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A quantum fugue of the lilies
Exploring the Depths of Scarabocchio by Grace Andreacchi
by V Ulea

182 pages
Andromache Books
December 2008
ISBN 978-1-4092-3643-6


The following interpretation of Scarabocchio will be given mainly from two perspectives:
1. Its relation to the Quantum Genre, and
2. Its relation to Goethe's works.


Reading Scarabocchio by Grace Andreacchi is like falling in love with the sea when you step onto the shore and the city fuss suddenly dies, yielding to the fugue rising from the mythopoëic depths that carry Homer, and Ovid, and the reflected universe of stars and epochs to the rippling surface. The syncretism of waves and reflections stuns you, causes your thoughts to wander in many worlds, in dualities and multiplicities of everything passing you by. You are lost in the ambiguity of meanings and only one thing is certain: this is the end of your Euclidean clarity - the foundation for mundane being. Along with the narrator of the novel you will sail into the squall of audible and visual polyphony to revive in a new reality, many-layered and complex. "Burn what you have worshipped, worship what you have burned," says the epigraph, and this is applied not only to the characters, but to the reader, as well.

A whimsical interlacing of the ideas introduced by Weimar Classicism (including its central concept of harmony and synthesis of Ancient Greek literature and romanticism) and those expressed by Glenn Gould (whose own path can be described as "reconciliation" with Romanticism through Wagner and Strauss) creates a contrapuntal discourse between artists and thinkers of all times. The novel is a contrapuntal movement of characters from the "southbound mouth"
[2] to the northbound mind and from the hedonistic summer to the Puritanical winter where the purple color of the passions yields to the grey color of brain and where the supreme reason is immersed in the endless metamorphic game of ever-changing and never-repeated forms: there are "twenty-five trillion snowflakes and each one different from all the others."

Gould's description of his Solitude Trilogy adequately reflects the metaphysical journey in Scarabocchio:

"A young man boards a train going North. It is a real train on a scheduled run, yet also a train of mind and mythology. As the journey unfolds, he chats with a seasoned guide and passes his time in reading, watching the rugged landscape, and speculating about his fellow travelers. He encounters four of them in his imagination, sharing their memories and the challenges that transformed their lives in the North. Together, they describe the final playing-out of man's two dreams: Eldorado and Utopia, both unattainable.   At the journey's end, he descends to meet his future, walking away from the camera until he disappears into the North, perhaps forever" [3]

Gould himself could be viewed as a "quantum" figure. Once he admitted, "It seems that I perform in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries and compose in the nineteenth. That must be just jammed with psychoanalytic significance, but I have never paid to find out what it means."[4]

As if bending the time-space curvature, Grace Andreacchi "arranges" the meeting of various historical individuals, including artists, musicians, writers, poets, sculptors and politicians as well as fictional characters and works of literature and art. In this truly Dantean space they appear as continuations of each other and of themselves, constantly diversifying just as musical themes that blossom through their multiple variations. Like voices in a fugue, the characters flow into one another, modulating, and begetting the next chain of variations-characters, some of which preserve the core while others begin to form new "branches." All of these characters exist in the free movement of their creator's thought, that knows no fear of the boundless.

There are no magic or Kafkaesque transformations of the characters, but they do modulate like melodies, and it's the reader's task to recognize them through their various guises scattered about the space. The Siamese girl, the Siamese cat, the pink glands in cat's mouth, pink stamens, tall and bright, that are "thrust into the air with obscene vigour, as if the faces were sticking out their tongues"; Danzig's pink tongue licking the "sugary crumbs from the sides of his mouth" and his smile of "boyish frankness" and "girlish tenderness" that produces the "devilish charm" of Mefistofeles … Faustina, Anabella, a little lily, a flute, a violin. Caroline Lily, a black angel, Mother, a Nubian Princess… You'd wonder forever what they really are - men and women? animals and birds? flowers and foods? marzipan creatures? musical instruments? tales of a humming sea? or - just a baritone, a piano, and a small violin?


The sprouting network of faces and relationships leaves nothing still, unchanged or the same. Danzig is the first character with whom the ambiguity begins and whose multiple, seemingly unrelated names run like little tiny creeks of spilled water, begetting a polyphony of sounds, images, and meanings. You become instantly informed that Danzig is not his real name, but the information is given in the form of a rumor, leaving you to wonder, but soon you realize that it may be true.

I have with me (and yet not with me, for he has a room of his own) a young painter who calls himself Danzig although I am convinced that is not his real name. More than once I have heard the waiter address him in an undertone as 'Lorenzaccio'.  This so-called Danzig claims to have been an officer in the Austrian  Navy and to have learned his excellent Italian  in Trieste, where he served on board a submarine. He has already painted the Archduke , and now he is to paint me.

There is no way to find out the truth about his name and origin, since every single answer only begets a new chain of associations, just as the next note predisposes a turn of the melody or the next detail drags one into the pool of many-worlds interpretations.

'Why do they call you Lorenzaccio?' I said, breaking the unspoken rule that I am not to address him while he is at work. He appeared not to have heard me, but went on with his sketching unabated. I watched the quick movement of his eyes - from the paper to my face and back again. Another five minutes went by. 'It's only a joke, Meister,' he said suddenly, without lifting his eyes from the paper. 'My Christian name is Lauritz or Lorenzo.' 'Which is it?' I said. 'Don't you know?' He laughed quietly to himself and examined my face again, then returned his gaze to the paper.

As a genuine quantum character this man-boy-girl-artist-waxwork-flute-cat exhibits his "unexpected capacities" each time he is put into different situations. His role in the plot very much recalls that of a chronicler in the sense that he depicts people and events in the present, past and future. At the same time, he himself appears to be a creation in the same gallery. As the Abbess remarked, he is both the artist and the artwork. In the light of the quantum structure of the plot of the novel, he is a medium, a "clay-marzipan" that contains the possibilities of becoming everything and everyone, depending on the "sculptor's" ever-changing intent. Through his various names all the epochs with their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and controversies are conveyed.

He is another variation of the theme of the Guignol theater, whose replica is built in the choistrino with "the little stone manikins, the huntsmen and lions, angels and devils, knights in armour, mermaids, evangelists, acrobats, monsters, Adam and Eve, Salome and John, the massacre of Innocents, and the agony of sinners." Placed among them during his and the Meister's visit of the cloister, he becomes a "sum total" of that gallery.

I looked about for Danzig and had once again to marvel at that young man's unexpected capacities. He was standing perfectly still at the centre of the overgrown garden, bareheaded in the sun, his young cheeks flushed, his mouth slightly open showing the pearly teeth. A flutter of breath in his slender chest was the only sign of life, for he was handsome and ruddy as a waxwork. His stillness was like that of a cat - an ecstasy of alertness.

Each of his names corresponds not so much to a certain personality as to a certain concept. For example, the theme of the inability to return to original innocence and lost virtue is common for both Scarabocchio and Lorenzaccio by Alfred de Musset. The mocking nickname, "Lorenzaccio", is given to the main character, Lorenzo, for his violation of moral principles during his struggle with Florence's tyrant, Alexandre de Médicis. Although Lorenzaccio killed the tyrant, his reputation was ruined forever. The neglect of "ends and means" made it impossible for him to cleanse his dark experience and return to the "age of innocence". 

The search for "the age of innocence" forms Beale's movement to North. His desire to erase the burning experience of human history and passions makes him reject sensuality and embrace the concept of pure rationality. However, the Meister admits to him in the end, "There is no road back through the woods from knowledge to original innocence - not even death.  You may return to your beautiful country, but the knowledge will go with you, and live beside you always, like a shadow on those pure snows."