Everyone wants to go to paradise, but ... in Giose Rimanelli's Peccato originale.
It was the sociopolitical actualities that catapulted the narrative in Rimanelli's first novel and it is the cultural and financial abyss of the country's Civil War and its aftermath that propel Peccato originale. This second novel of Rimanelli shows, in an almost photographic-like way, that man's actual sin, his "original sin," is not pride--as shown in the Bible--but poverty, with all its brutality, dreadfulness, and unspeakable features.
Michael Ricciardelli explains that the realistic components evident in Peccato originate provoked some critics to protest the barbaric and improbable universe. Ricciardelli points out that this type of society is. in fact, accurate. Moreover, he adds that Rimanelli avoids all types of sentimentality, ideology, and stereotypical characterizations (Ricciardelli, 1966: 388). Peccato originale presents a narrative that highlights a universal problem within Southern Italy that is, ultimately, characterized as "il problema del sud," a theme that is touched on lightly in Tiro al piccione but that will reverberate more clearly and abundantly in several of the writer's novels, such as his unpublished narrative La terra dei padri (a text that actually predates Tiro al piccione and could be seen as a first draft of that novel) and Familia: Memoria dell'emigrazione (Rimanelli. 2000).
The problema del sud, a sociopolitical philosophy, initiates its path through Italian literature with the works of Giovanni Verga. According to Robert Dombrowski (1999: 469), the power of Verga's work was not completely accepted until after the Second World War. Verga's opus had a strong and pronounced influence on the creative movements that came out of the financial and ethical destruction of the Italian Civil War: the artistic movements of Neorealism, a cultural effort within which Rimanelli's first two novels, Tiro al piccione and Peccato originate have been classified. As is the case with Verga, Rimanelli's Peccato originate is politically committed to showing the squalor and destitution of the working class individual in the postwar period by reproducing the archaic customs, superstitions, and language of his native Molise.
The story of Peccato originate seems to be a simple one in which the protagonist of the novel, Nicola Vietri, wants to take his family to emigrate to America, seeking the dream of a better life. There, he believes, the family will prosper and progress economically and socially. Throughout the three-month period of the novel, the reader sees clearly the reasons for immigration: poverty, hunger, abuse, and violence. Unfortunately, a series of events threatens to postpone the family's voyage: the oldest daughter, Michela is brutally attacked; the financial burden of the transatlantic journey is significantly more than anticipated: and, finally, Nicola is killed. Notwithstanding this tragedy, the family decides to continue with the aspiration of their father and leaves Cale for their odyssey to America.
From a stylistic perspective, the narrative is written in the third person singular, distinguishing itself from Rimanelli's first novel which was written in the first person singular. However, the appearance of his native Molise and the suggested abbreviated form of the name Casacalenda (Cale), as well as the appearance of his father and himself within the text, may lead the reader to erroneously believe that, as in Tiro al piccione, these components are actually the author's own fictionalized story. Simultaneously, there are additional parallels between the author and the characters in the novel: an elderly couple, Seppe and Seppa Melfi, echo the author's own family saga. His paternal grandparents were Seppe and Seppa, and her maiden name was Melfi, a typical surname of Casacalenda. Additionally, both Seppes, the fictional and the non-fictional, made seven voyages to America in order to earn enough money to support the family; they were known as "birds of passage," temporary migrants who came to America with no intention of staying.
Added to the possible confusion, the author has stated that all his works are autobiographical in nature, yet neither Tiro al piccione nor Peccato originale are Rimanelli's own personal story. Rimanelli does not have sisters; his father did not die before the departure for America, leaving the family to make the journey without him, and in fact lived a long and happy life. None of the protagonist's family has the same names as the author's, and the mother in the novel was born in Cale whereas Rimanelli's was born in Montreal, Canada. The autobiographical components in Rimanelli's opus are, as Giovanni Cecchetti has pointed out, the author's way to "riscoprire, di ridefinire, se stesso, che e anche la base del suo continuo sperimentalismo" (Cecchetti, 2000: 121).
