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Day 39

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

Chapter 31

March 31, 2023 by Michael F. Moore

This chapter opens with an image of the grim reaper, a trigger warning:

(The “L” that you see is the first initial of “La peste,” the plague).

At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Italian papers quoted this opening sentence in the headlines:

“La peste che il tribunale della sanità aveva temuto che potesse entrar con le bande alemanne nel Milanese, c’era entrata davvero.”

I was revising this chapter when the news broke in early 2020.

Manzoni criticizes earlier historians of the plague:

“No later writer has set out to examine and compare these accounts in order to depict a chain of events, a history of the plague.”

He makes modest claims for his own attempt:

“I have tried to put together not so much the account we need as one that has not yet been written.”

How shall we deal with the ongoing attempts to deny and rewrite our collective experience of the pandemic?

The response of the king to the suffering of his people sounds all too familiar:

“On the eighteenth of November, the Governor, oblivious or heedless of the danger of such a gathering in these circumstances, issued a decree in which he ordered public festivities to be held for the birth of Prince Carlos, the first son of King Philip IV. He specified that everything was to proceed according to custom, as if no health warnings had been issued.”

The devastating conclusion to this chapter:

“So at the beginning, no plague, absolutely not, by any count: The very utterance of the word was prohibited. Then came the ‘pestilential’ fevers, admitting the idea indirectly, through an adjective. And then, not an actual plague, well, yes, there was a plague, but only in a sense. Not a proper plague, mind you, but something for which there was no other name. Finally, it was a plague without a doubt and without dissent.”

And as we shall see:

“Another idea had already taken root, the idea of poison and sorcery, which distorted and confused the idea expressed in a word that could no longer be retracted.”

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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