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Second attempt at a blog and back up of my old account, ferningur.
Part two of the novel is much shorter and less eventful than the first one, although the events taking place are definitely much bigger and more important. This part takes place after Elmina and Dupré's marriage - which, as it was easy to guess by the previous part, doesn't turn out to be a happy one.
Dupré passes most of his time in his laboratory, sculpting over and over again what he hopes will become his masterpiece, the perfect head of a small angel which he calls "La joie". Even after having his first child with Elmina, he keeps going at his work, in part out of obsession and in part because he seems to have gotten slightly more aware of Elmina's attitude.
The child gets the name Alì Babà Dupré by his mother, and while nobody is exactly sure why, they go along with that. As you can guess, the name of the kid comes from that of Ali Baba, from "Thousand and one Nights", but in a few Italian dialects "Babà" is also a nickname or terms of endearment that means "cute thing" (and it's also the name of a famous Neapolitan dessert made with soft paste and rhum).
Things between them seem to go on the same way until it turns out that Alì Babà suffers from attacks of epilepsy. Despite the seriousness of this, it doesn't seem to be too huge a disruption in the life of the family, at least until one night the child has a serious attack and dies. In her confusion, or possibly due to her general attitude, Elmina arrives at the scene holding a knife, and the people around Albert and her have to physically separate them. This part of the novel ends with Neville reading a letter recounting him all that happened on that night.
Despite the sort of farewell that Ortese gave the prince at the end of the first part, he's still around in these chapters as well, and a lot of the events are told us through him reading the letters that other characters send him, to update him about the events in Naples. Some of the descriptions in these letters are even more convoluted than the narrator already is. I guess it was intentional, and I have to admit it's an effective in giving the events a more vague and confusing feel, but it does make the reading genuinely difficult; I genuinely had problems following the prose this time, and I hope the next chapters are going to dial this down a bit.
In the previous post I talked about "Lu cardillu", a popular Neapolitan song about unrequired love that I think might have inspired the story. In this part Ortese does mention another song, "Vola vola vola" (Fly fly fly), which also mentions a linnet, among a list of other birds. The song is one that Albert often sings to Babà, when playing with him. The narrator (and, possibly, by extension Ortese herself) mentions in a note that the song is from Naples, calls it "The song of the linnet" and says it was written in the 18th century, when in reality it's a song from the region of Abruzzo and was first written in 1908. "Vola vola vola" is one of the most famous regional songs of Abruzzo, and has become some sort of unofficial anthem for the region.
The mistake could be due to the mention, in one verse, of the linnet, which is a pretty common reference in Neapolitan culture, and the fact that both songs are about unlucky love, though in slightly different ways. I'll have more about both songs in another post, there are a few things to research, whether this might turn out to be a plot point, or just an earnest mistake.