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  • Writer's pictureCláudio Giordano

The Nau of the Fools


It took a while for Sebastian Brant and his Nau dos Insensatos (Narrenschiff) to appear on the BVReppucci, but he does so with a beautiful incunabula from 1497.


Originally written in German, it became a bestseller still in the author's lifetime, having already been translated into Latin in 1497 with the title Stultifera Navis, which served as the basis for three French versions (1497, 1498, 1499) for the Dutch (1497) and the English (1509). The copy of the BVR is just one of the first editions in Latin.


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Photo by Carla Tamae

It is a long allegorical and satirical poem verberando, in a hundred of segments, the vices of the society of the time (end of century XV) and portraying to him with great realism the uses and costumes. The virulent and direct language is further enhanced by the woodcuts that illustrate each topic addressed.

Although not very prominent, wine permeates the entire work. Of course it is when it comes to gluttony and its excesses, that Brant stretches more on the drink:

Wine is a harmful thing, which destroys the common sense of those who seek joy in it. A drunk person has no regard for anyone, no sense of measure or notion of what he does. Righteousness accompanies drunkenness, which brings many other evils, and discernment is good only for those who drink with parsimony .... Wine convinces a prudent man to wear a cap of fools. ... The man could be free, ceasing to be a servant if wine and drunkenness were to disappear. [...] The wine enters the body gently, but at the end it bites like a snake and spills its venom into the blood, as does the basilisk.

When speaking of cooks and cellists, put in the mouth of one of them:

When the master goes to bed at night, and doors and padlocks are closed, we taste the best of the wines, opening the cock of the biggest barrel: it is less noticeable. We use two pairs of socks so the boss will not hear us; if he does hear a click, he'll think it's cats. And when after some time the boss thinks that they are expecting some good drinks in the barrel, the tap makes glu, glu, glu. That is the bad sign that there is very little in the barrel.
Every food beggar, says Brant, has a companion who lies, deceives, and pretends to be sick, in order to obtain money for his companion, who goes in search of where the wine is best, traversing all the taverns where there are dice games.
Those who only care for their chores and works on holy days must be inhabitants of Simiolandia: their place is in the monkey wagon! You need to screw one's horse, and the other you have to nail buttons, but these tasks could have been done long ago if you did not stay so long in the game and with the wine. [...] Before reaching the streets, the taverns are already crowded. This is how they all do, especially on a festive day ... some go to the gossip in the streets, others sit and play and spend, and many spend more on wine than they earn during a week's work.
Those who wish to study in their own state now find books of all kinds, so no one can apologize unless he wants to lie like a scoundrel. It was once thought that the only good formation could be found overseas in Athens; later it was among the Latins, and now it also flourishes in Germany, and everything would be fine were it not for the wine and the fact that we wanted to drink like kites and prefer to make money without working.
There are superstitions of all kinds and books of dreams with determinations on what to look for under the moon ... Now it is predicted that the cattle will perish, as grain and wine will suffer, when there will be snow or rain, when there will be good time or the wind will blow. The peasants celebrate these writings because they will make more profit if they keep a reserve of grains and wine until they become more expensive.



Wine is not lacking in the well-known and biting passage about books:

Curious though I am, I rightly find myself on the prow of the fool's ship. I have great appreciation for the books of which I have no small quantity. Little I know of which contains any of them, but I venerate my library and I take care that no fly to macule. When I mention sciences and arts, I say, 'I have them in the woods at home'. To the satisfaction of my spirit, just be surrounded by books. [...] Why should I scamper myself for learning and gaining knowledge? I am rich and I can afford to pay someone who studies in my place. [...] I am happy to belong to the German speakers, since I know little of Latin. Of course I do not ignore that vinum means wine, cuculus is a cuckoo, stultus a stupid and that my title is Dominus doctor. My ears are small; if they were not, I would be among the donkeys of the miller. "

(We value ourselves for the quotations of the Nave in these notes of the Brazilian edition (also constant in the BVR): The Nau of the Insensatos Translation and introduction of Karin Volobuef Editora Octavo Ltda., 2010.)




*This text was translated by Google Translate.

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