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Day 24

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

Chapter 18

March 16, 2023 by Michael F. Moore

Back to Pescarenico and the rumor mill. We the readers know exactly what Renzo did, but the people of the village are hearing only official reports that they know in their hearts to be untrue:

“The rumor circulated that he had done something terrible, but either no one could say exactly what it was, or they gave a hundred different versions. The worse it was purported to be, the less it was believed by the people in the village, who knew Renzo to be a good boy.”

Their suspicions, naturally, fall on Don Rodrigo:

“‘The road to iniquity,’ says the manuscript at this point, ‘is wide but that does not mean it is easy. There are many bumps and rough patches along the way, and though the road goes downhill, it is arduous and tiring.’”

Meanwhile, back at the convent in Monza:

“She also warded off, as best she could, the nun’s prying questions about her life before her engagement. This was not out of caution, but rather because it was a story more agonizing, more difficult to tell than all the ones she’d heard from the Signora (and even the ones still to come). The nun’s stories were filled with cruelty, scheming, and suffering: things that were awful and painful but could still be named. Lucia’s stories, by contrast, contained a sentiment, a word that she didn’t feel she could utter when speaking about herself. A word she could never paraphrase in a way that didn’t seem too bold: The word was love!”


Manzoni, too, is reluctant to utter the word. I believe this is the only instance in the novel—the romantic genre par excellence—in which the word “love” is used in the romantic sense.

Where has Padre Cristoforo disappeared to? Enter the Conte Zio, the powerful Count Uncle:

Manzoni skewers his prestige by relating the man’s account of his trip to the Imperial Court in Madrid:

“You should have heard him describe the welcome he had received there. Suffice it to say that the Count-Duke of Olivares had treated him with special regard and taken him into his confidence, as shown, for example, by having once asked him—in the presence, you could say, of half the court—how well he liked Madrid, and, another time in the bay of a window, he told him that the Duomo of Milan was the largest church in His Majesty’s domains.”

The Count’s farewell words to his nephew:

“Don’t do anything stupid!”

Short loaded sentences are often harder to translate than long elaborate ones. The Italian, “E abbiamo giudizio,” uses the first-person plural (“abbiamo” = we have) the way a nurse might ask, “How are we doing today.” “Giudizio” is a word that recurs in the novel, but not so much in the legal sense (in a novel that denounces injustice). According to the online Treccani dictionary, the familiar meaning is “senno, riflessione, prudenza”—sense, reflection, prudence. Manzoni famously makes a distinction between “good sense” and “common sense,” but more on that later. “Reflection” doesn’t quite fit into a sentence. We could say, “Be prudent,” which sounds a bit prudish in the mouth of the Count Uncle or the ear of Attilio. “Be smart”? “Act wisely?” A bit too upper crust. Although many think of Italian as a romantic language, it actually has more synonyms for “stupid” than for “love.” (Ask me sometime and I’ll give you a few). The true sentiment behind these words is best expressed by Ru Paul, in her command to the two contestants about to lip-sync for their life.

Tempting, and a perfect example of dynamic equivalence in translation, but no. Rather than write the affirmative, “Be smart,” I opted for the negative, “Don’t do anything stupid.”

Daily Reading

A Preview

A Preview

Day 1

Introduction & Chapter 1 (through pg. 13: "were still around.")

Day 2

Chapter 1 (to end)

Day 3

Chapter 2

Day 4

Chapter 3

Day 5

Chapter 4

Day 6

Chapter 5

Day 7

Chapter 6

Day 8

Chapter 7 (through p.108: “respective ranks.”)

Day 9

Chapter 7 (to end)

Day 10

Chapter 8 (through p.130: “the others filed behind him.”)

Day 11

Chapter 8 (to end)

Day 12

Chapter 9 (through p.151: “are also quite capable.”)

Day 13

Chapter 9 (to end)

Day 14

Chapter 10 (through p.174: “her closest relatives.”)

Day 15

Chapter 10 (to end)

Day 16

Chapter 11 (through p.193: “keep track of it.")

Day 17

Chapter 11 (to end)

Day 18

Chapter 12

Day 19

Chapter 13

Day 20

Chapter 14

Day 21

Chapter 15

Day 22

Chapter 16

Day 23

Chapter 17

Day 24

Chapter 18

Day 25

Chapter 19

Day 26

Chapter 20

Day 27

Chapter 21

Day 28

Chapter 22

Day 29

Chapter 23

Day 30

Chapter 24 (through p.396: “as soon as you’re ready.”)

Day 31

Chapter 24 (to end)

Day 32

Chapter 25

Day 33

Chapter 26

Day 34

Chapter 27

Day 35

Chapter 28 (through p.467: “their hands from hunger.”)

Day 36

Chapter 28 (to end)

Day 37

Chapter 29

Day 38

Chapter 30

Day 39

Chapter 31

Day 40

Chapter 32 (through p.534: “purpose of the conflict.”)

Day 41

Chapter 32 (to end)

Day 42

Chapter 33 (through p.554: “treatise on political economy.”)

Day 43

Chapter 33 (to end)

Day 44

Chapter 34 (through p.574: “the living were left.”)

Day 45

Chapter 34 (to end)

Day 46

Chapter 35

Day 47

Chapter 36

Day 48

Chapter 37

Day 49

Chapter 38

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