Andreuccio da Perugia by Giovanni Boccaccio

By Giovanni Boccaccio

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This view of human experience—and human textuality—may be extrapolated from a passage in the Paradiso that denies the faculty of memory to angels. Because angels never turn their faces from the face of God and see all things in his eternal present, their sight is uninterrupted by new things, and they have no need of memory (which we use to store the new things once they are no longer new):6 Queste sustanze, poi che fur gioconde de la faccia di Dio, non volser viso da essa, da cui nulla si nasconde: INFERNAL INCIPITS 23 però non hanno vedere interciso da novo obietto, e però non bisogna rememorar per concetto diviso.

Life is just such a voyage: it is the “nuovo e mai non fatto cammino di questa vita” (“new and never before traveled path of this life” [Conv. 15]),5 in which our forward progress is articulated by our successive encounters with the new. The text is also such a voyage: the equivalences life = voyage = text are implied in verses where the pilgrim’s life is a “corso,” and his “corso” is a “testo” (“Ciò che narrate di mio corso scrivo, / e serbolo a chiosar con altro testo” [“That which you narrate of my race I write, and save it to gloss with another text” (Inf.

It shares with canto 1 the task of setting up premises fundamental to the entire Commedia, which it develops in a more personal vein (emblematic in this regard are verses 62–64, where a host of key words from canto 1—“diserta piaggia,” “cammin,” “vòlto,” “paura,” “smarrito”—are transferred from the narrator to Beatrice). 26 Most notably, cominciare appears in concert with the Commedia’s first use of novo, in the image of the man who disconverts, who exemplifies backward motion by unwanting what he wanted (“E qual è quei che disvuol ciò che volle” [37]); his “novi pensier” (38) cause him to keep changing his mind and prevent him from beginning by consigning him to endless stops and starts, “sì che dal cominciar tutto si tolle” (“so that from beginning he utterly desisted” 30 CHAPTER 2 [39]).

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