Friday, February 3, 2023

A Kind of Magic Mirror

 From The American Spectator:

Venice is an artificial miracle, a metropolis of gold and marble and crumbling brick and peeling stucco improbably set afloat upon the Adriatic, anchored in its lagoon by alder stakes confidently driven into a shifting subsoil of silt and sand. Gabrielle Wittkop, in her delightfully macabre novel Sérénissime assassinat (2005), recognized that the Venice we see rising up out of the water “shows only one half of herself,” for she is actually “held aloft on millions of felled trees, upon the forests of Istria, the great trunks cut down, dragged, floated, flayed, and sawn into piles, planted in the mud, bolt upright and tarred like mummies, chain-bound oaks, hooped in iron, held motionless in the sand for all the ages, doubly dead, etiolated corpses encrusted with lime, dead mussels, putrefied seaweed, swathed in nameless debris, decomposed rags and bones.” There is indeed something otherworldly about Venice, both beneath and above the waves. Longfellow called it a “white swan of cities,” a “white phantom city, whose untrodden streets are rivers, and whose pavements are the shifting shadows of palaces and strips of sky,” but insubstantial though it may seem, Venice is also, as Wittkop wrote, a “city of appalling gravity, where even the corpses weigh more heavily than elsewhere.” (Read more.)


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