Eva Colombo, Bestiario dannunziano, In conclusione: Anna ed Ippolita

Eva Colombo, D’Annunzio’s bestiary, In conclusion: Anna and Ippolita

In the preceding pages we have seen how much the “beast” in D’Annunzio’ s works could be “another thing”: till the point of reaching the sphere of supernatural, of sacred. The dialectics between “bestiality” and “divinity” is the key of the volt supporting this notion of “beast” so peculiar and fascinating: therefore to those dialectics, from which I started in the Introduction, I have to return now. << The beast is an aspect of the divine, or rather the most mysterious aspect of the divine >>: this quotation from the Libro Segreto ( Secret Book ) seems to find in the short story La vergine Anna ( Maiden Anna - 1900 ) a parodic amplificatio. Anna is a poor, illiterate orphan grown up in an Abruzzo which is still an heathen land under a thin patina of Catholicism. She is described as a fervent catholic woman, almost a fanatical believer, and yet the theme of her fondness for animals is unceasingly underlined. She renders a sort of pagan veneration for a turtle and a donkey, obviously without being aware of the dangerous heterodoxy of her behavior: a very pious and very “bestial” woman so to speak, an intriguing paradox. The passage of the Libro Segreto just quoted is preceded by this statement: << I love women only thanks to that bestial something in them, I mean that divine something >>. If Anna is a parody of this bestial and divine woman, Ippolita Sanzio ( female protagonist of the novel Il Trionfo della morte – Triumph of death – 1898 ) is her perfect literary embodiment. A woman with a long serpentine body and a soul every now and then subject to outbursts of mysticism who is the passionate lover of the tormented male protagonist of the novel, Giorgio Aurispa. Giorgio is a man endowed with an inclination to sensuality definitely above the average but he doesn’t have a good relation with this aspect of his personality: the extraordinary receptivity of his sexual sensibility turns pleasure into pain and yet induces him to seek for sexual pleasure too often giving him the sensation of being the victim of a degrading mania. In order to compensate this exaggerated sensuality, Giorgio cultivates a tendency to intellectualism which leads him into bird – limes of an exasperating, unceasing self – analysis. A not very honest one, since this self – analysis is conceived mostly as a self – absolution from the dregs of a catholic sense of guilt related to sensuality: and obviously the short cut towards this self – absolution is blaming the woman, Ippolita. As Anna, Ippolita is very fond of animals till the point of displaying – in front of disgusted Giorgio’s eyes – a total lack of repugnance against worms and moths. This turn for animals added to her strong sensuality offers Giorgio the pretext of casting on her his own uneasiness connected with the sensualistic side of his personality: according to him, smart and passionate Ippolita is a dirty beast, an << instrument of low lust >>. And yet he cannot help seeing her raising to the rank of divinity when her beauty << blazes as a torch >> revealing her as an embodiment of the Invincible Lust. Lust, in the heterodox D’Annunzio’s pantheon, is endowed with the epithets << divine >> and << bestial >>. The coincidentia oppositorum peculiar to divinity marks Lust’s physiognomy in a very striking way: divinity and bestiality, spirituality and animality reach thanks to Lust a synthesis which the rationalistic analysis cannot stand, which can only be apprehend instinctively by means of senses. Ippolita’s << bestiality >>, which is interpreted by Giorgio as debasement, could be seen as elevation as well since the << instrument of low lust >> is at the same time the embodiment of the Invincible Lust, that Lust at the same time bestial and divine.