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Literary travel to VENICE

20th October 2020

Literary travel to Venice.

Venice by Cees Nooteboom, translated by Laura Watkinson, photos by Simone Sassen.

The lion, the city and the water

Venice has been recuperating in 2020 from the mass onslaught of tourists it has suffered over the past few years. It is a mixed blessing in many ways for the people who depend on the tourist income but a boon to creating a cleaner and less trampled city. Thus, this is a timely book of gathered thoughts, reflections and historical observations, effusively tied together with art and culture. This is a must-read for anyone who loves the city; Cees Nooteboom somehow manages to say something new and profound about the city. He references past authors and artists who have brought us the city in its many guises, he can evoke the colour and smells of the lapping waters, and, in delightful prose, he describes the simple pleasures of travelling by boat to outlying islands.

The author has been visiting the city since the 1960s and he returns time and again to explore and imbibe the atmosphere, gathering experiences and learning along the way. It is like exploring the city through his eyes, a true treasury! And whilst I am on the subject of literary wanderlust, I would like to quote a piece from the text:

Photo: Simone Sassen

Two of the best-known thriller writers who focus on Venice are Michael Dibdin and Donna Leon. I enjoy reading thrillers, but I am most fond of the ones about Venice, as I feel that by reading them I understand more about the city. After all, they take you all kinds of places. Shipyards, hospitals, palazzi – you find crime and corruption everywhere. And when I read something like that, something about strange and ancient sea defences, I want to go there. It is one of the way in which I penetrate the secrets of the city.

And not only do you have his erudite words, but the photos by Simone Sassen are interspersed throughout the text and really evoke the city. Nooteboom has a lyrical writing style, brought to us beautifully in translation by Laura Watkinson.

Now to end this post I am going to be a little bit naughty and bring the U.S cover to your attention. When you have such a beautiful cover – designed by Chris Corr – why would @yalepress choose a stereotypical photo that I feel in no way reflects the colour and warmth that is at the heart of this book (it is a photo by Simone Sassen but, you know, there are many more photos in the book that would work SO much better). Dear me. I know where this book will do better – so go on, prove me wrong!

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