The Anatomist

Overview

As the novel opens, Mateo Colombo, the most famous physician in Renaissance Italy, finds himself behind bars at the behest of Church authorities. He has been charged with heresy, but not for organizing a clumsy team of body snatchers to feed his anatomical research, nor for his obsessive pursuit of Mona Soba, Venice's most beautiful prostitute. His crime ins even more heinous, not only heretical in the Church's eyes, but equally subversive of the whole secular order of Renaissance society. Like his namesake ...
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Overview

As the novel opens, Mateo Colombo, the most famous physician in Renaissance Italy, finds himself behind bars at the behest of Church authorities. He has been charged with heresy, but not for organizing a clumsy team of body snatchers to feed his anatomical research, nor for his obsessive pursuit of Mona Soba, Venice's most beautiful prostitute. His crime ins even more heinous, not only heretical in the Church's eyes, but equally subversive of the whole secular order of Renaissance society. Like his namesake Christopher Columbus, he has made a discovery of enormous significance for mankind. But whereas Christopher voyaged outward to explore the world and found America, Mateo looked inward and uncovered the clitoris. Based on historical fact, The Anatomist is an utterly fascinating excursion into Renaissance Italy. Above all, it is an audacious novel, exposing not only the social hypocrisies of the day, but also the prejudices and sexual taboos that may still be with us four hundred years later.

"Novela. Recrea muy bien el ambiente del siglo XVI con sus prejuicios y creencias. El descubrimiento del anatomista lo enfrenta con la condena inquisitorial. El tema erâotico de la novela causâo el retiro del premio de la Fundaciâon Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat hecho que duplica en el siglo XX el castigo renacentista de la ficciâon"--Handbook of Latin American Studies, v. 58.

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Editorial Reviews

Frances Gilbert
The Anatomist should do for the [female anatomy] what Longitude did for the chronometer. —The Times (London)
Williams
A beautifully structured critique of Renaissance science and ignorance. . .a history of the language of female desire and male attempts to control it. . .a cunning, witty, and brave book.
The Times Literary Supplement(London)
Lisa Zeidner
[A] Eurotrashy period piece. . . .At its best, The Anatomist cheerfully mocks its own historical pretensions. . . .Readers who don't require much enlightment with their titillation will find a cheerful romp. . .
New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
Matteo Colombo of Padua, capable of rendering the most exquisite anatomical charts and who is in fact the most famous anatomist in Europe, is a Renaissance man infused with the spirit of Leonardo. The dissection of cadavers has long been forbidden by the Church, but it is not for this heresy that Matteo is hounded by the Inquisition. Much as the hands of a musician caress an instrument, his anatomist's hands have learned the magic of roaming a woman's body and, just as his namesake, Cristoforo Colombo, discovered America, Matteo discovers the small erectile organ hidden behind the fleshy labia that is today called the clitoris. And it is for this "crime" that he is imprisoned. Based on the actual historical case, this captivating first novel by a Buenos Aires psychiatrist is unexpectedly light, ironic, sensual, evocative of its era, and a pleasure to read. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/98.]--Jack Shreve, Allegany Coll. of Maryland, Cumberland
Lisa Zeidner
[A] Eurotrashy period piece. . . .At its best, The Anatomist cheerfully mocks its own historical pretensions. . . .Readers who don't require much enlightment with their titillation will find a cheerful romp. . . -- The New York Times Book Review
(Paris) Le Nouvel Observateur
Andahazi carries us into an erudite, erotic, philosophical fantasy, a fantasy which is also filled with irony.
La Prensa(Buenos Aires)
A universally relevant sexual farce, a stinging challenge to all systems of belief from the past 400 years, a timely publishing event -- and an elegantly written novel.
La Nacion(Buenos Aires)
Implacably lays bare the relationship of power to gender politics... The axis of [The Anatomist], to my mind, revolves around its virulent critique, not now in itself, but here articulated with narrative intelligence and devastating irony.
Cosmopolitan (Paris)
Falls between The Alchemist, The Name of the Rose, and Perfume..
Le Figaro (Paris)
The last pages of the novel are paced by rolling drums. Metaphysical arguments alternate with surprises in a plot worthy of a thriller . . .Four centuries after Colombo's discovery, this story has not lost its power of subversion.
Williams
A beautifully structured critique of Renaissance science and ignorance. . .a history of the language of female desire and male attempts to control it. . .a cunning, witty, and brave book. -- The Times Literary Supplement(London)
Frances Gilbert
The Anatomist should do for the [female anatomy] what Longitude did for the chronometer. -- The Times (London)
Kirkus Reviews
This much-ballyhooed first novel from Argentina, which is set in a credibly realized 16th-century Venice, sets out to tell the story of physician Mateo Colombo, a bold scientific adventurer (likened, overemphatically, to his namesake Christopher Columbus) who in the course of his researches 'discovers' the clitoris—and is promptly imprisoned by outraged Church officials. Other potentially intriguing narrative elements—such as Mateo's unobjective clinical interest in a locally notorious prostitute—are only briefly explored, in a redundant narrative that restates tediously the right of the scientist to seek truth, and neglects to offer the initially eager reader either a fully-rounded protagonist or a satisfactorily developed story.
From the Publisher
"Charmingly salacious...shows off the wonderful wit and narrative gifts of a welcome new Latin American writer." --National Public Radio

