Venice stands, as she loves to tell you, on the frontiers of the east and west, half-way between the setting and the rising sun. Goethe calls her ‘the market-place of the Morning and the Evening lands’. Certainly no city on earth gives a more immediate impression of symmetry and unity, or seems more patently born to greatness. So Jan Morris remarks, with graceful literary distinction, on the qualities that have made Venice a unique place among the world’s great destinations. She has known it intimately for over six decades. She knows its history, its carvings, its idiosyncrasies, its weather and all the Doges of the past. She returns even now, never tiring of this ‘dappled city, tremulous and flickering’. She first wrote Venice in praise of it fifty years ago and has revised the book three times. To open this premiere audiobook recording, Jan Morris reads a personal introduction which perfectly distils a lifetime’s fascination with La Serenissima.
10 CDs | Running Time: 13h 01m | ISBN: 978-962-634-271-8 | Cat. no.: NAX27112 | RRP: £35.00RRP:£35.00 GBPSRP: US $ 62.98RRP:£35.00 GBP
Here, revised and introduced by the author, is Jan Morris’s portrait of La Serenissima, published 50 years ago and still without equal. She cherishes every cranny: the city’s 3,000 alleyways, its jails, its waterways and its buildings decaying like ‘dukes in threadbare ermine’. She presents its past, its art and its language, which Byron called ‘sweet bastard Latin’. A suitably respectful narration – with an Italian flourish.
Rachel Redford, The Observer
If you are going to Venice this summer, and even if you are not, Jan Morris’s Venice makes excellent listening. Newly revised, it is introduced by the 84-year-old Morris herself, then the dulcet voice of Sebastian Comberti takes over narration. It opens historically but takes in architecture, culture, practicalities (the boats of the fire, police and ambulance services, the rubbish collectors who are slowly creating a whole new island) and the mysteries of death. Morris fell in love with Venice when there during the Second World War, and her accumulation of memories is heartfelt, personal, quirky and enlightening. Perfect for a leisurely approach by Eurostar and night train to Venice, but just as good for whiling away the dull hours commuting to work.
Christina Hardyment, The Times
‘I was in my 20s when I wrote this,’ says Morris in the introduction to her best known travel book, ‘and I like to think that its faults are the heady faults of youth.’ What faults? Fifty years on, it is still the best all-round guide to a city that, despite the ever-present hordes of tourists, remains the most magical destination on earth. Listening to this equally magical audio made me long to go back and check out all those less touristy bits that so enthralled young Morris – the alley too narrow for Browning to open his umbrella, the crypt allegedly containing Mary Magdalen’s finger, the fish market ‘laden with sleek wriggling eels, still pugnaciously alive, beautiful little red fish packed in boxes like shampoos, heads upwards . . . soft bulbous octopus furiously injecting ink . . . a multitude of sea matter . . . sliding, sinuous, shimmering, flabby, spongy, crisp, all lying aghast upon their fresh green biers dead, doomed or panting like a grove of brilliant foliage among the tundra of Venetian stone.’ Yes, the descriptions do go on a bit, but that’s part of the charm. It was written, says Morris, ‘in a rush of enthusiasm like the splurge of a love affair’. The enthusiasm is infectious. Venetian history, culture, religion, food – she relishes them all, from the glory years between the 12th and 15th centuries when La Serenissima controlled the trade routes between east and west, to the nuns at one of the more fashionable convents claiming their right to supply a mistress for the new papal nuncio, to the notice on the Grand Canal: ‘It is forbidden to spit on the swimmers.’ Don’t go to Venice without it.
Sue Arnold, The Guardian
Jan Morris’s portrait of La Serenissima, published fifty years ago, is still without equal. She cherishes every cranny: the city’s three thousand alleyways, its jails, its living waterways and its grand buildings decaying like ’dukes in threadbare ermine’.
Rachel Redford, The Oldie
Having recently been a visitor to the city of wonders, I can safely say that Jan Morris’s inimitable account of the capital of Veneto is not only indispensable but utterly essential for any self respecting cultural enthusiast. Sebastian Comberti is the ideal narrator, bringing stark effect and almost unbearable nostalgia to Morris’ purple prose which is lush and majestic at almost every turn. It is clear that the author loves the city with an unabashed passion, almost lustful are the long winded descriptions of the many magnificent palazzi and churches. It is truly a labour of love and its accuracy and sense of occasion is nothing short of miraculous. You may think I am waxing too lyrical about this audiobook but as always, the only tonic is to hear it for yourself. I for one, remain captivated by Morris’s description of the wondrous canal system, unique in the world, the social history of the gondolas and the many quirks which make this city so unique in many ways. And of course, if you visit Venice after hearing Morris’ magnum opus, then you will never see it in the same eyes again.
Gerald Fenech, Malta News Online