The Lagoon and the Abyss

What Exile from himself can flee?

To Zones, though more and more remote,

Still, still pursues, where-e'er I be.

The blight of life—the demon, Thought.

—Lord Byron

Thus a previous occupant of our palazzo. Romantic rubbish, you say? Venice not remote enough for him? Should have tried some other zone, freezing rain in October and 40 below in March, shovel in hand and memories of a cigarette as his main divertissement? In the vulgar idiom of a less fortunate generation:

Next morning the fog was all gone.

The furious waves calmed down,

Before us arose Magadan,

The Kolyma zone's head town.

As I write this, with the gentle voice of Italian winter for a soundtrack whimpering pitifully somewhere beyond the Arsenale just as the 20th century has always been meant to whimper in farewell, there is but a single thought in my head, namely, that the Christian world as we know it is going to relive the history of totalitarian Russia in our lifetime. I look at the demon thought this way, and that; I turn it over in my mind, and look at it sideways, and then again in the face; I look at it in...

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