Etruscan Evenings

Overview

Etruscan Evenings lies in the sensuous curvature of ancient and present day Italy. The sequel to Cairo Diary: an Egyptian fable, follows the life of anthropologist Dr. Justine Jenner after she is expelled from Egypt in the wake of discovering and making public the controversial diary of the Virgin Mary. Exiled into Tuscany, Jenner finds herself embroiled in three interwoven stories of discovery: the long-lost letters from D.H. Lawrence to her great-grandmother, Isabella; an Etruscan tomb revealing the origin and ...

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Overview

Etruscan Evenings lies in the sensuous curvature of ancient and present day Italy. The sequel to Cairo Diary: an Egyptian fable, follows the life of anthropologist Dr. Justine Jenner after she is expelled from Egypt in the wake of discovering and making public the controversial diary of the Virgin Mary. Exiled into Tuscany, Jenner finds herself embroiled in three interwoven stories of discovery: the long-lost letters from D.H. Lawrence to her great-grandmother, Isabella; an Etruscan tomb revealing the origin and migration of an ancient people predating Rome; and the genealogy of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. While shaken by the frank revelations in Lawrence's letters and the intimate relationship between the primeval Etruscans and Jesus' mother, Jenner must confront her own sexuality and yearning for personal freedom. The second in a trilogy, Etruscan Evenings is riveted with literary, religious and archeological history and international politics, each narrative magnifying and altering the meaning of the others.
A quarter century ago, while visiting Italy for the first time, author Linda Lambert came upon D.H. Lawrence's Etruscan Places, and the story of Etruscan Evenings began to take form in her mind. Returning years later to follow the Etruscan city states described by Lawrence, she was accompanied this time by the discoveries in the diary of the Virgin Mary made public in Cairo Diary: an Egyptian fable, discoveries that merge with the history of the Etruscans and Italy itself.

Dr. Linda Lambert is an internationally recognized lecturer, historian, and author in the field of leadership. Feminist and historical themes characterize many of her best-selling leadership books, ideas that take center stage in her novels as well. Linda is Professor Emeritus at California State University, East Bay, and lives at The Sea Ranch, California, with her husband, Morgan Lambert.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781463435110
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 8/18/2011
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Etruscan Evenings


By Linda Lambert

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2011 Linda Lambert
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4634-3512-7


Chapter One

Italy is a dream that keeps returning the rest of your life. -Anna Akhmatova, Chechen poet

March, 2007

Her whole body shakes as the ancient pillars pull loose from their Corinthian crowns and plunge into the crypt, trapping her beneath rubble. The dust of shattering sandstone smothers the oxygen clinging to the dank air and the earth shivers ferociously. She bends with a pillar, barely catching herself as she falls to the convulsing floor, large stone slabs undulating, slicing into her leg. No light finds its way into the crumbling crypt. Cold sweat covers her body as she gulps for air. Turning her head violently from side to side, she grasps her injured leg, determined to stop the bleeding.

"Justine! Justine! Wake up."

Bolting upright, she struggled to focus on the intruding voice. Fear still gripped her trembling body, and light flooded through the windows, blinding her.

"Where am I?"

"In your room in Fiesole. You're home," her mother softly coaxed her into wakefulness. Justine had spent many a summer in this small terraced bedroom with its baby blue embossed wallpaper. The ancient, wobbly bed was too short now, so Justine had to curl into a fetal ball.

"The nightmare keeps returning, Mom. Ever since St. Sergius." Justine's nightgown clung to her wet skin, and her hair stuck to her face like the damp ringlets of Botticelli's Venus. "They've gotten worse since the churches were burned and Zachariah was killed." Remorse and a niggling sense of guilt and shame distorted her face.

"It might help if you talked to me about it. You've told me so little of how it ended." Her mother sat down at the foot of the bed, placing her hand on her daughter's ankle and turning the leg so she could see the damage. "How is it?"

"The leg is fine," she said, wiping her damp face with the sheet. "But I'm humiliated. Here I am, 27, unemployed, living in my mother's house. Am I starting over?" She swung her long legs over the side of the bed, revealing a scar the length of her right calf. Despite her injury, she moved toward the bathroom with the suppleness of a runner, which she was.

