Every bibliophile loves the combination of new pages and new places. I know I do. They say literature lets the mind travel without the body having to leave the armchair, but to be honest, I think stories are even more enjoyed when you are physically travelling through the setting of your book. So here I’ll recommend known and lesser-known books to read in my favorite holiday destinations! This time: Venice.
Arthur Japin’s In Lucia’s Eyes
“We are unhappy because we think that love is something we require from someone else.”
This is my favorite love story of all time. It tells the story of Casanova and his first love, Lucia, a servant girl in a 18th century Italian manor house. One day, the young Casanova visits and instantly falls in love with her. They are engaged when Casanova leaves for a short journey, but tragedy strikes in his absence. Then we follow Lucia on her journey from Bologna to Venice, Paris and eventually Amsterdam.
It is a beautifully executed novel on how love prevails in an unmerciful world.
William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice
“I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, A stage where every man must play a part, And mine a sad one.”
No work of Shakespeare ever needs an introduction, especially in this case where the title is already self-explanatory. The poetry, the ideas, the sharp analysis of the human condition – all the reasons why everyone still reads Shakespeare are all present in this comedy. Another work by the Bard I’d recommend reading in Venice: Othello.
Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion
“It may be that you are settled in another place it may be that you are happy but the one who took your heart wields final power.”
In a city like Venice, you’d probably want to read about history and romance, but The Passion is nowhere near a typical historical romance novel. There is magical realism but it is not a fantastical novel. It tells the story of Henri, a French soldier during Napoleon’s rule, and Villanelle, the daughter of a Venetian boatman. It is set in a hypnotic Venice of darkness and imagination.
Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities
“You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living. And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask.”
The young Marco Polo conjures up the mystical cities he explored for his host, the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan. In a Scheherazadean fashion, the traveler weaves a labyrinth of stories, all clues to the truth. Gradually we learn that all these cities are just descriptions of Venice. It is about memory, about home, about cities and stories, about the way both can continue to haunt us. This is a book like no other.
Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice
“Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily – no hourly – and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim.”
Set in pre-war Europe, an aging writer goes to Venice and finds a city ‘half fairy tale, half tourist trap’. He eventually descents into a destructive obsession, beautifully told by the author in a brilliant mix of mythology, haunting imagery and richness of symbolism.