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Chapter Course Reader

EURO 3300 Chapter Notes - Chapter Course Reader: The Neighbourhood, Soot, Italo Calvino

European Studies
Course Code
EURO 3300
Roberta Cauchi- Santoro
Course Reader

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Tuesday March 21st, 2017
Marcovaldo by Italo Calvino – page #175-186:
14. Moon and GNAC:
The night lasted 20 seconds, then came 20 seconds of GNAC for 20 seconds you could
see the blue sky streaked with black clouds, the gilded sickle of the waxing moon, outlined by
an impalpable halo, and stars that, the more you looked at them, the denser their poignant
smallness became, to the sprinkle of the Milky Way: all this seen in great haste; every detail
you dwelt on was something of the whole that you lost, because the 20 seconds quickly
ended and the GNAC took over
The GNAC was a part of the neon sign SPAAK-COGNAC on the roof opposite, which shone
for 20 seconds then went off for 20, and when it was lighted you couldn’t’ see anything else
The moon suddenly faded, the sky became flat, uniform black, the stars lost their radiance,
and the cats, male and female, that for 10 seconds had been letting out howls of love, moving
languidly towards each other along the drainpipes and the roof-trees, squatted on the tiles,
their fur bristling in the phosphorescent neon light
Leaning out of the attic where they lived, Marcovaldo’s family was traversed by conflicting
trains of thought
Isolina, a big girl by now, felt carried away by the moonlight; her heart yearned, and even the
fainted croaking of a radio from the lower floors of the building came to her like the notes of a
serenade; there was the GNAC, and that radio seemed to take on a different rhythm, a jazz
beat, and Isolina thought of the dance-hall full of blazing lights and herself, poor thing, up
here all alone
Pietruccio and Michelino stared wide-eyed into the night and let themselves be invaded by a
warm, soft fear of being surrounded by forests full of brigands; then, GNAC!, and they sprang
with thumbs erect and forefingers extended, one against the other: Hands up! I’m the Lone
Ranger!” Domitilla, their mother, every time the light was turned off, thought: “Now the
children must be sent to bed; this air could be bad for them; and Isolina shouldn’t be looking
out of the window at this hour: it’s not proper!”
Firodaligi, on the contrary, a melancholy youth, every time the GNAC went off, saw the
dimply lighted window of a garret appear behind the curl of the G, and beyond the pane the
face of a moon-coloured girl, neon-coloured, the colour of light in the night, a mouth still
almost a child’s that, the moment he smiled at her, parted imperceptibly and seemed almost
to open in smile; then all of a sudden the darkness that implacable G of GNAC burst out
again, and the face lost its outline, was transformed into a weak, pale shadow, and he could
no longer tell if the girlish mouth had responded to his smile
In the midst of this storm of passions, Marcovaldo was trying to teach his children the
positions of the celestial bodies
And so, every time the GNAC came on, Marcovaldo’s stars became mixed up with terrestrial
commerce, and Isolina transformed a sigh into a low humming of a mambo, and the girl of the
garret disappeared in that cold and dazzling arc, hiding her response to the kiss that
Fiordaligi had finally summoned up the courage to blow her on his fingertips, and Filippetto
and Michelino, their fists to their faces, played at strafing: Tat-tat-tat-tat…against the glowing
sign, which, after its 20 seconds, went off
But at the very moment of shooting pebbles the neon sign had turned off at the end of its
twenty seconds. And everyone in the attic room began counting mentally: 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, up
to 20. They counted 19, then held their breath, they counted 20, they counted 21, 22, for fear
of having counted too fast. But no, not at all: the GNAC didn’t come on again; it remained a
black curlicue, hard to decipher, twined around its scaffolding like a vine around a pergola
Marcovaldo, his hand frozen halfway toward the slap he meant to give Michelino, felt as if it
had been flung into space. The darkness that now reigned at roof-level made a kind of
obscure barrier that shut out the world below, where yellow and green and red hieroglyphics
continued to whirl, and the winking eyes of traffic-lights, and the luminous navigation of empty
trams, and the invisible cars that cast in front of them the bright cone of their headlights
Suspended in this sky, the new moon rather than display the abstract appearance of a half-
moon revealed its true nature as an opaque sphere, its whole outline illuminated by the
oblique rays of a sun the earth had lost, thought it retained its warm colour
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