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Wednesday, 05 August 2009

Questi fantasmi/These Ghosts

An anthology edited by Giuseppe Cozzolino

Pub. Boopen LED

Francesco Di Domenico


Translated into English by Ann McGarrell

Phantoms with a hint of the sea.


17 stories about ghosts, doomed love, and the legends of a legendary city. This new collection of tales, ranging from darkest noir to horror, was selected by an equally fantastical personage, with morphological and cultural resemblances to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot: Giuseppe  Cozzolino.


Are these re-elaborations of true stories, or are they simply legends told by gifted Neapolitan writers? This is the dilemma that confronts us as soon as we leaf through this delicious collection of Neapolitan shades which the publisher has ironically chosen to release into the dazzling light of July. These tales are set in Naples, a magical city par excellence, one that unexpectedly came into being nearly 2800 years ago, possibly founded by a mourning mermaid, a sad siren. And they are stories of ghosts that have possessed the city for millennia and who perhaps still hold her hostage, just as they have for four hundred years.

We begin with a modern story in an ancient setting, before the five urban itineraries that make up the anthology. Michele Serio, an ironic and jocund writer, undertakes a voyage into journalistic consumerism, avenging himself on that sector with a ferocious disenchantment: the scoop has to yield in the face of the unspeakable, no matter what the cost. It’s hard to interview a swarm of wraiths. Next, a bloodstained tale of the ghost of Giuditta Guastamacchia, a blameless young woman executed in 1799 who wanders restlessly through the Palace of Justice in Naples, told by a lawyer and writer of noir fiction, Bruno Pezone. This is a beautiful story of “un-love”; it would make a splendid stage play.

“What do you think, Maresciallo, you who’ve never heard about the Janare woman?” This is how the delightful tale by Diana Lama (one of the princesses of Italian noir ) begins. Brief and effective, like a rifle shot, Lama’s piece plays along the shady borderline between madness and mystery.

It tells of the place where everything began for Dante: Avernus, the Neapolitan lake that is the entrance to Hell. As soon as one finishes reading it, one goes back and reads it again, but the arcane and the ambiguous remain blended. One senses the touch of an authentic mistress of noir.
   
“The Tears of Lucifer” – a neurotic and fascinating story by Ugo Ciaccio, moves through drugs and ethnic contamination in the modern city peopled by urban aliens, crazies, and criminals, all of whom greet ghosts with sceptical disillusionment, certain that the old and the new can share the next world, but falling inexorably into entrapment. Ciaccio is an authentic novelty in the literary panorama of Naples, passing from satire to crime fiction with elegant nonchalance while making notable incursions into the graphic arts (the book’s cover is his work).

Cozzolino, on the other hand, bears the burden and distinction of recounting his voyage into one of Naples’s darkest mysteries: the one concerning the Prince of San Severo.  A journey through shadows, splendidly and artfully created by the wizardry of Raimondo di Sangro. A personage of ambiguous background, perhaps a scoundrel, but clearly a disturbing genius. He masterfully suggests the “tetro cigolare”(“gloomy creaking”) of the carriage wheels one may hear on certain nights while crossing San Domenico Maggiore, the enchanting slargo that broadens the very heart of the magnificent avenue called Spaccanapoli.

All these stories reveal the double cultural matrix that is the city’s constant companion; the irony and the huge sadness, clumsily veiled, as in the beautiful piece by Ugo Mazzotta that transfigures today’s criminal reality by plunging it into a phantasmic Pirandellian universe. Among these darkly inked passages, the troubling queen of Italian horror writing appears: Simonetta Santamaria, who tells the most tormented love story in the history of Naples, that of the lovely Maria D’Avalos and the noble Fabrizio Carafa, murdered in his consort’s bed. “Don’t you see, oh people, my desperation, my despair?” the beautiful Maria still sighs from the darkest reaches Spaccanapoli.
 
The book is both an anthology and a synonym of this city; its paradigm, for although Naples is a city of the sun, it belongs equally to shadows. Not all stories have been cited here, but this is not to say, as in the theatre, “bene gli altri” – the others are fine, conferring a kind of pious absolution. The stories we have mentioned are merely the glittering tips that emerge from a cluster of diamonds.

Biography

Francesco Di Domenico was born 55 years ago at Giugliano la Campania, a town north of Naples. For 30 years he has contributed humour and satire to Parthenopian (Neapolitan) newspapers. His most recent story was published on July 23, 2009 in “Il Roma;” and his ongoing literary commentary appears in the author’s blog “Letterati tutine.”
His stories have been published in seven anthologies.
His first personal collection, “Storie brillanti di Eroi Scadenti” (Brilliant Tales of Decadent Heroes) appeared last Christmas. His editorial director characterized it as “the most polyhedric humourist on the Italian scene,” but that was merely a mediocre excuse to avoid being fired by the publisher.
His fundamental activity remains that of a reproductive male, which allowed him to engender Mario (a young multimedia photographer), and Maria Chiara, a 25-year-old painter who lives in both Italy and  France with Ahmed Al Safi, a rising star of the Mesopotamian art world. French earth, Neapolitan waters, hearts in Babylon.
Questi fantasmi/These Ghosts
An anthology edited by Giuseppe Cozzolino
Pub. Boopen LED
Francesco Di Domenico

Translated into English by Ann McGarrell

Phantoms with a hint of the sea.

