The Book of Venice

There is an elegant rhythm to the stories in “The Book of Venice”. They reflect the lives of Venetians, ones who have stayed and ones who have left. They comprise a seascape of emotions that never once take the astonishment of Venice for granted, even when eclipsed momentarily by the detritus of daily life.

Versione italiana

The Book of Venice: A City in Short Fiction, Edited by Orsola Casagrande, Translated by Orsola Casagrande & Caterina Dell’Olivo

It finally happens. Venice closes at 7:30 pm. The city is reduced to nothing more than a stage-set in Samantha Lenarda’s futuristic opening story in The Book of Venice. She sets her tale in 2084 when tourists stay in “Easy Venice” and purchase day tickets to venture into the city to pelt a condemned man with rotten vegetables. The “final exodus” has occurred and other than a handful of merchants selling tourist tat, the Venetian civilization no longer exists. This is a provocative way to begin a collection of stories written by Venetian authors, deconstructing the idealization of Venice into 10 literary interpretations.  

The personal essays from Cristiano Dorigo, Gianfranco Bettin, and Roberto Ferrucci give a contemporary context to Venice and her relationship to an unpredictable environment that is not necessarily conducive to the health and well being of residents. They write in compelling detail about the influences that have shaped their lives. 

Elisabetta’s Baldisserotto’s singing protagonist Carmen is a woman who can be deprived of her “primary function” in life by a burst of rain. She is a laundress, she washes clothes incessantly, her expertise is legendary, and her grief apocalyptic when her work is disrupted by theft.  Never has the prosaic act of laundry felt so much like poetry. We leave her at the end of the story, as she is searching for something precious that she’s lost. A metaphor for Venice? Perhaps. 

Ginevra Lamberti mischievously contends with a “granny in a candy pink dress,” a conversational missionary friar, and an imaginary friend who paints mortgages in her delightful story titled, “Why I Begin At The End.”  Her clever observations offer a surreal layer to our appreciation of what it takes to survive in Venice. 

We finally get to meet Inspector Nicola Aldani, the irascible Venetian in Michele Catozzi’s Italian crime series, which began with the publication of Acqua Morta in 2015. In the short story, “A Farewell to Venice” Aldani fights the inevitable move of the police station from Venice to Marghera on the mainland.  He is insolent, reckless, and gruff, in short everything you hope a Venetian homicide officer would be. It is not until a beleaguered Aldani sits down on his beloved altana—his “holy of holies”—that you understand the strength of his conviction. 

It is a rare pleasure to be able to read Venetian authors in English.  Their experiences of Venice give us an intimate view into a terrain that is both familiar and unrecognizable. The writing of Enrico Palandri was a revelation. His short story “Atmospheric Conditions” is a lyrical kaleidoscope of searching and desire. Whereas Marilia Mazzeo poignantly captures endings in “The Casket” Palandri’s story is one of beginnings. The story is an adaptation from his novel, Ages Apart, and instigated my circuitous and successful search for all four of his novels published in English.  

There is an elegant rhythm to the stories in The Book of Venice. They reflect the lives of Venetians, ones who have stayed and ones who have left. They comprise a seascape of emotions that never once take the astonishment of Venice for granted, even when eclipsed momentarily by the detritus of daily life. 

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The Book of Venice ultima modifica: 2021-06-17T21:02:36+02:00 da JOANN LOCKTOV
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4 commenti

ytali. - Autori veneziani di storie veneziane. In inglese 17 Giugno 2021 a 21:05

[…] English version […]

Bruna Graziani 20 Giugno 2021 a 19:17

Gentile Joann, buongiorno; grazie pr aver recensito The book of Venice! Mi chiedo però come mai, mancano i riferimenti a un racconto bellissimo, quello di Annalisa Bruni, “25 aprile 2020” una spassionata dichiarazione d’amore nei confronti di una delle città più belle del mondo. Abitudini, paesaggi, tradizioni, stati d’animo limpidamente descritti da chi la città l’ha vissuta davvero, nel profondo, e ha saputo descrivere in modo delicato e originale la vita che scorre dentro le vene d’acqua di Venezia.
Come mai non è stato recensito? un vero peccato.
Attendo sue, un caro saluto, Bruna Graziani

George Fishman 28 Giugno 2021 a 22:07

Not only do you make this collection of unpredictable essays irresistible, you’ve sprinkled breadcrumbs that will lead to further treasures as well. All provide welcome sustenance for those of us many miles and months away from visiting in person. Mille grazie, JoAnn!

JoAnn Locktov 31 Luglio 2021 a 0:04

Gentile Bruna, buona sera ~ I did not include the story by Annalisa Bruni in my review because I found it to be contrived and uninteresting. Rather than include negative comments in my review I elected to not include it and comment only on the stories that I found to be compelling and well written.


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