The dictation of a mediumistic novel
A novel dictated in direct voice
As we have said, after the minutes of the sitting of February 19, 1939, the registered notes are not interrupted, but continue to record, sometimes with the date but more often without, the fragments of the novel Gocce di Rugiada (Dew Drops) that entity Boccacci presumably began to dictate in December 1939, and whose dictation went on, sitting after sitting, for about one year. The main feature of this novel, left unfinished because of the departure of the medium due to the war, consists in the fact that the parts dictated in each séance were not always consecutive: sometimes it happened that Boccacci began to narrate a completely new part, without any apparent connection with what he had dictated in the previous séance, and went on even for two or three sittings, and then interrupt the narration to resume some previously left pending point, or start a new chapter. The various fragments of the novel were then recomposed by Ravaldini: despite the gaps, the plot of the novel is quite clear, and the various unitary parts, especially the chapters of the first part, are consistent both in style and in the narrative structure. So our final impression is to be in front of a work – conceived and built by an amateur writer of decent level – whose plot is lively and at times intriguing, even in its naivety. The few dates in the minutes show well the fragmentation of the story and the way in which the various parts were dictated in bulk, given that some fragments dictated in November 1940 must logically be placed before other pieces dictated in July or September of the same year.
At that time the séances were almost completely occupied by the dictation of the novel, an undertaking far from simple, despite the very clear diction and firm voice of the entity. The sittings began and ended with the greeting of the guide Luciano, who almost immediately left the scene to Boccacci, who started to dictate. Here is the description (quoted from Realtà e Mistero) given by Ravaldini, who since 1939 took personally part in the sittings: the entity Boccacci is simply called the Writer. «Many were the mediumistic séances in which I participated, and all of them interesting for certain particular characteristics. But those in which the Writer dictated many pages of his unpublished work are still vivid in my memory, also because their development was different from the others. At the beginning Luciano showed up, greeting the sitters, and then, except for some other brief direct-voice communications, the Writer almost always began with this phrase: "May God give you that certain light, messeri and monne"... Immediately afterwards this greeting Luciano spoke again, asking to close the veils (the curtains) and to light the lamp. This, to be honest, was a single candle placed on the small table where my uncle sat, so that some light would allow him to write what would be dictated. And then, having prepared everything, the Writer's voice addressed my uncle, saying: "Messere, fix it", that is, inviting him to write».
«The dictation accentuated even more the particular characteristic of that language of other times, which was perfectly in harmony with the usual way of speaking of the Writer: both for the words used and for the construction of the periods. In fact, many of the expressions he used to narrate episodes of his life, were later found in the descriptions and dialogues of his novel. Not only that, but at the same time that language was revealed to belong to a cultured, I would say aristocratic person. The words he pronounced in that particular style, the discourse that always flowed clear, elegant and harmonious, kept us enthralled, and we were really sorry when, at the end of the sitting, he made us understand that everything was over for that night. His way of dictating, with a diction that I do not hesitate to define perfect, was calm, interspersed with rather long pauses, as if he was aware that those words and the construction of certain periods were no longer in tune with our current language. Other minor difficulties were represented by truncated words, by articles apostrophized in one way or another, by unknown words. When my uncle was confronted with a word he did not understand, he asked the Writer to repeat it, and he, in addition to consenting to the request, slowly pronouncing the word again, then spelled one by one the consonants and the vowels that formed it: "Messere, the s, the g, the a...". Sometimes, perhaps after some paragraphs had been written, the Writer stopped and, after a pause, as if he wanted to examine them, checking again what had already been written, or perhaps to better reconstruct the episodes he was narrating, he addressed my uncle saying: "Messere, can't remember. Speak of the above". At this point my uncle reread the last written period, which sometimes needed some correction, and this seemed to be useful in some way, because then the dictation continued without a hitch».