In order for the writer to show that man's original sin is, actually, that of poverty--and not of pride, as in the Bible--the author must create an earthly paradise within the boundaries of Cale. To do so, Rimanelli refashions a sacrosanct area within the region of Molise by identifying it as the Cavaliere's grove. The portrayal of this zone parallels, according to Mircea Eliade's theory of sacred space, an area that is all powerful in its design and, simultaneously, forbidden to all (Eliade, 1959: 12). The existence of this dual yet separate atmosphere within the narrative becomes clear from the start, with an imposed boundary between the two areas prohibiting the entry of anyone into the hallowed space:
Nascosto tra i cespugli, ai limiti del sentiero, Nicola guardava la casa rossa tra i pini. Ai suoi piedi la palizzata di spini copriva un salto di quasi tre metri, e come un nero macchione si stendeva a serpentina fin sul versante a nord dove corre la strada. (Rimanelli, 1954: 3)
At the novel's inception, Nicola, wanting to feed his family but without job or money, attempts to steal fruit and vegetables from the richly developed orchard of the Cavaliere, an Eden-like land within the harsh and hostile environment of Molise. The severity of this regional expanse illustrates the primordial universe in which the people of Cale live; progress has still to enter the region. It is a geographical sector of land that has yet to move into the modern age and relies on primeval behaviors for employment.
The ancient beliefs in the Church prohibit many people in the South from moving forward socioeconomically. According to Ernesto De Martino, in antiquity the clergy accepted the use of some pagan rituals as a means of reinforcing Christian religious themes in the minds of the people, and these rites are still performed in many areas today (De Martino, 2004: 119). Consequently, perhaps imperceptibly, the Church allows the populace to be both poor and hungry so as to bolster the religious and financial politics of their congregation.
In Peccato originale, the area of Cale is one that still holds fast to medieval traditions and myths that preclude the inhabitants from entering into the present. During the festival of St Francis, the women of Cale would put an egg white out on a windowsill in the hopes of getting a husband. Now in the postwar period, the same people are starving, and many, although deprived of alimentary sustenance, prefer to keep old superstitions alive and use egg whites for this primordial tradition. The myth appears to be greater than their physical hunger and keeps them culturally chained to the past, preventing them from moving into the present reality. De Martino further explains the use of magic and primordial beliefs in Southern Italy, stating that the primeval traditions are based on a negative: the instability of decent food; the uncertainty of a better future; the extreme harshness of work in an agricultural society; and the limited times in which the people are able to face, realistically, the critical moments of their existence (De Martino, 2004: 89). All of these negative ingredients exist in Rimanelli's tale and indicate, for Nicola Vietri and many others, a motivation for their wanting to immigrate, to leave behind the archaic ways that shackled them to a horrific present and allow them to move freely to a possibly brighter tomorrow.
The local priest, furthermore, following the tradition of St Francis of Assisi, seeks alms for the restoration of the various saint statues worn away by time and the elements. In a sardonic and contrary manner to St Francis, rather than ask the wealthy for contributions, he is petitioning the poor. The people of Cale, as a result of the war years, are even more poverty-stricken than before. They do not have money to assist the Church, and the priest, who gets financial assistance from the Bishop, complains about his flock's lack of donations. Don Federico fails to understand that, although many would like to contribute, the Church is economically strangling the poor by demanding monetary provisions from those who do not have the means to support themselves.
To prevent man from re-entering this now prohibited paradise, God placed the cherubim with flaming swords as protector. In a similar yet satirical way, the Cavaliere, rather than the Almighty, places an armed sentinel on his property to prevent the peasants from crossing into his land. Nicola, fearing that, if caught, his punishment for traversing the boundary into the protected land of the Cavaliere will prevent his journey to America, thereby denying him access to a new earthly paradise, is eventually encountered by Ramorra. Yet, whereas the cherubim did not allow anyone to re-enter Eden, Ramorra, the sentry of this modern-day garden, makes distinctions about who may and may not infiltrate this secured area. The border, moreover, has within it a path described as "serpentine", reminding the reader and re-imaging the story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Ramorra means to entice Nicola, much like the odious reptile in the original biblical tale, by allowing him to depart the inaccessible land of the Cavaliere without any form of penalization. Similar to the shrewd serpent, Ramorra's intentions are self-serving. Ramorra is not malevolent, authoritative, or diabolical, but just as crafty as the serpent. His ploy is to marry Nicola's daughter, Michela.
