pantagruelic nature of Macaronic thinking enables us to discover
school and the next. They also have rooftop balconies for the Lady the marvel of architectural cosmopoiesis28 – the making of actual and
and Master of the house, since they have long aspired to the possible worlds in which to envision human life in all its varied
permanent tan (of the grey matter) that is so fashionable nowadays. dimensions. Careful use of the imagination allows us to unveil these
They have glass windows one metre and sixty centimetres wide, worlds, which are suspended on the threshold of the discipline of
inserted into the concrete structure, to bring inside the views of the architecture. Thus Macaronic thinking allows Casa Girasole to be
mountain and the lake, inside the hall that is, to which they give a recognised, genealogically speaking, as one of the greatest villas of the
11 12

Veneto: a villa where the arts of living well and building well, led by the 1 In 1576, when Vettor Pisani came to build his country (ed.), Produzione e consumo, Turin: Einaudi, 1983, 103–67
residence, he chose the young Scamozzi rather than (141).
happy art of thinking well, acquire a purpose beyond their limited Palladio, who 20 years earlier had designed the Villa Pisani Folengo himself always used the term ‘Macaronic art’
purviews. In other words, Macaronic architecture – arising from the at Bagnolo for him. rather than ‘Macaronic language’, emphasising that the
2 See Marco Frascari, ‘A Secret Semiotic Skiagraphy: the Macaronic is a manner of making. See Mario Chiesa, ‘Il
interfacing of preprandium vita activa (cooking as making) with
corporal theatre of meanings in Vincenzo Scamozzi’s Idea Parnaso e la Zucca’, in G. Bernardi Perini & C. Marangoni
postprandium vita contemplativa (digestion as casting the future) – produces a of Architecture’ in VIA 11 (Journal of the Graduate School (eds.), Teofilo Folengo nel quinto centenario della nascita
vision where a single unitary principle that contains the entire of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania), 1990, 32–51. (1491–1991), Florence: Leo Olshki, 1993, 57.
3 Andrea Palladio, The Four Books on Architecture, translated 11 Macaronic also has an association with the eighteenth-
organisation of the cosmos in potentia becomes present in a simply gradual by R. Tavenor & R. Schofield, Cambridge MA: MIT Press, century London dandies who were called ‘macaronis’
and logically necessary gyratory presence. 1997, 6. I have changed the translation of particolari from because they liked the Italian food they had experienced
private to singular since those houses are the exclusive during the Grand Tour. The same connotation of a dandy is
representation of an individual. found in the American folk song, ‘Yankee Doodle went to
4 L’idea della architettvra universale, di Vincenzo Scamozzi, divisa town/ Riding on a pony / Stuck a feather in his hat / And
in x libri, Venice, 1615; reprinted Ridgewood, NJ: Gregg called it macaroni’. Macaroon – originally a French
Press, 1964, I: 27. confection made from a mix of sugar, egg whites and
5 I dieci libri dell’architettura di Vitruvio; tradotti e commentati almond paste – is derived from the Italian maccarone, ‘a
da Daniele Barbaro, 1566; reprinted Milan: Il Polifilo, 1987, trodden mixture’ (macare = to tread). In Italian the same
444. verb evolved into maccheroni and indicates a kind of
6 Ibid. 442. extruded pasta made with durum wheat. Probably the
7 Palladio, The Four Books op. cit. 213. I have slightly original macaroni were very similar in shape but with a
modified the translation to restore Palladio’s locution ‘bella slightly different composition to what nowadays we call
macchina del Mondo’ and to reinstate Palladio’s word soave. gnocchi. See Luigi Messedaglia, ‘Maccheroni and gnocchi’
8 Palladio, Scritti sull’architettura (1554–1579), edited by L. in E. & M. Billanovich (eds.), Vita e costume della Rinascenza in
Puppi, Vicenza: Neri Pozza, 1988, 21. Merlin Cocai, two vols., Padua: Antenore, 1973 [first edition
9 Palladio, The Four Books op. cit. 94. 1939], 1: 427.
10 A non-reformed friar, Folengo was born in 1491 in 12 Anton Francesco Doni, La zucca, Venice: Francesco
Cipada (Virgil’s Andes) near Mantua and died in Marcolini, 1551–52. See also Mario Costabile, Un poeta ed un
Campanese near Bassano del Grappa in 1544. He adopted narratore del cinquecento, Salerno: M. Spadafora, 1925. The
the pen name Merlin Cocai (Merlin was in honour of the episode itself is described in Laura Goggi Carotti, ‘La
Arthurian Merlin and Cocai is the cork of a wine bottle). rielaborazione degli episodi della Domus Phantasie e della
Later, he used Limerno (an anagram of Merlino) Pitocco Zucca (Baldus, XXV)’ in Cultura letteraria e tradizione
(Destitute), to write in the classical language. The popolare in T. Folengo, 1979, 186–208, and M. Chiesa, ‘Il
Macaronic tradition includes, in Italy: Tifi Odasi, the Parnaso e la Zucca’ op. cit. 49–58.
inventor of the genre, Fossa da Cremona, Bassano da 13 See L. Messedaglia op. cit.
Mantova, Giovan Giorgio Alione, Partenio Zanclaio, 14 Teofilo Folengo, Baldus, edited by Emilio Faccioli, Turin:
Bartolomeo Bolla, Cesare Orsini, and Bernardino Stefonio; Einaudi, 1989, 466.
in France: Remy Belleau, Étienne Tabourot and Antonius 15 The Journey of Charlemagne to Jerusalem and Constantinople
de Arena; in England: William Drummond, George Ruggle (Le voyage de Charlemagne à Jérusalem et à Constantinople),
and Alexander Geddes. Macaronic writing also extended edited and translated by Jean-Louis G. Picherit,
into Holland, Germany, Portugal and Spain. See Lessico Birmingham, Ala: Summa Publications, 1984. In this
universale italiano, 1973, XII: 463. mythical voyage, Charlemagne travels to Jerusalem to
Folengo’s Baldus (first printed in 1517) is an epic gather relics, and to Constantinople to prove to his queen
account of farfetched chivalric adventures. The genre’s that he is superior to Hugh the Strong.
acknowledged masterpiece, it enjoyed notable popularity 16 Translation by Franca Trubiano from Il viaggio di
in the sixteenth century with over a dozen editions and Carlomagno in Oriente, edited by M. Bonafin, Parma, 1987;
reprints. It was not without influence on Rabelais’ verses 347–357 appear in Rodolfo Signorini, ‘Two Mantuan
Gargantua and Pantagruel. Such was the perceived Fantasies’, Word & Image, 14:1–2, 1998, 188.
connection that the first French translation of Folengo’s 17 Rodolfo Signorini, ‘L’Arca del Gonzaga e il cosmo
works in 1606 bore the title Histoire maccaronique de Merlin alchemico di Manto’ in G. B. Perini & C. Marangoni op. cit.
Coccaie, prototype de Rabelais. See C. Cordié (ed.), Opere di 59–84.
Teofilo Folengo, Milan: Ricciardi, 1977, xii–xiii; M. Tetel, 18 Suetonius (Gaius Suetonius Tranquillius), Lives of the
‘Rabelais and Folengo’, Comparative Literature, 15, Fall 1963, Twelve Caesars, Book VI, Nero, Cambridge MA: Loeb Classical
357–64; I. Paccagnella, ‘Plurilinguismo letterario: lingue, Library, 1917, 137.
dialetti, linguaggi, in letteratura italiana’, in R. Antonelli 19 Il viaggio di Carlomagno in Oriente op. cit. verse 349.
13

