The Island of the Day Before

BOOK: The Island of the Day Before
3.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
The Island of the Day Before
Umberto Eco
Table of Contents

Title Page

Table of Contents

...

...

Copyright

Epigraph

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

CHAPTER 6

CHAPTER 7

CHAPTER 8

CHAPTER 9

CHAPTER 10

CHAPTER 11

CHAPTER 12

CHAPTER 13

CHAPTER 14

CHAPTER 15

CHAPTER 16

CHAPTER 17

CHAPTER 18

CHAPTER 19

CHAPTER 20

CHAPTER 21

CHAPTER 22

CHAPTER 23

CHAPTER 24

CHAPTER 25

CHAPTER 26

CHAPTER 27

CHAPTER 28

CHAPTER 29

CHAPTER 30

CHAPTER 31

CHAPTER 32

CHAPTER 33

CHAPTER 34

CHAPTER 35

CHAPTER 36

CHAPTER 37

CHAPTER 38

CHAPTER 39

Colophon

Translator's Postscript

Footnotes

Translated from the Italian
by William Weaver

A HARVEST BOOK
HARCOURT, INC
.
Orlando Austin New York San Diego Toronto London

Copyright © 1994 R.C.S. Libri & Grandi Opere SpA-Milano
English translation copyright © 1995 by Harcourt, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval
system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work
should be submitted online at
www.harcourt.com/contact
or mailed
to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

www.HarcourtBooks.com

This is a translation of
L'Isola del Giorno Prima.

The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Eco, Umberto.
[Isola del giorno prima. English]
The island of the day before/by Umberto Eco;
translated from the Italian by William Weaver.—1st ed.
p. cm.
I. Weaver, William, 1923– . II. Title.
PQ4865.C6I8413 1995
853'.914—dc20 95-7594
ISBN-13: 978-0-15-100151-4 ISBN-10: 0-15-100151-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-15-603037-3 (pbk.) ISBN-10: 0-15-603037-3 (pbk.)

Designed by Lori J. McThomas

Printed in the United States of America

First Harvest edition 2006
A C E G I K J H F D B

Is the Pacifique Sea my home?

—J
OHN
D
ONNE,
"Hymne to God my God"

Stolto! a cui parlo? Misero! Che tento?
Racconto il dolor mio
a l'insensata riva
a la mutola selce, al sordo vento...
Ahi, ch'altro non risponde
che il mormorar del'onde!

—G
IOVAN
B
ATTISTA
M
ARINO,
"Eco,"
La Lira,
xix

Table of Contents

CHAPTER
1
Daphne
[>]

CHAPTER
2
An Account of Events in the Monferrato
[>]

CHAPTER
3
The Serraglio of Wonders
[>]

CHAPTER
4
Fortification Display'd
[>]

CHAPTER
5
The Labyrinth of the World
[>]

CHAPTER
6
The Great Art of Light and Shadow
[>]

CHAPTER
7
Pavane Lachryme
[>]

CHAPTER
8
The Curious Learning of the Wits of the Day
[>]

CHAPTER
9
The Aristotelian Telescope
[>]

CHAPTER
10
Geography and Hydrography Reformed
[>]

CHAPTER
11
The Art of Prudence
[>]

CHAPTER
12
The Passions of the Soul
[>]

CHAPTER
13
The Map of Tenderness
[>]

CHAPTER
14
A Treatise on the Science of Arms
[>]

CHAPTER
15
Horologium Oscillatorium
[>]

CHAPTER
16
Discourse on the Powder of Sympathy
[>]

CHAPTER
17
Longitudinum Optata Scientia
[>]

CHAPTER
18
Unheard-of Curiosities
[>]

CHAPTER
19
A New Voyage Round the World
[>]

CHAPTER
20
Wit and the Art of Ingenuity
[>]

CHAPTER
21
Telluris Theoria Sacra
[>]

CHAPTER
22
The Orange Dove
[>]

CHAPTER
23
Divers and Artificious Machines
[>]

CHAPTER
24
Dialogues of the Maximum Systems
[>]

