giovedì 30 agosto 2012

"The Double" common denominator in "The Twin Siamese Mystery" by Ellery Queen

An alternative analysis of the novel 
(Spoiler..but not too much)

 In 1933, two Queen wrote the novel “The Siamese Twin Mystery”, which prevailed in their production for several reasons, as one of the best novels ever of their first creative period.
Its plot is complex: Ellery and his father, returning from a vacation in Canada, are trapped by fire in a forest on one side of Arrow Mountain. Their only hope is to climb to the summit of the mountain. On the top there is the home of Dr. John Xavier, a prominent surgeon, and his strange family. But inside the house, Ellery known an atmosphere of suspicion: several rings were stolen from inside the house during the previous week; an unknown woman is hiding upstairs, and there is a monstrous creature that runs at night. The next morning Dr. Xavier is found dead from a gunshot in his office in front of him a card solitaire and torn half of a six of spades in his hand. The murder is followed by that of his brother, found holding a jack of diamonds in his hand. The climax is reached when the fire reaches the house and all take refuge in the cellar, and here takes place the last phase of the drama, with the discovery of murderer by Ellery, and the solution of the story.
As you can see, there's enough meat to put on the fire, though honestly, it should be recognized that the novel, despite being one of the best novels of the first creative period, however is less intricate and mastermind of “The Greek Coffin Mystery”, which instead is recognized by many and also from the same Nevins, such as the  the investigating novel more complicated, more and better built and breaking brain that has been published in the United States during the Golden Age of detective novel.
First let's see how Arrow Head, the house on top of a mountain surrounded by the glowing fire, prefigures a case of enlarged Locked Room. It is like an island surrounded by sea, from which the murderer can not escape, as "Ten Little Indians "by Agatha Christie or even more relevant, like the murder in a house outside of which there is a cyclone and then from which you can not go out, in “Murder at 28.10” by Newton Gayle (1938).
The novel stands as one of the best examples of that queenian characteristic, who is the “Dying message”, appeared for the first time at the third murder of “The Tragedy of X”: the victim before exhaling last breath, seeks to direct  with a specific message, those who can interpret it properly: in this example is a card of playing:  before the six of spades, then the jack of diamonds, cut in half. We will see what other meaning can have the rest of the reasoning, but simply limit ourselves here to report it. I point out one thing that I jumped to mind:  reading this novel at the time it was written, anyone, without having the proof, however, would have assumed (beyond what they had read the introduction to The Roman Hat Mystery) a link between Ellery Queen and Barnaby Ross: in fact, if you can clearly see, the first time at which Ellery Queen introduced Dying Message, was in Tragedy of X. In The Siamese Twin Mystery indeed an X  die two X: therefore, good reason, this is a Tragedy of X!
However, this astonishing novel is marked by a series of deductions and imaginative variations about the theme of false confession; and for other two characteristics: first, inherent to the story told, is the lack those policemen and sergeant Velie, which usually appear in early novels; the second, more important, is the lack ofChallenge to the Reader”. In fact this is the first novel at which it is missing, or rather to be more precise, which would seem to be missing: in fact, in the cellar, while outside the fire raging in the house and threatens their very lives, Ellery says to those present and asks: “..Before I tell my little tale, isn’t there some one here who, like Smith, has a confession to make?
Stefano Benvenuti and Gianni Rizzoni, authors many years ago in Italy, of a celebrated work by Mondadori, "Il Romanzo Giallo", affirmed that in reality, although there was no indication of a "Challenge to the Reader", it was disguised: as the 'invitation to the guilty would not make sense because the guilty would certainly not come forward, they concluded the invitation could it’s addressed to the reader.
Critics have debated various ways on the importance of this novel, not because of its structure, but what underlies its realization. In fact this is the first novel in which many signals scattered in the plot, refer to a malaise louder, a real hardship, which was established between the two cousins​​. They in fact, though united by their history and their common Jewish origin, although they together created the best sellers, little by little they realized they have entered into a game that went beyond their personal sphere (which would include also texts for radio, movie scripts, and the creation of 'EQMM, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, where they were collected the best short stories, tales, the international crime scene). They did not put up with more, and often ended up arguing, sometimes quite dramatic, as when, while in a radio studio, a broadcast was interrupted because of screams could be heard coming from another room where they were "discussing" the two cousins​​: it ended, the two cousins​​, went to live far from each other.
