I am not sure what "cojononon" means. There is the similar Spanish "cojones", but such attribution is not usually considered an insult, just the lack of them. The issue of Michelangelo's invention has been discussed elsewhere on THF. (There seems to have been a 16th century cardmaker with that first name.) Here I want to make a few comments related to the three places where I put things in brackets.25 octobre 1816. — Ce soir, une femme brillante de beauté, de finesse, d'enjouement, Mme Bibin Catena, a bien voulu essayer de m'apprendre le taroc. C'est une des grandes occupations des Milanais. C'est un jeu qui n'a pas moins de cinquante-deux cartes, grandes chacune comme trois des nôtres. Il y en a une vingtaine qui jouent le rôle de nos as, et qui l'emportent sur toutes les autres ; elles sont fort bien peintes, et représentent le pape, la papesse Jeanne, le fou, le pendu, les amoureux, la fortune, la mort, etc. Il y a d'ailleurs, comme à l'ordinaire, quatre couleurs (bastoni, danari, spade, coppe); les cartes portent l'image de bâtons, de deniers, d'épées et de coupes. M. Reina, l'un des amis auxquels m'a présenté Mme G***, me dit que ce jeu a été inventé par Michel-Ange. Ce M. Reina a formé l'une des belles bibliothèques de l'Europe : il a, de plus, des sentiments généreux, chose singulière et que je ne me souviens pas d'avoir jamais vue réunie à la bibliomanie. Il fut déporté aux Bouches de Cattaro en 1799.
Si Michel-Ange a inventé le tarocco, il a trouvé là un beau sujet de disputes pour les Milanais, et de scandale pour les petits-maîtres français. J'en ai rencontré un ce soir qui trouvait les Italiens bien lâches de ne pas mettre l'épée à la main vingt fois pour une partie de tarocco. En effet, les Milanais ayant le malheur de manquer tout à fait de vanité, ils poussent à l'excès le feu et la franchise de leurs disputes au jeu. En d'autres termes, ils trouvent au jeu de tarocco les émotions les plus vives. Ce soir, il y a eu un moment où j'ai cru que les quatre joueurs allaient se prendre aux cheveux ; la partie a été interrompue au moins dix minutes. Le parterre impatienté criait : « Zitti ! zitti ! », et la loge n'étant qu'au second rang, le spectacle était en quelque sorte interrompu. « Va a farti buzzarare ! » criait l'un des joueurs. « Ti te sei un gran cojononon ! » répondait l'autre en lui faisant des yeux furibonds et criant à tue-tête. L'accent donné à ce mot cojononon m'a semblé incroyable de bouffonnerie et de vérité. L'accès de colère paraît excessif et laisse toutefois si peu de traces, que j'ai remarqué qu'en quittant la loge il n'est venu à l'idée d'aucun des disputeurs d'adresser à l'autre un mot d'amitié. À vrai dire, la colère italienne est, je crois, silencieuse et retenue, et ceci n'est rien moins que de la colère. C'est l'impatience vive et bouffonne de deux hommes graves qui se disputent un joujou, et sont ravis de faire les enfants pendant un moment.
Dans ce siècle menteur et comédien (this age of cant, dit lord Byron), cet excès de franchise et de bonhomie entre gens des plus riches et des plus nobles de Milan me frappe si fort, qu'il me donne l'idée de me fixer en ce pays. Le bonheur est contagieux.
Le maudit Français, que j'aurais voulu à cent lieues de moi, m'a retrouvé au Café de l'Académie en face de la Scala : « Quelle grossièreté, me dit-il : cojononon! Quels cris! Et vous dites que ces gens-là ont des sentiments délicats ! qu'en musique leur oreille est blessée du moindre son criard ! » Je méritais de voir ainsi toutes mes idées polluées par un sot; j'avais eu la bêtise de lui parler avec candeur. ...
(25th October. This very evening, signora Bibin Catena, a woman radiant with beauty, intelligence, and joie de vivre, condescended to teach me the gentle art of playing tarocchi. This is one of the most obsessive preoccupations of the Milanese. It is a game which requires a full pack of [un jeu qui n'a pas moins de: a game which has not less than] fifty-two cards, each one three times the size of our own familiar variety. A score or more have attributes similar to the aces in an ordinary pack snd can beat any other card; they are beautifully designed and represent the Pope, Pope- Joan, the Jester [papesse Jeanne, le fou: Popess Joan, the Fool], the Hanged Man, the Lovers, Fortune, Death, etc. There are, however, four suits (bastoni, danari, spade, coppe), just as in other games, pictured respectively by staves, coins, swords and goblets [coupes: cups]. Signor Reina, whose acquaintance I owe in the first place to the kindness of Signora G***, told me that this game was originally invented by Michelangelo. This same Signor Reina has brought together one of the finest libraries in Europe: he is, moreover, of an extremely generous disposition—an uncommon phenomenon, and one which never before recall having discovered in an alliance with a passion for books. He was among those deported to the Delta of the Cattaro in 1799.
