Thursday, September 30, 2021
The Future Revisited
Carlo Levi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, tr. Frances Frenaye (New York: Time Incorporated, 1964), p. 215:
Crai meant tomorrow and forever; the day after tomorrow was prescrai and the day after that pescrille; then came pescruflo, maruflo, maruflone; the seventh day was maruflicchio.Frances Frenaye's translation was first published by Farrar, Straus and Company in 1947. I have it as republished by Penguin in 1982, where the sentence appears exactly as above on p. 200.
I’d like to be able to say, to paraphrase Housman, that I knew at once that Levi had not written prescrai and in another moment I had found the true word. In fact it’s in reading the following two words in the series, pescrille and pescruflo, that the doubt arises, as the root prefix post in post + cras would be likely to evolve into poscrai or pescrai rather than prescrai.
My copy of Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Torino: Enaudi, 1945, 1963, 1990), pp. 184-185, does print pescrai (‘Crai è domani, e sempre; ma il giorno dopo domani è pescrai e il giorno dopo ancora é pescrille; poi viene pescruflo, e poi maruflo e maruflone; ed il settimo giorno è maruflicchio’) but the misprint prescrai, if that’s what it is, and not a dialectal variant, must have occurred in the first printing, that used perhaps by Frenaye, since the [sic!] in the following otherwise makes little sense.
After a reprint of his essay ‘Crai e Poscrai o Poscrilla Posquaccherra’ in Romanische Literaturstudien: 1936–1956 (Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1959), pp. 597-612, Leo Spitzer supplies an Addition (pp. 612-13):
My former pupil A.F. Engel brings to my attention the following passage in Carlo Levi's book Cristo si e fermato a Eboli (Torino 1946), p. 190: “Tutto il domani [... ]. Crai e domani, e sempre ; ma il giorno dopo domani prescrai [sic!] e il giorno dopo ancora [...]."Best wishes,
This passage may have a double interest for us: not only because the particular series of terms chosen by the community (Gagliano in Lucania) to list the seven days that constitute the 'eternal morrow,' offers variations of the standard pattern (notice the predominance of formations with the -uflo suffix), but mainly because the Italian novelist is testifying to that very stylistic nuance I have postulated in my article for this series of nonce-words ("a thrust into the void . . . a thrust of whose phantastic superfluity the coiner [of the terms] remains conscious"; a "world-world" etc.). The author would give us to understand that in that particular region of Lucania which is 'severed from Time and History' it is in language alone that distinctions exist which have no corresponding reality in the actual lives of the speakers.