Two Rooms With a View

It has been the usual 56-hour day spent in airports under siege from CNN and microwave-burned pizza, cramped into buses, taxis, and the midget seats of American Airlines steerage with two varieties of undrinkable wine-product to wash down the "looks-like-chicken" alternative to the inevitable "pasta" they serve on flights to Italy, but now we are actually in our room at the Hotel Forum. It is a sunny winter's day, and last night's rain is still steaming up from the potholes and depressions of the via dei Fori Imperiali, a street that has not been well maintained since Il Duce (who built it as an imperial avenue to connect the Piazza Venezia with the Colosseum) had to leave Rome suddenly for a vacation in the mountains. I throw open the windows and look out upon the Forum of Augustus and the street where the ears and buses ride—their drivers blissfully unaware—on top of the ruins of Trajan's library. We are almost too happy to be in Rome, and I am struck once again by the disconcerting thought that I may be joining the ranks of so many English and American writers who became expatriates and cultural traitors.

Apart from Hemingway's first novel and, if you can stand them, some of Henry James' fiction dealing with Americans abroad, few of these writers set their best works in Italy or France. One exception is E.M. Forster. Despite the popularity of his "foreign" novels (and...

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