Her mother sat there wide-eyed, mouth gaping. "Humiliated? Starting over? That's quite a statement, Justine. Come talk to me."

"Later, Mom," Justine called from the bathroom, "I need to take a shower to clear my head. Go for a run."

Lucrezia pushed herself back onto the short bed, drawing her legs up under her white kaftan. She decided not to push—just yet. "Your father's coming to breakfast," she said.

In the bathroom, Justine looked in the mirror, shocked at her spent appearance. The nightmare receded in the wake of this news. "Father? As in Dr. Morgan Jenner, man of adventure? I didn't know he was in Italy." Just before Christmas, shortly after being expelled from Egypt, Justine had met her father on holiday in Rome. He was on the verge of returning to his archeological dig in Peru. Neither had expected to see the other for some time.

Her parents had divorced when Justine left California for graduate school, and yet they remained friends. But Justine rarely saw Morgan, who was often on the road, digging somewhere or other for treasures. She had given them little to worry about, until Egypt.

The morning room of the Cellini villa provided a panoramic view of the Arno River valley. It was here that the family gathered for breakfast. Dark green tops of erect cypresses, introduced to this land by the Etruscans, danced across the vista. The crown of Filippo Brunelleschi's Duomo popped up like an ochre hat suspended in mid-air.

"I've got news," said Morgan, as he strode into the room, chose his favorite chair, and rested his feet on a small needlepoint stool. "I'll be here in Italy awhile." He was wearing what he considered proper attire for an archaeologist: khaki shirt and pants, both thinning at the elbows and knees. The Peruvian sun had tanned his skin to a rich golden tone and bleached his hair nearly blonde save for a brush of gray at each temple. Some considered his Roman nose unattractively long, but others found it regal.

"Great, Dad! For how long?" asked Justine, watching her father as though he were one of her subjects. She was often amused by his predictability, such as the casually worn, yet intact, field uniform. As an anthropologist, she prided herself on her analytical abilities, though they had recently failed her.

"More than a visit this time, Honey. I'm coming here to work," he said, pausing in expectation of a few pleasurable remarks from some quarter.

Justine looked surprised—and delighted.

Lucrezia gave him an indulgent smile and waited for carefully orchestrated news. She picked up her fork and pushed a strawberry round and round through a dollop of yogurt.

"Archaeology is a crowded business here, Dad. Everyone and his sister want to live and dig in Italy, so I'm assuming you have something good up your sleeve. My father, the famous archeologist Dr. Morgan Jenner, would hardly be interested in a typical Roman excavation," remarked Justine, reaching for a croissant. Maria, the family cook, had prepared a spread fit for the visiting royal she considered Justine's father to be. Forever enchanted with Dr. Morgan, Maria—much more than a family cook—inevitably treated him like visiting royalty; he reciprocated with gallantry.

Morgan stood, stretched his muscular arms, and walked to the finely carved buffet table, methodically filling his plate with cold cuts, tomatoes, eggs, and a large piece of banana bread, Maria's specialty. "You're right, Justine. Not the usual Roman dig." He placed a whole egg in his mouth before returning to the table.

"Tell us about it," coaxed Lucrezia, falling effortlessly into her familiar role as Creta, as he often called her. Her backlit black hair gleamed and her arched eyebrows shadowed her luminous green eyes, reminding Justine of a silent movie star. Only direct light revealed hairline wrinkles around her eyes and small indentations above her lips.

It seemed to Justine, even now, that her mother needed Morgan to find her attractive.

"Thanks for the invitation, Creta. Taking a large bite of banana bread, he resumed a relaxed pose at the head of the table. He smiled charmingly when Maria re-entered the breakfast room with a large plate of fruits. Like her mother before her, Maria had worked for the Cellini family all her life. Justine considered Maria's reassuringly maternal figure—round face, generously curved body. Even her feet seemed round, with all that "round" implies: warmth, connection, accessibility.

"It's an Etruscan dig at a UNESCO site in Cerveteri. Do you know the place?" He gazed at Creta, and his temples flushed with excitement. "Teams from the local superintendent's office have been excavating there for a few years. They think they may be onto something new. UNESCO insisted on an international team, so they called me. The superintendent resisted at first, but I think she's come around."