 Manfred Lee was in charge of writing the novel and style, while Frederick was in charge of invention of staged narrative and plot. In practice, themodus agendi” of the couple was able to deduce when a few years ago, Crippen & Landru has published the last couple of unpublished novel, “Tragedy of Errors”, a cloth along a seventy pages written by Dannay and then, after Lee's death, remained in a drawer until after the death of Dannay, has been rediscovered: "Danny" imagined the plot  and put it in written form while “Manny” thought to roll out the novel in final form. Well .. the mind and the arm!
Remi Schulz, a great scholar of riddles, French, and a leading expert on the Kabbalah, has written some interesting articles, examining some aspects of the Queen: he brings forward the thesis that we do not feel at all to share in that he tends tries to bring water to his mill, but some of his views are really interesting, especially as the hidden meaning in the texts. It is the characteristic of the Kabbalah, the doctrine that two Jews as the two cousins ​​had to know if you do not share: “Le mystère du frère siamois (et non des) est le septième roman des Queen, effectivement paru fin 33, l’un des plus réussis de cette première période fort prisée par Borges qui s’est déclaré peiné de la bifurcation des Queen hors du sentier de la pure déduction (Remi Schulz, Quain ’tween Queen & Twain). Remi Schulz quotes a famous story of Juan Antonio Borges, The Garden of Forking Paths (El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, 1941). Borges, who was present with a few short stories in EQMM,  referres to the fact that at some point in the way that the two cousins ​​had traveled together, had arrested, giving rise to a fork in the path of pure deduction (
In practice, Schulz according to Borges, says writing the story he would metaphorically refer to the two Queen. This seems to us an interpretation taken by the hair: Schulz essentially measures the similarity of Herbert Quain, writer invented and protagonist of another story, Examination of the work of Herbert Quain, with Ellery Queen, which for him is strong indicator, because Borges was hosted EQMM and the story he cites is that of crime. The fact is that the common interpretation of The Garden of Forking Paths, is based on taking into consideration the time not in an absolute sense but relative, "a growing network of divergent, convergent and parallel .. they put, you fork, cut or ignore for centuries includes all possibilities” "(JLBorges: Fictions).
Metaphysical interpretation, we might say.. It must be said that The Garden of Forking Paths is the 1941, at which time the two had probably already gained the will to be divided (although only appeared in EQMM in August 1948, was a translator Anthony Boucher). And if Schulz thinks about Queen as the inspirer of Quain is because, but he does not say, something is inextricably linked to this hypothetical novel by author invented, Ellery Queen. The narrator says: “..The God of the Labyrinth; puedo agregar que el editor la propuso a la venta en los últimos días de noviembre de 1933. En los primeros de diciembre, las agradables y arduas involuciones del Siamese Twin Mystery atacaron a Londres y a Nueva York” ((J.L.Borges: Ficciones, Examen de la obra de Herbert Quain).
 Consider another very significant step in his study: “..Le mystère du jumeau siamois, du Siamese twin, est peut-être une première manifestation de ce malaise entre les cousins. Alors que tous les premiers Queen sont parus avec la reine de carreau (Queen of diamonds) en couverture, Dannay a convoqué ici une dame Carreau d’origine française mère de jumeaux xiphopages ; un chirurgien spécialisé envisage de les séparer, il est assassiné ; un des jumeaux est soupçonné à cause d’un valet de carreau coupé en deux (une double figure tête-bêche dans un jeu américain), ce qui pose le délicat problème du châtiment..” (Remi Schulz,  Les Queen maudits 4)
In fact what Remi Schulz says may have real substance: at the first editions of novels by Queen, before "The Case of the Siamese twins" there’s in fact a Queen of Diamonds on cover, which would represent the company logo as the two cousins​​, why really a Queen of Diamonds and not of spades or hearts or flowers? Schulz says that there's a Madame Carreau and mother of Siamese twin metaphorically represents a woman of diamonds, mother of Siamese twins (a name, Ellery Queen, which hides the union of two persons, who are united by force having two minds and two different bodies, and that would detach: the two cousins​​); there is a skilled surgeon in separations of Siamese twins that dies assassinated (essentially at the moment when the two cousins ​​could be divided, intervened something to lay down their indivisibility). The Siamese brother is suspected on basis of a Jack of Diamonds divided into two (a playing card that has mirrored the Jack in the two halves of the card): still a representation of the meeting of two persons in one. Keep silent about the rest: the left hand open and the closed right, reasoning that it was not left handed, and then on the voluntariness of the act, especially as the rigor mortis would begin immediately after death, due to the fact that he was diabetic but this feature is also present in other novels, The Egyptian Cross Mystery, and in The Tragedy of X , written prior to this novel.
