Talking Location With author Daniella Bernett – MALTA
Short stories to get under the skin of VENICE
10th June 2021
The Book of Venice: A City in Short Fiction edited by Orsola Casagrande, translated by Orsola Casagrande and Caterina Dell’Olivo. Short stories to get under the skin of Venice and part of the “Reading The City” series.
Comma Press publish a wonderful series called “Reading The City” and The Book of Venice is one of their most recent titles that will take you to the heart of Lagoon City. The book explores the lives and concerns of people who live on the archipelago of 118 islands, and how it is a city that is inexorably and vexingly turning into a Disney theme park. At some levels the Disneyfication has been encouraged to keep the city alive and thriving as a tourist hotspot, but on many other levels it leaves the city vulnerable and hollowed out, subject to the whims of successive government ideologies (not to mention bribery and corruption).
People still live there, of course, and go about their daily business, as they weave in and out of the touring hoards, the ‘foresti’ as they are called (doesn’t that just somehow conjure up a vision of a forest of trees through which the locals have to navigate – it must indeed be so frustrating for the residents to have to negotiate their way through the gaggles of trippers, as they amble through the narrow calli and campi). In the background the towering cruise ships plough past the bobbing city and one of the characters picks up on the controversy surrounding these floating edifices. In fact, I have been following the campaign on Social Media that is revving up to fight the return of these vessels in post-Covid times and you can follow the hashtag #nograndinavi. The first ship, nevertheless, has already docked as I write this and you can see Jane da Mosto protesting its arrival in the photo (just an amazing image, one woman, in a tiny boat, pitting herself against the large vessel). If you want to find out more about the real challenges facing the city, then check out this article by JoAnn Locktov.
There are stories about the relocation of the city’s police department to Mestre on the outskirts, where many Venetians have taken up residence. An artist demurs as he is faced by the onslaught of global pilgrims; and an author has to negotiate his living space. A couple explores the city in the year 2084 via an installation featuring this ‘fragile and delicate city‘; they express their amazement at the stark issues facing the city and ponder reflexively “…why were its citizens .. complicit in just selling it to the highest bidder?” Why indeed. And that is the conundrum that continues to face Venice now, in 2021.
During Lockdown the city has seen fish and dolphins return to its cleaner waters but the old threat to the very nature of her being – with tourism the major source of income – is about to engulf the city once again. The age old question of how the future of Venice will look is pertinent and urgent. From the 5th Century AD the city has evolved and changed, from the first inhabitants who were salt collectors and fisherman, to refugees who sought a safe haven after the fall of the Roman Empire. It will of course continue its transmogrification but it has to be a measured change and one that is best for Venice and its inhabitants.
The curated stories in this book are a wonderful way to really get under the skin of the city, focussing as they do on the people who live there. There are short notes at the end of each explaining some of the – oftentimes – local phrases/words, which is helpful.
This is a must-read collection if you are interested in Venice and planning a trip; it is packed with well translated pieces created by thoughtful contributors.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Take a look at our blogpost where we highlight the ‘Reading The City’ titles around the world, and plenty more in destined to come on-line!
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