CHAPTER
25
Technica Curiosa
[>]

CHAPTER
26
Delights for the Ingenious: A Collection of Emblems
[>]

CHAPTER
27
The Secrets of the Flux and Reflux of the Sea
[>]

CHAPTER
28
Of the Origin of Novels
[>]

CHAPTER
29
The Soul of Ferrante
[>]

CHAPTER
30
Anatomy of Erotic Melancholy
[>]

CHAPTER
31
A Breviary for Politicals
[>]

CHAPTER
32
A Garden of Delights
[>]

CHAPTER
33
Mundus Subterraneus
[>]

CHAPTER
34
Monologue on the Plurality of Worlds
[>]

CHAPTER
35
Joyfull Newes out of the Newfound Worlde
[>]

CHAPTER
36
The Rule and Exercises of Holy Dying
[>]

CHAPTER
37
Paradoxical Exercises Regarding the
Thinking of Stones
[>]

CHAPTER
38
An Enquiry into the Nature and Place of Hell
[>]

CHAPTER
39
Itinerarium Extaticum Coeleste
[>]

Colophon
[>]

CHAPTER 1
Daphne

I take pride withal in my humiliation, and as I am to this privilege condemned, almost I find joy in an abhorrent salvation; I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast up upon a deserted ship.

T
HUS, WITH UNABASHED
conceits, wrote Roberto della Griva presumably in July or August of 1643.

How many days had he been tossed by the waves, feverish surely, bound to a plank, prone during the hours of light to avoid the blinding sun, his neck stiff, strained unnaturally so as not to imbibe the water, his lips burnt by the brine? His letters offer no answer to this question: though they suggest an eternity, the time cannot have been more than two days, for otherwise he would never have survived the lash of Phoebus (of which he so poetically complains), he, a sickly youth, as he describes himself, a creature condemned by a natural defect to live only at night.

He was unable to keep track of time, but I believe the sea grew calm immediately after the tempest swept him from the deck of the
Amaryllis,
on that makeshift raft a sailor had me fashioned for him. Driven by the Trades over a serene sea, in a season when, south of the Equator, a temperate winter reigns, he was carried for not many miles, until the currents at last brought him into the bay.

It was night, he had dozed off, unaware that he was approaching a ship until, with a jolt, his plank struck against the prow of the
Daphne.

And when—in the glow of the full moon—he realized he was floating beneath a bowsprit with a rope-ladder hanging from it not far from the anchor chain (a Jacob's ladder, Father Caspar would have called it), in an instant all his spirit returned. His desperation must have inspired him: he tried to reckon whether he had enough breath to cry out (but his throat was all an arid fire) or enough strength to free himself from the bonds that had cut livid furrows into his skin, and then to essay the climb. I believe that at such moments a dying man can become a very Hercules, and strangle serpents in his cradle. In recording the event, Roberto seems confused, but we must accept the idea that if, finally, he reached the forecastle, he must somehow have grasped that ladder. Perhaps he climbed up a bit at a time, exhausted at every gain, until he flung himself over the bulwarks, crawled along the cordage, found the forecastle door open ... And instinct no doubt led him, in the darkness, to touch that barrel, pull himself up its side, until he found a cup attached to a little chain. And he drank as much as he could, then collapsed, sated, perhaps in the fullest meaning of the word, for that water probably contained enough drowned insects to supply him with food as well as drink.

He must have slept twenty-four hours. This is only an approximate calculation: it was night when he woke, but he was as if reborn. So it was night again, not night still.

He thought it was night still; for if not, a whole day had to have passed, and someone should have found him by now. The moonlight, coming from the deck, illuminated that place, apparently a kind of cook-room, where a pot was hanging above the fireplace.

The room had two doors, one towards the bowsprit, the other opening onto the deck. And he looked out at the latter, seeing, as if by daylight, the rigging in good order, the capstan, the masts with the sails furled, a few cannon at the gun-ports, and the outline of the quarterdeck. He made some sounds, but not a living soul replied. He gazed over the bulwarks, and to his right he could discern, about a mile away, the form of the Island, the palm trees along its shore stirred by a breeze.

