Excerpt from the novel Bar Flaubert

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Twenty-six rosebushes   The Lancia Ypsilon with Caterina at the wheel crossed a landscape on which rolling hills stood out like arpeggios on a musical stave. I could see all possible hues of green; light green, almond-green, olive-green, turqu...

Twenty-six rosebushes

 

The Lancia Ypsilon with Caterina at the wheel crossed a landscape on which rolling hills stood out like arpeggios on a musical stave. I could see all possible hues of green; light green, almond-green, olive-green, turquoise, emerald-green, not to mention the silver green of the olive trees and the deep green of the cypresses, that like grassy poles created a natural windshield around the isolated villas clinging to the hillsides. The Tuscan sky was wrapped in an aggressive blue and an explosive sun hurled its golden darts in all directions.

            I observed this landscape as I did all the beautiful things in my life; from a distance. The gaze, when it sees beauty, acquires an authority all its own, the eye imposes itself on the face, dominates it. You begin by looking at a vine radiating a brilliant green, then you stare at a stone-built house at the top of a hill and a ray of light slips into the retina gently triggering the muscles, that move slightly, just enough so that the inside of the vehicle carrying you is also included in your visual field. And from there, your peripheral vision grasps a fleeting sense of naked flesh, a white hand as it moves back and forth changing gears, and while you turn your neck in order to include the blond of the blowing hair, the slight breeze obliges you to turn even more, you are now between two temptations, the natural beauty of the countryside on the one hand and on the other her still unformed image, gradually revealed to you by your eye’s iris, which longingly races to the left corner of your socket. The vine becomes Caterina’s face, the radiant green a red dress outlined by a blond frame. And then it suddenly strikes you what it is that fascinates you so much about that face. It is the extension of the landscape’s breath, the reflection of the interminable in its existence. But isn’t this what beauty is in a person? When the ineffable secretes tiny explanatory droplets.

            Caterina’s country cottage was twenty miles outside Siena. On arriving at Poggibonsi and having San Gimignano on our right, we turned left, leaving the main road and following a narrow road leading to a hill, three or four miles away.

            ‘Now we’re in the heart of the Chianti region. Can you see that vegetation up on the hill?’ said Caterina. ‘That’s where the house is.’

            The road passed through an expanse that was full of vines. All around there was nothing but a few scattered cypresses and a few cows grazing at the foot of the hill. The only sound to be heard was Mahler’s First coming from the cassette player. I reflected that somewhere along this route was the scene of the gunfight with Esnaider. The main road was quite busy; no one would have risked an ambush there.

            Two cars in chase on the road we were driving along. In front, Matthaiou, Magdalena and their friend, behind Esnaider and his thugs. The acceleration, the braking, the cornering… Then the shots, the blood… Matthaiou returning home, hastily packing, notifying the grandmother to look after the girl and then disappearing with Magdalena. Leaving… But to go where?

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