In her contribution, Muhlstein charmingly describes how, over the course of the years, she and her husband have adopted four eating places, and how becoming friends with restaurateurs has been an unsurpassed means of getting to know the city and its inhabitants, far from the tourists in San Marco Square.
They meet Venetians like Ernesto, who tells them of the great flood that nearly destroyed the beautiful city and Nerone, an authoritarian chef who serves the freshest seafood and throws yesterday's catch to the cats. And they spend blissful hours at such eateries as Da Fiore, named by The International Herald Tribune one of the 10 best restaurants in the world, but which, unfazed, retains its rustic simplicity.
In his novella, Begley writes a story of falling in love with - and in - Venice. His 20-year-old protagonist, enamored with an older, far worldlier woman of 27, is lured by her to the City of Water, only to be left to fend for himself after a brief rendezvous. But he discovers a lasting love for Venice itself - not an uncommon romance, as Begley's brilliant portrayal of the city's place within world literature demonstrates: Henry James, Marcel Proust and Thomas Mann were all illustrious predecessors.
By turns humorous, nostalgic, and spellbinding, Venice for Lovers is a very private view of a place that will forever inspire dreams of love and passion.
Louis Begley and Anka Muhlstein's compilation of Venice narratives is in a long tradition, from Henry James and Proust to Joseph Brodsky and Harold Brodkey. Wish I could afford to experience Venice in the way they do, but I was glad to share it vicariously. Muhlstein's memoir and Begley's short story are both very fine, but I particularly enjoyed Begley's lecture on Proust, James and Mann and Venice.
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