Location: Somewhere over France, near Clermont-Ferrand.
Delta Airlines flight. We’re somewhere over Clermont Ferrand, which is where Pope Urban proclaimed the First Crusade in 1091 or something like that. The monitor says we’re about an hour from Rome — a distance of several months’ travel in the Middle Ages, 500 miles over the Alps.
I finished reading Midnight In Sicily by Peter Robb.
The part about this painter, Renato Guttuso, grabbed me the most. He and his wife and his lover lived in a duplex apartment in a very nice neighborhood. The wife, sick with cancer, ruled the second floor; the lover ruled the first floor. When his wife went into the final stages of the cancer, the lover moved out for a period of time, so that the grieving husband could receive a series of high-level visitors. Guttuso was the most prominent painter in Italy, and he couldn’t have a series of visitors like the Prime Minister and senior church officials being received by his girlfriend while his wife lay dying upstairs.
All of a sudden, the wife is dead, and the painter calls his girlfriend, “Oh, dear one, I need you.” She shows up at their building, to discover that the doorman won’t admit her. He won’t admit any of the painter’s friends. He’s hanging out with a bunch of friends who are also prominent politicians, and some of whom are prominent Mafia types. None of his painter friends, his artist friends, are allowed to visit.
Guttuso was a prominent Communist all his life. Gave to the Italian Party, made art for the Party, worked his ass off for the Party, prominently abandoned Catholicism. Suddenly, he’s making a deathbed conversion to Monsignor Angelini, and he renounces his earlier wills. The Italian bureaucracy, a model of inefficiency and delay, manages to process Guttuso’s adoption papers of a young man in three weeks when it normally takes several years. The lover is disinherited, and their joint safe-deposit box is cleared out of her jewelry and all his erotic drawings of her. The newly adopted son is from a Palermo family of shady origins, which have no prior connection to Guttuso before his conversion to Catholicism. Guttuso’s $300 million fortune disappears. The communists, the Christian Democrats, and the Mafia all seem to wind up with a share.
We’ve just crossed the terminator. The sun rose into the sky with speed. Like a ball rushing at you on a tennis court. To my right somewhere is Africa. To my left is France.