But why the first two Queen would choose a Queen of Diamonds instead of that of other grain? The seed of the diamonds in our opinion is peculiar in the four and has a feature that others do not: inverted, is always a square, that is, there is not a verse: the spades are reversed, hearts and flowers as much, but the diamonds are not overturned, you can not see if the are, are the representation of unity, perfection of the seeds. But the deeper reason for the choice, is given by the family history shared by 2 cousins, individually connected to a playing card. If we go back to the origin of games of cards, we find that the capital itself, the place where for the first time the French cards were used and from where they spread elsewhere in the neighboring countries, was, from the sixteenth century, the city of Rouen: there, in particular, to cards with subjects (with the infantry, the queens and kings) were given names. Originally the names of the four queens were:  Queen of Spades = Pallas (Pallas Athena), Queen of Hearts = Rachel (Rachel, wife of Isaac), Queen of Diamonds = Argine (anagram of Regina), Queen of Clubs = Judith (Judith ).
However, when playing cards were adequately spread to France, the terminology of Rouen was joined by that of Paris, which had some differences: so, the names of the four queen become:  Queen of Spades, Pallas; Queen of Hearts, Judith; Queen of Diamonds, Rachel; Queen of Flowers, Argine.
We fix our attention on Rachel = Queen of Diamonds: The mothers of two cousins, sisters Rebecca and daughters of immigrants were Russian Jews, Leopold and Rachel Wallerstein: Rachel .. here is the link! Moreover Remi Schulz also mentions it: "The grand-mère commune Dannay et aux cousins ​​if prénommait Rachel Lee, the nom de la reine de Carreau français dans les jeux". Remi Schulz about the novel in question stops here, but we .. we go forward.
We note at this point that if Rachel, Queen of Diamonds in the French playing cards, was also the name of his maternal grandmother of 2 cousins​​, and if we have one in the novel Madame Carreau  and Carreau (which in French means the seed of diamonds) is the mother of conjoined twins Francis and Julian, means that we can rightly associate Francis and Julian to Dannay and Lee. The same card, the Jack of Diamonds (double in the mirror of the two jacks) may, by virtue of the association Carreau = Diamonds = Queen, representing not only one of two Siamese twins, but also one of the two cousins ​​Queen. Moreover, even individually, the playing card torn in two can mean a union.. ripped: dividing a unit into two.
But someone has ever asked why the surgeon was called Xavier? Where the Queen would have try the inspiration and why they chose this name just to represent the surgeon's task in the novel to separate Siamese twins?
I note first that the novel is the 1933: a few years a great musician of Spanish origin, who had set up his own band, specializing in the accompanying music and especially tango, short films and feature films, he started playing in New York , and since 1931 had become the main attraction of the season at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, one of the largest and best known in New York: Xavier Cugat. It 'possible that the great Spanish-Cuban arranger and musician, has provided the inspiration for the character of the novel? To me, it might be possible but then you should see why this name and not another had struck them: in my opinion, the origin of the name choice, there was the letter: the X. Why?
We have already noted that this novel is akin in spirit to The Tragedy of X, then X may be chosen to link the two novels. However, the X, in our case, it may represent the "two-faced" of the 2 cousins​​, their "double": in fact the X, the Greek letter CHI, represents the chiasm, which has a cross shape: the elements are arranged opposite each other.
The one in the comparison of the other, so that what is in the lower left is reflected in what is in the upper right, and so on. Moreover, the correspondence to chiasmus as a pair of opposed, it is akin to that of the two mirror images according to a symmetrical axis, directed towards each other or both of which look at the two opposite directions, a two-faced which recalls the God Janus (the more we note that if we
stylize the representation of the god Janus, we obtain a X. Then who knows how to think about it, I noticed how Jianus is very similar to John, John Xavier: Ellery Queen in all that seems dictated by coincidence, not is, and read between the lines is not an exercise far-fetched, but is connected with the Jewish beliefs of the two cousins​​. between the two was more than that paid to these puzzles was obviously Dannay, especially as he was to lay the foundations of script and the plot: he was to hear more of this need to move on his cousin?
 And Mark, the brother of John? He too is a name chosen on purpose? Remi Schulz, still in his essay, note the singularity of the fact that Twain is very close as a form of speech in Twins (Siamese). Coincidence?
