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Friday 14 May 2021

The pleasure of the senses The contrainte of the enigma

The contrainte of the enigma

Author of the content

It is no coincidence that the Oplepo (Opificio di Letteratura Potenziale), the Italian version of the Oulipo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle), was born on the occasion of a conference on puzzle writing; both activities "play" with words, feed on and enchant through the crumbling of concepts, phrases and their modified reconstruction. Both activities comply with pre-established rules, both use some constraints (restrictions). That of the author of puzzles, however, is a constant restriction, not only formal, but substantial: it concerns more the semantic aspect of the word than its graphic representation or its phonetic translation.

An enigmatic text, therefore, has two meanings, one "apparent" and the other "real"; so it happens in the riddle and riddle, the basic types of game.

The verses of a riddle (signed by Aldo Vitali) are well known very suitable for showing the structure of modern puzzles; these are two hendecasyllables, which only apparently allude to a loving and hardworking relative, as the title suggests with deception:

Needle work until midnight
to fix broken underwear.

The game is condensed into these few words which, apart from the prepositions and the article, through a game of homonyms, translations, semantic expansions are all capable of transforming themselves to refer no longer to the "grandmother", but to the compass; all through a game of homonyms, of translations, of more or less accentuated semantic expansions that ends with "the broken panties" which must be understood as "the routes to change".

Rat passes and we dispense roses

it may seem like a verse inspired by the warm beauty of the month of May. The real subject of the hendecasyllable is, instead, il topo: the "rat" that "passes" (walks a certain path) and to us "ròse dispensa" ("róse la pantry").

Often times, the poem is not only the lucky assembly of a series of successful bisenses, but its verses, beyond the simple playful fact, also manage to have an epigrammatic or light irony flavor, as is the case of these three riddles:

Nice discovery! Used to be idle,
she would always like to rest,
waiting for the one who marries her,
stop your face, at last, to work.

I knew him as a candid guy,
restful and peaceful, I assure you;
but I saw it undone one day in the Chamber
headbutted against the wall.

To give oneself air is made on purpose,
but I believe that if I took the step
to kick her out,
it would be really a good time!

Different is the case of the popular riddle, which, on the other hand, usually insists on a set of words and phrases in which something unrelated is enclosed or supposed, or an acute and witty description of it is exposed through qualities and forms attributable to everything. other. In any case, the solution remains vague, so much so that the one who finds himself explaining the mystery runs with his mind to this or that meaning, uncertain about what the right solution could be.

Often times this riddle develops on the wave of an erotic theme, but only in appearance since the language, at a very daring first reading, finally generates wonder for the actual solution: a completely naive conclusion and far from the dirty initial impressions.

It is clear that in popular riddles there is more to speak of allegory than of enigmatic fabric; their study, moreover, perhaps interests the philologist more than the semiologist, more the ethnologist than the linguist. The topics covered are common to the culture of each country, transmitted from one generation to the next.

Sometimes, however, insisting on witty transgressions, perhaps more suited to licentious meetings of learned than to entertainments of simple people, brings back the usual question about the nature of this kind of compositions: that is, whether it should be a phenomenon of ancient translation / imitation or of autonomous and spontaneous genesis, if it reflects an exclusively popular form or constitutes a literary form or, at least, an intermediate form, which draws from one and the other.

*** The three riddles reported above (respectively by Aldo Vitali, Giorgio Martinelli and Salvatore Giaquinto) are explained by: the model, he letto e la walk.

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