The Silent Duchess Gives Birth

It’s her third child, and her third girl. Since the Duchess has been continuously pregnant since marriage to her uncle (at 13), she must be 16.

pp. 36 – 37:

Now the midwife used her long sharp nail to cut a small membrane that still held the new infant’s tongue, so as to ensure that she wouldn’t stammer when she grew up; then, in accordance with tradition, a finger dripped in honey was thrust into the crying baby’s mouth to comfort her.

The last thing that Marianna saw before sinking into sleep were the calloused hands of the midwife holding the afterbirth towards the window to demonstrate that it was whole and that she had not torn it or left any fragments inside the mother’s belly.

The Silent Duchess, by Dacia Maraini, translated from the Italian by Dick Kitto and Elspeth Spottiswood

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The Silent Duchess, pp. 28 – 29

Self better hurry up, her mind just can’t seem to focus on anything, which makes this novel very slow going.

It feels like she just met the Duchess (who is deaf and dumb), and now here she is, being married off on p. 28. She is 13.

The Duchess learns of her fate from her mother, who writes her a note (full of mis-spellings, the education of women was pretty bad in those days).

The mother’s note:

Your father did everything to make you talk. He even took you with him to the Vicaria where the frite mite have helped you

(Here self must interject: the “frite” she refers to happened when the Duchess was five. Her father had taken her to Palermo to watch a public hanging. The victim was a boy who, it was said, had killed a dozen people. But to the Duchess, he wasn’t a murderer, he was just a boy)

The mother’s note continues:

You never uttered a word because your head is a sieve, you don’t have the will. Your sister Fiammetta is betrothed to Christ, Agata is promised to the son of Prince Torre Mosca, and you – your duty is to axcept the bridegroom we have found for you because we love you. We don’t want you wedded outside the family so we are giving you to your unkle Pietro Ucria di Campo Spagnolo, Lord of Scannatura, of Bosco Grande and of Fiume Mendola, Count of Sala di Paruta, Marquis of Sollazzi and of Taya. On top of all that he is my brother and your father’s cousin. And he loves you. Only with him will your soul find sanktury.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.


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