Monday, March 21, 2016

James Joyce and the Vigna Randanini

TNT MAGAZINE: In the footsteps of James Joyce in Rome (Giuseppe Cafiero).
Italian writer Giuseppe Cafiero has recently published his latest book James Joyce 1906-1907: The Ambiguity of Epiphanies - a fascinating and provocative literary fiction exploring the forgotten year that author James Joyce lived and worked in Rome, enjoying an extraordinary love-hate relationship with the eternal city. Here Cafiero shares the sites and locations in Rome that were most pertinent to the Irish novelist and poet, with TNT readers...
Naturally, Joyce visited the places you would expect, such as the Coliseum and the Forum, but there's also this:
Finally, we travel along the old Appian Way to experience a place that Joyce hastened to visit since it had been discovered only in 1859 and he had been fascinated by it thanks to some readings made in Trieste. The Vigna Randanini was (as it still is, even though altered externally by restorations) an ancient Jewish necropolis dating to well before the Christian catacombs. Joyce was speechless at the sight of those ruins, recalling the succession of rituals that had marked the place. Imagining the first settlements when, it is said, the area was sacred to the Jews and it was constructed according to patriarchal dictates, with galleries and narrow tunnels making room for tombs carved into the volcanic rock walls. Visiting that place even now we can imagine a synagogue, where there is water, where there is the division of spaces into two units (one for men, one for women), where we can deduce the presence of apses. Thus there is a large oblong space preceding an antechamber, then a vestibule as a place of access leading to another room containing a well of circa 6 metres, a necessary element for a synagogue.
These were certainly the most indelible memories for Joyce as he wandered, bored and inebriated, through Rome. Memories that can be revisited with renewed interest if we decide to consider them as evocative literary tours and Joycean itineraries.