Above photos 1998
NEVER VISIT VENICE by Robert Aickman
“To Fern, life had become an affair of moments only; a present without past, without future.”
This turns out to be a seminal work for my latest series of reviews of his stories and edited Fontana anthologies, while incidentally giving a nod — via Henry Fern’s sighting of a man with a ‘boy’ in Venice — to the Thomas Mann novella and also the Daphne Du Maurier story ‘Ganymede’ that I happened to review recently HERE. Also containing Venetians with masks like the animals (asses or lions?) in Du Maurier’s The Blue Lenses, also reviewed at that link.
Meanwhile, in the main flow of this story, Henry Fern is a neuro-diverse man, walking life’s tightrope, romantically gauche, feeling himself to be an ‘alien’ or ‘impostor’, one with a death obsession, and working in an office — and, with a sudden unexpectedly fateful success in promotion, he can afford, perhaps reluctantly, to visit VENICE for the first time, not least, perhaps, to check out his previous unreliably recurrent dream of being in a gondola with a woman…
A richly complex emotional portrayal of Fern that will ever resonate with the resistant power of Zeno’s Paradox, and also about his balancing the crassness of tourism in Venice with a spellbinding and eventually spiritually diverse Gothic fulfilment of his dream — involving the perfect detailed description of what in the last year or so I have called a co-vivid dream. Across time and resistant inclination. Become a ghost himself? Become part of that uttersome sexual rapture that subsumed masculinity in the Wine-Dark Sea…? Taken out to the open seas from the lagoon, as in Aickman’s novel, Go Back At Once, even with a Hope still painted by Watts?
These are, for me, the story’s key textual clues…
The ‘piercing radios’ of the above tourist crassness also mentioned in my Aickman review yesterday of Wine-Dark Sea which is a story that also mentions Mussolini.
Tourism generally now being a tour of the same place wherever you are, a chore not a pleasure, as I have long thought.
“…women are so much more alike than are men.”
Two points in this story where swords are related to the death obsession, cf ‘The Swords’.
“Venice was rotted with the world’s new littleness.”
“The Venetian dream” through ‘holes in its scenery.’
“…because life goes ever crabwise…”
“… insidious Venice had promoted an insanity in him, a mad confusion between dream and dread. He was pretty sure that, if he should run at all, he should by rights run in the opposite direction.”
They were not the gondolier’s shoes, but black feet.
“If I go beyond the obvious things, I get into what you call deep waters.”
Venice with darkening palaces, full of idiot tourists…”no tides in the Mediterranean” as in Holihaven, and as if swept out to the Wine-Dark Sea.
“…he looked at his watch, he found it had stopped.”
“It was to the effect that a simple hour as a lion is to be preferred to a lifetime as an ass.”
My previous reviews of Aickman: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/robert-aickman/
“The Moment was Immortal” (from Aickman’s ’The View’j
‘The Immortal Hour’, the opera, by Rutland Boughton whom Aickman sometimes mentions in his works.