Cover image for Magia d'amore
Magia d'amore
Pomerance, Murray, 1946-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Los Angeles : Sun & Moon Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
134 pages ; 19 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Short Fiction. In the stories of "Magla D' Amore, " Scaramouche, Pierrot, Columbine, Imbroglio, Credenzo, Stupenzo and dozens of other stock and imaginary characters of the Commedia dell'Arte enter, exit, and recombine in a series of sexual, societal, and political encounters. These sometimes scatalogical, often scandalous, always sexual figures jump across the pages and time like puppets who have escaped their creator's hands. These fantastic tales were published originally in such journals as The Kenyon Review and the New Directions Annual. Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Murray Pomerance is the author of several books of fiction. He lives in Toronto. "Magla D'Amore" is Part of the Sun & Moon Classics Series.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

The six stories in Canadian author Pomerance's new collection use the classic characters of commedia dell'arte, the Italian theater tradition that originated in the 16th century, , as a means to critique human duplicity, erotic entanglements and self-obsession. These are not so much independent tales as episodes reimagining and spinning events in European history, literary and political, from 15th-century Venice to 19th-century France. Archetypal characters such as Columbine, Pierrot, Arlequin, Ardenzio, the Countess of Frangipane and Scaramouche are the players that enact Pomerance's scathingly witty and mischievous scenes, lending their frantic marionette energy to each new situation. Columbine and Arlequin struggle to come to terms with their love for each other as weddings, love affairs and other intrigues occur in their peripheral vision. Their comically theatrical world is not without its violent moments; in one brief episode, a messenger is pushed from a bridge while searching for a cure for unstoppable laughter, while in another a servant uses the decapitated head of Henry VIII to prove to Arlequin that the king is dead. Thrilling tricks of language, such as sudden immersions into Middle English and lush oddities like "hemidemisemiquavers" keep the narrative on its toes, never entirely lucid but certainly never dull. The book's irreverent leaping is both its strength and its weakness, aiming for coherent social commentary while maintaining a cacophonously poetic tone. The writer's sensitivity is ubiquitous; quiet observations such as "A wind in the street is shuffling through the fading chestnut trees," offer serene islands in the visionary and disorienting swirl and flux. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Professeur Pantalon is beside himself with grief, a fat bird he has brought home for dinner, and for which he has handed over twenty pieces of silver, turning out not to be nearly as dead as promised and walking into the street in an unguarded moment. His estimable wife, Madame Leda, whose bosom is always weighty with considerations, is beside herself with consternation, a silver candelabrum with four cherubim having disappeared from her serving board where it had been standing next to the platter all polished for the stuffed goose. She frames her lips into the shape of a heart and flies through the house crying, "Disorder is everywhere!," a phrase many of the servants take up. But the professeur merely rubs his wispy goatee, folds over and over again his ponderous cloak, and replies, "Nothing to be done, my goose is fled." Incapable of understanding why he should be more distraught over the loss of a goose than over the disappearance of a silver candelabrum she slaps him over the head with a copy of his latest book, Tintinabula , and he is forced to explain, poor man, hunched in his armchair and hugging his scrawny arms, that he has invited for dinner le Docteur Bruneto, an esteemed philosopher. "Aiii!" she hits him again, "And what is in my cupboard to serve him but dried lentils! I am shamed! I am degraded! I am boiled away!" She does a prolonged dance that is less than merry but more than forlorn. She wrings a handkerchief into knots until she has nothing into which a person can nicely sneeze. Whereupon Arlequin, trusted servant, is sent to market to buy what is needed for the Docteur's soup, in particular stalks of freshest fennel because Bruneto, of course, is a vegetarian. On his way out the door the artful Arlequin pauses. Whenever Professeur Pantalon gives him a coin to spend for the food, Arlequin protests, "Not this, that !" and points to an article of the professeur's clothing. So that the professeur has to take it off and drape it over Arlequin, who starts to shiver as though he is freezing the more clothing that is laid over him. Pantalon cannot understand why Arlequin does not move off because now with the professorial clothing decorating his body--a silk shirt, a flowered cravat--he looks gay indeed. Nothing he gives Arlequin is sufficient, though, because the servant keeps crying, "Not this, that !" until finally the professeur is completely naked and Madame Leda is chasing him with a cleaver, screaming, "The soup! The soup!" at the top of her lungs. Finally Arlequin goes to market with the professeur's pointed shoe upside-down on his head. * * * At the market Arlequin finds Corviello selling vegetables in a huge tent. Corviello's tables are laden with baskets, all of the baskets are covered, and on top of all the basket covers there are signs: beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, fennel, that sort of thing. One sign even says, "The finest macaroni on this side of the Po," but when Arlequin asks Corviello if macaroni is indeed a vegetable Corviello begins uncontrollably to cough. Seeing that he won't get an answer to his question, Arlequin proceeds to shop for his vegetables, consulting his list. "Why don't you give me some tomatoes?" says he, and Corviello replies, "Why don't you ?" Then Arlequin asks in the same way for squash and peppers and celeriac and pumpkin and as many other vegetables as he can think of, and for every one of these Corviello says, "Why don't you ?" until Arlequin is at his wits' end. Then it occurs to Arlequin that maybe the thing to do is say please, so he does, whereupon Corviello becomes friendlier than friendly and informs him that because it is so late in the day all his best vegetables, in fact, are sold, except--"But what?" the servant is shaking from head to toe, "What do you have for me to cook as dinner?" "Why, Pinocchio , of course!" Corviello cries, tweaking Arlequin by the nose and making a play upon the Italian word for fennel, which is finoccchio . "What's Pinocchio, pray?" says the servant, and Corviello, winking at the audience, says it's not unlike Puccini , holding aloft a shriveled and very unappetizing zucchini . Then Corviello offers Potato , showing off a leaking tomato; Persichetti , displaying some quite droopy spaghetti ; and so on, until Arlequin snatches the fennel with great desperation and runs off. * * * With his sack of fennel slung over a shoulder Arlequin walks in corkscrew fashion until finally he's lost. He comes to a corner with a signpost that points in four directions: east says, "Destruction"; west says, "Devastation"; north says, "Disaster"; south says, "Decay." Under each word the servant stands bemused, folding his hands first one way and then another. Then, "I'll wait," says he, "until things look more propitious." He sits against the wall of a shop that looks very much like the enterprise of a cobbler, his hat pulled down over his eyes, snoring madly. Sure enough the beautiful Columbine comes out and discovers him sleeping. Her peachy hands fly up in thrilled surprise, and she flutters all around him like a timid butterfly, inspecting him from every angle with her almond eyes. He awakes. Seeing her gazing at him he leaps to his feet: "Oh my lady, forgive me for sleeping against this house of yours, but I have lost my way and indeed I am weary of fruitlessly searching." She throws a curious look at him, executes a polite yawn and answers, "Do not trouble yourself to worry that you are trespassing, because he will not mind." Arlequin: "He, my lady? Oh, forgive that I was so vulgar as to be snoring like a boar when first you should have seen me." Columbine: "There is absolutely nothing for you to be ashamed of. He will not have heard." Arlequin: "He again! Oh do not forsake me, dear lady, but tell me to my face of whom you speak." She looks at him but does not unfasten her persimmon lips, she only casts her eyes innocently over the shiny surface of his pink and green cap whereupon he decides to entice her confidence by tickling himself to death: he tickles his ribs, he tickles his feet, he tickles underneath his arms, he tickles with a giant feather on the bridge of his nose, but Columbine does not speak, even though by now Arlequin is in hysterics and has turned quite as blue as a squid. Finally Arlequin falls to his knees: "Columbine! Columbine! You are the fair lady of my dreams!" At this she swoons as though afflicted with a great pain. "Woe! Woe! Only he may speak my name! And now, all is done with me!" Arlequin is quite prepared at this instant to throw himself into fire to know the identity of the rogue who has intimidated her so, but such a gesture is unnecessary, as the leaded window of the gable over his head is thrown open and a puffy face bellows its own blood-chilling introduction: "Scaramouche!" * * * "Papa!!" cries the startled young man, falling happily into Scaramouche's arms, and for his part the portly cobbler wets his whiskers with a flagon of Armagnac and winks, "Sooo! You have taken a fancy to my little serving maid." Immediately he draws the lovers together with profuse gesticulations and, moving Arlequin aside for a good whisper, promises to help him secure the hand of the gentle Columbine. He proposes, in point of fact, to act as go-between to carry love messages between the two young people who, after all, hardly know one another. "I," says Arlequin, "have only one message, and that is: Dearest Columbine, will you marry me?" "Ohhh, I will carry that as swiftly as a hummingbird," Scaramouche replies, "but for yourself you must promise me that until I bring the lady's answer back you will stand on this very spot and count backward with your eyes closed from 1000." While Arlequin stands counting, Scaramouche goes off pretending to look for Columbine, who is right in front of him brushing her hair. He mounts the stairs to her room at the top of the house and rummages everywhere, calling, "Where are youuuuuu?" apparently despondent that he cannot find her. Then he goes into the bathroom, still rummaging, and to the kitchen; to the salon and to the studio where there are half-finished boots everywhere; always crooning for Columbine, but to no avail. Then, presto!, whom does he discover outside in the street but--yes!--Columbine, exactly where she has been sitting all along. Isn't he overjoyed! Absolutely overcome with delirium! But now--he cannot remember why. Arlequin, still counting backward and pretending obediently to know nothing of what is happening, cannot help worrying that Scaramouche will forget his errand, so he holds his breath. "Dear Columbine, I knew I had something to say to you," says Scaramouche, meanwhile, scratching his head, "but what could it have been?" Arlequin is turning as purple as rhubarb. "Ah! It is a message! A message from Monsieur Arlequin!" Arlequin breathes easy. "But--what could the message have been?" Arlequin breathes faster again, moaning at every even number he passes and wailing at every odd. "Ah yes, something to do with marriage!" Arlequin breathes easy. "But what to do with marriage, what?" And so on. Until Scaramouche has finally asked Columbine the question and received her answer (the obvious one) and gone off searching everywhere for Arlequin--in the attic, in the bath, in the kitchen, turning everything upside down, "Arlequin, where aaaaaaare youuuuuuu?" Presto, he finally discovers the flustered lover all the way down to number 57. But now, although Scaramouche tries to remember Columbine's answer he cannot, for the life of him, succeed. Instead he recollects what color dress she was wearing. Then the number of brushstrokes she took through her hair. Then the color of the unfinished boots on the bench in the studio. Then the lambent amethyst color of her eyes. He draws this out so far, indeed, that Arlequin pisses in his pants with eagerness just before he gets to the number 1--whereupon Scaramouche, all at once remembering exactly what Mademoiselle Columbine did say, refuses strictly to repeat it until Arlequin begins all over again at 1000 and safely gets to the bottom. Sometimes this game is called "Love Made Large." * * * Escaping from the wiles of Scaramouche, Columbine brings Arlequin home to be introduced to her father, Professeur Polichinelle. This gentleman is engaged taking a painting lesson from the master, Mezzetinto. "Painting is very easy," Mezzetinto confides, "The sky is always blue, a horse is always brown, a woman is always pink--if she is looking at a man--and a tree is always exactly as green as a frog. Just look!" He points through a window at a huge oak tree, under which a man is practising drawing his rapier. "That," says Professeur Polichinelle to his daughter, "is the greatest fool on the face of the earth, Docteur Bruneto, who has so little inside his head he doesn't even need to cover it with a hat." There was nothing, indeed, upon the balding surface of the man's scalp but the blowing wind. Professeur Polichinelle has become worked up about Bruneto and is ready, moreover, to provide a long and categorical list of the Docteur's many faults when Mezzetinto interrupts him with a cry, "Come quickly, I am afraid!" Jumping away from his easel, Mezzetinto is singing and squealing at once, indeed, "Come quickly, I am afraid of this ladybug ," and Polichinelle has to come and pick up a pretty amber thing no bigger than the head of a pin and deposit it gently outside the window. Then, pinching himself, Mezzetinto screams, "Come quickly, I am afraid of this leech ," and Polichinelle has to extract something from the inside of the painter's britches and leave it outside as well. In this fashion Mezzetinto obtains the professeur's help ridding himself of a caterpillar, a house-fly, a robin's egg, a twig, a tube of cadmium yellow, a copy of The Pensive Child by Sforzetto, a piece of yeast bread in the pocket of his shirt, and a whistle you can't blow. * * * "My dear, esteemed, admirable Professeur Polichinelle," says Arlequin, "Kindly, honorable, revered and worthy, uplifted Polichinelle, exalted Polichinelle, noble Polichinelle, unsurpassable Polichinelle--How can it be that Docteur Bruneto is a man with no brains in his head at all? Why, even this very evening I am engaged to cook for him a stew of fennel that will surpass anything cooked in this part of the world. And my master, Professeur Pantalon, has nothing but the greatest respect for his intelligence and his delicate wit. If he is as great a fool as you say he is, he won't know enough to appreciate the food I cook for him and then my master will be dishonored!" Professeur Polichinelle wishes to be nothing but helpful so he gives Arlequin a quantity of raw horseradish to simmer in the stew, saying, "Even a horse in a stable who knows nothing about fancy cooking will appreciate a dish that's full of this." When Arlequin gets back home he knocks on the door and Pantalon answers. Arlequin takes Pantalon for a servant and says, "You, go bring me Professeur Pantalon!" whereupon Pantalon feigns outrage and cries, "If you want Pantalon I will certainly fetch him but go back and knock again," which Arlequin does several times always receiving the same reply. By sunset Arlequin has gained admittance to the house. "I don't know about this business of the horseradish," Pantalon says, "but you're the cook, so do what you think best." While Arlequin is busy in the kitchen stirring his pot Pantalon and Leda are busy offstage throwing catcalls, such as, "Heavens, it's raining through the roof!" or "The cow is loose!" or "Arlequin has a teabag in his pants!" Docteur Bruneto arrives for his dinner in a coach drawn by a mule. * * * Bruneto, desiring to make privacy with the robust Madame Leda, challenges Pantalon with questions aimed at making him run out of the room to search for the answers, but every time Bruneto poses such a question Pantalon replies instead, "About that, no knowledge exists." "What is the tallest tree in Belgium?" "About that, no knowledge exists." "What do you put with gum tragacanth and ginger to cure a hernia?" "About that, no knowledge exists." "What was the name of Attila the Hun's grandmother's sister's goatkeeper?" "No knowledge exists."And so on. Pantalon thoroughly stumps Bruneto until Bruneto asks, "What is the composition of snow?" Now this question strikes Pantalon as a deliciously obscure one, to which an answer indeed exists in a book he keeps locked in a drawer in his chamber, so he runs out to find it and in his absence Bruneto proceeds to pinch Madame Leda's curves and to giggle most obscenely with her. At which point Arlequin dishes out the fennel soup. When they eat it, Bruneto is taken with a fit of gasping and Madame Leda becomes amorous. "I can't find the answer," says Pantalon, returning, "but you will discover, Bruneto, that the air