Fiction & non-fiction – hardcover; Little, Brown; 448 pages; 2003.
Venice is one of those wonderfully intriguing cities that has inspired artists and writers alike for centuries. London-based author Michelle Lovric is no exception. She has penned several novels set in the watery Italian city, including Carnevale and The Floating Book, but this time around she leaves the writing to others and selects some of her favourite poetry, fiction pieces and non-fiction extracts and brings them together in this varied collection.
“In this anthology,” she writes, “the voices of today’s Venetians mingle with those of their ancestors, just as they still do on the streets of the city”. And she is right: some of the writings included here date back centuries (several have been translated in English here for the first time) and others were written as recently as the late Twentieth Century.
Divided into 14 neat sections (under very specific themes), including “The Watery City” (which
looks at how the mythical town was built), “City of Venetians” (which looks at the character of the Venetians) and “City of Flavours” (which looks at Venetian cuisine), Lovric does a brilliant job of bringing together a diverse collection of voices each of whom has something interesting to say about Venice whether fictionalised or rooted in reality. Everyone from Hans Christian Andersen to Ezra Pound is featured — and they are all introduced in Lovric’s charming and easy-to-read style. In fact, I found her biographies of each writer more interesting than their respective writings, which is a shame given that wasn’t the purpose of reading this book.
As much as I love Venice, I found this collection a little too broad and lacking depth. I think it might have been a more enjoyable book if there were fewer writers and if the featured extracts were longer — some here were little longer than a page so I never really got a chance to get a “handle” on the writing. Still, if you’re a Venice buff and want something you can dip in and out of (instead of reading it cover to cover as I did) this book will be a worthy one to add to your collection. And it will act as a useful “taster”, either for many of the featured writers or Venice herself.