'Five Wounds': The Black Dog.

The black dog, the highest ranking member of the mafia of dogs, which Cur, one of the five main protagonists of 'Five Wounds', is destined to lead. This 'unnaturally black dog' is the object of fear and an omen of devilish deeds to the superstitious inhabitants of 'Five Wounds'. This reputation is perpetuated by the 'Comittee for Public Health' who order, from Mr.X, black dogs to urinate on selected door posts, as a portent of doom, in an area of the city where the government is planning a controlled outbreak of the plague.

The Ghetto

(The Venetian Ghetto today)

The sect of dogs is based in the Ghetto. The Ghetto in Venice was the area of the city where the Jewish community was forced to live. Its boundaries were controlled and policed by night. Due to the population being forced to grow in an enclosed area, the houses in the Ghetto had an unusually high number of floors, perhaps the equivalent to today's tower blocks.

The Black Dog.

(Goya's black dog)

Jon & I never discussed what the black dog meant, so I made my own interpretations and drew my own conclusions from his writing, as I was encouraged to do so. The figure of the black dog is most recognized as a metaphor for depression, possibly made widely known by Winston Churchill, who referred to his own depressive moods in this way.

The Black Dog of Myth.

"If a man shall meet the Black Dog once, it shall be for joy; and if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time, he shall die".

Another 'black dog' is the mythological phantom black dog from folklore, a giant dog with glowing eyes, believed to be a terrifying portent of death, although on other accounts it is protective and watches over people making their way home at night. Most people will be aware of the ghost dog in 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'.


Jonathan Walker said...

The last bit of the post should have a SPOILER ALERT maybe.

The Venetian Ghetto is often described as the first of its kind. This is not true: rather, it was the first to be called a 'Ghetto' (i.e. forcibly enclosed Jewish communities existed previously, but Venice was where the word 'Ghetto' originated). No-one really knows where the word came from, but there is speculation that it derives from the Italian 'gettare', 'to throw', or 'to cast', and that the location might previously have been used as a foundry (which would have been isolated due to fire risks, as the Murano glassblowers were). I used this etymological speculation for the Ghetto in 'Five Wounds', which is located in the middle of an abandoned industrial foundry, out of time and place. Some of its details are derived from the Ravenscraig steel foundry, outside Glasgow, which closed down in the late 80s, and in which I did a couple of shifts as a security guard in the early 90s.

Jonathan Walker said...

Also, the Venetian word for ferry, 'traghetto' (meaning an open gondola that goes back and forwards between fixed points on the Grand Canal) is derived indirectly from the verb 'gettare'; that is, from 'tragettare' in Italian, which means 'to carry across', 'to carry from one side to the other', and which is also the root meaning of 'translate' in English.

All of which is relevant for the book in general, and for the last bit of your post in particular.

Also, the No. 1 vaporetto (diesel ferry) in Venice is sometimes referred to as the 'piscia cane' (I'm not sure of the spelling because I've never seen it written down and it's probably dialect), i.e. the 'pissing dog', because it stops everywhere.

I shall do a post on dogs in 'Five Wounds' at some point, listing some of my references, the most famous of which is the dying thought Josef K. in 'The Trial' by Kafka: '“Like a dog!” he said, as if the shame of it would outlive him.'

dan hallett said...

Look forward to the dog post!

By coincidence the gondolier has a slight resemblance to Papa Legba (an intermediary between humans & spirits) who is depicted, in Haiti and New Orleans, as bearded, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat and carrying a walking stick. He is Related to opening & closing doors, removing obstacles and translation. His Colours are red (like Cur) & black. The dog is his symbolic animal.

From what I can find out, it is Papa Legba who is being referred to in the songs and stories of musicians striking a deal with the 'devil' on a cross roads to play the guitar. There is not a voodoo concept of the devil, it is a term that is not meant to be taken literally.

Por casualidad el gondolero parece un poco a Papá Legba (un intermediario entre los seres humanos y espíritus) que se representa, en Haití y Nueva Orléans, con barba llevando un sombrero de paja y un bastón. Papa Legba se relaciona con la apertura y cierre de puertas, eliminar los obstáculos y la traducción. Sus colores son el rojo (como Cur) y negro. El perro es su animal simbólico.

Es Papa Legba que se hace referencia en las canciones de blues y las historias de los músicos de llegar a un acuerdo con el ‘diablo’ en un cruce de caminos para aprender a tocar la guitarra. No ay el concepto del diablo en vudú, es un término que no pretende ser tomado literalmente.