"...in Venice, too, it is not difficult to lose your way, something to which, if I am not in a hurry, I do not actually object,..."
Nooteboom's Venice is a melancholic place, fed by ruminative recollections that circle around literary tropes and return again. What is it about Venice that brings this out? Thomas Mann's Death In Venice, Joseph Brodsky's Watermark, Valeria Luiselli's Sidewalks, Henry James, Ernest Hemingway--all of whom are mentioned by Nooteboom.
It may be that connoisseurs of Venice go in winter when it's dark, grey and cold, but there are fewer tourists. It seems that's Nooteboom's approach (as it was Brodsky's, at least on the evidence of Watermark.)
But the book isn't entirely occupied with the high-falutin'. Nooteboom is much taken with the mystery series set in Venice by Donna Leon and Michael Dibdin; at one point he goes around looking for the police office that would serve as headquarters for Commissari Aurelio Zen and Guido Brunetti. He tells us, "Those who do not believe in books have no business being here."
Commissario Aurelio Zen--I had long assumed it was just a fanciful name, but, as I learned from Nooteboom, it's not. It's a good Venetian family name--there was a doge Renieri Zen, who died in 1268. Zen in standard Italian would be Zeno, as in he with la coscienza in the novel by Svevo, but in Venetian dialect the name Zen is ordinary enough. Who knew?
It made me want to go to Venice (go back to Venice in fact, though I haven't been there since 1984) and what more can a travel book do?
Cees Nooteboom (pronunciation) is a Dutch writer (born 1933) of novels, poetry, books of travel. He's sometimes mentioned as a Nobel prize contender. This is the first thing I've read by him, but I will certainly be looking out for others.
The book is accompanied by lovely views of Venice taken by his wife, the photographer Simone Sassen:
And, pretty clearly, I was the first person to read this copy from the library. Nothing quite like the freshness of an unread library book!
Venice is somewhere I've always wanted to go! This book sounds wonderful.ReplyDelete
It's a pretty amazing city, and the book definitely puts you in the mood!Delete
i've read some Zen and Brunetti but they made me not want to go there very much.. i noticed in the last Leon book i read that she moved to Switzerland, probably with good reason after bringing the world's attention to the reality of Italian politics, haha...ReplyDelete
Murder mystery series may not be the best tourist introduction--sure Cabot Cove looks cute, but your chances of ending up dead seem altogether too high!Delete
I suspect all my travel to Venice will be of the armchair variety from books like Cees Nooteboom's. I’ve read somewhere that Berlin actually has more canals than Venice. I have been to Berlin, which has its charms, but the canals don’t really stand out like they must in Venice. Roads and subways are the way to get around instead of water taxis.ReplyDelete
Interesting about the name Zen and its Italian origins. This is what I love about reading – or one of the things – learning those wonderful bits of information. You never know when they might be useful.
Nooteboom is from Amsterdam (well, sort of--he was born in the Hague) and that's another city dominated by canals. I remember them from Berlin, but they're not present in the same way. Of course Venice is much smaller.Delete
And as I think about it I could go back to Berlin, too!
I'm not sure it will ever be useful to me to know Zen is a family name in Venice...but it was interesting!
Oh this book sounds awesome! I was there about 10+ years ago and really loved it. And I became lost with a couple of Italians and wandered around for ages. It was so much fun! I'd like to revisit it even if only through this book.ReplyDelete
That definitely sounds like the way to experience Venice! This book could take you back...I definitely thought it was a lot of fun.Delete
That is a gorgeous photo. And I love being the first library reader (assuming the cataloguer didn't peek). You might already have heard it, but there is an old interview with Eleanor Wachtel with Nooteboom on Writers&Company; I'm sure it's in their archives. (On another note, I read a curious, new book by Amitav Kumar from TPL recently, about writing and reading, and there were a couple of fun references to his reading of Sontag in there, so I thought of your recent project!)ReplyDelete
I watched a couple of interviews with Nooteboom on YouTube after I finished the book, but didn't notice the homegrown one with Wachtel. He makes a good subject. I'll have to check it outDelete
I love Venice - to visit and to read about. I'm currently mentally planning a trip to Italy in 2023, and so I need to read this book as prep. Death in Venice is one of my all-time favorite works, and of course I love the Guido Brunetti books.ReplyDelete
Wonderful review - enjoyed the images :)
Venice is such a fascinating city. I'm sure we'll be back to Italy, but I suspect our next visit will be to the south. But I'd love to go back to Venice.
A travel book. A mystery series. Classics. Wonderful that you got to experience all of these to some extent in one book.ReplyDelete
It was pretty fun virtual travel!Delete