from his garden. If it is churlish not k)rngi(.’ credit wliere credit’s due, all thoserngruesome multiple-choice, iutclligeneequotient,rnstandard-aptitude riddles thernAuierieaus are brought up on, and trainedrnto soke from kindergarten to grave, mayrnwell appear in a somewhat less sinisterrnlight.rnB’ contrast, in Italv—and Sicih’, mindrnou. is praetiealh’ in North Mrica —categoricalrnratiocinahon is like a faint echo ofrnsomething that has rushed past withoutrnleaving a deep trace, all but muffled bvrnthe dail’ intercourse of life, tradihon, andrncustom. Nois, colorful, and centered onrnim])roisation—rather like a Moroccanrnsouk —Italian thought is based on thernprinciple that so long as von start with anrnabundance of honest ingredients—goodrnpistachios, sound grammar, local buildingrnmaterials, marital fidelit), ripe aulicrgiuesrn—it cannot possibh’ matter all thatrnmuch \hcrccxactl\()u end up, becausernthe resrdt will be pleasing lo stesso, anvwa.rnriiere is neer a plan, a project, arnconcept, a recipe, because that ubiquitousrn”an’wa ” is nothing less than thernfundamental, collechvch” upheld law ofrnexistence, and stronger dian anv indi idualrnact of intellection. If ItaK as a nationrnhas a wa, it is anwa’.rnAnd, as 1 sa, nowhere more than herernin the scorching hot south, where ourncan casih” feel oppressed b- the oftenrnmindless Hnniing doggerel of mar/.ipanrnsw eetmeats and oozing figs that you endrnup w ith, rime and again, in place of thernhard-edged prose of life on ma- achialh’rnha e had in mind. Which is all ver’ well,rnccn if ou hae to mutter to yourself allrnthe while that it is our own nitpickingrnbrain that is actualK at fault, that ournmust change, that ou would do well tornada]5t and to forget, that none of it reallvrnmatters, because soon enough ou observernthat the result is pleasing lo stesso,rnwhereupon ou relax and the whole c-rnele repeats itself from the beginning.rnW Inch is all er well, I repeat, exceptrnwhen ou are aehiallv—actnallv, ves, rcal-rnK’ and truK, absoluteb seriousK, cross mrnheart and hope to die, thank ou er’rnmuch and I don’t want an- chocolatecoveredrnalmonds! —trving to get somethingrndone. Like building a house, forrnexample.rnOr at least rebuilding one, which isrnwhat I’m trving to do at present. Partlyrncerebral, with a modicum of planning,rndesigning, and reasoning, this task is producingrnthe curious eincmaric split-screenrneffect of persuading mc that I’m surroimdedrnby small children wliile convincingrnthe children —who are beingrnpaid perfectlv adult, or at least adolescent,rnsums of monev for their participationrnin the charade — that I’m a child,rnprone to tantrums, yet easily mollifiedrnwith sweets or a new rattle. The case onrndie left of the screen is not hard to make,rnbecause people who all talk at once,rndon’t listen to anybody, love ev ery kind ofrnnoise so long as it’s really loud, ne cr takernnotes or write anvthing down, preferrnpocket knives to slide rules, cannot rememberrnto switch on their telephones,rnand are always snacking and talkingrnabout their mothers would be regarded asrnchildren anvwhere except Itah. Thus, ifrnvou ask an architect whedicr or not thernantique bath he had stolen to order fromrnan abandoned villa in Catania will fit inrnrile guest bathroom, given that the bath isrn170 cm. long, he will tell you liow ingeniouslyrnthe bath was stolen, what perilsrnhe had faced, how he intends to reconditionrnit, and what his mother said when herntold her he would be storing it in her diningrnroom. The one thing die man willrnnever do is measure riie distance behvcenrnthe walls and subtract 170.rnUnfortunately, die case on die right isrnjust as compelling. The client who bargainedrnfor an ordinary barii is presentedrninstead wirii a bath to end all baths, rampantrnon lion’s feet and fit for an Englishrnmarquess. Yet he seems unhappy. Allrnright, so mavbe it won’t go into die guestrnbathroom, maybe it can be used in thernmaster bathroom, or as a drinks cabinet,rnor as an end table. Or mavbe it can berncut in a certain way, turned upside downrnand affixed to the ceiling w ith Muranornchandeliers inside it (riiere is a reallv nicernpair, as it happens, in an abandoned townrnhouse not far from the police station),rnscirehhe hellissimo, sai, but anvhow, whv’rnis rile client unhappy, whimpering like arnbabv? It’s a beauriful riling, and it will allrnwork out in riic end, because no matterrnhow we go about the job, die final resultrnwill be pleasing anyway.rnToday is die feast day of S. Rosalia, Hiernpatron saint of Palermo. I walk wirii Hierncrowd, 20 or 30 dionsand people followingrnthe eight-foot-high reliquary of delicatelyrnworked solid silver carried throughrnrile eit-, as it has been on fiiis Sunday inrn)ulv for the last 400 vears. Come nightfall,rnthere are fireworks, and octopusshapedrnballoons, and stands selling melonrnslices, nuts, and candy. The crowdrngrows still more numerous, swelling withrnvillage folk, vet the ensuing merrimentwithoutrndrugs, without drink, withoutrnloose women, wiriiout Disneyland, vv ithoutrnanvthing, in short, that any adult outsidernof Italy v’ould regard as fun, becausernonlv’ small children can appreciate pointlessrnnoise, and just milling about, and watermelonrnthat smells like the sea —is asrndecorous as the Rov al Enclosure at Ascotrnon Ladies’ Day.rnI am riie client, and at this juncture Irnfeel that I have to ask myself; Are they notrnright? Have these people not builtrnenough cathedrals, painted enough frescos,rndesigned enough gardens, carvedrnenough marble, cast enough bronze,rnchased enough gold and silver, and reconditionedrnenough stupid baths on lion’srnfeet to know something the clientrndoesn’t? Vliy must he insist on vinegarrnwhen riiev bring him precious wines, andrnon stones when they give him soft w liiternbread, and on plain lemon juice in placernof riiat historic granita? Wiv doesn’t hernhave enough faith—or perhaps eredulitv’,rnwhich is vet another childly commodih’rnthev seem to have in such great abundancern—in their civilization, foundedrnthough it is on what he perceives as afterthought,rnhappenstance, and caprice?rn”Besides, von arc a writer. Is not literaturernbased on these very things? Yon arernalso a gambler. Can’t you entertain thernthought of playing roulette with waterrntaps and door hinges? And is love, for instance,rnso much a matter of knowing howrneverything will turn out in the end?rnShame on vou!”rnAnd so, vet again, the client resolves tornbe good. The whole thing will get done,rnsomehow, and the ingeniously stolenrnbarii will fit somewhere, I suppose, andrnthe architect won’t come down withrnchicken pox or get riie colic, or end up inrnjail, or get run over bv a car while chasingrna ball in die middle of the street, and diernaccounts will reconcile, and a planningrnpermission won’t reallv be necessary afterrnall, and the aparhiient will be beautiful,rnand we will all sit down like a bunch ofrnMoroccan street urchins in the cozyrnkitchen, munching on candied fruit andrndrinking raisin-sweet wine from Pantelleria,rnand we will look back and say, dearrnGod, that was a close one, that almostrndidn’t work out, though in the end I guessrnit has anvwav, lo stesso. What price Aristotelianrnlogic, riien?rnAndrei Narrozov is Chronicles’rnEiuvpean correspondent.rnaxTsSGKsrnNOVEMBER 2001/39rnrnrn