«The séances at that time were no longer those of the past. The two or three hours of manifestations belonged to the past. The sittings lasted an hour, an hour and a quarter, no more. When the time ran out, sometimes Luciano made it clear to the Writer that in order not to cause any disturbance to the medium it was necessary to end the session, the Writer, in a very elegant manner and with so much kindness, said: "Messere, I can't remember". And he went on saying that we could continue to write that story at the next sitting. Sometimes, at the beginning of a séance, he invited my uncle to reread the last paragraph of the part dictated in the previous session, to reconnect with it and go further; or he dictated a new episode, which could or could not be connected to what had already been written. In the beginning the fragmentations were frequent. Subsequently the various fragments began to be connected to each other. Of course, all the connections we did during our work of re-arranging and copying the dictation were then submitted to the entity for his approval, especially in the first period of this cycle of dictates, because after, when the sittings were less frequent due to the medium's absence, the work of putting the dictated parts in order was done by ourselves».
«As for the modes of the phenomenon's manifestation, I can say that during the dictation the voice was always heard very close to the closed curtains, as if behind the same there were a man in flesh and blood, standing, higher than average, since his voice was heard in a place where we could hypothetically locate the mouth of our invisible interlocutor. And this voice was so close, that the curtain swayed slightly at the point where it was hit by the sound vibration. I am not sure that this prose is the same as the original written by the Author, also because if some parts of the work were approved (and sometimes corrected) by the Writer, many remained without control. Furthermore, it must be considered that the control was carried out only phonetically, and some words – such as for example gli and li, quegli and quelli, assai ito and assa'ito – they could be confused and therefore be wrong in writing. On the other hand, in order to carry out a detailed examination and correct the mistakes, a deep knowledge in that specific field would be required».
Inconsistency of the language of the novel
Ravaldini's description is really effective, and makes us almost live the scene. It should be remembered that when Realtà e Mistero was written (first half of the '80) no investigation had yet been carried out on the style and language of the novel Gocce di Rugiada: as we have said, all the sitters were convinced that the author of the novel was Boccacci, and even Ravaldini, while in doubt about the attribution of the novel to Boccaccio, believed that the Writer was an entity lived more or less in the fourteenth century. The question was further elaborated by Ravaldini himself in one of his articles published on Luce e Ombra (issue 2000/4), from which I have excerpted the following remarks. «Our cultural baggage of the time could not allow us, in the most absolute way, even if we had unwillingly drawn from the unconscious, to set up such a complex novel, in a language too far from the common, since we lacked any knowledge (stylistic, philological and historical) about the development of the Italian language; and inserting in it historical data completely unknown to us. Not only that, but also to create characters that fit and harmoniously set in the places where the fights of a tormented medieval Tuscany take place. It should also be noted that from the whole of this particular phenomenon, already remarkable in the exceptional nature of all the facts that occurred, the autonomy of the mediumistic personality who dictated the novel is unequivocal, even though it is considered by many people to be impossible. That prose, from whichever side we want to examine it or to interpret it, is undoubtedly to be considered a literary creation, therefore an art work: mediumistic art».
«Anyway, outside of what may be the possible artistic value of Gocce di Rugiada, I can not fail to highlight some considerations. I am not aware of the existence of other paranormal literature obtained by means of a direct voice mediumistic dictation. And yet for this reason the fact is remarkable and worthy of every consideration, because, again, more unique than rare. In my humble opinion we can not but admit that whoever was the one who dictated us part of that unpublished work, he had to know well the language that he used and the history of Valdelsa in which the novel is set. This fictional story belongs to a period of the Middle Ages that can be roughly circumscribed. From the text it is noted that a tower of the castle of Rocca d'Olivo looks over Semifonte ormai distrutta (already destroyed). The city of Semifonte, built after 1100 between Certaldo and Barberino Val d'Elsa, soon became a rival of Florence, and had its apogee between 1180 and 1202, when it was conquered by the Florentines, who then wanted it razed to the ground. So when the story begins Semifonte no longer existed. In one of the novel's chapters a mention is made of the visit of Dante Alighieri to San Gimignano as ambassador. This fact is historically dated to 1300. Therefore we can place the events narrated in Gocce di Rugiada at the turn of the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century, an era in which the fights between Guelphs and Ghibellines, between the popedom and the empire, were so frequent, abundantly seasoned with excommunications. The ancient rival families of San Gimignano mentioned in the novel attest to this, such as the Salvucci, the Ardinghelli and the Becci, whose towers and palaces still existing tell us of their past power. Also with regard to some of the mentioned places, traces of historical information and ruins, which are now crumbling, can be found. Castelvecchio, for example, was an ancient and strong castle about five kilometers from San Gimignano, which first was a fief of the Church of Volterra and later became the safest bulwark of San Gimignano's people when they began to shake the yoke of the bishops. At the beginning of the 14th century (1309) it lost its importance with the construction of a nearby castle and slowly, but inexorably, began its decline. And then, who of us knew the exact denomination of the weapons used in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries? How would it have been possible, I repeat, for us, ignorant in the matter, to build, even unconsciously, Gocce di Rugiada?».