Rimanelli appears to play a linguistic name game with the reader by juxtaposing the letters of the Italian word ramarro (lizard) with those of Ramorra. Although God questions Adam and Eve as to the reason for their disobedience, he never directly speaks to the serpent; he condemns him immediately. The snake represents "humanity's eternal enemy, always playing on people's weakness in the face of temptation" (Kugel, 1997: 75). Ramorra knows that Nicola and his family will be departing soon for America, but is also aware that they need to eat in order to survive. By allowing Nicola to take the fruit and vegetables home and not having him imprisoned for trespassing, he is testing Nicola's resolve for the future journey: his daughter or the necessary food to endure the present hard economic realities. Nicola opts to protect his daughter.
The viper in Genesis is sentenced to crawl on its stomach and eat dirt for the rest of its life, and a similar penalty looms for Ramorra. Having declared his feelings for Michela to her father and being rejected by him as a suitor and mate, he is involved in a brutal action against her. Although he, ultimately, protects her from an unspeakable violence, a defensive action that the villagers refuse to hear, he is, once found, castigated brutally by the women -thrown to the ground and horrifically castrated. His penalty is congruent to that of the Scriptures and of the original ophidian: to slither along the ground.
The Cavaliere's plush and fruitful garden, evocative of Eden, is within the territory of Cale but isolated from the impoverished residents who could benefit socioeconomically from its crop. In so insulating the classes, the social separation re-enforces the existing geopolitics of Southern Italy with its disparity between rich and poor--a type of caste system in which movement is nearly impossible between social groups.
To highlight the difficulty of the transition between the classes, the author presents a secondary character who functions as the bridge between the two: the lawyer, Carlo Lepore. Lepore started life in the peasant class but, with an eye toward moving socially upwards, he studied law in Naples, sacrificing much to get his degree. Now with his career beginning to take shape, he is neither integrated into the working class or the upper. The peasants identify him with the nobility, and the nobility look upon him with curiosity. The sluggishness of the sociocultural advancement between the classes appears, delicately, when the lawyer must go to court. In order to present himself at the courtroom to defend his clients, he must make the trip by horseback, a peasant means of transportation, as he cannot afford to own either a carriage or a car, possessions that belong to the wealthy. Moreover, he often takes on cases with no payment that allow him to move ahead politically and socially, thereby pushing aside the old guard by crossing the barriers of their closed class. He is, as Primiano Vincelli states, "un Cirano," carving out a path, like the master swordsman and orator of the literary novel by Edmond Rostand, that takes him from one social category to another, and he uses his speechmaking skills to help the two defendants in the Michela Vietri attack case.
The physical presence of the upper classes within Peccato originale is hardly felt or actually witnessed. There is no interaction between the groups; each is noticeably distinct from the other. It is, furthermore, always seen through the barriers that separate them from each other: the land, with their fences and guard; and even the windows of their homes through which the poor see the wealthy gathering for evening festivities. Yet, there is one person who blatantly takes advantage of the poor by deceiving them, using their dreams of a better life in America to improve his own in Cale--Primiano Vincelli. Vincelli, who during the prewar period came to Cale as a teacher and later rented farming equipment to the poor and loaned them money for seed, all with enormous fees, now during the postwar years is the Immigration Officer, deciding the fate of those who want to leave. Although his function is to assist the emigrant on the journey out of Italy, those who do not have the necessary funds for the voyage need to turn to him for financial assistance. His levies are exorbitant, thereby allowing him to become wealthy at the expense of the downtrodden. For Vincelli, America is not across the sea, but, "... l'America la faccio qui." He has taken fiscal advantage of the underprivileged and, in so doing, increased exponentially his own economic status, though never gaining any social prominence within the wealthy class.
Moreover, the function of this immigration officer, to determine the fate of the upcoming traveler out of Italy, is reminiscent of the notorious Caronte, the ferryman in Dante's Inferno. As Caronte decides the fate of those who will be able to cross the river Acheronte, Vincelli does similarly; his function is to determine who will get to go to America and who must stay behind.
