Secrets of Paradise between science and imagination

Secrets of Paradise between science and imagination

Marco Malfaldi, “Dark and blue”, Giunti, 2023, 352 pages, €19

Dark and heavenly It is the author’s last novel Marco Malfaldi, it was published last April by Giunti. The story is set in Florence in 1631, a period when Europe is in strife, food is scarce, bubonic plague is raging, and the Holy Inquisition gives no respite to freedom of expression, especially scientific.

phase dark For the protagonists of the novel, which could present an opportunity for the scientist who is considered one of the fathers of the scientific method: Galileo Galilei (1564-1642). In fact, due to an epidemic, Galileo might be able to evade the controls of the Holy Inquisition and print his latest book – Dialogue about the two main systems of the world Not in Rome, but in Florence. Unfortunately, his eyesight is becoming increasingly hazy, and his favorite daughter, Virginia (Sister Maria Celeste), who has become a reclusive nun in the house, will come to his aid in transcribing minutes for the press. San Mateo in ArcetriWith her sister Livia (sister of Arcangela) due to lack of a dowry.

Malfaldi Galileo presents us not only a scholar but also a father, loved and hated by his daughters who find themselves living an unhappy monastic life, moreover a life of solitude, between prayer, chastity and poverty. But even the humblest place of prayer can reveal unexpected aspects. So one night someone sees a shadow, the sound of a body falling is heard and in the courtyard of the convent the body of Sister Agnesi is found, an inquisitive mind devoted to culture. Who could have killed her? Thus historical events are intertwined with mystery, dissolving and getting lost throughout the plot of the novel, right up to the last page, thanks to the author’s energetic and ironic writing.

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Galileo reveals himself to the reader without haste, through conversations and meetings with his daughters, with “La Pira”, the fearful and talkative maid, mother of the Abbey of San Matteo, cardinals, pupils, inquisitors and great figures of the grand ducal court like Ferdinando II de Medici.

The novel is the result of extensive historical research, but beware, “This is not a history book” as Malfaldi himself points out in the end notes. The events are inspired by the story and are animated by the great correspondence between Galileo and his daughters, particularly with Virginia, which is reported several times in the pages of the novel. However, there is a one-year gap from the original correspondence, during which time Galileo may have been present in Arcetri and was able to visit his daughters in person. And this is where the writer’s imagination sneaks in. Those who have a passion for history often feel that deep, deep desire to be able to travel through time and observe with their own eyes moments, events, and personalities in eras far, far away from us. Therefore, it is not farfetched to imagine what Malfaldi felt before that time jump: “Despair for historians, but a blessing for novelists.”

But if it is not a historical novel, is it a whore? One could answer: not only. Marco Malfaldi’s satirical writings. And while its protagonists juggle various twists and turns, they sometimes take a polemical and irreverent stance against both religious and political authority. It’s a very recent book, which is hard to delve into without running into some spoilers.

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Everyone who loves Galileo Galilei and his historical and scientific adventures should read it. Those who love detective stories can greatly appreciate the intertwining of history and imagination until the case is solved.

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