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Venice: Pure Cityby Peter Ackroyd
Synopses & Reviews
Peter Ackroyd at his most magical and magisterial—a glittering, evocative, fascinating, story-filled portrait of Venice, the ultimate city.
The Venetians’ language and way of thinking set them aside from the rest of Italy. They are an island people, linked to the sea and to the tides rather than the land. This latest work from the incomparable Peter Ackroyd, like a magic gondola, transports its readers to that sensual and surprising city.
His account embraces facts and romance, conjuring up the atmosphere of the canals, bridges, and sunlit squares, the churches and the markets, the festivals and the flowers. He leads us through the history of the city, from the first refugees arriving in the mists of the lagoon in the fourth century to the rise of a great mercantile state and its trading empire, the wars against Napoleon, and the tourist invasions of today. Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the glassblowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; the artists—Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo. And the ever-present undertone of Venice’s shadowy corners and dead ends, of prisons and punishment, wars and sieges, scandals and seductions.
Ackroyd’s Venice: Pure City is a study of Venice much in the vein of his lauded London: The Biography. Like London, Venice is a fluid, writerly exploration organized around a number of themes. History and context are provided in each chapter, but Ackroyd’s portrait of Venice is a particularly novelistic one, both beautiful and rapturous. We could have no better guide—reading Venice: Pure City is, in itself, a glorious journey to the ultimate city.
"Novelist and biographer Ackroyd (The Canterbury Tales) provides a history of and meditation on the actual and imaginary Venice in a volume as opulent and paradoxical as the city itself. Structured and organized with a fluidity that reflects its many-faceted subject, he launches his tour de force with the basics of Venetian geography, hydrology, and climate before turning to history and architecture. The narrative continues to develop around themes both usual and unexpected such as trade and gossip or subjects such as the city's fabled churches, its love of sexuality, and theater. As it glides along, it gracefully incorporates tidbits about such traditions as the cabins on gondolas and the masks worn during Carnival. How Ackroyd deftly catalogues the overabundance of the city's real and literary tropes and touchstones is itself a kind of tribute to La Serenissima, as Venice is called, and his seductive voice is elegant and elegiac. The resulting book is, like Venice, something rich, labyrinthine and unique that makes itself and its subject both new and necessary. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
About the Author
PETER ACKROYD is the author of Thames; London: The Biography; Albion: The Origins of the English Imagination; Shakespeare; acclaimed biographies of T. S. Eliot, Charles Dickens, William Blake, and Sir Thomas More; several successful novels; and the series Ackroyd’s Brief Lives. He has won the Whitbread Book Award for Biography, the Royal Society of Literature’s William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the South Bank Award for Literature.
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