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A Writer's Venice

January 23, 2018

It's easy to point to history and conclude that Venice has a magnetic effect on writers. Lord Byron, after all, spent years of his life wrapped up in words (and debauchery) in La Serenissima. And then there's Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Brodsky, John Addington Symonds, Jan Morris and Henry James, all of whom found inspiration from the city. 

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But in equal measure, there are writers who were repelled by it. When D.H Lawrence visited he declared it the "holiday-place of all holiday-places." And even Lord Byron was drawn to Venice not by love, but by the tawdry necessities of exile. Here he found plenty of local prostitutes, but if his letters home are anything to go by, little cultural inspiration. 

 

This conflict of opinion is mirrored in these writers' works too. In writing, Venice is often a city of excess, threat, fairytale and claustrophobia; a watery reflection of the fictitious murders and affairs that it hosts. But then for writers like Joseph Brodsky, who was always drawn to her winter persona, Venice is like "Greta Garbo swimming". For him, Venice was not a fairytale backdrop, but the leading lady. No wonder that he chose to be buried here. 

 

This is the Venice that Dom and I love. As writers, we're drawn to the city in winter, when the tide of tourists subsides and the hoarse tones of Venetian can still be heard in the calle. 

 

The joy of being freelance copywriters is that we can work anywhere. The even greater joy is that we chose Venice. In the depths of winter, when rent is almost affordable, the city has proven to be the perfect muse. A tangle of history, stories, meaning, she offers so much to unpick; and for those projects where inspiration is already provided, the most glorious office space

 

For a writer, place is vital – not just in physicality, but in one's imagination. Venice has an undeniably strong sense of place, the interpretation of which is different for whoever travels here. For us, she is the setting for some stories, and a point of departure for others. As we become more at home here – perhaps even return for longer next winter – our sense of the city will evolve further. As writers, the process of unveiling a place is always a long one. In Venice, it seems infinite. 

 

 

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