"Compelling and complex." --Philadelphia City Paper

"A fascinating book. The way Andahazi communicates the sense of exploration and possibility in Renaissance science and the inextricable links with philosophy and religion are extremely effective...gripping, a pleasure to read, and a very fine novel." --Iain Pears, author of An Instance of the Fingerpost

"With The Anatomist, Andahazi deftly mines that delicious vein of wit and sensuality that runs from Boccaccio to Fellini, while slyly dissecting one of man's oldest obsessions: a woman's pleasure." --Laura Esquivel, author of Like Water for Chocolate

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9789507427879
  • Publisher: Planeta Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Language: Spanish
  • Edition description: Spanish-language Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 256

Meet the Author

A resident of Buenos Aires, Federico Andahazi was born in 1963. His short stories have received many awards, and The Anatomist is the winner of Argentina's prestigious Fortabat Prize. This is his first novel.
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Read an Excerpt

The Dawn of Observation

"O my America, my new-found-land!" Mateo Renaldo Colombo (or Columbus, to give him his English name) might have written in his De re anatomica.[See Note 1] Not a boastful cry like "Eureka!" but rather a mournful lament, a bitter parody of his own misadventures and misfortunes, compared to his Genoese namesake, Christopher. The same surname and, perhaps, the same destiny. But they share no common blood and the death of one takes place barely ten years after the birth of the other. Mateo's America is less distant and infinitely smaller than Christopher's; in fact, it's not much larger than the head of a nail. And yet, it was to remain secreted away until the year of the death of its discoverer and, in spite of its insignificant size, its discovery was equally momentous and disturbing.

It is the Age of the Renaissance. The verb is "To Discover." It is the twilight of pure
a priori speculation and the abuse of syllogisms, and the dawn of empiricism, of knowledge based on what can be seen. It is, quite precisely, the dawn of observation. Perhaps Francis Bacon in England and Campanella in the Kingdom of Naples chanced upon the fact that while scholastics were lost in syllogistic labyrinths, the illiterate Rodrigo de Triana was, at the same time, shouting "Land!" and, without knowing it, heralding in a new philosophy based on observation. Scholasticism (as the Church had finally understood) was not profitable enough or, at least, seemed less useful than the sale of indulgences, ever since God had decided to soak money out of sinners.

The new science is good as long as it helps to bring in gold. It is good as long as itdoesn't contradict the truth of Holy Writ or, what is even more important, a magistrate's writ of property. Just as the sun no longer spun its path around the Earth (something which obviously didn't stop happening from one moment to the next), geometry had begun to chafe against the confines of its own paper landscape and had set off to colonize the three-dimensional space of topology. This is the greatest achievement of Renaissance painting: if Nature is written in mathematical characters (as Galileo says), painting must be the source of a new vision of Nature. The Vatican frescoes are a mathematical epic: witness the conceptual abyss that separates Lorenzo de Monaco's Nativity from The Triumph of the Cross over the apse of the Capella della Pietà. For similar reasons, not a single map is left unchanged. The cartography of Heaven changes as well as that of Earth and that of the body. Here now are the anatomical maps that have become the new navigational charts of surgery. And thus we return to our Mateo Colombo.

