Loving Venice

(by Petr Král, translated by Christopher Moncrieff)

At the office holiday party in December, I found myself talking to a colleague about how much we both like Venice; later in the month, he stopped by my desk to lend me his copy of this book, which I read over the course of two days in early January and thoroughly enjoyed. This continues my recent reading trend of excellent small books about Venice: last year I read, and loved, Two Cities by Cynthia Zarin (which also features Rome) and Watermark by Joseph Brodsky. Loving Venice is much in the same vein: gorgeous language and gorgeous images. Král writes about gondolas and bridges, the sounds of metal shutters on shopfronts and footsteps in alleyways. He writes about Venice as “a pearl of a city” and talks about the “drifting grisaille” he sees as essential to Venice, in contrast to “her surface beauty, her Canaletto quality.” He writes about the quiet of San Michele and the surprise of a sudden storm; he remembers different trips to Venice he’s taken with different women over the years.

I love sentences like this: “Venice leaves little room for manoeuvre; we move back and forth between its alleyways and campi as if we were pieces in a board game whose strict rules always send us back to where we started from—ourselves.” And I love the way Král writes about what he sees, whether that’s “the light that flows like a running stitch along the edge of the roofs and embankments” or something like this: “in bright sunlight in the unpretentious gardens on La Giudecca, the enormous white funnel of an ocean liner looms up unexpectedly from behind the blossom-laden trees like a hallucination too perfect to be true.”






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