«I must add that some words and quotations contained in this novel have particularly attracted my attention, because they highlight the instruction and the linguistic knowledge of the author, which, I repeat, we could not have had in the most absolute way. For example, the character Chiappo, one of the Branducci's armigers, has been so called not by chance, but with a precise meaning. In fact I discovered in the Universal Vocabulary of the Italian Language of 1847 that Chiappo means Drappello (platoon). The armigers of Rocca d'Olivo can be considered a real platoon: about thirty, and he is their leader. Not only that, but for his courage and combativeness Chiappo is worth much more than some of his men». It should be noted that there are many definitions of the term chiappo, including the one mentioned by Ravaldini, but not only. Chiappo may mean presa, cattura, da cui il verbo acchiappare (taking, capture, hence the verb to catch), and also laccio, corda, cappio (lace, rope, loop, you may see the various terms on the site www.dizionario.org). «The difficulties of dictation – Ravaldini continued in his article – were born above all from the entity's language, rich in unusual terms, often invented by the Writer himself, with a creativity that is in perfect harmony with his communicative intention, as in the expressions risate sganasciarie (laughter to break the jaws) o risate diavolose (devilish laughter). Sometimes the entity began to dictate some part that had already been written, and went on until the sitters, noticing the repetitions, did not tell him. So the dictation itself of Gocce di Rugiada is an enigma in the enigma, which unfortunately we will never manage to solve, unless, for some extraordinary stroke of luck, we could not identify the author, or find at least some of the novel's chapters, in order to compare the original with the mediumistic dictation».
A linguistic investigation
The text of the novel was then submitted by Ravaldini to the attention of an expert of Italian language, Dr. Linda Pagnotta, who has dealt with thirteenth and fourteenth century Italian literature, collaborating with the Accademia della Crusca to the project Concordanze della lingua poetica italiana delle Origini (Concordances of the Italian Poetic Language of the Origins), and with CNR in the drafting of the Tesoro della lingua italiana delle Origini (Treasure of the Italian Language of the Origins). After examining the story with a critical and objective spirit, Dr. Pagnotta sent to Ravaldini the following comment, dated May 2, 1995, published in the aformentioned article in the issue 2000/4 of Luce e Ombra. «It can be ruled out with certainty that this is ancient prose, of the fourteenth or even less of the thirteenth century: the presence of a French style word like giustacuore (justicoat), introduced in Italy only in the seventeenth century, allows us to fix around this epoch the term post quem of the novel's composition, which furthermore other linguistic and stylistic features denounce as surely much later than the first centuries of Italian literature. The author is however a connoisseur of the fourteenth-fifteenth century literature and a lover of the ancient Tuscan language, to which he constantly tries to conform, accentuating the archaic elements much beyond what was allowed by the ancient use, with a striking effect of accumulation of locutions and idiomatic phrases that makes his reconstruction rather unlikely. In this sense it is significant the abuse of periphrasis and verbal forms, evidently perceived as a characteristic trait of the fourteenth-century language (where they actually recur with relative frequency); however, these are often circumlocutory formulas devoid of any confirmation (in the real language of the time) and attributable directly to the author (see for instance avere in dottrina, farsi in orecchio, avere in debole, dar di chiamo, and so on); and similarly, alongside genuinely archaic voices (orrevole, resìa, spezial, etc.), we can find others which are completely imaginative (see in particular the suffixal series ending in -oso: amicoso, scuroso, umidoso, diavoloso, ghibellinoso) or hyper Tuscan and phonetically wrong (puotesse, puotuto, àlie). To these often approximate casts we must add a whole series of voices and locutions (as well as some phonetic mannerisms like dreto, stiantare o fussino) belonging to Tuscan popular speech contemporary to the author (some of these, also etymologically plausible, such as the adjective ràbbio, in the locution svolto ràbbio, sudden turn, perhaps from Latin ruere, overturn, do not appear in the vocabularies), which, as we shall see, may help us to attempt a dating of the novel».
