Rome and a Villa

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IN 1947 A YOUNG AMERICAN woman named Eleanor Clark went to Rome on a Guggenheim fellowship to write a novel. But Rome had its way with her, the novel was abandoned, and what followed was not a novel but a series of sketches of Roman life written mostly between 1948 and 1951. This new edition of the essential classic Rome and a Villa includes an evocative introduction by the preeminent translator William Weaver, who was close friends with the author and often wandered the city ...
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Overview

IN 1947 A YOUNG AMERICAN woman named Eleanor Clark went to Rome on a Guggenheim fellowship to write a novel. But Rome had its way with her, the novel was abandoned, and what followed was not a novel but a series of sketches of Roman life written mostly between 1948 and 1951. This new edition of the essential classic Rome and a Villa includes an evocative introduction by the preeminent translator William Weaver, who was close friends with the author and often wandered the city with her during the years she was working on the book.
Once in Rome, the foreign writer or artist, over the course of weeks, months, or years, begins to lose ambition, to lose a sense of urgency, to lose even a sense of self. What once seemed all-consuming is swallowed up by Rome itself; by the pace of life, by the fatalism of the Roman people, to whom everything and nothing matters, by the sheer historic weight and scale of the place. Rome is life itself - messy, random, anarchic, comical one moment, tragic the next, and above all, seductive.
Clark pays special attention to Roman art and architecture. In the book's midsection she looks at Hadrian's Villa - an enormous, unfinished palace - as a meta-phor for the city itself: decaying, imperial, shabby, but capable of inducing an overwhelming dreaminess in its visitors. The book's final chapter, written for an updated edition in 1974, is a lovely portrait of the so-called Protestant cemetery where both Keats and Shelley are buried, along with other foreign notables.
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Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker
“These essays gather up Rome and hold it before us, bristling and dense and dreamlike, with every scene drenched in the sound of fountains, of leaping and falling water.”
New York Times
“Perhaps the finest book ever to be written about a city.”
New York Herald Tribune
“Witty without being flippant, unhurried without being slow, informative without being pedantic, contemplative and poetic without heaviness or affectation, Eleanor Clark’s book about Rome is, of course, a book about human destiny. To be as good as it is, it could not simply be about the buildings of Rome.
New Criterion
“Like Rome itself, Rome and a Villa is sensual, demanding attention, patience, and pause. Reading the book is a meditative experience. . . The only thing to do in the face of this overwhelming emotional onslaught is to give in to it, as Clark did.”
Time magazine
“A brilliant piece of traveler’s impressionism, written with verbal polish.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394494463
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/1/1975

Meet the Author

Eleanor Clark (1913–1996) was also the author of two other works of nonfiction, Rome and a Villa and Eyes, Etc., and the novels The Bitter Box, Baldur's Gate, and Camping Out. She was married to Robert Penn Warren.

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Read an Excerpt

IN 1947 A YOUNG AMERICAN woman named Eleanor Clark went to Rome on a Guggenheim fellowship to write a novel. But Rome had its way with her, the novel was abandoned, and what followed was not a novel but a series of sketches of Roman life written mostly between 1948 and 1951. This new edition of the essential classic Rome and a Villa includes an evocative introduction by the preeminent translator William Weaver, who was close friends with the author and often wandered the city with her during the years she was working on the book.
Once in Rome, the foreign writer or artist, over the course of weeks, months, or years, begins to lose ambition, to lose a sense of urgency, to lose even a sense of self. What once seemed all-consuming is swallowed up by Rome itself; by the pace of life, by the fatalism of the Roman people, to whom everything and nothing matters, by the sheer historic weight and scale of the place. Rome is life itself - messy, random, anarchic, comical one moment, tragic the next, and above all, seductive.
Clark pays special attention to Roman art and architecture. In the book's midsection she looks at Hadrian's Villa - an enormous, unfinished palace - as a meta-phor for the city itself: decaying, imperial, shabby, but capable of inducing an overwhelming dreaminess in its visitors. The book's final chapter, written for an updated edition in 1974, is a lovely portrait of the so-called Protestant cemetery where both Keats and Shelley are buried, along with other foreign notables.
Read More Show Less

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