discreet intoxication of hazard
May 21, 2009, 3:31 pm
Filed under: departure lounge | Tags: , , , , ,

This is from an essay on Naples by Walter Benjamin.  Lore, legend, history – many influences, I am sure – assign cities character.  The politically correct decry it, but generalizations are always at least partially true, and interesting, and useful.  Here, Naples gets called indolent.  Southern places always get this rap – I guess it’s sunny, life is slow, the siesta has been instutionalized.  And everything now is measured by domestic product, ridiculously.

I asked my Italian coworker about this list; he humoured me and we discussed an alternate version of it he had grown up with – Bologna was gluttony and Genoa greed.  But he didn’t linger with me and said people don’t like to talk about it; people are sensitive about their birthplaces.  I persisted with a last thought, that outsiders are interested in it.  Now as I am writing this, I think more specifically outsiders from no place of their own are interested in it.

Trade, deeply rooted in Naples, borders on a game of chance and adheres closely to the holiday.  The well known list of the seven deadly sins located pride in Genoa, avarice in Florence (the old Germans were of a different opinion and called what is known as Greek love Florinzen), voluptuousness in Venice, anger in Bologna, greed in Milan, envy in Rome and indolence in Naples.  Lotto, alluring and consuming as no where else in Italy, remains the archetype of business life.  Every Saturday at four o’clock, crowds form in front of the house where the numbers are drawn.  Naples is one of the few cities with its own draw.  With the pawn shop and lotto, the state holds the proletariat in a vise:  what it advances to them in one, it takes back in the other.  The more discreet and liberal intoxication of Hazard, in which the whole family takes part, replaces that of alcohol.

From the essay Naples by Walter Benjamin and Asja Lacis in the book Reflections.

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