"The creature behind us was apparently a monk, though his torn and dirty habit made him look like a vagabond and his face bore a resemblance to those of the monsters I had just seen on capitals. Unlike many of my brothers, I have never in my whole life been visited ny the Devil; but I believe that if he were to appear to me one day, prevented by divine decree from concelaing completely his nature even though he chose to resemble a man, he would have the very features our interlocutor presented to me at this moment. His head was hairless, not shaved in penance but as a result of the past action of some viscid eczema; the brow was so low that if he had had hair on his head it would have mingled with his eyebrows (which were thick and shaggy); the eyes were round, with tiny mobile pupils, and whether the gaze was innocent or malign I could not tell; perhaps it was both, in different moods, in flashes. The nose could not be called a nose, for it was only a bone that began between the eyes, but as it rose from the face it immediately sank again, transforming itself only into two dark holes, broad nostrils thick with hair. The mouth, joined to the nose by a scar, was wide and ill-made, stretching more to the right than to the left, and between the upper lip, nonexistent, and the lower, prominent and fleshy, there protruded, in an irregular pattern, black teeth sharp as a dog's.
   The man smiled (or at least so I believed) and, holding up one finger as in admonition, he said:

   'Penitenziagite! Watch out for the draco who cometh in futurum to gnaw your anima! Death is super nos! Pray the Santo Pater come to liberar nos a malo and all our sin! Ha ha, you like this negromanzia de Domini Nostri Jesu Christi! Et anco jois m'es dols e plazer m'es dolors... Cave el diabolo! Semper lying in wait for me in some angulum to snap at my heels. But Salvatore is not stupidus! Bonum monasterium, and aqui refectorium and pray to dominum nostrum. And the rest is worth merda. Amen. No?'

   As this story continues, I shall have to speak again, and at length, of this creature and record his speech. I confess I find it very difficult to do so because I could not say now, as I could never understand then, what language he spoke. It was not Latin, in which the lettered men of the monastery expressed themselves, it was not the vulgar tongue of those parts, or any other I have heard. I believe I have given a faint idea of his manner of speech, reporting just now (as I remember them) the first words of his I heard. When I learned later about his adventurous life and about the various places where he had lived, putting down roots in none of them, I realized Salvatore spoke all languages, and no language. Or, rather, he had invented for himself a language which used the sinews of the languages to which he had been exposed - and once I thought that his was, not the Adamic language that a happy mankind had spoken, all united by a single tongue from the origin of the world to the Tower of Babel, or one of the languages that arose after the dire event of their division, but precisely the Babelish language of the first day after the divine chastisement, the language of primeval confusion. Nor, for that matter, could I call Salvatore's speech a language, because in every human language there are rules and every term signifies ad plastum a thing, according to a law that doesn't change, for man cannot call the dog once dog and once cat, or utter sounds to which a consensus of people has not assigned a definite meaning, as would happen if someone said the word 'blitiri'. And yet, one way or another, I did understand what Salvatore meant, and so did the others. Proof that he spoke not one, but all languages, none correctly, taking words sometimes from one and sometimes from another. I also noticed afterward that he might refer to something first in Latin and later in Provencal, and I realized that he was not so much inventing his own sentences as using the disiecta membra of other sentences, heard sometime in the past, according to the present situation and the things he wanted to say, as if he could speak of a food, for instance, only with the words of the people among whom he had eaten the food, and express his joy only with sentences that he had heard uttered by joyful people the day when he had similarly experienced joy. His speech was somehow like his face, put together with pieces from other people's faces, or like some precious reliquaries I have seen (si licet magnis componere parva, if I may link diabolic things with the divine), fabricated from the shards of other holy objects. At that moment, when I met him for the first time, Salvatore seemed to me, because of both his face and his way of speaking, a creature not unlike the hairy and hoofed hybrids I had just seen under the portal. Later I realized that the man was probably good-hearted and humorous. Later still... But we must not go ahead of out story. Particularly since, the moment he had spoken, my master questioned him with great curiosity.

   'Why did you say Penitenziagite?' he asked.

   'Domine frate magnificentissimo,' Salvatore answered, with a kind of bow, 'Jesus venturus est and les hommes must do penitenzia. No?'

   William gave him a hard look. 'Did you come here from a convent of Minorites?'

   'Non comprends.'

   'I am asking if you have lived among the friars of Saint Francis; I ask if you have known the so-called apostles...'

   Salvatore blenched, or, rather, his tanned and savage face turned gray. He made a deep bow, muttered through half-closed lips a 'vade retro,' devoutly blessed himself, and fled, looking back at us every now and then.

   'What did you ask him?' I said to William.

   He was thoughful for a moment. 'It is of no matter; I will tell you later. Let us go inside now. I want to find Ubertino.' " 






Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose






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