Encouraged perhaps by the fact of sharing a name with the Genoese admiral, Mateo Colombo decided that his destiny, too, was to discover. And so he set off to sea. Of course, his waters were not those of his namesake. He was the greatest anatomical explorer of his time; among his more modest discoveries is nothing less than the circulation of the blood, anticipating by half a century the Englishman Harvey's demonstration in De motus cordes et sanguinis. And yet, even this astonishing discovery is of little importance compared to his America.

The fact is that Mateo Colombo was never able to see his discovery in print, since his book was not allowed to appear until the very year of his death, in 1559. One had to be careful with the Doctors of the Church. The cautionary examples are almost too numerous. Three years earlier, Lucio Vanini "chose" to be burned by the Inquisition in spite of (or because of) his statement declaring that he would not give his opinion on the immortality of the soul until he became "old, rich and German."[See Note 2] And certainly Mateo Colombo's discovery was far more dangerous than Lucio Vanini's opinion—even without considering the aversion our anatomist felt toward fire and the stench of burnt flesh, above all if the flesh was his own.

NOTES
1. De re anatomica, Venice, 1559, Bk XI, Ch. XVI.
2. A. Weber, A History of European Philosophy.


The Century of Women

The sixteenth century was the century of women. The seed sowed a hundred years earlier by Christine de Pisan flowered throughout Europe with the sweet scent of
The Sayinge of True Lovers. It is certainly not by chance that Mateo Colombo's discovery took place when and where it did. Until the sixteenth century, history had been recounted in a deep masculine voice. "Wherever one looks, there she is, always present: from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, always on the domestic, economic, intellectual, and public stage, on the battlefront and in moments of private leisure, we find the Woman. Usually, she is busy at her daily tasks. But she is also present in the events that build, transform or tear apart society. From one end to the other of the social spectrum, she occupies all places and those who watch her constantly speak of her presence, often with fear," write Natalie Zemon and Arlette Farge in their History of Women.[See Note 1]

Mateo Colombo's discovery happens precisely when women, whose place had always been indoors, began to conquer, gradually and subtly, the world outside, emerging from behind the walls of convents and retreats, from whorehouses or from the warm but no less monastic sweetness of home. Timidly, woman dares argue with man. With some exaggeration, it has been said that the "battle of the sexes" begins in the sixteenth century. Whether this is true or not, this is the age in which womanly matters become an acceptable subject for discussion among men.

Under these circumstances, what was Mateo Colombo's "America"? No doubt, the borders between discovery and invention are far more vague than they might seem at first glance. Mateo Colombo (the time has come to say it) discovered that which every man has dreamt of at some moment or other: the magic key that unlocks women's hearts, the secret that governs the mysterious driving force of female love; that which, from the beginnings of History, wizards and witches, shamans and alchemists, have sought by means of brews, all manner of herbs or through the favor of gods or demons; that which every man in love has always longed for, when wounded, through unkindness, by the object of his troubles and sorrows. And also, of course, that which is dreamt of by kings and rulers in their sheer lust for omnipotence: namely, the instrument that subjugates the volatile female will. Mateo Colombo searched, traveled and finally found the "sweet land" he longed for: "the organ that governs the love of women." The Amor Veneris (such is the name the anatomist gave it, "if I may be allowed to give a name to the things by me discovered") was the true source of power over the slippery, shadowy free will of women. Certainly, such a finding had many serious consequences. "To what calamities would Christianity not be subjected if the female object of sin were to fall into the hands of the hosts of Satan?" the scandalized Doctors of the Church asked. "What would become of the profitable business of prostitution if any poor hunchback might obtain the love of the most expensive of courtesans?" asked the rich proprietors of the splendid Venetian brothels. And, worst of all, what would happen if the daughters of Eve were to discover that, between their legs, they carried the keys to both Heaven and Hell?

