Very Good. Item #9536
New York: Albert and Charles Boni, 1928. First American Edition. Octavo (19.5x13x3cm); xiv + 232pp. Red and green stamping in an Italianizing Art Deco font on spine and front panel over black cloth. Binding sound, robust, and clean. Volume has clearly been read with a few bent-corner pages, marking progress, now flattened without weakening. Textblock unmarred and unmarked.
The novel first appeared serially in the Socialist (!) periodical Il Popolo di Trento in 1910. The introduction in this, first, American edition, by Hiram Motherwell, Mussolini’s translator and foremost expositor in the U.S. at the time, was written too early to know what history would reveal in the fullness of time. Motherwell is, however, prescient about the bantam fascist’s megalomania, literary and otherwise: “This terrific piling up of magnificent words, this prodigal multiplication of metaphors . . . are perhaps minor manifestations of that gargantuan vitality which has finally imposed itself on all Europe.”
As for the overall novel, of which we read every sillaba: It is marvelously anti-clerical, but the marvel stops there. It suffers from its DNA of being written in installments—un romanzo d’appendice, “a novel of appendixes,” to use the unembarrassed Italian term for this particular flavor of serialized work. Our verdict? Draw three circles that overlap each other. Label one “D’Annunzianisms,” the second “Quasi-Dumas,” and the third “Fratboy Stuff.” There, in the central overlap of your Venn diagram, sits The Cardinal’s Mistress.
A sample for students of political science (the character Benizio mentioned here is a politically powerful priest):
"Don Benizio’s slumber was disturbed by the vision of Woman—Woman in that lustrous nakedness that haunts the repressed eroticism of those prisoners of chastity. Claudia of the Satanic leer, of the rounded shoulders, of the perfumed hair, of the paradisaic mouth, of the white and tender flesh—Claudia the courtesan. Claudia the Woman, offering unimaginable caresses, ineffable voluptuousness, ecstasy to the point of oblivion, of exasperation."