Saint Onuphrius and the Countess
“With his unique sensitivity, Rosario Vitale gave life to characters that are not easily forgotten, as well as to an intimate and engaging tale that makes one wonder about topical themes. This tiny book possesses a beautiful, slow rhythm, and it’s just a shame that the end comes too soon.”
“I think I’m on the right track. I’m in Italy, the homeland of music itself, right? I am in Naples, the city with the unsurpassed tradition. If this is not the place, then what must it be?”.
Naples, summer 1737.
Rodolfo Pimi Degli Esposti, a wealthy Paraguayan boy with a true passion for music, is finally fulfilling his lifelong dream of studying in the city with the greatest musical tradition in the world: Naples.
The young man is indeed talented, and succeeds in proving it; his mind, however, is often with Natalia, a girl he had met on the same day of his arrival by sea. Extremely poor, Natalia makes a living by telling stories in exchange for something to eat and a handful of coins. Rodolfo is fascinated by the girl and often visits her at the city harbour, hoping to get to know her better.
Rodolfo’s life unfolds between the conservatory, where he befriends Carmine (a cadet that is steadily against the prospect of a career in the army or in the Church), and the harbour, where he slowly manages to win Natalia’s trust.
Their bond progresses until it turns into an actual relationship, which will eventually bloom on the evening of the inauguration of the San Carlo Theatre (where the young protagonists are the honour of being present).
At the end of the soirée, wanting to pay their respects to maestro Domenico Sarro, Rodolfo, Natalia, and Carmine go and visit him in his dressing room. The composer immediately takes a liking to them and invites them to the reception organized by his sister, Anna. It will be a chance for them to meet other notable people, including Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero.
Against the backdrop of a Naples in full splendour, everything seems to be going well for Rodolfo and Natalia – until fate decides otherwise.
I have never understood the meaning of expressions like “to conquer a woman”. To me, they have always been meaningless. In order to “conquer” something you must make some physical effort; you must have a strategy, a method of sorts. You can “conquer” the summit of a mountain, facing the obstacles along the path – although none of them was placed there as a test for you, no. They are just there, motionless and indifferent to your advance. The mountain itself couldn’t care less: you manage to climb it, you reach the top, you might even plant a flag there. You are filled with satisfaction and pride and yet, for the mountain, not a thing has changed. It just ignores your victory and keeps on enjoying the sunrises and the sunsets, the clouds that tickle its peak, the rain and snow that cleanse it and fill up its springs.
A “conquered” woman is nothing but vanity. It is a fantasy, a footnote in the great book of life, something fleeting and, in the end, pointless. I like to think that a woman should be deserved, that you should be worthy of her, and that the path to be taken should not be a climb, nor a march. You and her should proceed side by side, and finally come closer with mutual intention.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosario Vitale was born in Castelluccio dei Sauri (FG) on 29 October 1962.
He is a bookseller, librarian, and teacher of creative writing.
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