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A Tournament of Misfits

A Tournament of Misfits: Tall Tales and Short

Translated by Nicolas J. Perella
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 260
  • Book Info
    A Tournament of Misfits
    Book Description:

    Through clear and fluid translations, Nicolas J. Perella demonstrates Palazzeschi?s use of laughter to debunk social and literary myths.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2802-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Tall Tales and Short
    (pp. xi-2)

    Aldo Palazzeschi (born Aldo Giurlani, 1885–1974) is surely the major twentieth-century Italian writer who has been most neglected in the English-speaking world. Yet, in his homeland and, to a lesser degree, in France and Germany, he ranks high as a poet and a writer of fiction. Born in Florence on 2 February 1885, Palazzeschi seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of his successful merchant father, who entered him in a technical institute. Although Palazzeschi earned a diploma in accounting in 1902, his interests ran in a different direction – namely the theater – and in that same year he enrolled...

  5. A Solitary Gentleman
    (pp. 3-14)

    Sometimes, when she was at the door to see a friend out, the latter would look down the hall to the other door on the landing and then, with a grimace, ask, “Who lives there?”

    “A gentleman all by himself.”

    The answer was enough to satisfy her friend’s curiosity, but Signora Renata herself had a burning interest, unique to her alone in the whole apartment building, in that solitary neighbor – a bachelor without a maid. Not a living soul ever passed through his door for any reason whatsoever. Who then kept his apartment tidy? Who did his shirts? If he...

  6. Servite Domino in Laetitia
    (pp. 15-22)

    If you would understand what follows, a brief preamble is indispensable. Now and then in the course of my life I have gone through long dark periods of self-doubt, of uncertainty and dismay, even, I may say, of aversion and fear concerning myself – to a degree that makes it hard to think anyone could harbor so intolerable a feeling without somehow managing to shake it off or mitigate it for the sake of a little relief.

    On the other hand, I have also known periods of transport, of admiration and enthusiasm concerning myself. Indeed, I can speak of self-exaltation, again...

  7. The Black Mark
    (pp. 23-41)

    In a café, many years ago, I often met an old gentleman, a person of impeccable correctness and courtesy, who observed all the rules of etiquette with the greatest scrupulosity. I never did learn his name, because in that haunt everyone simply called him “Commendatore.” As chance would have it, he was unaware of my ignorance in this regard; otherwise he would most surely have made a proper amendatory introduction. Nor, for some reason, was I ever curious to know his name, thinking perhaps that his honorific title bespoke the most exhaustive information concerning him and that further inquiry could...

  8. Our Friend Galletti
    (pp. 42-62)

    The Rome-Milan express was far from crowded when it stopped at the Florence station, so that the few passengers who boarded it went leisurely up and down the car aisles looking for the seats that were most comfortable, and most to their liking. The man who went by a short while ago carrying a small suitcase had given an exploratory glance at the traveler sitting alone in the corner of a compartment. Now as he came by again he cast a more insistent look at the lone occupant. Upon receiving a reassuring look in return, he entered confidently, placed his...

  9. Bistino and the Marquis
    (pp. 63-82)

    “Nunzia ... guess what, Nunzia ... I saw the Marquis.” “Oh!” Nunzia would reply without turning away from the stove where she was busy giving the final touches to a lunch or dinner, while in front of the window that looked out on the little kitchen garden a small white table, tidy and sparkling, stood waiting invitingly for the two diners. The woman showed not the least bit of curiosity about that encounter, but occasionally she would condescendingly interject: “What did he have to say? What’s he up to?” drawling out her words in a tone that suggested neither an...

  10. A Small Sentimental Gem
    (pp. 83-83)

    “How she loved flowers, the poor little thing! It was truly extraordinary.”

    But she had only been able to have a handful of them, and rarely: how sad!

    “Flowers are a waste of money,” her stout mother often said with a snort. “A family can’t afford the luxury of throwing away money on such nonsense.”

    For a pair of beautiful roses she would have gone to bed without supper.

    She died, the poor sentimental girl.

    Now, in the cemetery, every week her mother brings her the most beautiful flowers to be found, the most beautiful that are known.

    “Her flowers!”...

  11. Little Maria
    (pp. 84-94)

    What Signora Nicoletta said to her husband caused him to give a start of surprise and disbelief. In the early years of their marriage it had been the couple’s main topic of conversation and had occupied their entire existence, pushing all other subjects and problems into the background. Countless times Signora Nicoletta had vainly uttered that phrase over which, ten years earlier, the couple, by a common and tacit consent – not, however, without deep bitterness – had placed a tombstone. Now, as she neared forty, and after ten years of sepulchral silence, Signora Nicoletta blithely uttered the phrase that by some...