The discovery of Mateo Colombo's America was, all things considered, an epic counterpointed by an elegy. Mateo Colombo was as fierce and heartless as Christopher. Like Christopher (to use an appropriate metaphor) he was a brutal colonizer who claimed for himself all rights to the discovered land, the female body.

Beyond what Amor Veneris meant to society, another controversy was sparked by what it was really supposed to be. Did the organ discovered by Mateo Colombo actually exist? Perhaps this is a useless question which must be replaced by another: did the Amor Veneris ever exist? Ultimately, things are nothing but the words that name them. Amor Veneris, vel Dulcedo Apeletur (the full name with which its discoverer christened the organ) had a strong heretical ring to it. The question of whether the Amor Veneris coincides with the less apostate and more neutral kleitoris ("tickling"), which alludes to effects rather than causes, is one that would later concern historians of the body. The Amor Veneris existed for reasons other than anatomical; it existed not only because it inaugurated a New Woman but also because it sparked a tragedy.

What follows is the story of a discovery.

What follows is the chronicle of a tragedy.

NOTES
1. A History of Women in the West, Harvard, 1993.

The Trinity

On the other side of Monte Veldo, in the Via Bocciari, close to the Church of the Holy Trinity, stood the Bordello del Fauno Rosso, the most expensive whorehouse in Venice, whose splendor had no rival in the whole of the western world. The brothel's main attraction was Mona Sofia, the most expensive whore in Venice: in the whole of Europe none could be called more splendid. She was greater even than the legendary Lenna Grifa and, just like Lenna Grifa, Mona Sofia toured the streets of Venice reclining on a covered litter, borne by two Moorish slaves. Just like Lenna Grifa, Mona Sofia kept at the litter's head a Dalmatian bitch, and a parrot perched on her shoulder. In the Catalogo di tutte le puttane del bordello con il lor prezzo,[See Note 1] her name appeared printed in bold letters and her price in even more remarkable numbers: 10 ducats. That is to say, six ducats more expensive than the legendary Lenna Grifa.[See Note 2] In the catalog, carefully compiled and edited for discerning travelers, no mention was made of her eyes green as emeralds, nor of her nipples hard as almonds whose diameter and texture might be compared to the petals of a flower—if ever there were such petals of the diameter and texture of Mona Sofia's nipples. Nor did it make mention of her firm animal thighs, as if rounded on a lathe, nor of her voice like crackling wood. It made no mention of her tiny hands that seemed hardly large enough to encircle a male organ, nor of her diminutive mouth whose cavity one would have thought unable to receive a fully engorged member. Nor did it mention her whorish talents, capable of arousing even an enfeebled old man.


Early one winter's morning in the year 1558, shortly before the sun appeared halfway between the two granite columns brought back from Syria and Constantinople, crowned with the winged lion and with St. Theodore, just when the automated Moors in the clock tower were about to strike the first of their six chimes, Mona Sofia saw off her last client, a wealthy silk merchant. Climbing down the stairs of the brothel, the man wrapped himself in the woolen shawl he wore over his lucco, pulled his beretta over his eyebrows and, peering across the threshold, made sure that no one saw him leave. From the brothel, he walked straight to the Holy Trinity whose bells were calling the faithful to early Mass.

Mona Sofia felt weary. Her back ached. To her annoyance, when she drew the purple silk curtains of her bedroom window, she saw that dawn had already risen. She hated having to fall asleep amid the bustle from outside, and she told herself that this was a good opportunity to take full advantage of the day. Reclining against the headboard of her bed, she started making plans. First she would dress like a lady and go to Mass at St. Mark's Cathedral (the truth be told, it was quite a long time since she had been to Mass); she would go to confession and then, free of remorse, she would pay a visit to the Bottega del Moro to buy several perfumes which she had long promised herself. She went on making plans, drawing the blankets a little closer (after the tiring night, this first moment of rest had begun to muddle her thoughts) and she closed her eyes in order to think more clearly.