"I know Cerveteri a little. About an hour's drive north of Ostia, isn't it? Darling little town," said Justine, refilling her coffee cup and taking a heaping spoonful of the fruit salad. "Not much is known about the Etruscans. I'm not sure why. They taught the Romans everything they knew."

"A slight exaggeration, my dear. What's going on there, Morgan?"

"That's the strange part. I know very little. They've been mysterious."

"You wouldn't take the job unless it was promising. You must know something," prompted Justine. Perhaps that's what the Etruscans need ... an origin myth.

"Well, they did say something about 'origins.'"

Surprised, Justine studied her father's sculpted face. He must be reading my mind.

"Origins?? Of the Etruscans? That's one of the most debated topics in European history!" exclaimed Lucrezia. "Herodotus claimed they came from Lydia, but that theory has been debunked by DNA studies-you know, Barbujani and Piazza's."

"I'm impressed," said Morgan, winking at Creta. "I don't think you can call yourself a casual scholar of ancient Italian history anymore."

Creta shifted uneasily in her chair and smoothed the lap of her linen kaftan. Justine didn't miss the non-verbal cue. My parents seem to be flirting again, although I can't read too much into it. They're both unremitting charmers, so it probably means nothing. Would I want it to? As these perplexing thoughts whirled through her mind, the eastern light penetrated the drawn shell-toned gauze sash draped over French doors, mesmerizing her.

Justine forced her thoughts back into the room. "I thought it had been decided that the Etruscans were indigenous, direct descendants of the Villanovans, whoever they were," she said. She was well aware that no Etruscan artifacts had been discovered in Italy dating before 8 or 900 BCE, yet an apparently seamless transition from the Villanovans to the Etruscans suggested a relationship steeped in mystery.

Creta shifted uneasily in her chair and smoothed the lap of her linen kaftan. Justine didn't miss the non-verbal cue. My parents are flirting again, although I can't read too much into it. They're both unremitting charmers, so it probably means nothing. Would I want it to? As these perplexing thoughts whirled through her mind, the eastern light penetrated the drawn shell-toned gauze sash draped over French doors, mesmerizing her momentarily.

Justine forced her thoughts back into the room. "I thought it had been decided that the Etruscans were indigenous, direct descendants of the Villanovans, whoever they were," she said. She was well aware that no Etruscan artifacts had been discovered in Italy dating before 8 or 900 BCE, yet an apparently seamless transition from the Villanovans to the Etruscans suggested a relationship steeped in mystery.

"Nothing has been decided. That's what makes this hunt so appealing. And, of course, my favorite daughter is now in Italy."

"Your only daughter, I assume," said Lucrezia playfully, one eyebrow arching.

"As far as I know," he acknowledged offhandedly as he stood up and circled the table, snatching two grapes from Justine's fruit salad. "I'm concerned about the makeup of the damn team. I haven't been able to choose anyone to my liking, and they've now added a historian. Damn historians. Worse than anthropologists, if you ask me. What I need is a couple of seasoned archeologists."

Justine refused to take the bait. A few years ago she would have swiped at it like a kitten batting at a string. Not now. She smiled sweetly and picked at her fruit salad. "So what is it with you and historians?"

"Historians have theories. They try to make connections that aren't supported by the facts." Morgan sat back down and spread lemon curd on a second piece of banana bread, which he then devoured in one great swallow.

"All people have narratives, Dad." Justine cut open her croissant before meeting the stare of her father's cobalt blue eyes.

"Facts, Justine. That's what's important. The evidence should speak for itself. Find the evidence, verify its authorship and timeframe, and display it in museums so the public can understand how the ancients lived. Scientific. Straightforward."

Creta sighed. "That's why museums are so lifeless, except for the one in Orvieto perhaps. The evidence is presented without a narrative. I find it tedious."

Morgan laughed. "I see my girls are ganging up on me again."

Lucrezia mentally recoiled. She had no intention of allowing her former spouse the pleasure of infantilizing and possessing her. The spell of Morgan's charm was suddenly broken.

Maria reappeared in the doorway. "The phone. It's for you, Justine."

"Who is it?" she asked, annoyed by the interruption. She had missed these conversations with her parents and the chance to ruffle her father's feathers.

"A Dr. Andrea. Calling from Paris."