The subtle presence of Dante is not unusual in the work of Rimanelli. In fact it appears in all his work, starting with Tiro al piccione and continuing through to his last narrative, Il viaggio (Rimanelli, 2002; see Postman, 2000). By relying on the medieval tradition of the voyage as a means to knowledge and self-awareness, the author himself will function as the guide, a Cicerone, to the reader so as to indicate the horrors and dread of poverty and, at the same time, the aftermath of the country's Civil War in the Southern hemisphere of the peninsula.
The Civil War in Italy had exacerbated the historical divisions between the North and the South. The North, for 18 months, was under German rule. The South, on the other hand, was effectively removed from the war with the arrival of the Allies and the retreat of the Germans. For the most part, the Southerners were geographically excluded from the experience of the Resistance and the liberation of the Repubblica sociale italiana (RSI) in the North. The social and administrative structures in the South that were inherited from the Fascists still remained in effect. In Rimanelli's Tiro al piccione, the author shows that even after the war had finally concluded, there were people in his hometown still hoping for a resurgence of a Duce who would allow the few to have political, cultural, and social power over the masses. There was, at the same time, a total failure of agrarian changes in the South, and the most effective manner to handle this situation, from the view of the southern peasant, was emigration (Judt, 2005: 257).
The myth of America was present in Italy's psyche for more than a hundred years. It was spread among the poor and uneducated through the letters of the emigrant. The more ignorant and uninformed the peasant, the more the folklore of America became the equivalent of earthly paradise (Heiney, 1964: 9). In this narrative by Rimanelli, it is quite clear that the belief of Southerners, specifically those from Cale, is that America is the earthly paradise that they crave and that their heaven is Montreal; "... e sognare le foreste canadesi, Montreal, le terre favolose di quel paese [...]" The wretched Southern Italian no longer turns to Rome for help, but looks to America for salvation.
The concept runs parallel with Mircea Eliade's notion of allegory in primitive societies; the need to reproduce a legendary, mythic past when faced with a horrific present. According to Eliade, myth relates a sacred history, a primordial event that took place at the beginning of time, ab initio. The parable, therefore, is the history of what took place in illo tempore, the etude of what the gods or semi-divine beings did at the inception of time (Eliade, 1959: 95).
In the immediate post-Civil War period, the peasant in Peccato originale is shown to be the descendant of Cain, condemned to work the soil without ever producing anything. The lack of economic and social growth, the problema del sud, the 20-plus years of Fascist rule, and the peninsula's Civil War all lead to the mass migration of farmers in the postwar era. Although only brief references to Italy's Civil War are present within this novel (the lean economic years of the postwar period, war widows, and the death of a woman by a stray German bullet), like all civil wars, according to Rene Girard, it is a hallowed endeavor. Civil War is the physical appearance of unrestrained aggression between brothers. It is an activity that takes the reader back in illo tempore. Girard states, "violence is the heart and soul of the sacred" (Girard, 1989: 31). Accordingly, killing, without a scapegoat, is the definitive inviolable human action because it is the re-creation of the Cain and Abel story. The sanctity lies in that the sacrificial fatality is forgotten, and replaced by a proxy victim (Girard, 1989: 5).
Rimanelli shows that the universe of the laborer, a world in which there is no food, money, or livelihood, is the territory in which God destined man after his expulsion from paradise; it is the land East of Eden. The peasant is, according to Rimanelli's narrative, a descendent of Cain, and the story of Cain killing his brother is a continuation of Adam and Eve's betrayal of God. Now, it is Cain who is the betrayer. When Cain violated the Almighty's endowed sanctity of human life by killing his brother, his punishment was to work the land without any fruition and to wander the earth for the rest of his life. In a similar manner, although the peasants of Southern Italy are innocent of crimes against their fellow man and have not violated any sacred laws, their sin is total impoverishment. Their punishment, like that of Cain, is to work the land without producing anything.
