Venice/Mary MacCarthy

“Venice, unlike Rome or Ravenna or nearby Verona, had nothing of its own to start with.  Venice, as a city, was a foundling, floating upon the waters like Moses in his basket among the bulrushes. It was therefore obliged to be inventive, to steal and improvise. Cleverness and adaptivity were imposed by the original situation, and the get-up-and-go of the early Venetian business men was typical of a self-made society.  St. Mark’s Church is a (literally) shining example of this spirit of initiative, this gift for improvisation, for turning everything to account.  “


“But why should it be beautiful at all?  why should Venice, aside from its situation, be a place of enchantment?  One appears to be confronted with a paradox.  A commercial people who lived solely for gain–how could they create a city of fantasy, lovely as a dream or a fairy-tale?  This is the central puzzle of Venice, the stumbling-block that one keeps coming up against if one tries to think about her history, to put facts of her history together with the visual fact that is there before one’s eyes. It cannot be that Venice is a happy accident or a trick of light.”


“A wholly materialistic city is nothing but a dream incarnate.  Venice is the world’s unconscious: a miser’s glittering hoard, guarded by a Beast whose eyes are made of white agate, and by a saint who is really a prince who has just slain a dragon.”


(From Venice Observed, Harcourt)


About Taline Voskeritchian

Writing teacher at Boston University; translator (from Arabic and Armenian); prose writer; occasional editor; incurable wanderer.
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