The land made a kind of bend, edged with sand that gleamed white in the pale darkness; but, like any shipwrecked man, Roberto could not tell if it was an island or a continent.

He staggered to the other side of the ship and glimpsed—but distant this time, almost on the line of the horizon—the peaks of another mass, defined also by two promontories. Everything else was sea, giving the impression that the ship was berthed in an anchorage it had entered through a channel separating the two stretches of land. Roberto decided that if these were not two islands, one was surely an island facing a vaster body of land. I do not believe he entertained other hypotheses, since he had never known bays so broad that a person in their midst could feel he was confronting twin lands. Thus, in his ignorance of boundless continents, Roberto had chanced upon the correct answer.

A nice situation for a castaway: his feet solidly planted and dry land within reach. But Roberto was unable to swim. Soon he would discover there was no longboat on board, and the current meanwhile had carried away the plank on which he had arrived. Hence his relief at having escaped death was now accompanied by dismay at this treble solitude: of the sea, the neighboring Island, and the ship. Ahoy! he must have tried to shout on the ship, in every language he knew, discovering how weak he truly was. Silence. As if on board everyone was dead. And never had he—so generous with similes—expressed himself more literally. Or almost—and this is what I would fain tell you about, if only I knew where to begin.

For that matter, I have already begun. A man drifts, exhausted, over the ocean, and the complaisant waters bring him to a ship, apparently deserted. Deserted as if the crew has just abandoned it, for Roberto struggles back to the cook-room and finds a lamp there and a flint and steel, as if the cook set them in their place before going to bed. But the two berths beside the furnace, one above the other, are both empty. Roberto lights the lamp, looks around, and finds a great quantity of food: dried fish, hardtack, with only a few patches of mold easily scraped away with a knife. The fish is very salty, but there is water in abundance.

He must have regained his strength quickly, or else he was strong when he was writing this, for he goes into—highly literary—detail about his banquet, never did Olympus see such a feast as his, Jove's nectar, to me sweet ambrosia from farthest Pontus. But these are the things Roberto writes to the Lady of his heart:

Sun of my shadows, light of my darkness.

Why did Heaven not unmake me in that tempest it had so savagely provoked.? Why save from the all-devouring sea this body of mine, only to wreck my soul so horribly in such mean and even more ill-starred solitude?

Perhaps, if merciful Heaven does not send me succor, you will never read this letter I now indite, and, consumed like a torch by the light of these seas, I will become dark to your eyes, as to some Selene, who, rejoicing too much in the light of her Sun, gradually consumes her journey beyond the far curve of our planet, bereft of the beneficent rays of her sovereign star, first growing
thin to recall the sickle that severs the thread of life, then ever-paler, she is completely dissolved in that vast cerulean shield where ingenious nature forms heroic heraldry, mysterious emblems of her secrets. Bereft of your gaze, I am blind for you see me not, dumb for you address me not, oblivious for you forget me.

And, alone, I live, bunting dullness and tenebrous flame, vague specter that in this adverse conflict of opposites my mind imagines ever the same, and
so would
convey to
yours.
Saving my life in this wood fortress, in this rocking bastion that defends me, prisoner of the sea, from the sea, punished by the clemency of Heaven, hidden in this deep sarcophagus open to every sun, in this airy dungeon, in this impregnable prison that offers me everywhere escape, I despair of seeing you more.

My Lady, I write you as if to offer, unworthy tribute, the withered rose of my disheartenment. And yet I take pride withal in my humiliation, and as I am to this privilege condemned, almost I find joy in an abhorrent salvation; I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast upon a deserted ship.

BOOK: The Island of the Day Before
3.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

A Dog With a Destiny by Isabel George
Side Effects by Awesomeness Ink
Time Enough To Die by Lillian Stewart Carl
Kleopatra by Karen Essex
The Dressmaker's Daughter by Kate Llewellyn
Timothy by Greg Herren
Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock