Monday, 10 December 2012

Henry James in Venice

"But even as he gazed at the Barbaro's painted walls and sculpted ceilings, James had in mind a very different sort of palace.

At the time, June of 1887, he was deep in thought about a dilapidated ruin on a lonely canal in a melancholy, rarely visited part of town.  The once-grand interior of this other palace was shabby, dusty, and tarnished.  Its walled garden had become an overgrown tangle of weeds and vines.  Two impoverished spinster ladies lived in the palace, rarely went out, saw no one.

James told nobody about this other derelict palace or its two lonely inhabitants, because they were fictional. They were characters in a short novel he was then composing --The Aspern Papers, the other of his two masterful novels set in Venice.  In the mornings, he would go to the Barbaro's breakfast room, sit down at the Chinese lacquered desk beneath the 'pompous Tiepolo ceiling', and write a few pages.  During his five-week stay at the Barbaro, he put the finishing touches on the manuscript and sent it off to his publisher."

The City of  Falling Angels  John Berendt


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