Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ackroyd's Venice

Peter Ackroyd is an English biographer, novelist and critic whose prolific work includes books on Dickens, Shakespeare, Chaucer, but also on London, the river Thames and Venice.
His "Venice Pure City" is seen as "sumptuous" by The Times and as "brilliant" by Independent on Sunday, so there can be only one conclusion: he really knows Venice, its history and glory, its mystery and beauty.
The book is comprised of eleven chapters and a Venetian chronology and they develop topics such as how the state of Venice was formed, the empire built on trade, the city's secrets, sacredness and its shadows. the book is full of pictures ranging from old maps of Venice to the interior of the basilica of Saint Mark or Titian's paintings of Venetian personalities.

"How could they build upon mud and water? It was possible, however, for wooden poles of from ten to a dozen feet in length to be sunk into the mud before reaching a layer of harder clay and dense sand that acted as a firm foundation. This was the 'boundary' at the bottom of the lagoon. So there sprang up small houses known as casoni made from the wood of poles and boards with pitched roofs of wattle and reed. " (page 7)

Ackroyd talks about the dialect spoken in Venice, the invasions that took place centuries ago and, did you know that it was not called Venezia until the thirteenth century?
Being built upon the sea, Venice became the city of miracles and in the Venetian chronicles the city was always presented as a great and shining place.

In this fascinating account, the writer even talks about the Venice weather:
"But the most celebrated wind is the scirocco, the warm wind that comes from the south-east and can persist for three or four days. (...) The scirocco itself has been blamed for the Venetian tendency towards sensuality and indolence; it has been accused of instilling passivity and even effeminacy within the citizen." (page 29)

With almost five hundred pages, the book is a pure gem when it comes to discovering or rediscovering the Venice behind the tourist attractions and I heartily recommend it to anyone who is in love with the city. By the way, did you know that in the sixteenth century there were five hundred gardens in Venice? :)

The Guardian develops on the subject of Gardens in Venice here.

Read for my pleasure, the Venice in February and the Non - Fiction Reading Challenges


Bellezza said...

It absolutely seemed a 'city of miracles' to me the very first time I saw it, in 1969, when I was only eight years old. I'll never forget the impact Venezia had on me, and always will. One hopes that the sea never overtakes it, Or, at least waits until the rest of the world falls with it as well.

Ally said...

Bellezza, the more I read about Venice, the more I love this city and I can't wait to get back :)

Gilion Dumas said...

I have this and I am dying to read it!

Ally said...

Gilion, it is fabulous and so full of information I sometimes had to stop to take it all in :)