“..Dannay a écrit seul un roman, publié en 53 sous son vrai nom de naissance Daniel Nathan, The golden summer, basé sur des souvenirs d’enfance… Si The golden summer est bien plus qu’un doublon de Tom Sawyer, son titre semble calqué sur celui du premier roman de Twain, The gilded age (L’Age doré)”. Dannay in 1953 wrote a novel that spoke of his childhood, The Golden Summer, a novel very similar in texture to Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, whose title was too similar to the first novel by Mark Twain: The Gilded Age.
For Danny, so attentive to hidden meanings, the surname was very significant: Remi Schulz said, I would say what is meaningful, like Twain is very similar to Twin. Not only. If there was not the  letter “a”, Mark Tw(a)in  would become Mark (of) Twin. Twin who draws our novel, but also the two Queen. In addition, both subjects, the brother of John Xavier, Xavier Mark and Mark Twain have the same name: another attempt by Dannay  to connect himsel and the cousinf to their people, another metaphor?
If you really want, the theme of the double is very insistent in the production of two cousins
​​from this point: name “Mark”, not only appears in this novel, but also elsewhere: for example there is a radio play called "The Adventure of the Mark of Cain ". The Mark of Cain, that is the mark of the murder of Abel, individually in its title refers to two names that strongly characterize the queenian production: Mark, which is part of a dual (John-Mark) and Cain, who is part of a another double (Cain-Abel Bendigo Bendigo) in "The King is Dead", which features two other brothers. Among other things, to highlight the importance of these meanings in the continuum of queenian work, it must be remembered that even a chapter of "Once Was a Woman", is called "The Mark of Cain".
But what’s The Mark of Cain? A “X”. The Mark of Cain, a X. The chiasmus, the shape of Janus. The twins addressed. It 's all put in relation to the story of Danny and Manny.
The two cousins
​​were always arguing and came to the conclusion that it was better to stay away. But surely they were not convinced the same way: there was one of two who wanted to separate and other didn't want it at same manner. I suspect that he was Danny, that Nathaniel did not want the separation, and his cousin, Lee, that was better economically and had literary ambitions  wanted to separate. The Mark of Cain, then it may refer not only to the twins (the cousins), but also to other two subjects: Cain and Abel. Here then, Cain (Bendigo) and (Abel Bendigo) ...
And “X” what is?
X is the letter Taw. The Taw is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the twenty-second: still 2, even a double .. 2, 22. And the numerical value (because the Hebrew letters have also numerological value) is 400, who is a multiple of 2. Not only: 22 is the numerical value of Taw, and 400 is tightly close to its value numeral 22. In fact 2 +2 = 4 +0 +0 . A multiple of 2.
 Furthermore, since Taw is the last letter, ending of the word "death", in Hebrew "Maveth", it assumes its significance. The 2 Xavier are killed, so they are dead. Formerly had the meaning of "Seal of judgment":  in this case, is the mark of Cain. Because who had brought it, by God's will, even if cursed, no one should kill him.
But over time, the letter Taw became the means by which the righteous were recognized (for example in Ezekiel). It then lost its negative meaning. As was the final letter, he also had the meaning of the Greek letter Omega: late but perfection. And as Omega was opposed to Alpha, as the Taw was opposed to “Aleph”, the letter whose number was 1, the symbol of unity. So even a number that is opposed toone”.
Mark, Xavier, two brothers, related both to the letter T: Mark (of Cain)=X; Xavier, begins with X
 But Xavier who also reminds us of? We remember also the leader of the X-men, the telepath, Professor Charles Xavier. Stan Lee may have looked at Ellery Queen? We note curiously, as not only Xavier recurs in the saga of X-Men (X once again), but also its double: his half brother, the evil first and then redeemed "Phenomenon", which coincidentally is called Mark Cain. Strange, is not it? Moreover we can also say that the two Xavier (John and Charles) are very similar, such as John Xavier is concerned with the separation of Siamese twins, united brothers monstrously due to a dysfunction gene, Charles Xavier takes care of humans born mutants because of a particular gene: the gene X. And should we look for even more nitpicking, we might say that the 2 Siamese twins are no more than the mutants. So ..
In the sea of
​​the interesting things about this novel, I jumped to mind another thing I want to point out at the right hand of John Xavier was found a fragment of "Six of Spades."