The bells had not yet stopped ringing when Mona Sofia, just as she did every morning, fell into a deep and placid sleep.

About the same time, but in Florence, a fine rain was falling on the bell tower of the modest Abbey of San Gabriele. The bells rang with such determination, one would have said a fat abbot and not a woman with delicate hands was pulling the ropes. With the punctual devotion that every morning drew her from her bed before dawn, in cold weather or hot, in rain or frost, Inés de Torremolinos swung from the ropes with her light frame and, as if the Almighty Himself were aiding her, she succeeded in swaying the bells whose weight was no less than a thousand times that of her feminine and immaculate body.

Inés de Torremolinos lived in Franciscan austerity in spite of being one of the wealthiest women in Florence. The eldest daughter of an aristocratic Spanish couple, she had been still very young when she was wedded to a distinguished Florentine lord. Following the rules of marriage, she left her native Castile to live in her husband's palazzo in Florence. Fate decreed that Inés was to become a widow without giving her husband a new link to continue his noble lineage: she gave birth to three daughters and not a single son.

As a young widow, all that Inés owned was this: the sorrow of not having given birth to a boy, a few olive groves, vineyards, castles, money, and a charitable and pious soul. Therefore, in order to forget her pain and mend her faults in memory of the departed, she decided to turn into cash all the property and goods she had inherited from her late husband (in Florence) and from her father (in Castile), and with this fortune build an abbey. In this way she would remain forever united with her lamented husband by means of a pure and celibate existence, and she would dedicate her life to the service of the male children her womb had been incapable of producing: in other words, the monastic community and the poor. And so she did.

One might have called Inés a happy woman. Her Franciscan eyes radiated peace and tranquillity. Her words were an unending balm for the tormented. She consoled the disconsolate and she guided the lost sheep back on the right path. One would have said there were no obstacles on her road to sainthood.

On that dawn in 1558, at the same time as, in Venice, Mona Sofia was ending her exhausting and profitable night, Inés de Torremolinos was beginning her day of happy and charitable works. Neither woman had any knowledge of the remote existence of the other. Nothing would have led them to suppose that they had something in common. And yet fate at times carves a path through the impossible. Without the slightest suspicion of their destiny, without being aware of one another, each woman was to become a point of the same trinity whose apex was in Padua.

NOTES
1. Catalog of all the Whores of the Brothel with Their Prices: A catalog mentioned in D. Merejkovski, Leonardo da Vinci, Putnam, 1992.

2. It should be noted that a thousand ducats was a fortune sufficient


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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First Chapter


Chapter One

{ The Trinity }
I

On the other side of Monte Veldo, in the Via Bocciari, close to the Church of the Holy Trinity, stood the Bordello del Fauno Rosso, the most expensive whorehouse in Venice, Whose splendor had no rival in the whole of the western world. The brothel's main attraction was Mona Sofia, the most expensive whore in Venice: in the whole of Europe none could be called more splendid. She was greater even than the legendary Lenna Grifa and, just like Lenna Grifa, Mona Sofia toured the streets of Venice reclining on a covered litter, borne by two Moorish slaves. Just like Lenna Grifa, Mona Sofia kept at the litter's head a Dalmatian bitch, and a parrot perched on her shoulder. In the Catalogo di tutte le puttane del bordello con il lor prezzo, her name appeared printed in bold letters and her price in even more remarkable numbers: 10 ducats. That is to say, six ducats more expensive than the legendary Lenna Grifa. In the catalog, carefully compiled and edited for discerning travelers, no mention was made of her eyes green as emeralds, nor of her nipples hard as almonds whose diameter and texture might be compared to the petals of a flower--if ever there were such petals of the diameter and texture of Mona Sofia's nipples. Nor did it make mention of her firm animal thighs, as if rounded on a lathe, nor of her voice like crackling wood. It made no mention of her tiny hands that seemed hardly large enough to encircle a male organ, nor of her diminutive mouth whose cavity one would have thought unable to receive a fully engorged member. Nor did it mention her whorish talents, capable of arousing even an enfeebled old man.