The story of brother versus brother comes to the forefront within Peccato originale, and it appears that another type of civil unrest is imminent, but this time, instead of the entire country, it will be within the region of Molise. In his first novel. Tiro a! piccione, Rimanelli exemplifies the repulsions and terror of the Civil War. The author's personal story and involvement in the nation's hostilities are not limited to Tiro al piccione; it is a tragic saga that reverberates in many of his narratives. Here too, in Peccato originale, the idea of a local civil conflict seems to loom over the district as the regional government wants to encroach on the land of Le Piane. In an attempt to bring water to the drought-ridden region of Molise, the jurisdictional authorities have decided to build an aqueduct. It is necessary for it to pass through the land of Le Piane, although it will have no effect on the land. The Le Piane residents' verbal reactions to this are, apparently, nonexistent. Their actions, however, are not: Nicola Vietri is killed as he crosses the existing barrier between Cale and Le Piane. The inhabitants of Le Piane refuse to allow anyone to enter their Eden and protect it vigorously with guns and rifles, like the guardian angels with their blazing swords. Rather than share the wealth of the land, the dwellers of this harvest-bearing land would prefer to kill than allow anyone to trespass and usurp their dividends. Paradoxically, although this small town appears to be a heavenly paradise within the region of Molise, the land proves to be more of a Hades on Earth in which the actual dwellers of the area believe that the slaying of a legitimate intruder is an acceptable way of existence.
The innocent and unprovoked murder of Nicola, furthermore, reminds the reader of the first ring of the ninth circle in Dante's Inferno, a section designated for those people who betray their kin, and therefore, by definition, civil war. If, as suggested, a civil hostility is about to commence in Molise over the construction of an aqueduct that would bring water to the entire region, then the area known as Le Piane would serve as a reminder of the land of Caina and the hell in which these southern Italians are living because of the absence of water in the region.
The difficulty of the immigrant experience and the inability of the new settler to penetrate the existing socioeconomic barriers of the new land are also presented in this episode, and may serve as a means of foreshadowing the future for the coming immigrant experience. The land of Le Piane appears to be an Eden-like place within the drought-ridden borders of Molise. During the war years, where many in the area suffered severely due to lack of employment, Le Piane managed to advance financially. This geographic zone belongs to a single, clan-like group that originated with the peasants from Bonefro and Ripabottoni, small towns within Molise. These residents entered the area, as a class of immigrant, after the expulsion of the Jesuits in the 18th century. At the time they entered Le Piane, they were primarily known as Brigands and were not particular in who they would attack, including the wife of Ferdinand IV of Naples. Curiously, their arrival in this abandoned territory was at the same time that immigration started, en masse, within America, although Italian immigration came later in the century. The people of Le Piane worked the land, constructed homes, dug wells for irrigation, prospered economically, and bequeathed their acreage and possessions only to family members, thereby keeping everything within the clan and creating a different social class to the rest of the region. They never allowed anyone to enter their domain, and guarded it forcibly. It is an area that is completely alien to the residents of Cale. The people of Le Piane behaved much like the early groups of settlers in the New World who would ultimately make their fortune off the poor by not accepting the new migrants into their reality, fearful that they would take something away from them. The class distinction between the old and the new emigres was growing exponentially with the affluent becoming wealthier and the poor more oppressed and defeated. The caste system that the immigrants were so anxious to escape was ever present in their new home and would take a few generations to break.
The idea of America as being the earthly paradise is strongly contradicted, within Peccato originale, by a correspondence that one of the characters, Scocchera, receives from Vincenzo Rimanelli, the actual father of the author of the novel. According to the elder Rimanelli, America is not the land of "milk and honey" and nor are the streets "paved with gold." It is a land of hard work and high expenses, where business is the only thing that concerns people. Money, he suggests, is the barrier between the good life and that of the immigrant. The dream of America is not the same as its reality. Vincenzo Rimanelli indicates that the universe outside of Italy's Mezzogiorno region, with all its social, economic, cultural, and political obstacles, is not as easy to navigate as anticipated for those who are waiting to depart and venture into a new, unknown cosmos. As Virgil was the guide to Dante on his journey through Inferno, this little letter from the persona Rimanelli functions as a Virgilian map to a new political and cultural landscape and existence: the labyrinthine world of American socioeconomics, a macrocosm to which the Southern Italian immigrant is not accustomed.
Although Nicola Vietri has read the letter, it has not changed his resolve to go to America, the current Promised Land. For him, the New World offers multiple possibilities that are not available in Cale and, above all, not available to him as part of the peasant class--such as indoor plumbing, automobiles, and physicians to cure his daughters' emotional and physical problems. Furthermore, so as not to delay departure, he refuses to take any action, legal or personal, against the brutal perpetrators who violently attacked his daughter. Nothing will, according to him, deter his journey to a brighter future.