  12. The Beautiful King
    (pp. 95-122)

    “Her Majesty the Queen awaits you, Sire.”

    After uttering these words, Count Ercole Pagano Silf, Grand Marshal of Birònia, stood motionless in the middle of the room, under the immense, scintillating Venetian chandelier, looking steadily at the Monarch.

    Visibly beset by anxiety and a nervous tremor, Ludovico XII, King of Birònia, arose and began to pace back and forth before the mirror of the console, grasping his enormous, horizontal, iron-gray moustache, fulminating with his terrifying eyes, round and opened wide, arching his shoulders, thrusting forward his immense, powerful chest and adjusting his gold-braided jacket. “It’s the same as when I...

  13. Dagobert
    (pp. 123-135)

    It was Miss Violet Hiss who had the privilege of receiving the great news: after an absence of thirty years Mistress Theodora Brook was preparing to leave Egypt and return to her villa at Marignolle in the hills of Florence. Raising her eyes from the note, Miss Violet seemed wrapped in thought: Mistress Theodora Brook would return with Dagobert, her husband, who had been dead for ten years. Yet this bit of news produced not a sense of surprise or wonderment in the English spinster, but rather a quite legitimate sense of satisfaction.

    The friends making up the Circle so...

  14. The Gift
    (pp. 136-158)

    In obeisance to the most scrupulous principles of justice, I am bound to declare that Telemaco Bollentini did indeed possess some of those obnoxious qualities that have recently made it fashionable to cry out against celibates and celibacy, and even to punish them with far from inconsequential financial impositions. By obnoxious qualities, I do not mean to allude, in the present instance, to libertinism as the cause of celibacy nor to what the former is commonly understood to be by superficial persons. Signor Telemaco Bollentini was no libertine; in fact one can assert without reservations just the opposite, and characterize...

  15. A Small Gastronomic Gem
    (pp. 159-159)

    Having picked at a fillet of smoked herring, a slice ofjambon, a bit of caviar and butter, a few mushrooms in oil and a baby artichoke, Madame the Baroness began, with inimitable finesse and impeccable taste, to sip a cup of exquisite consommé. After which, she tried some boiled sturgeon in a mayonnaise sauce of exceeding delicacy and a lovely looking cold dish composed of hare and a variety of game: quail, pheasant, partridge, and truffled foie gras that made one’s mouth water just to look at it. At that point she did not disdain a thick cut of...

  16. The Portrait of the Queen
    (pp. 160-173)

    A poet and an actor were happily merged in the person of the painter from Ferrara who lived in Paris when the event I am about to relate took place. In the recesses of his spirit the painter retained the elusive pathos of his native city, a pathos that at times, however, emerged brusquely, like a sudden recall. At the same time, his artist’s vision was wholly pervaded by a light that allows us to characterize him more properly as Venetian: at the origins of his art were Guardi and Canaletto, of whom, let it be said at once, he...

  17. The Hunchback
    (pp. 174-184)

    When Mother Nature sends forth a hunchback from her forge, you’re apt to think that she does so while scratching her head as if to say: “Just look at what I’ve done. What’s happened to me? What a mess!” And you’re also sure to think that, turning to her creature, she asks, quite solicitously, “Forgive me, my poor little innocent, it happened without my noticing it; it was a mistake, a mishap, I didn’t mean to shape you like that. I do apologize.”

    Nothing of the sort.

    The hunchback is a comical subject for others, but not for himself, yet...

  18. Summer Noontide
    (pp. 185-189)

    The tolling of the municipal clock comes all the way out to me here: three strokes – slow, measured, solemn. In the noontide stillness they have the same expansive swell as the three strokes tolled during the night. But though these heard now are equally far reaching and equally slow and solemn, they are low flying. We can tell that their journey occurs under a canicular sun. The nocturnal strokes tend instead toward sidereal heights.

    We are outside the city limits, alongside the river. On the opposite bank a thickly settled grove of tall trees casts its shadows over the waters....

  19. Silence
    (pp. 190-200)

    Benedetto Vai, who had lived for more than twenty years with his housemaid Leonia, was held to be a man of many faults and somewhat mentally unbalanced: selfish and eccentric in the extreme and altogether a rather queer character. In reality, however, he had only one shortcoming: he was a misanthrope with a perfectly well-balanced mind. Instead of playing down or hiding his fault as one is apt to do in such cases, he faced it squarely, perhaps with a pleasure as great as his fault was deep, and he carried it to its furthest limits – a sort of crowning...