Venice Diary: Day 15: Saturday 15 February 2003

An email from my brother Brian (also known as Arthur).

“Cheese is milk’s leap towards immortality.” Clifton Faniman, whoever he is.

What is your Venice library? Perhaps Beth will find something interesting that’s not yet on it.Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs at one go.” Truman Capote x

Dear Brian,

I hear from Syd [our father], who–released from Hazel’s [our mother] grip–rang me last night that you’ve had some sort of anaesthetic and something done to a tooth or a gum. Syd was as attractively imprecise as ever. I hope it all goes well.

He tells me that you have a dilemma–the big march [against the war in Iraq] or the big football match. The anaesthetic would, he thought, solve the problem. It would have to be rest and the football.

You should teach Hazel to email. She could then email me a message.

When it comes to books I have Brodsky, Diego Valeri, Jan Morris, Ruskin (only with pages missing, I’ve just discovered) and two guide books. I’ve read both the relevant Henry James (Wings of the Dove and the Aspern Papers), Thomas Mann, Hemingway, Shakespeare, Michael Dibdin, and two Donna Leon, although Lin is bringing another one–together with the complete works of Byron. The authors who are conspicuously missing are Proust, Pound (some Cantos), Casanova (but it’s 12 volumes), John Julius Norwich, Barry Unsworth (The Stone Virgin), and a book whose title and author I’ve forgotten but which was widely and well reviewed about six months ago that is about 18th century nuns having a right old time.

D H Lawrence called Venice that “abhorrent green, slippery city.”

Best wishes


Dear Brian,

I hope that you had a great holiday, and I hope that you’re still coming to Venice. This palazzo is more stunning than I remembered, and it’s maybe a once in a lifetime experience to stay in such a place.

You can email me at this address (I’m not using my BMJ address) or phone me on 00 39 041 5203227.



Another beautiful bright morning—brighter and warmer than any other morning. I wake later, read another three chapters of Trollope, and then take in three Veronese’s and a Bellini tryptych before breakfast. I’m becoming very fond of Bellini, a painter of remarkable feeling and technique. His Pieta in the Accademia nearly made me weep—such a long body for a mother to hold and such an exquisite background. Imagine living your whole life in a Bellini background.

As I return through the sun filled Santa Campo Maria Nova, my campo, I see four young Venetians—all with straight, sharp noses straight out of a Carpaccio painting—sitting in the square smoking and playing cards. It’s 9.15 and about 3C but so sunny.

As I come back, I think again whether I will be able to sit on my terrace before I return.

I’m getting more and more used to being alone. I like it better and better.

A possible poem for the front pages of my book:


Clear moments are so short.

There is much more darkness. More

Ocean than firm land. More

shadow than form.

Adam Zagajewski

Translated from the Polish by Renata Gorcyzynski.

I might also use those quotes from Death in Venice.

My dedication might be:

To Chicken (the woman not the bird), Florence (the girl not the city), and Venice, three of the loves of my life.

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