Monthly Archives: December 2013

Orlando Mezzabotta Comments on Italian Fascism on page 286 of Finnegans Wake



orlando mezzabotta


I would like to point out a couple of allusions which may have

escaped previous interpretations. The passage is:

286.19: Problem ye ferst, construct ann aquilittoral

286.20: dryankle Probe loom! With his primal hand-

286.21: stoe in his sole salivarium. Concoct an equo-

286.22: angular trillitter. [1] On the name of the tizzer

286.23: and off the tongs and off the mythametical

286.24: tripods. Beatsoon.

But, before plunging into it, I’d like to call the attention to the

“HEPTAGRAMMATON” of the right marginal note, pointing

to “P.t.l.o.a.t.o.” (286.3) The most obvious explanation is the one

given by McHugh as “plates to lick one and turn over” (286.18).

But I detect two more allusions: the philosopher “Plato” and Italian

“Pilato” (Pilatus). And I think that this points to the fact that the

previous speech was made by Shem, who expressed his negative

position towards mathematics and algebra, leading only to chaos

(aosch) and ashes (286.2). Now it should be Shaun’s turn to turn a

new page, but it seems that the “idealistic philosopher” (Plato) is

not likely to do it, to waste his time on such menial affairs


stay clean, wash his hands “that count” (Pilatus like),


and prepare himself for the “Platonic” interpretation of ALP, the

female principle. And probably not giving much weight to Thomas

Aquinas who said:

“what is primary in our knowledge is the things of which we first

form concepts. Mathematical entities are idealizations made by

way of abstraction from our knowledge of sensible things. It is

knowledge of sensible things which is primary and thus prior to

the “order of learning” the philosophical sciences.”

[McInerny, Ralph and O’Callaghan, John, “Saint Thomas Aquinas”,

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2013 Edition),

Edward N. Zalta (ed.), forthcoming URL =


So it’s Shem who continues the lesson (286.4-18) and invites his

brother to dismiss the cardinal “packnumbers” he was so fond of,

having first given the due attention to “Paco Hunter” of the

corresponding left margin note: “Vive Paco Hunter!”, in which we

find the already mentioned initials (VPH) of the luxurious Victoria

Palace Hotel, in Paris, where Joyce now and then used to live. But

since our Paco is in correspondence with

286.11 hucksler, Wellington’s Iron Bridge,

we are entitled to interpret “hucksler” as a whore (hustler), selling

her “wares/wears” in the street like a “huckster”, and “Wellington’s

Iron Bridge” recalls both Wellington (the Iron Duke) and the bridge

that leads to Bachelor’s Walk. Now, in our case, “bachelor” has at

least a double meaning. It may be a “chaste” young man; or an old

unmarried womanizer walking after whores, in Paris. Let’s get back

to Paco, a common Spanish name that derives from Latin “PAter

COmmunitatis” (the Father of the community). We are entitled to

see in him a Spanish Father who is a Hunter (very likely of girls),

like the Spanish Don Juan; but probably a hunter of heretics (the

rebellious sons) and of witches as well, like a Spanish Inquisitor.

(There is indeed an ironic touch. Paco is connected with Franciscan

friars, since it is the nickname of St. Francis. But inquisitors were

Dominicans, commonly known as adversaries of Franciscans. Thus

“Paco hunter” may indeed be a Dominican friar.) But “Paco

Hunter” recalls the well known “Pocahontas”, the “Virginia”

Indian princess “notable for her association with the colonial

settlement at Jamestown [WP]”. So we have a “virgin” princess

settled in the town of James (the Paris of Joyce). But this “maid”

seems to be somewhat impudent and shameless, since her name

hints at Italian “poca onta” (poca: little; onta: dishonour, shame).

In conclusion: an old and shameless Don Juan hunting a brazen girl

who could be his daughter and chasing away his insurgent sons. Or

a young “chaste” Dominican (Shaun type), a witch hunter, who

rejects the advances of a sinful and shameless hustler.