«Even if we then move on the narrative modalities and even the stylistic colors, various dissonances emerge from the novel with respect to the classic Boccaccian or Postboccaccian typology. In particular, the numerous metaphors of seventeenth-century taste catch the eye (rubin liquido, astro d'oro, necessitario delitto, etc.; but the series is very long), the frequency of direct dialogue, which recurs to a far more limited extent in ancient prose, and above all the descriptions of the characters, whose traits are decidedly romantic and Alfierian, where the heroic and morally sublime component of which the romanticism cloaked the image of the Middle Ages is emphasized. Several clues therefore lead to chronologically situate the novella in the early nineteenth century: first of all the setting in a stylized low Middle Ages, made of fights and skirmishes between opposing factions and still immersed a bit anachronistically in a reality of feudal type (see the castles, the jousts, etc.); then the fact that in one of the scattered fragments Dante is named, immediately gives the idea of a nineteenth-century fake: it is indeed typical of the historical novel the insertion of the plot in a pseudostoric frame, where the most charismatic and representative characters of the treated epoch show up. But first of all it is the choice of a literary and language genre to declare the purist matrix of the author, who could easily be placed in that culturally reactionary milieu that between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries tried to maintain, against the nascent romantic (and already enlightened) instances. of linguistic freedom, the Tuscan primacy and in particular that fourteenth century cult, traditionally promoted by the Accademia della Crusca, which for centuries had been blocking the development of literary prose in Italy».
«In this perspective, the adoption of the more specifically fourteenth-century prose style – that is, the novel – is combined with the romantic taste for the primitive and for a fanciful reinterpretation of the Middle Ages, while the mixture of archaic forms and voices of speech seems to respond precisely to the need of showing the substantial continuity and vitality of the Italian linguistic tradition, with the intent of opposing the invasion of foreign terms already underway. In short, we would be in the context of Father Cesari, of Puoti, of Fornaciari, just to remember the names of the main theorists of purism; more precise results, given the novel's provincial setting (and the abundance of metaphorical uses from which a rhetorical education of a still baroque flavor emerges), could be sought among the Sienese writers and scholars of the early nineteenth century. Anyway, what matters most for the purposes of psychical research is, I think, the strongly literary and constructed character of the novel, which in no way can be considered the result of an extemporaneous composition (in addition, as has already been pointed out, to the many truthful mentions of places and events, which presuppose the existence of a preparatory work of documentation at the base of the story), and above all its adherence to the atmosphere and cultural needs expressed by a movement, the purism, that is now forgotten and little studied – in its literary expression – even by specialists: which is even more difficult to attribute to a presumed forger».
I can add that the word copricapo (headgear) was introduced in the Italian language only at the beginning of the twentieth century, and that other terms used by Boccacci, like for example armàro instead of armaiolo o armaiuolo (weaponsmith), have not been part of our language in any period. Obviously, the questions about the creative process that led to the composition of a prose so rich in periphrases and unusual or wholly invented terms remain unresolved, and must be considered in the context of the enigmas attributable to human psyche, on which light has yet to be made.
As we said, the dictation of Gocce di Rugiada ceased altogether when the medium was called under arms at the beginning of 1941, and after some time destined to Albania, and from there to the Greek front. The following pages show the complete text of all the parts dictated, in the order that we considered as the most logical, but which could not correspond one hundred percent to the structure of the plot developed by the entity Boccacci. The text has not been translated into English, because its most interesting feature is given by its stylistic structure, the language used and the abundance of archaic terms, be they real or imaginative. as for the plot, it is mainly the romantic love story between the hero, the young, brave and wise messer Brando Branducci, and the heroine, the pure, beautiful and unhappy madonna Grazia Ardinghelli, against the background of the disputes between the families who fought for power in San Giminiano. In the role of the main villain, we find the bishop of Volterra and his treacherous nephew, messer Grinta de' Certosi, who, as everyone expects, is going to die at the hands of Brando.