Chapter Two

Knowing that conscious decisions and personal memory are much too small a place to live, every human being streams at night into the loving nowhere, or during the day in some absorbing work. -Rumi, 'We Are Three'

"Who's Dr. Andrea?" asked Morgan, folding his used napkin and placing it on the left side of his plate.

Does he plan to stay? Justine wondered. She hoped he would.

"A colleague of Justine's from Egypt and long-time friend of mine," Lucrezia answered, also taking notice of Morgan's familiar gesture with the napkin. "I'm sure you've heard us talk about her."

"The name's familiar," he said, staring appreciatively at Creta, his eyes warmed with memories of their years together. The two of them making love on the summer porch in Berkeley.

"She's coming to Italy next week," offered Justine. "Says she has news about the codex—the Virgin Mary's diary—that I discovered in Egypt. I'm not sure if she means new translation discoveries or news about its fate. She's cautious over the phone. As far as I know, the original hasn't shown up in the black market."

"I'm confident that it will, Justine," said her mother as she began to work alongside Maria gathering up the breakfast dishes. "Probably in Milan or Rome."

"Catch me up here," demanded Morgan. He already knew about Justine's discovery of the codex during the earthquake in Cairo and the involvement of the infamous Supreme Antiquities Director, Omar Mustafa. At Christmas, Justine had told him about his old mentor Ibrahim El Shabry's complicity in its theft. "I found it hard to believe that Ibrahim was involved. Incredible really. Not the man I know." Morgan and Ibrahim had been colleagues during several digs in Egypt, particularly a notorious one at Darshur. They'd been more than colleagues. They'd been friends for more than 20 years. To discover that Ibrahim was involved in the theft of the codex was a shock to everyone at the breakfast table. "What can you expect from this Andrea?"

"Well, Dad, Ibrahim did manage to get the copy of the codex to Andrea before she had to leave Cairo, so that exonerates him somewhat. She intends to complete the translation with assistance from Professor Isaac Yarmeni from Jerusalem. We've already contracted with Archaeology to write up the findings." Justine wrinkled her nose and pushed her caramel-colored hair behind her left ear. She was not as optimistic as she pretended to be about the outcome of this saga.

"When you write that Mary, mother of Jesus, wasn't a virgin—let alone the other more provocative findings—all hell will break loose." Morgan's tone was concerned.

"It already has, Dad. Hell that is. No telling what will happen next." Justine knew it could get much worse. Who am I kidding? Myself? Or am I trying to comfort my parents?

"You haven't tackled the Catholic Church yet, my dear," said her mother, leaning across the table to pour Morgan and then herself a last cup of coffee.

Justine smiled at her mother's concern and sat back in her chair. For several moments she watched the morning sunlight dance across the crystal glassware still on the table. Turning from her mother to her father, she asked, "How about your own work, Dad? No small controversy there. I understand many Italians still insist that Etruscans are home-grown. Maybe we'll both be thrown out of Italy!" She reached over and patted his arm reassuringly.

Morgan placed his hand on top of hers and squeezed it gently. "Italy tolerates controversy a little better than Egypt, my dear. Italian pride demands that Etruscans are indigenous. Whatever we find, if anything, won't be as earthshaking as the revelations about the family of Jesus. I doubt we'll discover anything of real importance. Cerveteri has been combed pretty thoroughly. And, Mussolini's long gone."

"What does Mussolini have to do with it?" asked his daughter, slowly withdrawing her hand from her father's grasp.

"Mussolini and a few archaeologists, Massimo among them, tried to recreate the Roman Empire during the 1920s and '30s," said Lucrezia, sitting back down at the table and taking her coffee cup in both hands. "Part of those efforts was to portray the very people who taught the Romans how to build, as militaristic warriors ... and native Italians, of course. But I don't think this portrayal of the Etruscans is accurate. Very unlike the Romans and the Greeks, I would say. For instance, Etruscans considered women equal to men." She paused and let her eyes linger on Morgan, expecting some contribution of historical knowledge. Morgan and Justine remained quiet. They knew when other thoughts were simmering in Lucrezia's mind. "Some things never change," she finally said. "Now we're saddled with Berlusconi who considers women playthings. And he's bound to be elected president again in 2008!"

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Etruscan Evenings by Linda Lambert Copyright © 2011 by Linda Lambert. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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