With his customary intelligence, erudition and sheer passion for the world we live in, Cees Nooteboom has achieved the impossible: to say something new about the ageless city about which everything has been said
He writes in a voice that blends the acuity of Martha Gellhorn with the meditative grace of W.G. Sebald
This is a book to lose yourself in, in every sense of the word . . . He's pulling you through the city in the hope that you'll share his curiosity rather than marvel at his expertise. Add to that the panache with which he writes and Nooteboom is a worthy guide to any city, let alone one that means so much to him
The great Dutch novelist turns his hand to travel writing of the highest order. His experiences of visiting La Serenissima over five decades and his natural curiosity make him the perfect companion, and the book is beautifully illustrated throughout.
The whole book is the illuminating testimony of a man who cannot look away and so sees things that others, even those with more specialist knowledge, have missed, whether it be the color and consistency of the ropes on the vaporetti, the glistening hues and squirming movements of the fish at the market, or the wondrous effects that Tintoretto could achieve with dabs of white in 'the gleam of armour, the folds in a sleeve, the windings of a turban, the halo of a man of the air who, as in the Last Judgment, is flying through space, in a wide flowing cloak . . .'
You might think there is little new to say about Venice, but Cees Nooteboom strolls down many under-explored alleyways in the city, his insights coloured by his knowledge of art and literature as welll as his past experiences . . . Witty and meditative by turns, the overall effect is like being shown around by a wonderfully self-effacing, but impressively erudite guide.
For Nooteboom, Venice is above all a city of spirits, memories and stories, and his beguiling book - well served by Laura Watkinson's free-flowing translation - is a leisurely examination of an entrancement that has deepened with each visit, over the course of half a century.