Saturday, 12 June 2010

Dreams of Venice

Last week I jumped into a taxi in the pouring rain, and feeling like Phileas Fogg I asked for The Royal Geographic Society in Kensington Gore.  It was rather thrilling. If I had 80 days to get around the world for a wager, what a place to start from. A real Victorian adventurers club, complete with a scale model of The Alps, and a slice of the Albert Hall as a backdrop in the courtyard. I was there for a Venice in Peril talk (courtesy of fellow Venice lover Mr B).  Now, I should declare, that Venice is my dream city.  A city I visit as often as I can (which is never enough) and to compensate that I am not sipping a Bellini in Harry's Bar, I tend to over buy books on my ideal place.
Anything and everything. If it has a picture of Venice on the cover, I can be found at the till, handing over my money.
I knew I had on my shelves Carnivale by Michelle Lovric, and it was she who was giving the talk. So, I was pre-disposed to adore it.  But - I found myself drifting off... (not helped by a slight fit of giggles whan she was talking about the 'Column of Infamy' that is hidden in the depths of a museum that she feels should be brought to light, which made me nudge Mr B and do a bad Frankie Howerd impersonation of 'Infamy, Infamy, they've all got it Infamy')  it made me realise that Venice almost doesn't need any more stories.  The whole place is a story.  Layers upon layers of the most wonderful and vainglorious of histories superimposed on the stones. From the incomparable Venetian Queen of storytelling - Jan Morris, to the enormous ego of  Erica Jong, they've all had their say on the enchanted city.
Maybe because I have read so much on it, that all the books (and the centuries) have become jumbled in my mind.  Lagoons and glass-blowers, masked lovers in gondoliers, Byroinc escapades, trysts on bridges, traitors being imprisoned, great artists starving, floods and plagues, nuns and priests that reveal themselves to be sinners or saints, fritto misto on the side of a canal, almond pastries, fleeting love, and oh, who can forget the terrifying figure of the small red hooded murderer in Don't Look Now? are all imprinted in great glittering hook in my head.
So, they are all there, mixed and jumbled and adding to memories, but not really adding up to a cohesive reading subject. The few of the many that stand out for me are: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer. I adore this beyond measure.  A relief as well, ( a relief because sometimes the sheer weight of historical details can drag one into the lagoon if not careful) as it is a contemporary love story, and , oh, so funny....  it made me long to go to the Biennale. 
The City of Falling Angels by John Brendt, with his masterly pen of making us believe we are THERE.  He says somewhere in this book that...'there are no truths in Venice.  I can change.  You can change. That is the Venice effect.'
Venetian Dreaming by Paila Weideger who did that thing that I have only dreamt of, actually moving there.  Her trials of house hunting, dealing with Venetian landlords, shoppping, learning the language are enchanting.
And I suppose, for those of us who have fallen under the spell - who hasn't wished of living in the city of domes and bell towers, topped with impossible gilded angels or marble saints, haunted by poets, reeking of canals and coffee, almonds and fish, oranges and peaches.....shimmering lights and broken dreams?
We finished our Ventian evening at Polpo in Beak Street where amongst the cicheti of taleggio, asparagus and prosciutto, the glasses of wine, the sound of the rain against the window and the chatter we could almost persuade ourselves we were back on the lagoon.
What to keep?

No comments:

Post a Comment