Correspondence

Beyond Bugs

I am actually writing this from a lonely place called Marsiliana, in the Maremma region of Tuscany, where my Florentine hosts have a hunting lodge. It is less than half an hour by car from the Argentario coastline, my inspiration for last summer's seaside letters, and I remember driving past its desolate form whenever a group of us got together to go bathing in the hot springs of Saturnia, much further inland. We always used to ask everybody on the way, from ancient, mustachioed, somnolent taxi drivers to neat, young, eager gas-station attendants, about the apparently inaccessible town on top of the hill, and were always told that it's not a town, just an old castle whose owners are never there.

Well, now it turns out that it isn't a castle either, just a hunting lodge, and—adding to the confusion—not only are the owners there, but smarmy old Navrozov is as well, busily blending in with the scenery in his borrowed Barbour and gum boots. "Iz gryazi v knyazi" as we say in Russian. Literally this means "Up from the dirt to mix with princes," but I like the proverb so much I think it may be worthwhile to dramatize it a bit. If I kept a diary in verse, in the style of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, what follows here might be the entry under "Marsiliana":

In the Maremma, shooting wild boar. Now, Ralph Laurens of the world And Ronald Landers:...

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