The Displaced Person

"The depravity of Tiberius, or the salacity of Suetonius," wrote Anthony Burgess, "had left its mark on an island all sodomy, lesbianism, scandal and cosmopolitan artiness." For the last 150 years, writers have been attracted to the natural beauty as well as the lechery of Capri—20 miles across the bay from Naples, four miles long, and with a permanent population of 12,000. Hans Christian Andersen, Ivan Turgenev, Tristan Corbière, Axel Munthe, Gerhart Hauptmann, Booth Harkington, Ivan Bunin, and Rainer Maria Rilke, among others, visited the island.

Joseph Conrad, who spent time on Capri in 1905, said the air was too stimulating and complained of the hot winds, violent contrasts, and sexual depravity:

Too much ozone they say: too exciting and that's why no lung patients are allowed to come here. . . . This place here, this climate, this sirocco, this transmontana, these flat roofs, these sheer rocks, this blue sea—are impossible. . . . The scandals of Capri—atrocious, unspeakable, amusing, scandals international, cosmopolitan and biblical.

D.H. Lawrence lived on Capri for two months in 1920, hated the place, and called it "a stewpot of semi-literary cats."

The Australian-American novelist Shirley Hazzard met Graham Greene in the Gran Gaffe in Capri in the late 1960's when she supplied the last line of a poem by Browning...

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