Thursday, October 21, 2010


The dignity of decay

Here's Joseph Brodsky chatting with Sven Birkerts back in 1979. The subject is Venice, whose ample and aqueous charms the poet would later chronicle in Watermark. The main thing about Venice, explains Brodsky, "is that the place is so beautiful that you can live there without being in love." He goes on to explore the diminishing effects of all that beauty, which is intertwined with the city's perennial, time-lapse decay:
It is interesting to watch the tourists who arrive there. The beauty is such that they get somewhat dumbfounded. What they do initially is hit the stores to dress themselves--Venice has the best boutiques in Europe--but when they emerge with all those things on, still there is an unbearable incongruity between the people, the crowd, and what's around. Because no matter how well they're dressed and how well they're endowed by nature, they lack the dignity, which is partially the dignity of decay, of that artifice around them. It makes you realize that what people can make with their hands is a lot better than they are themselves.

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Hey James, Glad to see you're back. Quite a hiatus. Write on for all to see and enjoy.

Ah, Venice. I like that about the clothes shopping. I should have been so lucky. Or am I missing the point?

When I exited the train station in Venice to face the beauty of the Grand Canal, I had to sit down on the steps for half an hour. It's joyously heart-breaking how lovely it is. The islands - Burano especially - continue the loveliness.

The only drawback is that the water taxi staff are pretty rude - but that's only a jolt back to reality - reminding you that you still are on planet Earth.
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