20 Baldus op. cit. 205–11. stimulus of vital requirements and distressing necessities.
21 Quoted by Lucia Bisi in ‘La casa girevole’, Lotus 40, 116, The linkage of Gadda and the Macaronic began with
note 10. the work of the literary critic and philologist, Gianfranco
22 The original Macaronic is characterised linguistically by Contini, ‘Gadda o del “pastiche”’ in Solaria,
its vocabulary of Italian, dialect and Latin words within a January/February 1934; reprinted as ‘Primo approccio al
substantially Latin morphological, syntactic and prosodic “Castello di Udine”’ in Gianfranco Contini, Quarant’anni
form. In northern Italian Macaronic poetry the d’amicizia. Scritti su Carlo Emilio Gadda (1934–1988), Turin:
hybridisation is typically trilingual involving Latin, Italian Einaudi, 1989, 3–10. The connection has also been carried
and Po Valley dialects. Not the inherent product of a on by Albert Sbragia, Carlo Emilio Gadda and the Modern
polyglot nature, the Italian Macaronic is a cunningly ironic Macaronic, Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1996.
and sophisticated device, a linguistic parody that exploits 24 William Weaver, The Craft of Translation, edited by John
the situation experienced by the cultural elite. The Biguenet and Rainer Schulte, Chicago: Chicago University
Macaronic in its purest form is a northern Italian creation Press, 1989, 117–24.
with precedents in medieval burlesque, goliardic verse and 25 Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium,
sacred parodies. Its origins lie in the late fifteenth-century Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1988, 106–7.
Benedictine Athenaeum of Padua and specifically in the 26 Ibid. 107.
linguistic experimentalism of Tifi Odasi, whose poem 27 Carlo Emilio Gadda, La cognizione del dolore, Turin:
Macaronea defines the genre. However, its fame was assured Einaudi, 1963, 59–62. Gadda’s Macaronic makes his works
in the first half of the following century by Odasi’s notoriously difficult to translate. To translate this piece, I
Mantuan pupil and emulator Teofilo Folengo. See also had to summon the help of the same powerful muse
sources quoted in note 9: C. Cordié, M. Tetel, I. Paccagnella convoked by Giordano Bruno in his La cena delle ceneri, the
and R. Antonelli. most powerful text of solar literature: ‘By now, I really
23 Gadda’s writings are mostly collected in Dante Isella need you here, sweet Mafelina, you who are the muse of
(ed.), Opere di Carlo Emilio Gadda, Milan: Garzanti, 1988. Merlin Cocai (Or qua te voglio dolce Mafelina che sei la musa di
‘Gadda was a man of contradictions. An electro-technical Merlin Cocai)’. English edition, G. Bruno, The Ash Wednesday
engineer (he had used his professional skills for about ten Supper, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995, 113. I
years, mostly in South America), he sought to control his compelled the euphonious muse as embodied in my wife
hypersensity and nervous temperament by means of a Paola to give me the translation with the necessary
scientific, rational mentality, but only succeeded in rhetorical flair; she has the Mafelina’s talent to unfold
making it worse; and he used his writing to give vent to his Gadda’s musing and analogical thoughts on Villa and
irritability, phobias, and outbursts of misanthropy, which Villini architecture and I hope she helped me well in this
he tried to suppress in real life by donning the mask of a task. For differences see also William Weaver’s translation,
gentleman from a bygone age full of courtesy and good Carlo Emilio Gadda, Acquainted with Grief, New York: G.
manners.’ Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics?, New York: Braziller, 1969.
Pantheon Books, 1999, 99. 28 For an ‘encyclopedic’ understanding of cosmopoiesis
Gadda judges the operations of the technology like see Giuseppe Mazzotta, Cosmopoiesis, The Renaissance
counterfeits of the nature resulting from study and Dedalic Experiment, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.
courage, heroic escapes which engineer reach under the

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