The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana Chapter 15

From Umberto Eco Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Plural form of νόστος ου ό|, which means "coming back home" or "return to the homeland." Another meaning is "journey," and can also mean "the probability of return." The Greek root νόστ-/nost- combines with the root ἀλγ-/alg- (pain) in the word nostalgia, "return-pain" or "home-sickness."

In ancient Greek literature, οί Νόστοι "The Returns" is the title of at least one poem, also called Ἀτρειδῶν Κάθοδος, "The Return Journeys of the Atreides" (the sons of Atreus, Menelaus and Agamemnon), or Νόστον Ἀχαιῶν, "The Return of the Achaeans" ("Achaeans" is the Homeric word for Greeks). (The two titles may refer to two separate poems.) The word is also used for a sub-genre of Greek epic dealing with the return journeys of the many Greek heroes (in the Greek sense of the word "hero") from the Sack of Troy. The only poem in this genre which survives intact is Homer's Odyssey, which actually depicts an epic poet reciting a Nostos poem before Odysseus himself.

According to Proclus' summary, the poem entitled οί Νόστοι told the story of Menelaus' diversion to Egypt and his reconciliation with Helen, of Diomedes' and Nestor's safe returns, and of Agamemnon's murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra (Helen's sister) and her lover Aegisthus. For the surviving fragments and testimonia of the Greek poems, see Martin L. West, editor, Greek Epic Fragments, Loeb Classical Library 497, Boston: Harvard University Press, 2003, pp. 152-163.

Page 302

Et, comme un bon nageur qui se pame dans l'onde...
Baudelaire, Élévation. text (French)

And, like a good swimmer who swoons in the wave You groove the depths immensity gave, The inexpressible and male ecstasy. text (English)

presumably is used in these chapters (up to the last page) to refer to Yambo's perception of fog. Fumi is Latin plural of smoke, steam, hence fog, and fug is a British alternative pronunciation for fog. So far so good. However, that's not what fumifugium means. The word was invented by John Evelyn as the title of his 1661 work, Fumifugium or the inconvenience of the aer and smoake of London dissipated. The pseudo-Latin word would mean something like "means of putting smoke to flight."

Page 307

la Filotea
Yambo's mother's prayerbook, first mentioned in ch. 6 and which, transformed into a kind of female personification, "arrives" in the last pages of the novel.

the chromatic ascent from the prelude to Tristan
i.e. Wagner's opera.

A person usually recalls on waking...
what follows is an evocation of the Overture to Proust's Combray, the first section of A la recherche du temps perdu. In the very first paragraph, the narrator describes falling asleep and then

"...half an hour later the thought that it was time to go to sleep would awaken me; I would try to put away the book which, I imagined, was still in my hands..."

In the third paragraph, the narrator evokes awakening in a hotel:

"...the hour when an invalid, who has been obliged to start on a journey and to sleep in a strange hotel, awakens ..."

There follows a tour-de-force description of remembering all the rooms in which he has awakened, which is behind the beginning of Yambo's visions:

"Perhaps the immobility of the things that surround us is forced upon them by our conviction that they are themselves, and not anything else, and by the immobility of our conceptions of them. For it always happened that when I awoke like this, and my mind struggled in an unsuccessful attempt to discover where I was, everything would be moving round me through the darkness: things, places, years.... the unseen walls kept changing, adapting themselves to the shape of each successive room that [my body] remembered...."

The final paragraph of Combray describes a more dramatic version than Yambo's of awakening in a shifting room. Quotations from the Project Gutenberg transcription of the translation by Scott Moncrieff. The memory that Proust's narrator proceeds to recount involves his mother leaving her guests to read to him one particular night.

Page 308

hell is not les autres
Sartre's play Huis clos, No exit, announces that Hell is others ("L'enfer, c'est les autres").

Page 315

hic et nunc
here and now (Latin).

And Lila's face? Now I should be able to see it, but ... -
The desire and inability to see Lila's face haunts the rest of the book, up to the climactic vision of a still faceless Lila trinity. The indistinctness of her face recalls Belbo's dream in Foucault's Pendulum, chapter 64, about a lost woman or women whom he is seeking: "I know perfectly well who she is, I just can't reconstruct her features." Towards the end of that book, in chapter 114, Casaubon, who had lusted for Lorenza Pellegrini AKA Sophia just before she was killed, notes "she ws slipping away .... as if she had never existed. I couldn't even see her face."

Page 317

a photo of Kalmyk women, a poil
French phrase for naked, "in their skin" but with a connotation of animal skin with its potential for fur. Clearly the equivalent of the National Geographic spreads which presented naked women as part of nature.

Page 320

wheat battle
Mussolini announced in 1925 a "battaglia del grano" encouraging agricultural self-sufficiency (growing wheat instead of importing it, also instead of exporting more profitable crops).

There was a battle of Marmarica (Libya) between the Italians and the English in Oct-Nov. 1940, lost by the Italians, and another pitting the Axis against the English armies in June 1942. article

Page 323

like Martin Eden, they understand everything
See p. 129 for Yambo's explanation and a link to Jack London's novel.

Back to The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana