The Pit And The Pendulum



Clarke, "The Pit And The Pendulum" (1919)

This article translates the first three posts of this blog, in which I explained the meaning of the title. At the time I wasn't thinking to a possible translation of the blog, so his meaning works in Italian only. "Il Pozzo E Il Pendolo" is the Italian translation of one of the most famous novels of Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 1849), father of modern fantastic literature. The Pendulum recalls "Foucault's Pendolum" (1988) of Italian (and Piedmontese) writer Umberto Eco, my favourite novel, and one of the most influential esoterical works in the world. The Pit is Italian "Pozzo" is also the last name of great jesuit painter Andrea Pozzo, one of the greatest artists of baroque age, that realized his first masterpiece in my home city, Mondovì: the frescoes of the church of Saint Francis Xavier in 1675. The church is one of the first in which he experimented his influencial anamorphic style, and the altar machine is, misteriously, only an illusionistic theatral scenery, probably the only church in the world. So the meaning of the title is like "Mondovì (Il Pozzo) and Esoterism (Il Pendolo)" but with irony, as a fictional novel ("Il Pozzo e Il Pendolo").

In fact "The Pit And The Pendulum" (1842) is a rare novel in which Poe does not examinate a supernatural horror, but the horrors of Inquisition. The story is set in Toledo, year 1808, one year before the Poe's birth. In this year is also set a famous painting of Goya representing, on the contrary, the horrors of French invaders: it is possible a criptical reference to it. The protagonist is bound in a Pit where the blade of a Pendulum slowly falls on him to cut him in two.

The tale is a masterpiece of psychological horror, but I always found interesting the fact (rarely noted) that the Pendulum is in the hand of a picted Cronos, the ancient evil good of time. A pictorial illusion (Pozzo!) that accentuate the paranoid experience of the protagonist (and the Foucault's Pendulum ends with the protagonist bound to the Pendulum to be tortured and then killed). Moreover, the original Foucault's Pendolum used in the Eco novel is created in 1850, one year after the death of Poe; and (Roberto) Pozzo is the name of the protagonist of the third Eco novel, "L'isola del giorno prima" (1994), that follows "Foucault's Pendulum" (1988): both works talk about a global conspiration centered in the gesuit order and about the secret of the Umbilicus Mundi (in the Pendulum) and of the Punto Fijo (in "L'isola del giorno prima").

Now, the gesuit order had one of its most important centers in Mondovì: the college of the order was founded in 1560s by Roberto Bellarmino, later inquisitor of Galileo Galilei and of the Rosa+Crucis hermetical order, then at the beginning of its career. After the frescos of their most important painter, Andrea Pozzo, jesuit order realized in the inner walls of the college a cycle of scientific sundials for some secret astronomical study (all the city is particolarly full of sundials). So "Il Pozzo" and "Il Pendolo" seem to be deeply linked.

Surprisingly for Poe, his tale has an happy ending: but after all, noone could excape the slow descent of the Blade of Time.

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