Correspondence

The Last Doge's English

I now want to add another likeness to my Gogolian gallery of Venice's living souls. If this continuing series should start to take on the blurry aspect of a spinning carousel, becoming a kind of soap opera of fleeting impressions, all I can say in my defense is that the development is an intended one, and that the clamorous success of Monet's water lilies, for instance, owes far more to the soap effect than does my own humble sketching. Impressionism is a perfectly good approach to the world, but it probably ought not to have fallen into the hands of the French who, like all regicides since Lady Macbeth, long to turn everything under the sun into a savonnerie.

And invariably I think of my friend Giovanni as someone who has managed to escape that perfumed world with his judgment intact, although French remains the language most native to him. Idiomatic as they are, neither his standard Italian nor his deeply Americanized English, which I would describe as heavy-hearted, is good enough to let him say what he really thinks. As for his Venetian—not a minor dialect among Italy's many, but a literary language with a rich tradition that includes the theater of Carlo Goldoni—it is altogether stillborn, which may be bewildering to the visitor from abroad who finds himself drinking wine and eating roast veal in the house of the man who governed Venice for much of the century, Giovanni's father. Count Giuseppe...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here

X