Early one winter's morning in the year 1558, shortly before the sun appeared halfway between the two granite columns brought back from Syria and Constantinople, crowned with the winged lion and with St. Theodore, just when the automated Moors in the clock tower were about to strike the first of their six chimes, Mona Sofia saw off her last client, a wealthy silk merchant. Climbing down the stairs of the brothel, the man wrapped himself in the woolen shawl he wore over his lucco, pulled his beretta over his eyebrows and, peering across the threshold, made sure that no one saw him leave. From the brothel, he walked straight to the Holy Trinity whose bells were calling the faithful to early Mass.

    Mona Sofia felt weary. Her back ached. To her annoyance, when she drew the purple silk curtains of her bedroom window, she saw that dawn had already risen. She hated having to fall asleep amid the bustle from outside, and she told herself that this was a good opportunity to take full advantage of the day. Reclining against the headboard of her bed, she started making plans. First she would dress like a lady and go to Mass at St. Mark's Cathedral (the truth be told, it was quite a long time since she had been to Mass); she would go to confession and then, free of remorse, she would pay a visit to the Bottega del Moro to buy several perfumes which she had long promised herself. She went on making plans, drawing the blankets a little closer (after the tiring night, this first moment of rest had begun to muddle her thoughts) and she closed her eyes in order to think more clearly.

    The bells had not yet stopped ringing when Mona Sofia, just as she did every morning, fell into a deep and placid sleep.

II

About the same time, but in Florence, a fine rain was falling on the bell tower of the modest Abbey of San Gabriele. The bells rang with such determination, one would have said a fat abbot and not a woman with delicate hands was pulling the ropes. With the punctual devotion that every morning drew her from her bed before dawn, in cold weather or hot, in rain or frost, Ines de Torremolinos swung from the ropes with her light frame and, as if the Almighty Himself were aiding her, she succeeded in swaying the bells whose weight was no less than a thousand times that of her feminine and immaculate body.

    Ines de Torremolinos lived in Franciscan austerity in spite of being one of the wealthiest women in Florence. The eldest daughter of an aristocratic Spanish couple, she had been still very young when she was wedded to a distinguished Florentine lord. Following the rules of marriage, she left her native Castile to live in her husband's palazzo in Florence. Fate decreed that Ines was to become a widow without giving her husband a new link to continue his noble lineage: she gave birth to three daughters and not a single son.

    As a young widow, all that Ines owned was this: the sorrow of not having given birth to a boy, a few olive groves, vineyards, castles, money, and a charitable and pious soul. Therefore, in order to forget her pain and mend her faults in memory of the departed, she decided to turn into cash all the property and goods she had inherited from her late husband (in Florence) and from her father (in Castile), and with this fortune build an abbey. In this way she would remain forever united with her lamented husband by means of a pure and celibate existence, and she would dedicate her life to the service of the male children her womb had been incapable of producing: in other words, the monastic community and the poor. And so she did.

    One might have called Ines a happy woman. Her Franciscan eyes radiated peace and tranquillity. Her words were an unending balm for the tormented. She consoled the disconsolate and she guided the lost sheep back on the right path. One would have said there were no obstacles on her road to sainthood.

    On that dawn in 1558, at the same time as, in Venice, Mona Sofia was ending her exhausting and profitable night, Ines de Torremolinos was beginning her day of happy and charitable works. Neither woman had any knowledge of the remote existence of the other. Nothing would have led them to suppose that they had something in common. And yet fate at times carves a path through the impossible. Without the slightest suspicion of their destiny, without being aware of one another, each woman was to become a point of the same trinity whose apex was in Padua.

{ Tile Crow }
I

On the highest spot of the massive cliff that separates Verona from Trento, on the last rock that juts out from the ring of hills that crowns the peak of Monte Veldo, quiet as the stone on which he perched, the profile of a crow outlined itself against the dusky horizon whose golden epicenter did not seem to come from the sun, still only a vague promise, but from the very gold of Venice, as if the foundations of that vault of light were the distant Byzantine domes of the Cathedral of St. Mark. It was the hour that precedes the day. The crow was waiting. He was patient. And he had, as always, a voracious but not pressing hunger. His domain was all of Venice, Euganean Venice (Treviso, Rovigo, Verona and, farther away, Vicenza) and also Julian Venice. But his roost was in Padua.