is easier to breathe outside," and with that he ejects the docteur into the street and leaps upon Madame Leda himself. Arlequin now supposes that Pantalon and Leda have been thrown into a transport because of a faulty recipe so he throws some salt into the soup and, breaking in between them as they writhe on the floor beneath the table, whispers, "Taste this!" inserting a spoon into each of their mouths. They only entwine more rigorously so he adds pepper and tries "Taste this!" again, and once again with sugar and once again with honey and once again with bay leaves and once again with cumin until he has gone through all of the spices in the kitchen, bottle by bottle, and the soup now tastes so horrid both Pantalon and Leda have to rush out to water the garden. "It would have been better," mumbles Arlequin, "to eat goose." * * * Scaramouche convinces Mezzetinto to paint a portrait of the Docteur Bruneto. This latter person, having escaped the table, has perched himself on Professeur Pantalon's veranda and is fanning his lips. But Mezzetinto drops his paints down Pantalon's well. Scaramouche bends over to reach for them and Arlequin attempts to tie a bell to the fat man's ass. Mezzetinto, meanwhile, falls asleep, muttering, curiously, "La finicula!" Scaramouche discovers what Arlequin is doing and clubs him with Mezzetinto's flaccid leg. * * * Bruneto proclaims bitterly that Professeur Pantalon has ordered Madame Leda to poison him by causing her servant Arlequin to lay out an inedible stew. Everyone, Pantalon, Leda, Bruneto, Scaramouche, and Mezzetinto starts calling to the servant, "Arlequin, have you made the macaroni?" This becomes a game. No matter what anyone says somebody else interrupts him in a very loud voice, "Arlequin, have you made the macaroni?"Somebody succeeds in tying the bell to Bruneto's ass and he remains ignorant, dingling here and dangling there. Scaramouche has his moustache carefully clipped by the stuttering barber Frapozzi who says he has observed the lunatic Pierrot in the gardens staring. "Staring at what?" says Scaramouche. "At the t-t-t-t--" says Frapozzi, clipping the moustache. "The what ?" "The t-t-t-t------" he clips some more. And the conversation goes on this way, everyone coddling Frapozzi to say what Pierrot is staring at and Frapozzi stuttering and stuttering as he clips, and clipping as he stutters, until finally it comes out, "At the t-t-t-t-tether!" At this Scaramouche is outraged. "What tether! There is no tether in the garden!" But everyone is beside himself laughing at Scaramouche now, because Frapozzi has cut his moustache all away and whispers at this moment into his ear, "And no t-t-t-t-tether in this place, either!" They all fall into rapture, guzzling wine by the bottleful and crying out, "No tether here!" until Scaramouche runs away. * * * Pantalon has, indeed, quite a marvelous garden with rows and rows of flowers, sculpted furzes, hedges lush with purple berries, manicured lawns where chipmunks sit. Here Arlequin and Columbine are reunited in the moonlight, and they whisper delirious syllables into one another's hair. Columbine: "Who is it?" Arlequin: "One who reads the catalogue of his faults by thy light." Columbine: "But your faults are tinier than fleas." Arlequin: "And your kindness in saying so is magnified, even though already it is overwhelming." Columbine: "I love you." Arlequin: "I vanish when I see you because your beauty is the entire world." Columbine: "Oh, do not vanish, for I would gaze at you until the end of time." And so on. Observing them is Pierrot. He is all in white satin, and his face is soft and sad. He walks with white feet on tiptoe upon the moonlit lawns, curling from one bush to another as the lovers, cooing, move along bathed in one another's sight. Pierrot then wanders into the rose garden, counting the number of red roses and the number of yellow ones although it is difficult to tell the difference by moonlight, and finally he contents himself by collapsing at the lovers' feet. "What is this?" says Columbine, lifting him up, "a kind of sweetness!" Pierrot crumples again and Arlequin says, "What is this--a kind of joy!" Pierrot, for his part, is so happy to be with the lovers that he accompanies them, henceforward, everywhere they go like a kind of shadow. Copyright © 1999 Murray Pomerance. All rights reserved.

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