Why clutching a fragment instead of a full playing card is already a thing that made me think and then it is not covered: an assumption that for me  would be spontaneous is that John Xavier had snatched the playing card and had shaken the fragment in his hand so as not to see within the holding something unusual that might have been a card, however, she, although crumpled, still would not have been visible, and he, a doctor, and  diabetic, would have to assume his immediate rigor mortis.
However there is another curious thing: in the novel there is a drawing of a six of spades split into two fragments: the first, in that tight fist is not wrinkled and represents two whole seeds and bits of two others, the other, the crumpled, two whole seeds and roots visible other half divided by two. Now, in the Tarot, the six of spades is a warning for a mistake that could be done but that does not last very long (the mistake of having first identified the culprit, then having wrongly acquitted him and finally having nailed him again?). But if we examine the two fragments, we are faced with a fragment that is worth two of spades and one that is worth four, and now the two of spades is a division (love or friendship), the four, a difficult decision that you are for taking: the difficult decision to separate the two Queen? However, in the first chapter of Part Two, "The six of spades," says Richard Queen, John Xavier used a playing card with which he was playing solitaire (the murderer when he was shot two bullets in the stomach: yet the symbolism of the two , almost as if when someone wants to intervene to separate the union of two, they themselves do not want to be separated): The six (of Spades) is between the seven of diamonds and the five of diamonds, remembers the Inspector Richard Queen.
In Tarot, the five of diamonds means “atmosphere of friendship or business friendly”, while the seven of diamonds means “to make a decision on something that has not previously taken into account”. It seems clear reference to having to make a difficult decision of a division that has not ever wanted to take into consideration and that will lead to an atmosphere of friendship or friendly working: Once separated, the two cousins ​​worked on writing many more novels , dividing the tasks and avoiding nevertheless to be together. Arbitrary interpretation? And is just a coincidence that the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans was Madame Laveau, and Laveau as final ending sounds like Carreau, Queen of Diamonds?

But we must remember, the piece of card of playing John Xavier held tight in his fist is the one with only two seeds of spades: so .. division. The second piece of card of playing had been crumpled up and thrown away, what means "decision difficult it is to take"; in other words, the last word for the division (of the two cousins​​?) had already been taken. And the decision was held by the right hand while his left hand has nothing in his hand: that is, even assuming one could say that the right hand wanted the division, the left hand didn’t not. Right hand, left hand, which belong to the same person: other representation for two different entities (Dannay and Lee) that are part of a whole (the company town Ellery Queen)? This would lead us to the final question for the moment, in the absence of evidence of a biographical nature, remains unanswered: which of the two cousins ​​wanted the separation, and who didn’t want it ? We know that Dannay was pretty introvert and had trouble in the family while the other was his cousin. But you could imagine everything and its opposite, in the absence of objective biographical data.
Finally there is the meaning of something else, I turned in all its importance at the end of the book: the Six of Spades to know how to interpret well, could also be a way to identify the murderer. In fact, oddly, Ellery Queen stops to the value of the card of playing, the SIX, and to acrostic it indicates. In fact, Dr. Xavier before he die accuse SIX of having murdered. He stops and goes no further than this. Strange. Very strange. And I suppose that Dannay originally had thought Ellery to disclose to the other, but then he didn’t. What? Why SIX of spades and not diamonds or flowers or hearts? The shape? The meaning of Spades = Death? To me there's more. It has connected with the French terminology, already used in the Carreau = Diamonds. In French, SPADES is said PIQUE. Now, what is the strange disease which has affected the murderer, and you will see that underlies the whole novel? Kleptomania. In other words, there is someone who steals during the novel objects: rings, but also of insignificant value. And what animal is commonly designated as a thief? The Magpie, which is commonly appealed Thieving: Thieving Magpie. And what is the scientific name of Magpie? PICA PICA. PIQUE-PICA: interesting, right? But also more interesting is that term “PIQUER” in French can mean “TO STEAL”. So, accusing the card of spades, you wanted to accuse someone who had stolen.One thing that certainly also Dannay besides me must have thought at the time, because the reference is not random but it seems too direct. And why do not recalls Ellery Queen at the end? Perhaps for not repeating the fact that he was distracted by other things during your adventure? Ellery often end up doing the wise guy in his early novels, which tend to argue and quibble too much, to take the crabs and then eventually be forced to turn back: it does not happen only here but elsewhere. Or may be it's the sign of a previous draft  not used at all? I do not know.                                                                                                                                                                          Pietro De Palma                                                                                                                                     

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