17 stories about ghosts, doomed love, and the legends of a legendary city. This new collection of tales, ranging from darkest noir to horror, was selected by an equally fantastical personage, with morphological and cultural resemblances to Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot: Giuseppe  Cozzolino.

Are these re-elaborations of true stories, or are they simply legends told by gifted Neapolitan writers? This is the dilemma that confronts us as soon as we leaf through this delicious collection of Neapolitan shades which the publisher has ironically chosen to release into the dazzling light of July. These tales are set in Naples, a magical city par excellence, one that unexpectedly came into being nearly 2800 years ago, possibly founded by a mourning mermaid, a sad siren. And they are stories of ghosts that have possessed the city for millennia and who perhaps still hold her hostage, just as they have for four hundred years.

We begin with a modern story in an ancient setting, before the five urban itineraries that make up the anthology. Michele Serio, an ironic and jocund writer, undertakes a voyage into journalistic consumerism, avenging himself on that sector with a ferocious disenchantment: the scoop has to yield in the face of the unspeakable, no matter what the cost. It’s hard to interview a swarm of wraiths. Next, a bloodstained tale of the ghost of Giuditta Guastamacchia, a blameless young woman executed in 1799 who wanders restlessly through the Palace of Justice in Naples, told by a lawyer and writer of noir fiction, Bruno Pezone. This is a beautiful story of “un-love”; it would make a splendid stage play.

“What do you think, Maresciallo, you who’ve never heard about the Janare woman?” This is how the delightful tale by Diana Lama (one of the princesses of Italian noir ) begins. Brief and effective, like a rifle shot, Lama’s piece plays along the shady borderline between madness and mystery.

It tells of the place where everything began for Dante: Avernus, the Neapolitan lake that is the entrance to Hell. As soon as one finishes reading it, one goes back and reads it again, but the arcane and the ambiguous remain blended. One senses the touch of an authentic mistress of noir.
   
“The Tears of Lucifer” – a neurotic and fascinating story by Ugo Ciaccio, moves through drugs and ethnic contamination in the modern city peopled by urban aliens, crazies, and criminals, all of whom greet ghosts with sceptical disillusionment, certain that the old and the new can share the next world, but falling inexorably into entrapment. Ciaccio is an authentic novelty in the literary panorama of Naples, passing from satire to crime fiction with elegant nonchalance while making notable incursions into the graphic arts (the book’s cover is his work).

Cozzolino, on the other hand, bears the burden and distinction of recounting his voyage into one of Naples’s darkest mysteries: the one concerning the Prince of San Severo.  A journey through shadows, splendidly and artfully created by the wizardry of Raimondo di Sangro. A personage of ambiguous background, perhaps a scoundrel, but clearly a disturbing genius. He masterfully suggests the “tetro cigolare”(“gloomy creaking”) of the carriage wheels one may hear on certain nights while crossing San Domenico Maggiore, the enchanting slargo that broadens the very heart of the magnificent avenue called Spaccanapoli.

All these stories reveal the double cultural matrix that is the city’s constant companion; the irony and the huge sadness, clumsily veiled, as in the beautiful piece by Ugo Mazzotta that transfigures today’s criminal reality by plunging it into a phantasmic Pirandellian universe. Among these darkly inked passages, the troubling queen of Italian horror writing appears: Simonetta Santamaria, who tells the most tormented love story in the history of Naples, that of the lovely Maria D’Avalos and the noble Fabrizio Carafa, murdered in his consort’s bed. “Don’t you see, oh people, my desperation, my despair?” the beautiful Maria still sighs from the darkest reaches Spaccanapoli.
 
The book is both an anthology and a synonym of this city; its paradigm, for although Naples is a city of the sun, it belongs equally to shadows. Not all stories have been cited here, but this is not to say, as in the theatre, “bene gli altri” – the others are fine, conferring a kind of pious absolution. The stories we have mentioned are merely the glittering tips that emerge from a cluster of diamonds.

 



 

Biography


Francesco Di Domenico was born 55 years ago at Giugliano la Campania, a town north of Naples. For 30 years he has contributed humour and satire to Parthenopian (Neapolitan) newspapers. His most recent story was published on July 23, 2009 in “Il Roma;” and his ongoing literary commentary appears in the author’s blog “Letterati tutine.”

His stories have been published in seven anthologies.

His first personal collection, “Storie brillanti di Eroi Scadenti” (Brilliant Tales of Decadent Heroes) appeared last Christmas. His editorial director characterized it as “the most polyhedric humourist on the Italian scene,” but that was merely a mediocre excuse to avoid being fired by the publisher.

His fundamental activity remains that of a reproductive male, which allowed him to engender Mario (a young multimedia photographer), and Maria Chiara, a 25-year-old painter who lives in both Italy and  France with Ahmed Al Safi, a rising star of the Mesopotamian art world. French earth, Neapolitan waters, hearts in Babylon.

 
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