"In my experience of writing – and of life – the frenzy of dreams and that of form always go together." Iosi Havilio
Posts tagged "Italy"
The malediction of Minerva

The malediction of Minerva

The story of the passionate last affair in Lord Byron’s life, a culminating point for many of his erratic, errant motion through truth and illusion, has always held a particular fascination for scholars; it has caused vocal perplexity to his admirers and deep-felt sighs of ‘if only’ to the many women (and men) who loved...
Never a dull word

Never a dull word

In April 2015 a delightful story by Fleur Jaeggy, ‘The Saltwater House’, appeared in my inbox. As I read it the Italian seemed to turn into English spontaneously in my brain. It had been sent by a friend in Milan to a friend in New York who then forwarded it to me. It was a...
Cat

Cat

Observing others is always interesting. On a train, in airports, at conferences, while waiting in line, when sitting across from someone at a table; on any occasion, in fact, that people flow into. Even someone who doesn’t travel or is very much alone will at some point go out on the street for half an...
Innocents uncovered

Innocents uncovered

With its portico designed by Brunelleschi, its decorative tiles from the workshop of Della Robbia, its nine well-proportioned arches, each topped with an elegant tabernacle window, the Ospedale degli Innocenti is one of Florence’s most-scrutinised, most-photographed buildings, often claimed by tour-guides to be the earliest example of Renaissance architecture in the world. But it is...
Where unhappiness ends: Naples beyond Ferrante

Where unhappiness ends: Naples beyond Ferrante

You know you are in Naples when the taxi taking you to the city centre from the tiny local airport seems to be driven by a perfectly amiable madman, dead set on breaking your neck (and his) as he hurtle-bumps his vehicle down the almost vertical, serpentine ribbons that are many of the city streets....
In the shadow of Vesuvius

In the shadow of Vesuvius

My starting point for Hell’s Gate was a desire to tell a story about an actual descent to the underworld, a person venturing into the kingdom of the dead to find someone. Could today’s readers still believe in such a thing, I wondered, and was their thirst for the epic and mysterious strong enough to...
Seduced by utopia

Seduced by utopia

“Now do tell me – what does it feel like to wake in the morning on a Tuscan farm?” Virginia Woolf asked a much younger Iris Origo in 1935. Invited to stay for tea at the Tavistock Square flat above the Hogarth Press, Origo, we may assume, obliged with a beautifully eloquent answer – after...
A total portrait of the artist as an absence

A total portrait of the artist as an absence

Elena Ferrante is traditional in the most radical, boundary-dissolving ways; conventional with subversive fervour and delicately powerful talent. In Frantumaglia: A Writer’s Journey she proves above all the invincible strength of her authorial translucence, the rock-solid presence of her so-called anonymity, which she invariably corrects as being a determined gesture of absence. The word frantumaglia,...
The noise of ice: Antarctica

The noise of ice: Antarctica

MEN WANTED for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success. Ernest Shackleton expedition advertisement, 1900 One day, in a bookshop in London, I stumbled across a book about Shackleton. I was struck by his character, and his spirit of...
Dreamland

Dreamland

No Picnic on Mount Kenya is neither a war memoir nor the travel log of an exotic mountaineering expedition; neither history pure and unimpeachable, nor a novel where the imagination is given free reign; it is neither biography nor documentary. It is, and explosively, all of the above – a grippingly beguiling tale as well...