    Down below, everything was ready for the feast of St. Theodore, the festa dei tori. After midday, the crowd, between drinks, would shackle five or six oxen, and, while as many women held their horns, they would slit the beasts' throats one by one, with a single and accurate stroke of the sword. It was as if the crow knew that this would happen. He could smell in advance his favorite smell. But he also knew that, even if he was lucky, he would be barely able to steal one miserable eyeball or piece of gut, for which he would have to fight with the dogs. It wasn't worth the distance, nor the risk, nor the effort.

    Still he hadn't moved. He had the patience of crows. He could have waited until the Moors in the clock tower sounded the last stroke of the bell. Then, just as it did every morning, there would appear on the Grand Canal the public barge that collected the corpses from the hospital on its way to the Cemetery Island. But this too would not be worth his while: with luck, all he might manage to tear away would be a morsel of foul meat, lean and ravaged by the plague.

    He turned on his feet and looked in the opposite direction, eastward, where he had his home. There was his master. Then the crow took wing toward Padua.

II

The crow flew over the cathedral's ten domes and over the university. He perched above the pediment of the fourth door leading to the interior courtyard. He waited, knowing that his master would come out any minute. It happened every day. The crow was patient. He spread one of his wings and dug his beak into his feathers. One might have thought he paid no attention to anything except his own intimate pleasures, preening his chest, ridding himself of a flea.

    Just as the bells began calling to Mass, the crow grew as tense as a rope, then slowly unfolded his wings, gave a dull caw and prepared himself to jump onto the shoulder of his master who, every morning, would appear under the archway and, before setting off for the parish church, would pass by the morgue to give his crow that which he so enjoyed: a still warm piece of tripe.

    But on that winter's morning, things would not be as they had always been. The first stroke of the bell sounded and the crow's master had not yet appeared. The crow knew that his master was inside the cloister; he could smell him, he could even hear him breathing. And still he did not come out. The crow cawed with annoyance. He was hungry.

    The crow and his master were fully aware of each other and, for that very reason, held one another in a mutual and secret distrust. Leonardino (this was the name the master had given him) never settled quite fully on his master's shoulder; he kept a small distance between his feet and the stole, lifting himself off with a short and regular flapping of wings. Neither did the master trust his companion. Both of them, as they well knew, shared the same inquisitive spirit that led them to seek what lurks behind the flesh.

    The second stroke of the bell was heard and still the master did not appear. Something strange was taking place, the crow could guess as much.

    Every day, Leonardino, perched on the balustrade of the morgue's stairs, would attentively follow his master's movements, the knowledgeable hands guiding the scalpel; then, when he saw the blood surging behind the thin groove the blade left in its wake, Leonardino would rock from left to right and let out a caw of satisfaction.

    Not for want of trying, his master had never succeeded in getting Leonardino to eat out of his hand. There certainly were good reasons for the crow to be afraid. Leonardino knew who had owned the tripe his master had offered him on the previous day; he had recognized the stench of the cat who, until yesterday, had sat trustingly in the man's lap; the man who, with the same hand that had patted it and fed it, had skillfully gutted the cat in order to dissect it.

    "Leonardino," the master would coo while slowly approaching the crow with a bit of tripe in his hand.

    "Leonardino," he would repeat, and as he advanced a step farther, the crow would retreat another step.

    Leonardino did not look at the tripe; he could smell it, but he didn't look at it. He had his eyes glued on the eyes of his master, eyes which, apparently, seemed to him more appetizing than the morsel of gut. At length, the man would throw him the tripe and the crow would pounce on it with long-contained voracity.

    But that morning no one appeared under the archway. The third stroke of the bell was heard and the crow realized that his master would not keep their daily appointment. Disgusted and hungry, Leonardino set flight for Venice.

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