Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial -- a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice.
In this sumptuous vision of Venice, Peter Ackroyd turns his unparalleled skill at evoking place from London and the River Thames, to Italy and the city of myth, mystery and beauty, set like a jewel in its glistening lagoon. His account is at once romantic and packed with facts, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the fiestas and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arrivingin the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and a trading empire, the wars against Napoleon and the tourist invasions of today.
Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the mosaics of St Mark's and the glass blowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the doges and the destitute and the artists with their passion for colour and form -- Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo. There are wars and sieges, scandals and seductions, fountains playing in deserted squares and crowds thronging the markets. And there is a dark undertone too, of shadowy corners and dead ends, prisons and punishment.
The language and way of thinking of the Venetians sets them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and to the tides rather than the land. 'The moon rules Venice,' Ackroyd writes: 'It is built on ocean shells and ocean ground; it has the aspect of infinity. It is the floating world... changing and variable and accidental.'This book, like a magic gondola, transports its readers to that sensual, surprising realm. We could have no better guide -- reading Ackroyd's Venice is, in itself, a glorious journey and the perfect holiday.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: Venice|
|Release Date: 11-02-2010|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Nan A. Talese|
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They voyaged into the remote and secluded waters. They came in flat-bottomed boats, moving over the shallows. They were exiles, far from their own cities or farms, fleeing from the marauding tribes of the North and the East. And they had come to this wild place, a wide and flat lagoon in which fresh water from the rivers on the mainland and salt water from the Adriatic mingled. At low tide there were mud-flats all around, cut through with streams and rivulets and small channels; at high tide there were small islands of silt and marsh-grass. There were shoals covered with reeds and wild grasses, rising just a little way above the waters. There were patches of land that were generally submerged but, at certain low tides, rose above the water. There were desolate marshes that the water only rarely covered. The salt marshes and the shore seemed from a distance to make up the same wide expanse, marked with ponds and islets. There were swamps here, too, as dark and uninviting as the waters that the tide did not reach. A line of islands, made up of sand and river debris, helped to protect the lagoon from the sea; these were covered with pine woods.
Although the lagoon was not far from the once great centres of Roman civilisation, it was remote and secluded. This was a solitary place, its silence broken only by the calls of the seabirds and the crash of the billows of the sea and the sound of the wind soughing in the rushes. At night it was the setting of a vast darkness, except in those patches where the moon illumined the restless waters. Yet in the daylight of the exiles' approach the silver sea stretched out into a line of mist, and the cloudy sky seemed to reflect the silvery motions of the ...