Correspondence

About the Tourists

Summer in Venice means tourists. Do I hate them? No more, I assure you, than a patient stricken with a mortal illness hates the individual viral agents, or virions, which are draining the nucleic-synthesizing energy of his body cells to replicate themselves. He hates the disease, which is making him weak, old, and ugly even as he awaits death, but it would take an extraordinarily perverse human mind to revile a faceless submicroscopic particle of the kind first described by mv compatriot Dmitry Ivanovsky in 1892 and finally shown to exist by W.M. Stanley in 1935.

We loathe and fear epidemic plagues, evil tyrants with atom bombs, and even fairy-tale ghosts and dragons, because they and their like have left a record of suffering in our collective cultural memory, but the truth is that our emotions simply cannot reach beyond the light stage of the microscope. Imagine asking a grieving widow, who has just lost her husband to cancer, which characteristic of his killer she finds most repellent. Is it the nucleic composition? The structure of the capsid?

The whole deadly drama of the epidemic that strikes Italy in summertime is the faceless uniformity of the tourist mass. As soon as the patient begins to run a high temperature, hoping to allay the feverish, sweltering afternoon heat by cranking up bar awnings, opening cafe umbrellas, and hosing down the sidewalks, millions of faceless virions in white sneakers throng every vessel...

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