The coal—il carbone! I knew we were in for it. England—l’Inghilterra she has the coal. And what does she do? She sells it very dear. Particularly to Italy. Italy won the war and now can’t even have coal. Because why! The price. The exchange! Il cambio. Now I am doubly in for it. Two countries had been able to keep their money high—England and America. The English sovereign—la sterlina—and the American dollar—sa, these were money. The English and the Americans flocked to Italy, with their sterline and their dollari, and they bought what they wanted for nothing, for nothing. Ecco! Whereas we poor Italians—we are in a state of ruination—proper ruination. The allies, etc., etc.
I am so used to it—I am so wearily used to it. I can’t walk a stride without having this wretched cambio, the exchange, thrown at my head. And this with an injured petulant spitefulness which turns my blood. For I assure them, whatever I have in Italy I pay for: and I am not England. I am not the British Isles on two legs.
Germany—La Germania—she did wrong to make the[Pg 92] war. But—there you are, that was war. Italy and Germany—l’Italia e la Germania—they had always been friends. In Palermo….
My God, I felt I could not stand it another second. To sit above the foam and have this miserable creature stuffing wads of chewed newspaper into my ear—no, I could not bear it. In Italy, there is no escape. Say two words, and the individual starts chewing old newspaper and stuffing it into you. No escape. You become—if you are English—l’Inghilterra, il carbone, and il cambio; and as England, coal and exchange you are treated. It is more than useless to try to be human about it. You are a State usury system, a coal fiend and an exchange thief. Every Englishman has disappeared into this triple abstraction, in the eyes of the Italian, of the proletariat particularly. Try and get them to be human, try and get them to see that you are simply an individual, if you can. After all, I am no more than a single human man wandering my lonely way across these years. But no—to an Italian I am a perfected abstraction, England—coal—exchange. The Germans were once devils for inhuman theoretic abstracting of living beings. But now the Italians beat them. I am a walking column of statistics, which adds up badly for[Pg 93] Italy. Only this and nothing more. Which being so, I shut my mouth and walk away.
For the moment the carpenter is shaken off. But I am in a rage, fool that I am. It is like being pestered by their mosquitoes. The sailing ships are near—and I count fifteen sails. Beautiful they look! Yet if I were on board somebody would be chewing newspaper at me, and addressing me as England—coal—exchange.
The mosquito hovers—and hovers. But the stony blank of the side of my cheek keeps him away. Yet he hovers. And the q-b feels sympathetic towards him: quite sympathetic. Because of course he treats her—a bel pezzo—as if he would lick her boots, or anything else that she would let him lick.Share It