And now we can finally direct our attention to the specific passage

which introduces the “triangle” theme. I won’t touch here the

geometrical allusions, which are the most obvious and usually

treated at large; but I’ll try to point out, as best as I can, the

“political and historical side” of the sarcastic confrontation

between the twins, made explicit by Footnote 1:

“As Rhombulus and Rhebus went building rhomes one day.”

with its reference to Romulus and Remus. The reference to Rome is

manifest in the subtly hidden acrostic of the right marginal note:






which is a clear anagram of ITALIA (Italy). With a series of

allusions to the confrontation between Shaun, the “ingenuous

(candid)” brother and the libertine Shem; a confrontation that will

be “strong and continuous” (tenacious), laborious and highly

sophisticated (ingenious) in its argumentation. But most of all I’d

like to underline the many references to “fascism” and its “nazi”

connections. “aquilittoral” is not only the obvious “equilateral”,

and not only the “littoral zone” where “ankles” are alternatively

washed by the water (Italian acqua) and then left “dry”; or where

“Enkel” (German “grandchildren”) haven’t yet had the nerve to put

their feet in; but it hints specifically at Italian “aquila” (eagle) and

at “littoriali”, which were cultural, artistic and sports events for

University students, that took place during the fascist era.

You can see on the right and left side the “fasci littori” (bound

bundle of wooden rods, sometimes including an axe with its blade

emerging). Thus the fascist “aquila littoria” (Lictorian Eagle).

“Probe loom” hints, among other things (amongst them, a quite

amusing ironic “pro Bloom”, which could be a “polemic” anti-nazi

“pro Jews” as well), at “pro bellum” (in favour of war) or “para

bellum” (prepare for war) – the capital P of Probe linking it to the

German word for “proof”, so a “proven” and “looming” scrutinizer

(loom – Latin Lumen “light”). “primal hand-stoe in his sole

salivarium” is indeed intriguing. McHugh points to an oblique

“thumb in his mouth”, hinting at the “babish”, childish attitude; the

baby who puts the big finger (toe) of his hand there where “saliva”

is, namely the mouth. (In fact it is the thumb which, together with

the index, is used as a compass to trace one of the two circles of

page 293. It is he thumb at the mouth of the river, the Lambda

point, so brilliantly illustrated and explained by Clive Hart in his

“Structure and motif in Finnegans Wake.”

But “hand-toe” is the yoga position of “Utthita Hasta


which has an astounding resemblance with the nazi “goose step”.

And “sole salivarium” (nazi SS apart) has another fascist

reference. “sole” is Italian for “sun”; “saliva” in this case may be

connected to the verb “salire” (to ascend, to rise, to go up). “saliva”

is “he/she/it was rising”. So the fascist Roman image is that of a

rising sun, that same rising sun (sole che sorgi – “sorgere” : to rise)

which we find in the most famous “Inno a Roma” (Hymn to Rome

– 1919), verses by Fausto Salvatori, music by Giacomo Puccini,

amply used by the fascists for their propaganda, because of its

captivating and nationalistic aura.

Sole che sorgi libero e giocondo

Sul Colle nostro i tuoi cavalli doma

Tu non vedrai nessuna cosa al mondo

Maggior di Roma, maggior di Roma!

(Oh sun that rises free and full of joy

over this Hill of ourn, tame there your horses;

you will not see throughout the world a thing

which is greater than Rome, greater than Rome.)

In case you have historical curiosities you may hear a version of it:

But I think that “salivarium” hides Joyce’s spiteful “spit” towards

Fascism and Nazism with their goose steps (handtoe) and their

bombastic marches (soles, soil). But there are still more Roman and

fascist references, like those in

286.21: Concoct an equo-angular trillitter

The verb “concoct” is quite unusual, coming directly from Latin

(Roman) concoctus (cum + “coquere” : to cook). “equo” is Latin

“equus”, which can be both a horse and a donkey (up to you to

decide who is Shaun and who Shem; probably both, since the

white-black “zebra” as well belongs to the family Equidae). Thus we

have “equal” perspectives (angles) joined in a trilateral, zebraic

horse-donkey, doubly linked to the “trillitter” which hints at the

three letters of the fascist Latin DVX (Duce, Führer),

the littorian (litter) Mussolini. So the “zebraic” oppressed sons

(Italian “ebraico”: Hebrew) fronting the racist Father who controls

that his trilateral and triliteral Delta (ALP) be not trasformed by

his sons into a cooked-up “cocotte” (whore). That’s French for

“chicken”, diminutive of “coq” (cock). And if we note that “equus”

derives from the Mycenaean Greek “i-qo”, we may detect an

incestuous, thrilling and trilling tris-littered “concoction” of “hen”

(cocotte) and Equidaes. An image which recalls a blasphemous

Witch’s Cauldron, where the father and the son (the tizzer and

the tongs) of the Trinity are turned into firebrands (tizzer :

Italian “tizzo, tizzone”) and sworn criminal brotherhoods (Chinese

“tong”, literally “hall, gathering place”), with its songs sung in a

secret language (tongue). All this taking place around the mythic-
matical (mythametical) mother, whose secret is both hidden

(mimetic) and enlightened by the “tripods” of her sacred altar;

sacred secrets that must be revealed, at least according to the Italian

idiomatic form “scoprire gli altarini” (literally: to unveil, uncover

the small altars), in fact “to reveal one’s guilty secrets”.