The negativity of Vincenzo Rimanelli's letter toward the immigrant lifestyle, moreover, may be the author's way of explaining why he chose to remain in Italy when the rest of his family opted to go to America. In the final chapter of his third book, Biglietto di terza, Rimanelli (1958) explains that Canada is a place that opens its arms to the immigrant, even though the work is arduous, if that new settler is willing to break all ties with their past and accept the new boundless reality. The author, at this juncture of his life, was not yet ready to abandon his connection with Europe.
The journey to America is the hope of finding a new Promised Land in an existing reality, yet the new settlers encounter many obstacles in adjusting to their new environment. They prefer to live in small, enclosed areas with others from their home town or region who share their language, religion, and culture, thereby separating themselves from the masses. This self-imposed segregation makes social acclimation to the different ambience difficult, and prevents them from advancing socioeconomically due to failure to break from the chains of the past. They have not accepted the New World, but clung to the Old.
In Familia, Rimanelli (2000) states that in Biglietto di terza, which analyzes the immigrant journey from Europe to Canada, he specifically wanted to recreate the passage of his parents to Canada and that of his female characters in Peccato originale. In Biglietto di terza (Rimanelli, 1958: 28) he describes the transatlantic crossing as being similar to that of the Jews escaping Egypt on their path to the Promised Land: "Siamo nella terra promessa. Abbiamo attraversato il Mar Rosso e ci aspettano, ora, grappoli d'uva dolce grandi come grattacieli." The traversing of the Red Sea by the Jews, although freed from the bondage of Egypt and promised the land of the Canaanites, proved to be more difficult and arduous than expected. As punishment for abandoning their faith in God, the Jews were forced to roam the desert for 40 years, establishing yet another trek that would last for generations. Only their progeny, the third and fourth generations, would be permitted to enter the promised heaven. And if, as Rimanelli states, the emigrant experience is like that of the Jews crossing the Red Sea, then the sociocultural and political portal into economic prosperity in the new Promised Land, America, will be delayed for these recently arrived exiles. Like the original Israelites, these immigrants will be denied access into the financial paradise that they desperately seek. Economic freedom does not come immediately and, as Vincenzo Rimanelli stated in his correspondence, it is a land in which the migrant works strenuously nothing is given to him freely; he earns everything he gets. The success of the immigrants' hopes will only become apparent for their future generations--those born in the new land without the awful memory of the restricted and limited past--and not for those who made the trip.
If we accept that the ocean voyage of the immigrant is like that of the Jew escaping Egypt, as Rimanelli indicates, then it would, by extension, mean that Peccato originale is the story of the infernal years of economic enslavement of one group over another, making visible the reasons for which breaking away from the social and economic repression is necessary. It would clarify the verses of poetry that the author puts at the beginning of the text, a quotation that summarizes the dreadful existence of the poor southern Italian in the peninsula and, simultaneously, echoes the story of the Exodus:
Questa gente del Sud e segnata dal peccato originale, una maledizione di Satanasso. Onde la poverta le invasioni i borboni i gesuiti il colera e tutti i mali che affliggono lo spirito e la carne. Poi mi domandate: perche se ne vanno? Non stanno bene qua? No, io dico. E nessun Governo, a differenza di Cristo, riuscira a riscattarli. (Rimanelli, 1954: 7)
The peasants of Southern Italy are those condemned to work the land, reap nothing, and be victimized by a primordial, sociocultural bureaucracy. They are, as indicated throughout this novel, the descendants of Cain.
