martes, 8 de mayo de 2007

Writings and translations V: waterland

Our arrival in Venice made a big impression on us. We arrived in the city over the water, by vaporetto. This is a boat that, among other things, connects Marco Polo International Airport with the old city. Of course we could also have arrived more quickly by land, on train or by bus, but we are a very romantic people and we could not come to Venice in a way that was not very literary. At least, we wanted to arrive in Venice as Gustav von Aschenbach, the character of Der Tod in Venedig, had arrived.

Yes, our arrival made a big impression on us. Or, at least, it did for me. I remember the picture of Saint Mark’s square that appeared to us when we passed in front of it on the vaporetto, and I’m not capable of comparing it to any picture of any place of any city that I have seen before or after. It did not seem that it could be real. Rather it seemed to be a place extracted from the most fantastic of tales. The Campanile, the Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basilica, the two columns at the entrance of the harbour (one with the Winged Lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of both Venice and Saint Mark, and the other with the statue of Saint Teodoro of Amasea, the former patron saint of Venice, who stands on the sacred crocodile of Egypt), and the rest of the buildings of this square are capable of transporting us to a world that, although dead because of the passing of time, seems perfectly live.

We had booked three rooms (we were two couples and three singles) in a hotel in the old city itself, not on the mainland where people normally go. In this regard we were very, very fortunate because we went to Venice in August and this is, obviously, as in other cities which are equally popular, the most popular month for tourists. And we were very fortunate, not only because of the location of the hotel, but also because our hotel was not a normal hotel quite simply; it was an old and very beautiful small palace which was touching the Grand Canal. Beside the hotel there was a church the name of which I do not remember.

For me Venice is impressive. However, speaking about it with other people after we came back to Barcelona, I realized that Venice is not as impressive for most of them as it is for me. People usually say that it is always very, very crowded by tourists (and this is true, but what people usually do not realize is that they themselves are tourists and are part of this crowding). What people say is that every thing is very old and declining and worn, and the canals smell very bad (someone in my job said to me that they smell like rotten leaves, though I did not understand why), and not everything is as good as its reputation would have it. But for me all these things are absurdities. If you want to understand Venice, you need to look at it with the eyes of a painter, or the eyes of a sculptor, or the eyes of an architect, or the eyes of a writer. It is necessary, I think, to look at it with eyes that have to go beyond the pragmatic and the vile things of the world. But I think that our times are bad times for this kind of view, and that people do not see Venice, or anything, in this way. But if you are capable of it, it is sure that for you, as for me, Venice will turn into the prettiest city in the world.

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