So I finished Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Wasn’t really my thing. It got pretty boring. As far as an anti-war book it worked pretty well. It definitely captured the pointless episodes and doomed feeling of the soldiers. The impersonal descriptions of the violence are supposed to be a comment on the impersonal destruction of WWI but it to me it just read as a boring catalogue of running and fighting and being uncomfortable and cynical. Meanwhile Catherine annoyed the crap out of me with her pandering and idolising of Henry. She wasn’t so much a character as a sex doll. And it also failed at filling me with the joy of Italian scenery! We were on the train between Milan and Venice and I got a feel for the flat plains and rows of trees but, as I think I said before, Hemingway isn’t really interested in the scenery beyond basic description. He missed the pretty! It was really pretty, full of picturesque little villages and skinny horses.
Onto Venice! I really didn’t like it. But I sure loved Death in Venice by Thomas Mann! Maybe it was because of Hemingway but I was totally delighted by the really long sentences that hung together perfectly, giving you every piece of information you needed to know. Here’s a good one: “Preoccupied with the tasks imposed upon him by his ego and the European psyche, overburdened by the obligation to produce, averse to diversion, and no lover of the external world and its variety he was quite content with the view of the earth’s surface that anyone can gain without stirring far from home, and never so much tempted to venture beyond Europe.” Oh wait I have to tell you what it’s about. Death in Venice is about the well known and acclaimed writer Gustav Aschenbach. Suffering from writer’s block, he decides to travel on a whim (that quote comes from the part where he decides to leave) and ends up in Venice. Here he becomes increasingly obsessed with the beautiful young boy Tadzio and… stuff ensues.
Aschenbach’s Venice is enthralling and repulsive, beautiful yet squalid and I totally felt the same way! Maybe that’s another reason I enjoyed it so much. Venice was so touristy you could barely walk down the street. The shops were filled with junky souvenirs and sparkly tat and everything we went to see was filled with groups of really loud school kids. I mean yeah, it was pretty, but you expect it to be pretty. It was like a set for Venice, or a cardboard cut out. It had no soul. Mann is totally my man (haha totally unintentional) on that: “Such was Venice, the wheedling, shady beauty, a city half fairy tale, half tourist trap.” He also described the gondola rides really well. I wasn’t that keen to do it but Marc talked me into it and i’m glad he did. We went around dusk and the silence of the water washes over you and swallows you up. It was really peaceful and relaxing.
Venice: not my place. But Death in Venice: totes my book! Maybe it was just the time and place and reading order, but hey what isn’t.