Toward the end of the narration, the three women of the Vietri family board a wagon that will initiate their voyage to America. They do not want to make the journey, as it was the dream of Nicola--their father, husband, and guide to a new life. But they have no choice; they no longer have any land or possessions in Cale since everything has been sold (prior to Nicola's death) to enable them to travel to the earthly paradise of America. Now the Vietri women are making the journey into the unknown, into the darkness, to a world in which they know nothing and where they are not sure if they can survive. Nicola was their light, their signpost directing them on their odyssey out of the socioeconomic hell of Southern Italy into the financial paradise of America, and now without him, although the pathway is obscured, the trek must still be made. As they finally leave Cale behind and approach the station (in a wagon driven by their friend) for the next part of their voyage, three lights appear in the distance like stars in the night sky, offering each of them a pathway for a brighter tomorrow. At the same time, this passage may remind the reader of the last few verses of Inferno in which Dante, about to begin a new stage of his journey, sees the stars above illuminating his new pathway. Dante has finally come out of Hades. Hell is behind him; purgatory and paradise are still ahead of him. In a similar manner, the infernal socioeconomic situation of the Vietri family is now behind them. They have nothing left in Cale; no home, land, or possessions. They are going to America to start anew; that is their hope. They are, like Dante, on another uphill road that will take them on a personal journey, into a new culture, a new world. Although they do not necessarily want to go to America, they know that that is where they will have a brighter future and, like the Florentine, they must look up and see all the endless possibilities.
The number three, so important to the medieval tradition and to the work of Dante, is also significant within Rimanelli's novel. Structurally, the narrative is divided into three parts, each representing a different date during a three-month period. Moreover, this three-month period takes place during the third season of the year: autumn, the time in which the leaves fall from the trees, and an image that echoes the poet's description of the poor souls trying to cross the Acheronte. Moreover, the writer presents three different types of earthly paradise: the orchard of the Cavaliere; the land of Le Piane; and America, the land to which the Vietri family, and emigrants as a whole, wishes to go. Additionally, within the Vietri family, there are three females: the mother, Ada, and her two daughters, Sira and Michela. Each of these females could, in some way, delay the departure and the entry into Canada. Ada does not want to leave Cale but would prefer to remain in Molise. Sira is handicapped and, as such, could prevent the family from entering into the New World. Michela is a victim of a brutal attack that could force the father to seek revenge. Rather than jeopardize the family's departure and entry into the new paradise, the father does not do anything, thereby breaking away from ancient traditions to seek revenge. There are, simultaneously, three types of migrants represented in the novel: the first, those who are waiting to make the journey (the Vietri family); the second, those who are already in Canada (Vincenzo Rimanelli); and the third, the "birds of passage", the migrants who only go for the season to work and earn money and return to their native land when the work is done (Seppe Melfi).
For Rimanelli, the journey of the Vietri family to America, as well as that of the other Italian immigrants who have made the trek, is a result of a failed political system in Italy that is inadequate to deal with the problema del sud and, effectively, does nothing to assist the Southern Italian out of their medieval sociopolitical and cultural existence. The people of Cale's reliance on primordial superstitions to exist in the 20th century, the government's noninvolvement in preventing civil unrest, and the wealthy classes' ongoing discrimination against the poor all prohibit the cultural and economic advancement of this small southern town and contribute to the reasons for mass migration in the post-Civil War years.
In his first novel, Tiro al piccione, Giose Rimanelli tells the story of a young boy who fights on the wrong side of the conflict. It is an Orphic journey that the young protagonist endures as he grows into adulthood and witnesses all the horrors of the country's Civil War, a national hostility that lasted 18 frightening months. Peccato originale, the author's second novel, takes the reader into the post-Civil War period and shows, as in Tiro al piccione, the Orphic journey of the imminent and anxious immigrant by depicting the horrors of the socioeconomic crisis happening in the nation that is strangling the life out of the peasants and enslaving them to a future devoid of hope. The only route, according to Rimanelli's tale, to any type of financial and political salvation for the suffering Southern peasant is to leave behind a world that does not permit any socioeconomic advancement, and journey to one that is totally foreign to them- America. This new land is a universe that carries with it the promise for a brighter future. To do this, the traveler must abandon everything in the old world and accept everything in the new. Rimanelli's Peccato originale, therefore, becomes the story of the road that will lead to economic, social, and geopolitical freedom not the arrival, but the path that must be taken to get out of the shackles of poverty.
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
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Sheryl Lynn Postman
University of Massachusetts Lowell, USA
Sheryl Lynn Postman, Department of World Languages and Cultures, Coburn Hall I 13 C, University of Massachusetts Lowell. Lowell. MA 01854, USA.
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|Author:||Postman, Sheryl Lynn|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2016|
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