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from the March 2004 issue

from Frau Teleprocu

Dante and Philosophy

Philosophy contracted a well-trained muscle and lifted her bosom invitingly toward Dante. He leaned forward and snatched a sliver of onion in his teeth.

"The sauce too," she murmured. "Infernally delicious."

At this point Dante pounced, Philosophy fell back on the carpet, and a steaming sausage was imprisoned betwixt their bodies. Dante let loose a childlike yelp, but she mashed the sausage with a single thrust of her hip, destroying it with the desperation of someone extinguishing a fire.

At times they moved in splendid synchrony, like two people who enjoy open-air gymnastics. Then, through Philosophy's initiative, they were seized and consumed by an overwhelming fury, which sunk its fangs into Dante and shook him, set his feet dancing and fetched his soul a kick, caressing and torturing him all at once till the sausage underwent a wretched disintegration in their midst.

"Dante, this is heavenly," whispered Philosophy. "Where d'you learn it?"

"From the boy scouts," the poet panted. "They use a two-pronged instrument to trap snakes."


Two novels were bobbing in tire tubes on the Atlantic. The first was entitled Love, Lords and Lady-Birds; the other The Hunchbacked Sea Gull. Bobbing amid the relentess ink-dark waves, the two novels met. Love, Lords and Lady-Birds was ashamed of his title and made out that he was called Princess Daisy; the other novel introduced himself as Jonathan Livingston Seagull. What stupefying reads! After description, dialogue ensues.

"Would you like a babycham, Salvatore Lorondo?"

"Come now, Kier, you're a dictator! People today don't get near an airplane without taking off their hats."

This exchange from The Hunchbacked Sea Gull concealed a subtext of personal revenge.

"I'd like you to be plainer: donnez-moi yer lovely ass. Venez ici, come 'ere so I kin fouette you!"

"You blockhead, you've been misinformed."

Love, Lords and Lady-Birds fell silent, casting his mysterious gaze out to sea.

"Do you ever dream of winning an award?" he resumed, all charming and peachy keen.

But before the other could respond, autumn stirred the waves, and the two novels sank like stones in the editorial immensity.


The Pope switched off the light. Africa headed for the exit and wound up in his arms. For a moment she didn't realize that His Holiness was leaning his right hand against the wall. Finding her path blocked, she lost a bit of her self-possession.

"What can you be doing?" she murmured, speaking in a low voice because of the darkness. She tried to pass beneath the arm, but the Pope lowered it. She turned in the opposite direction--but watched his arms encircle her. She was terrified by His Holiness's utter silence.

With a hand she pried herself loose from his right arm and edged toward the dark corridor. As she made her way the Pope snatched her from behind and crushed her to his chest, tightening his arms around her. Yet as soon as his hand touched her, Africa started to feel a tremor rising from her knees, pinning her in place, tilting her head back against her shoulder. Her lips parted as His Holiness blessed her neck. The Pope slowly led her back into the baptistry and spun her around. Then he stumbled into some cardboard boxes and fell flat on his face, panting. He was rough with her and it all happened so fast.

The Judge

Jean-Marie Lesorteil, Chief Justice of the Swiss Supreme Court of Appeal, is a native of Martinique. He possesses legitimate identity papers that prove he was born in Fort-de-France, precisely on that island. But he expresses himself with a rather heavy North African Arab accent. He pronounces "k" with that guttural tone that is peculiar to the Arab tongue. He is incapable of uttering a few German vowels, like ä, ü, ö, which lack equivalents in North African Arabic. He wears a great number of tattoos from diverse locales, notably a Spanish tag scrawled across his back and, etched neatly on his forearm and wrist, starred half moons of a distinctly ethnic character. At the base of his left thumb lies another starred half moon: this tattoo must have been done for therapeutic purposes. Monsieur Lesorteil maintains that he abandoned Martinique at the age of twenty. Yet he is incapable of furnishing any details about the topography of the island. When he gets pissed at the tribunal, he dances exceedingly well. No one doubts that he is an Arab named Mohamed Harrash, who escaped from French Guyana years ago, while serving a life sentence for white slavery.

How to Administer a Literary Prize

The authors nominated for the prize each lie in a bed with a firm mattress, their heads slightly elevated, a pad beneath their pelvis, their legs bent at the knees, opened wide, a sheet drawn to the sternum, thighs half-covered. The authors must breathe calmly, relax their muscles, let everything happen with tranquility. A basin is placed between their legs.

After an interval for consultation, the jury takes the literary prize, generously lubricated, and abruptly inserts it into one of the authors, gently pushing it forward. In general, the prize proceeds without difficulty for 10-12 centimeters. If any resistance is detected, the prize is withdrawn a bit, lightly jiggled, and then the delicate pushing resumes, boring into the author with a rotating movement until the presentation has been completed.

The other authors, meanwhile, are instructed to get dressed again. After the operation, the literary prize is carefully cleaned, dried, and returned to storage.

Ask Oscar: A Syndicated Column

Dear Miss Oscar Wilde: Yesterday something embarrassing happened to me. First, I must tell you that I am a Virgo; my fiancée's sign is Scorpio. I was driving home my fiancée's French tutor when she suddenly started to undress. She stripped naked and slipped into a devil's costume, all red leather and spandex. I slammed on the brakes, jumped out, and proceeded on foot as calmly as possible. On the street I spotted many other people dressed like devils. When I arrived at my fiancée's house, she greeted me warmly and immediately started to undress, donning a devil's costume, all red lace and feathers. Then and there, I must confess, it seemed rather impertinent. Her father entered, and just imagine what happened: he too was dressed like a devil, sporting a crimson silk smoking jacket and a black cravat bedight with tiny crimson pitchforks. After we exchanged a few civilities, he summoned her mother, who on arrival started stripping down. She then wriggled into a strapless scarlet sheath and slid her matching toenails into cloven-heeled pumps. All this transpired in the vicinity of the university, on via Dante Alighieri. I do not know if you have ever glimpsed a family dressed like devils, but I can testify that it is almost worse than seeing them naked. It sent me reeling with perplexity and doubt.

Now here is the question I would like to ask you: When next I meet my fiancée, would it be appropriate for me to wear my devil's costume as well (even if it is a bit tight around the waist)?

Oscar Wilde replies: What can I tell you? Trust in instinct. Don't be enthralled by commonplaces. One must either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.

From Frau Teleprocu (Milan: Adelphi, 1976). By arrangement with the publisher.

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