Here we may give a look at the left marginal note:

The boss’s bess bass is the browd of Mullingar

where we may find the Boss (Father) whose wife (bride of

Mullingar, Chapelizod), his very pride (browd), is in fact a

malingering “broad”. And a fish (bass) boiled for “broth”; the best

one of the Mullingar brothel. And the best ale (Bass’s ale – with its

red triangle)

is in fact the ale of the “boozer”, morphed into a “dishwatery” broth.

Continuing with the text, in 286.24 “Beatsoon” is not only “be it

soon” and “so be it”, but also “beats” and Italian “bastone” (rod), the

fascist “manganello” (truncheon, billy club). Suggesting that the

ensuing fight will certainly be not without serious consequences.

Which may suggest an interesting link (I don’t know how much far-
fetched) with the “naven” ritual described by the anthropologist

Gregory Bateson (beatsoon), in his work “Naven: A Survey of the

Problems suggested by a Composite Picture of the Culture of a

New Guinea Tribe drawn from Three Points of View. (1936)”.

[Note, please, the three points, like those of a triangle.] Of course

this is not the place to expound on this topic; thus let it be sufficient

to know that that ritual develops what Bateson, in his book, called

“schismogenesis” (creation of division), and that “schismogenic

behavior consisted of a competitive relationship between

categorical equals (e.g., rivalry) and complementary

schismogenesis between categorical unequals (e.g., dominance

and submission). [WP] Which expresses clearly both the twins

and the father/twins relation. And this justifies the “fascist” touch

and its imagery, since fascism is deeply influenced by a rebellious

attitude towards the bourgeois establishment (the decadence of the

old regime) and, most of all, by the exalted excitement of the new

generation. It’s not a case that the official hymn of the Italian

National Fascist Party – and the unofficial national anthem of Italy

between 1924 and 1943 – was “Giovinezza” (Youth). For pity’s sake

and for the good name of Italian poetry I’ll spare you the verses.

286. 3                    P.t.l.o.a.t.o.                            HEPTAGRAMMATON.
286. 4                    So, bagdad, after those initials falls and that HYPOTHESES
286. 5                  primary taincture, as I know and you know         OF COM-
286. 6                  yourself, begath, and the arab in the ghetto      MONEST EX-
286. 7                  knows better, by nettus, nor anymeade or          PERIENCES
286. 8                  persan, comic cuts and series exerxeses always    BEFORE APO-
286. 9                  were to be capered in Casey’s frost book of,      THEOSIS OF
286.10                  page torn on dirty, to be hacked at Hickey’s,     THE LUSTRAL
286.11 Vive Paco          hucksler, Wellington’s Iron Bridge, and so, by    PRINCIPIUM.
286.12 Hunter!            long last, as it would shuffle out, must he to
286.13                  trump adieu atout atous to those cardinhands
286.14 The hoisted in     he a big deal missed, radmachrees and rosse-
286.15 red and the low-   cullinans and blagpikes in suitclover. Dear
286.16> ered in black.    hearts of my counting, would he revoke them,
286.17                  forewheel to packnumbers, and, the time being
286.18                  no help fort, plates to lick one and turn over.
286.19                    Problem ye ferst, construct ann aquilittoral    INGENIOUS
286.20                  dryankle Probe loom! With his primal hand-        LABOUR-
286.21 The boss’s bess    stoe in his sole salivarium. Concoct an equo-     TENACITY
286.22 bass is the browd angular trillitter.¶1¶ On the name of the tizzer    AS BETWEEN
286.23 of Mullingar.      and off the tongs and off the mythametical        INGENUOUS
286.24                  tripods. Beatsoon.                               \AND LIBERTINE.

Update Buffy St Marie My Counry Tis of Thy People You’re Dying


The link I gave in June is no longer good.

Here is one good today