Why I Live in Italy

I live in Italy—in Venice, which I have on occasion described as Italy's Italy—for the deceptively simple reason that it is the only place in the world where I do not feel the urge to play roulette after dinner. I have actually thought long and hard about this opening sentence of mine, trying to decide whether a gambler's confession would make for a suitable literary gambit when addressing Chronicles' readers. And I have come to the conclusion that yes, actually, this is a perfectly reasonable wav of getting at whatever it is I want to say about Italy, and about my reasons for settling here.

In the totalitarian Russia where I spent my childhood, it seemed that chance had been abolished by decree, or, as the famous phrase went, "liquidated as a class." If you did not pass the university entrance examinations, you were drafted into the army for three years, with consequences for the remainder of your adult life that were as brutal as they were predictable. If you circulated a typewritten letter among your friends, lamenting a social reality or sharing a political dream, you were hauled off to jail. Again, there was no chance about it; it was going to happen as inevitably as one day follows another in the life of Solomon Grundy. Everybody knew the minutiae of chancelessness that attached to university placement, to army conscription, to unemployment, to dissidence, to crime. Everybody knew exactly...

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