Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Paese d'ottobre

I just bought the cheapest and oldest copy of Ray Bradbury's October Country that I could find online.

That seemed the perfect edition of a book of short stories that opens with a description of "...that country where it is always turning late in the year. That country where the hills are fog and the rivers are mist; where noons go quickly, dusks and twilights linger, and midnights stay. That country composed in the main of cellars, sub-cellars, coal-bins, closets, attics, and pantries faced away from the sun. That country whose people are autumn people, thinking only autumn thoughts. Whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain."

Reading Bradbury for the first time in high school, I recall feeling that this book touched a truer chord than the beloved but predictable Halloween displays in libraries and childhood classrooms. With its light, its temperatures, its dying leaves, October did have a message. The message was neither obvious nor, I suspected, always comfortable, but it was worth my attention. In fact, it was only attention that could do justice to what Keats had called the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness."

Tackling texts written in a foreign language, I found that I experienced another call to attention. An ode by Horace before me, I could feel summoned to meaning during Latin classes rather than confronted by it in any easy way. While household words could reveal household truths, other truths beckoned behind the words that no one I lived with had ever spoken to me or read aloud to me.

I wanted life's mysteries. And an intellectual adventure or two.

Today I came across an unexpected Google reference to Paese d'ottobre. The mention of Ray Bradbury made me realize that I had come across someone writing in Italian about a book that I had first read and loved decades earlier. What would someone be saying about October Country if he had read it in a language different from Bradbury's and mine? Trusting a rudimentary familiarity with Italian, I went to the website and began to read with fascination:

...in ottobre la luce del sole declina facendo sfumare gli oggetti quotidiani tra le ombre ed è allora che, dietro le apparenze più comuni, ci è dato di vedere il fatto straordinario che spalanca la possibilità di realtà misteriose e di mondi diversi, nascosti dietro la facciata sonnacchiosa della provincia americana.

Yes, la possibilità di realtà misteriose. I want it still, I realize. Yes, on those rainy days of October.

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