Venice has a “sense of mystery,” explains Donna Leon in My Venice. “Novelists, filmmakers, even the common tourist – all have been captured by this haunting sense that things will turn out to be different from what they first appear to be.” Russian émigré, Joseph Brodsky (now buried on the island of San Michele) pondered the city’s peculiar character, its waterways, people and politics in his short essay, Watermark. Javier Marías came to the conclusion in Venice: An Interior that Venice “is an interior,” that it is “self-sufficient, that it has no need of anything outside itself.”
“There’s a spectacular map” in the Correr Museum at the end of the St Mark’s Square. It was produced in 1500 by Jacopo de’ Barbari to celebrate the half millennium and the glory of Venice,” writes Roger Crowley at The Smithsinian. “The Barbari map projects the image of a blessed place … when the French ambassador, Philippe de Commynes, arrived in 1494, he was plainly astonished,” and today our reaction is no different.” But, he points out, “the story Venice told about itself, the story behind the map, was a creative invention, like the city itself.”
“In Venice you walk around wearing your own face,” explains Tiziano Scarpain Venice is Fish. The Venetian passion for the mask was born “from this need to be incognito, to protect your own identity … because in this city where public life forces you to drag your character to the surface of your skin…you too become a character, vaguely puppet-like.” Jan Morris, author of possibly the most famous book about Venice, admits in Vanity Fair to years spent in voluntary self-delusion, while Mary McCarthy writes in Venice Observed: “The tourist Venice is Venice: the gondolas, the sunsets, the changing light, Florian’s, Quadri’s, Torecello, Harry’s Bar, Murano, Burano, the pigeons, the glass beads, the vaporetto. Venice is a folding picture-postcard of itself.”
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