If there be indeed a grain of truth in the claim that it was Michelangelo who invented the game of tarocchi, that moment of inspiration has proved an abundant source of quarrels ever since among the Milanese, and fair grounds for scandal in the eyes of such vain and mettlesome Frenchmen as deign to visit the city. I met one of the latter breed this evening, in whose opinion the Italians were the unmanliest of creatures for failing to draw swords a score of times at least in the course of a game of tarocchi. And indeed, having been created, in an evil hour, almost totally bereft of vanity, the Milanese set no bounds to the uninhibited ferocity of the quarrels which arise among them over cards. In other words, they enjoy tarocchi as the occasion for the liveliest outbursts of emotion. This very evening, there came an instant when I was convinced that four players in the box where I sat were about to grab handfuls of each other’s hair; as it was, the game came to a standstill for a full ten minutes. The pit began to lose patience, calling out: "Zitti! zitti!”, and to tell the truth, since the box was no further than the second tier, the whole performance on the stage was, to all intents and purposes, being interrupted by the quarrel.. "Va a farti buzzarare!" shouted one of the card-players. "Ti te sei un gran cojononon!" retorted another, his eyes afire with fury and screaming at the top of his voice. The twist of inflection which fell upon the word cojononon sruck me as a masterpiece of comic realism. Such storms of anger may seem excessive, yet they leave so little trace of their passage that I noticed, as we all left the box, that none of the parties to the quarrel seemed to feel the slightest need to apologize, or to smooth the matter over with his erstwhile antagonists. If the truth were told, the Italian who is genuinely angry is, so I believe, silent and self-controlled; and whatever tonight’s manifestation may have implied it was assuredly not anger. Rather call it impatience—the essential, comic, whirlwind impatience of two staid citizens quarrelling over a toy, and delighted to recapture a fleeting instant of childhood in the process.
Against the background of this lying and hypocritical generation (‘this age of cant,’ says Lord Byron), such wild displays of primitive and unsophistocated behavior [cet excès de franchise et de bonhomie: this excess of frankness and good-naturedness] in the midst of the wealthiest and most aristocratic élite of Milanese society left so indelible an impression on my mind, that I conceived the notion of coming to settle in Italy for good. Happiness is contagious.
My compatriot, devil take him! [Le maudit Français: The cursed Frenchman], whom I could devoutly have wished at the bottom of the sea, came to pester me at the Café dell’Accademia in front of La Scala: "The vulgarity of it!” he exclaimed. “Cojononon! And the shouting! Come now, can you honestly claim that such a race has any refinement of sensibility? Or that their musical ear is offended by the slightest of discords?” Obviously, I deserved to see all my ideas desecrated by the tongue of a fool; it was my own fault for having talked unguardedly to him in the first place.)
First, Stendhal does not say that the deck he used had 52 cards. It had no less than 52 cards. I expect that he encountered a variety of decks, including one of 54 cards, from which the same suit cards would have been removed as in Piquet, which has 32, the deuce through six of each suit being absent, as well as the Knights.
The second thing is Stendhal’s title for the Popess card: it is not even “Pope-Joan”, as the translation has it, but “papesse Jeanne”, i.e. Popess Joan. Like all the other historical written references to this card I know of that say more than “Papessa”, the reference is to the woman who disguised herself as a man, and whom we see depicted much like the card in a 15th century edition of Boccaccio (the one of Ferrara 1497 shown at http://www.angelfire.com/space/tarot/papessa.html). It is the same that the preacher of Steele Sermon is referring to when he says of this figure “O miseri quod negat Christiana fides”, as translated on Tarotpedia (http://www.tarotpedia.com/wiki/Sermones ... _Cum_Aliis), "O wretches! That which the Christian Faith denies"--namely, a woman as pope. She is also the same that Aretino refers to in his Carte Parlante (see Andrea’s essay “Theater of Brains”, http://www.associazioneletarot.it/page. ... 63&lng=ENG) and in his Dialogue between the two prostitutes Nana and Pipa (which I quoted at viewtopic.php?f=23&t=385&p=8528&hilit=Nana#p8528).
You can say, if you wish, that these sources have all, innocently or maliciously, misinterpreted the card. I myself see no need to choose one interpretation over a few others that have historical merit, at least for the time period they are seen, and especially if they can also serve as an early part of an allegorical interpretation of the tarot sequence. The allegorical meaning, quite consistent with Petrarch’s view of popes and emperors in De Remediis, would be that that tricksters may be found in high positions as well as low. The card would in this interpretation most naturally have been placed in the number 2 position initially (next to the bagatella), although it still works at number 4, where the preacher has it. Let me also be clear that I am not holding up Popess Joan as the original meaning of the card, just one it acquired rather early in its history and continued to have.
There are two other instances where I find Coe’s translation misleading. One is the narrator’s account of why he wishes to move to Italy. He admires the directness he has seen, both in frankness and in warmth, even when excessive, in contrast to the artificial gentility of more northern lands. Coe’s translation makes Stendhal admire Italians for their “primitive and unsophistocated behavior”; that is the very mistake that Stendhal rails against in the last paragraph I quoted.
Stendhal seems to be observing that the rancor is confined to the game, as it were part of it. That makes me wonder whether tarot was particularly known for that qualty, in comparison to other card games, i.e. whether a certain permitted madness was associated with it.
In this last paragraph. Coe makes Stendhal’s French nemesis a “compatriot” of the narrator. Stendhal, the alleged German, does not say that there. This is not so bad, however, because Stendhal does use such terminology in the very next paragraph (which I have not given here), expounding futher on why he must avoid his French compatriots. It is only page 34, and already he is abandoning his German persona.